So, yesterday went a lot better for me. In Intercultural Learning class, we actually learned something about Georgian culture – we had a lecture about gender roles, which should be highly useful. The second part of class was a presentation by Nino in which she lectured on several points of Georgian culture. I really wish that the whole of intercultural learning had been lectures by Nino, because she is so informative and charismatic, but of course she can’t do everything and I’m sure talking to a group of 92 people for an additional four hours per day would wear her out quickly. As I’ve said before, I wish there were five of Nino.
Food was also good yesterday. Two days ago we had this bread stuffed with ground beef that I actually really didn’t like, which was the first time I’ve had Georgian food that I haven’t liked. Yesterday I was complaining that they hadn’t served us enough meat chunks, and sure enough, lunch turned out to be beef chunks and potato chunks in some kind of delicious soup. They also gave us a really delicious desert – which they just called “namtskhvari,” or cake – which was basically a dry cake covered in powdered sugar and stuffed with what tasted like some kind of raisin preserve.
We had a panel in which local Georgian NGO workers came to speak to us about their organizations, and I was talking to a few friends when one of my fellow teachers came and sat down near us wearing enough perfume to drown a horse. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but anyway, I was pissed off for two reasons. One, I had to move my seat – and I had a good seat, near the front so I could hear and near the AC so I wouldn’t sweat like a dog. So I ended up sitting near the back, and I was pretty peeved about it. The other is that Nino had, not two hours prior, given us a talk about appropriate presentation for teachers in which she explicitly stated that we should not wear too much perfume or cologne because some people could be sensitive to it. I don’t know if this woman just didn’t hear, or has no sense of smell, or perhaps just wanted to get all the perfume wearing out of the way now before she goes to her classes and can’t wear any, but in any case, I feel that it is extremely rude to wear so much scent that a person sitting ten feet away can practically taste it.
In any case, after the meeting I was a bit upset, and my roommate came and gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to go out to the bar with some non-smokers and grab a private room. That’s my segue into an interesting aspect of Georgian culture that I have noticed. We’re in Kutaisi, and I’ve been to two restaurants so far. These restaurants consist of a single main room in which it is possible to sit and order food, and a number of external private rooms. When I say external private rooms I mean that there are actually separate buildings that are basically just dining rooms. You and your friends can go and sit there and do whatever you want. These rooms are air conditioned, have one or two tables, and hold ten to twelve people comfortably. Waiters come around to them to bring you food and drink. It’s a little strange at first, and you definitely feel like some kind of royalty, which can be uncomfortable, but when you get used to it it’s really quite nice.
So I went to the bar, got some beer and some fries, and no one was smoking in the main room. Then came a wave of smokers who hot-boxed the room and it was gross and I had to step outside briefly, but I came back and it was okay for a bit and then I found a group of non-smokers who had a private room so a bunch of us went over there for more drinks. I guess I got reasonably drunk towards the end because I have quite a nice hangover, but I wasn’t falling over or acting stupid as far as I know so it’s all good.
So I woke up this morning feeling hungover but happy. And now it’s raining! That means that it is nice and cool outside and I won’t have to worry so much about sweating all the time – although it can still end up hot indoors because when many people gather in a room with no real ventilation that’s what happens, so as I write this I’m sitting directly in the path of one of the air conditioners. I went for a jog in the rain in my Vibram Five Fingers KSOs and I’m sure anyone who saw me thought I was crazy. But the Vibrams are just so awesome, and there’s lots of fun stuff around here to run on, like grass and dirt and non-pointy gravel (yeah, they actually have smooth gravel here, it’s amazing) and I was really happy about the rain and so yeah, it was good. Georgian classes are still going well although I was a little unfocused today because of the hangover, and there’s so much new material to absorb very quickly so I imagine I’m going to have to be studying this stuff in my free time at the homestay. At least this means I’ll have plenty of stuff to do in my copious amounts of spare time – have I mentioned yet that I have a maximum 30 hour workweek? I’m expected in school five hours a day, six tops. So I imagine I’ll have a lot of time for stuff like exercise, yoga, and studying Georgian, and hopefully I won’t piss all that time away watching TV and surfing the internet.
Some people have claimed that Georgian beer is stronger than US beer – I’ve heard that it’s three times as strong. This is a myth. Georgians love to embellish and exaggerate in order to tell a good story and magical triple strength beer is indeed a good story, but what it is not is a true story. Georgian beer is just ordinary beer. Everything I’ve had here has basically been pilsener style. The Natakhtar is actually really good on tap, and due to some quirk of Georgian refrigeration it’s also the coldest drink I’ve been able to find anywhere in this country. In any case, I highly recommend it, and at 1.3 lari – about 70 cents US, I guess – it’s a great bargain. Just don’t drink ten of them if you’ve got shit to do the next day 🙂
So the final result of all this is that I am feeling less isolated and in a much better mood today.