Upon reading me admit to doing most of my shopping at the Populi XL in Gldani, reader pasumonok recoiled in horror and couldn’t bear to read my blog for days. When she recovered, she extended to me the very kind offer of walking me through her shopping routine, which has been passed down from generation to generation, from grandmother to granddaughter, since at least the time of David the Builder.

We met up at the Tsereteli Metro station. As we walked I saw a giant familiar building – the National Stadium – which is where I saw Georgia defeat Canada in a rugby match a few weeks ago, and which I use as a prominent landmark when viewing satellite images of Tbilisi on Google Maps. We made a left turn into a little alleyway filled with stores, and emerged into a sort of courtyard. Up a ramp was a Dollar Store, just like the ones in New York.

The Dollar Store basically imports cheap, random goods from the US and sells them for, generally, one to five lari. They have paper plates and napkins (actually they have plastic and styrofoam plates, too – styrofoam! who knew that stuff was still around…), laundry detergent, kitchen tools, tupperware, clothes, and other weird random stuff. Anyway it’s significantly cheaper than any of the other stores I’ve been to, for the stuff it has, anyway.

After the Dollar Store, we went and sat in the park for a while until pasumonok’s husband joined us. We managed to find the most phenomenally uncomfortable bench in all of creation, and I ignored the strange looks long enough to photograph this monstrosity. Seriously, this bench was so uncomfortable that I laughed for a good two minutes about how hilariously uncomfortable it was, then regaled my companion with stories of New York’s advanced bench technology.

During this exchange, I realized something about my personality that I probably should have picked up on earlier. When I complain about something in person, it usually has the effect of making the people I am complaining to laugh. Not that I’m saying I have the comedic genius of a Carlin or a Lewis Black, but some of my friends have actually told me that I remind them of Lewis Black when I launch into one of my rants. I think the humor comes from the fact that I invest a great deal of thought and emotion into pointing out the ridiculous aspects of relatively trivial things, like, for instance, the most uncomfortable bench I’ve ever sat on. Nobody who actually heard me talk about this bench would make the mistake of thinking that I really cared about this bench, or that I was actually annoyed by it, or that I thought it reflected poorly on Georgia.

On the other hand, when I complain about something on the internet, that sort of humorous, sarcastic, self-deprecating attitude mostly fails to come through, or only works for people who know me in person. I can easily see how someone might read about my bench experience and think “wow, this guy thinks he is too good to sit on a Georgian bench! Fuck this guy!” or something along those lines. The thing about the Tbilisi Metro is a perfect example of this – I wrote on here about how people on the Metro treat other people like furniture, in a sort of bombastic tone, and declared that I was forbidding myself from ever riding the Metro again. Of course the very next week I was back on the damned thing, because I have to get around somehow, and although there is plenty to complain about related to the overall Metro experience, I complain but don’t take those complaints very seriously. It’s just something to talk about that potentially has some substance, or a way to impart information with some kind of hook or angle to it. It’s a way to make reading about what the Metro is like less boring, or to spark discussion about the way people relate to each other in different social spaces in different cultures.

Just like this bench that I sat on for all of six minutes on an unseasonably warm December day in Tbilisi sparked a four hundred word mini-essay about my personality and how it comes across differently in person than on the internet. The bench doesn’t even matter – it’s just a lead-in. Still, I’ll have to be more careful in the future about making my intentions clear while blogging.

Anyway. After the bench ordeal (see, sarcasm! you’re supposed to laugh at my exaggerated word choice) we went to see the spice guy. He has spices. Horseradish, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, and of course all the standard stuff. Definitely worth checking out. The path we took to the spice guy was winding and I don’t know whether I could replicate it… we went through the park, made a left and passed a big wreck of a building, crossed the street and went into another building, walked down some halls, stopped at an ATM, then kept walking and emerged in a hall intersection with a spice stand.

That’s not helpful. What is helpful is the way we left, because that was easy and has landmarks. We basically walked past the spice guy down a short hallway and emerged onto a busy street. The building complex that the spice guy was in has a very distinctive green and orange awning running the length of the building, which has a number of stores and shops open to the street. Up the block was a familiar-looking building that said “Pro-Credit Bank” and I realized that it was so familiar because I was basically staring at Vagzlis Moedani. So the spice guy is a stone’s throw from both Metro lines, Tbilisi Central Railway station, and GMart. Basically if you get off the Akhmeteli-Varketili line at Vagzlis Moedani, walk outside, go over to the building with the giant green and orange facade, walk down the hill to the last entrance to said building, and walk down the hall, you’re at the spice guy.

Bonus Section: I’ve uploaded maps and satellite images with the Dollar Store and the Spice Guy marked with red stars. I am reasonably certain that these are accurate but feel free to drop me a comment if they aren’t.

There’s also a giant bazaar complex in this area, comparable to the Gldani bazaar, but somewhat cleaner overall. It’s worth exploring, but I won’t go into detail because my ability to recount exactly where everything was is limited due to the overall bazaar chaos.

Anyway, thanks again to pasumonok and her husband for the tour, conversation, and the fantastic dinner they cooked afterwards.

Lewis Black on Milk:

Lewis Black on Water:

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7 Responses to Shopping

  1. pasumonok says:

    I really suck at maps so I can’t help you with the locations…
    I used to shop at Populi before my husband and my grandmother won me over to the dark side.
    Thanx 4 dining with us! Gaia says “hi”!


  2. natarajan says:

    But what spices did you get?


    • panoptical says:

      I didn’t actually buy any spices, since my kitchen is currently fully stocked, but I’ll definitely go there if I need anything interesting, specific, or rare in the future. My friends actually managed to find me fresh ginger a few weeks ago, so I’ve been able to consummate my ginger curry desires…


  3. Justine says:

    hilarious! Sarcasm and humor are some of the last things to be picked up in a second language, which probably doesn’t help in your trying to write about your experiences. I sometimes wonder, if I go to Georgia (hopefully in late January!) maybe I just shouldn’t write a blog. I’d be too afraid of offending, maybe I should just take it all in without writing about it. However, I think that would be a disservice to the program, all the TLGers need to talk about their experiences in an honest, humorous way. I wonder, and I haven’t checked out all the Blog Roll there, if there are any blogs (hopefully in English) written by Georgians interacting with TLGers, I would really love to read that!


  4. Eric says:

    Yey! Thanks for the map! I’m very excited to know I will be able to make ginger tea for the next term.


  5. Polskishvili says:

    By the way,
    That spice guy usually has cumin… the real stuff.
    My reason for living in Tbilisi (08-10) was opening and operating a restaurant for a Georgian business man.
    I bought from that guy several times. But I do remember the first time took some effort even with an interpreter.
    I realize you are in Kutaisi now…. but you did say you were always looking.


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