Note: this entry was written on Sunday, December 19th, in a plane.
As I type this entry, I’m somewhere over Iceland – according to the display on the video screen in front of me. It says that in five hours and twelve minutes, I will be back in New York.
This trip hasn’t been my best. I started out hungover and underslept. I met up with my good friend D-Bakes at Vagzlis Moedani at 10:30. I spent seven of my last ten lari on the cab to get there. From Vagzli we took a train to the airport. The view from the train is amazing – Tbilisi at night, laid out in front of you. You can see Dzveli Ubani, Mtatsminda, Tavisuplebis Moedani, Holy Trinity Church, and the Presidential Palace – all lit up beautifully.
We arrived at the airport at about 11:30, and began the long wait. We talked a little, socialized with other TLGers, wandered around a bit. I saw some people that I haven’t seen since training. Some aren’t coming back. Some gained a lot of weight, some lost a lot of weight. Some have a haunted, desolate look in their eyes, some are just tired, some are excited to be going home. I can relate to none of them – I spent the time missing my bed in Gldani and craving some kebabi or khatchapuri.
When the number of TLGers reached a critical mass, I felt alienated, and went to check my bag. At passport control I ran into one of my students – she’s in the starter level class, and wants to learn English so she can talk to foreigners like me who pass through Tbilisi International Airport. She was happy to see me and wished me happy holidays. I’m sure come tomorrow all of my students will know that I made it safely through security and onto my flight back to America.
I shared the first leg of the journey – Tbilisi to Istanbul – with several other TLGers. When we got to Ataturk International Airport, we went through a semi-ridiculous security rigamarole, then a friend and I sat in the cafe, both broke, tired, trying to achieve enough wireless connectivity to connect with someone, somewhere. I managed to get a single email off, and read a comment from my cousin that gently chided me for not wanting to leave Georgia yet.
Istanbul is apparently quite warm right now – there were people wandering around the airport in flip-flops and t-shirts. I learned a few words of Turkish a few years ago – enough to greet the Turkish flight attendants with a “good day” and thank them in Turkish, but not really much else. It also became apparent that I pepper my speech with Georgian even when talking to Americans, and that when I try to speak to people who don’t speak English, now Georgian is the first language I go to.
Now I’m passing over Reykjavik, four hours and fifty minutes since leaving Istanbul, four hours and fifty-nine minutes until landing. In the row of seats next to mine, there is a person with some sort of handicap – he has literally been making snorting pig noises for the last six hours. We try not to stare. We try to cope by playing our headphones. But every time a song ends or a quiet part of a show comes on, I hear pig noises and occasional outbursts of inarticulate speech-like sound. This man obviously can’t help himself, but still, it’s trying my patience and making sleep all but impossible.
Turkish Airlines ran out of chicken meals and only had pasta. After my last two pasta events – involving a great deal of abdominal discomfort the next day – I opted out of this. I was starving, though, so I ended up begging the flight attendants for a bunch of extra rolls, crackers, butter, and cheese spread. There is this great Turkish cheese spread called peynir or something. (Editor’s note: “peynir” is Turkish for “cheese.” This stuff was actually Turkish feta.) I’ve eaten a ton of it. It sure beats the hell out of sulguni. Still, that chicken looked good. Apparently there’s a chance that I might get some kofta for dinner, so I’m holding out hope.
I really wish the pig man would stop snorting for just like ten minutes or something.
I try to watch TV, but it’s hard to get into a show with constant interruptions. People keep bumping into me. The guy sitting next to me bumps into me at least once every five minutes. I don’t think he understands that that sort of thing might annoy someone. I’m handling it surprisingly well – I haven’t snapped or even really glared at anybody, so far. I just want this trip to be stress free. I just want this trip to be over. I’m trying to be easy-going and good-natured about all of this. I just want to go home and take a damned nap.
I’m not looking forward to going through customs. Who knows what awaits me in the lovely US of A? The TSA has its head so far up its ass I can barely stand it, and they’re spreading their fucking insanity to the rest of the world.
I packed six bottles of wine in my bag. I hope none of them break. I’m kind of a genius at packing, but there’s only so much one can do.
I only have five songs on this netbook – they’re all turbo-folk or turbo-polka videos. This reminds me of a story.
Last night… or, friday night, I guess, now, since even though I haven’t slept, clearly a whole nother day has passed – we pregamed this TLG holiday party pretty hard at my house. When we hailed a cab, we asked how much it would cost to go to Tavisuplebis Moedani. The driver said “petnajst” – and I immediately recoiled in horror. “That’s fifteen lari,” I told the group. I didn’t even have to think about it. How did that happen? I studied Slovenian for a grand total of about 24 hours. I really have to think very hard at this point to say even the most basic greetings and pleasantries. And yet somehow being drunk just unlocked the language part of my mind – I’m talking instant understanding, like I’d memorized the numbers yesterday.
Anyway. Turkish Airlines also gave us a little travel pack, with a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, a sleeping mask, socks(wtf?), and a neat little bag to carry them all in. The irony is that half this stuff won’t even make it through security on a connecting flight, so I don’t know what people who are continuing past JFK are supposed to do. Like I said, this whole security thing is just ass-backwards. Still, overall I had a much more pleasant experience on Lufthansa.
I may change my mind after I try this kofta. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: kofta was good, but not phenomenal. Overall, Lufthansa was still a much better experience. All of my wine made it but I lost four of nine shotglasses. Also I made it through customs in about thirty seconds, with no bag inspection. Result!