A Typical Tbilisi Day

 

Wake up around 8am to a kiss on the cheek as he runs for the bus to get to work. Groggily open the curtains, check emails and glance in the mirror. Drink the water by the bed and take a chilly shower in the almost-outside bathroom. Avoid the neighbours when wearing a towel, they won’t mind that you’ve just showered and want to get dress so will try to talk (in Megruli, not even Georgian) for the next half hour.

Spend more time than necessary doing make-up whilst gazing at the chickens outside. Fluff-up your newly-cut hair (of course it’s too short and won’t sit properly). Eventually you give up and focus your attention on breakfast instead, procrastinating for as long as possible. Finally sit down to work after breakfast, slowly but surely, before attempting to exercise before lunch (if you’re not too hungry).

Lunch will be something quick and usually involving bread, you need to get some shopping later. Quickly get changed into clothes that are acceptable to wear outside and rush for the bus. You don’t want to miss it and get the one which takes twice as long. Make very awkward small-talk with the neighbours while you wait, admiring the cows who are waiting with you. There’s nowhere to sit on the bus so you’re going to have to hold the handles which wobble more than you do, and do you best not to get your foot stuck in the door again, that bruise still hasn’t healed.

Get off early, yell “gaacharet!” because the driver won’t stop unless you look like you want to move. Hop off clumsily, walk down past the church and anticipate the weird looks for not doing the ‘spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch’ thing before speed-walking down to the metro. Avoid potholes and lumpy ground, you haven’t got the best balance anyway. Admire the bebos and their veggie displays, ignore the cow feet in the Tupperware container and smile because the accordion player is back again!

Get blown through the Soviet metro, patiently waiting as the escalators are at a stand-still, no running upstairs like in London so do your best to ignore the person standing too close to you behind. Get to Rustaveli, squint at the sun, apologise to the beggars for your lack of change and take a sharp left – you only have 10 minutes to get there.

Resist the popcorn sellers, bread makers and florists as you zoom down the street, anticipating a collision. When you get there make sure to look the drivers dead in the eye when crossing so, if they run you over, your face is burned into their memory. Beam at the local shmoog who always sits with the blind man outside the supermarket whilst avoiding the men arguing in front, and that strange man who always sits on a red chair in the middle of the road chatting to himself..

You’re still somehow 10 minutes early. Say hello, how are you? Yes tea would be great thanks and get teaching. An hour later and it will be almost dark outside, the men are still arguing and you’re hungry but your sweet is waiting for you at the end of the road armed with a smile and a warm hand. Battle the streets together and chat about your days, miss the bus by 2 minutes so opt for a taxi instead. Somehow always ending up with the Soviet car with a smashed windscreen but it doesn’t matter. You forgot to get food but it’s okay. Get home, kiss, cook some kasha and chat before sleep. Until tomorrow.

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Gudauri in February, Georgia

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Ananuri, Georgia

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Ananuri, Georgia

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Ananuri, Georgia

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Ananuri, Georgia

I know this post is quite late but to be fair it did snow here today so it’s not too irrelevant. This will be quite a photo-heavy post so get yourself comfy and warm – these photos will give you goosebumps!

In February I went skiing for the first time. In Georgia almost everyone goes skiing in Gudauri, which is located on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountain range. Ananuri is a castle which we stopped-off at on the way, reminding me what I love about Georgia. Who can deny that scenery and history?!

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Hada Hut Gudauri

This was the view from where we were staying – a place called Hada Hut Gudauri located on the second slope, where our friend was working and managing. Such a lovely place but it’s quite surreal to wake up to the next day!

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The first day we decided to relax, eat, drink and dance. I spent most of my time curled up by the central fireplace (!) and drinking mug after mug of mulled wine.

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We had about an hour to get some obligatory photos before sunset. The drive from Tbilisi takes about 2 hours and there’s some scary roads so it’s best to go during the day!

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The next day we actually went skiing… Shota’s been before and was nice enough to teach me and Tika before we gave up and took refuge in one of the cafes instead. There’s only so many times I can slide full-speed down a hill on my back without wanting to cry! I’m glad I experienced it though and it wasn’t as bad as I expected (considering all of my bones are in tact). The landscape was really where it impressed me though, I’m not so fussed about skiing. That and the dogs there are basically wolves (and I think there were wolves not far from our hostel judging by the masses of footprints the next morning!)

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I need a fireplace like this!

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Forgive the hat hair…

After a few hours of skiing/falling/comfort eating, we grabbed our stuff and headed back for Tbilisi. Everyone had work the next day and we wanted to make it before the traffic so it’s really great that it’s so close to the capital. Also we managed to get past all the scary roads before dusk so I was happy, achy but happy.

If you’d like more details about visiting Gudauri to ski next season (usually between December – April) then by all means contact me! It’s really very cheap to stay and also to hire equipment, especially compared to the Alps. Just grab a plane ticket and I’ll recommend places in Georgia (it’s such a small country you could see most of it within 2 weeks!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, have you ever been skiing?

Ten things that made me happy this week!

This week march 4

What a productive week!

1: I finally got round to proper advertising for my website, it feels all official now!

2: Speaking of which, I gave my first online lesson on Monday with a sweet girl who has an internship with USAid and has to improve her English to be given a job there afterwards… No pressure. It was a success though, I don’t doubt that she’ll progress fast.

3: Ponytail power has been really refreshing for me this week. I’ve never been one to enjoy ponytails but I’m really enjoying how fun they are with a little ’50s twist.

4: I finally managed to wear my loafers in (almost)! You’d never guess that they were so uncomfortable when they look so simple!

5: My overnight oats discovery earlier in the week. I know what I’ll be living on now.

6: Rediscovering my love for Disney soundtracks. Sometimes it’s necessary… Especially when I haven’t been able to put my finger on my taste at the moment. Last month it was more this kinda thing (thigh-slappingly good), now I’m liking this and this to blast and dance to.

7: Yesterday we finally got our materials for the flat delivered, so it’s really taking shape now. I can’t wait to show you all! I have the design all planned out now.

8: Finally finishing my essay plan. Yes, only plan, but once that’s all organised it’s so easy and quick. I can’t wait to ramble about Existentialism and Semiotics.

9: I felt really overwhelmed earlier this week, and I think I’ve managed to find a way to channel it back into bemusement rather than frustration. It’s taken a lot of concentrated breathing and ignoring humans for a while.

10: Outsmarting technology/ Capitalism earlier in the week. I won’t go into tedious details but you try and fool me with your small print why don’t you…

How has your week been? Have a beautiful Sunday!

Tbilisi’s Union Jack Obsession

One of the biggest cigarette brands here advertises with heavy UK imagery… Hilarious

‘English Clothes’…

      

Maybe this post will seem a little strange but it’s something that always amuses me. Everywhere I go in Tbilisi I see people wearing the Union Jack. On everything. These photos were collected over the course of two days, and that’s not counting the times my phone was buried in my bag where I missed a picture.

It makes me wonder because in the UK most people wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a flag, especially a Union Jack. It’s so cheesy. My dad’s generation maybe, he has his own Union Jack mug, but that would lead me in to a rant about Jeremy Clarkson-esque patriotism. Russell Brand sort of explained what I mean by that here. So you can see why it amuses me, even more so when the clothes are generally made in Turkey and yet you can smell the unintentional Imperialism.

I met a friend-of-a-friend at a party here back in August who was so excited to tell me how much his wife loved the UK. It’s nice to hear, except then he said how she’d never traveled there or even outside of Georgia. He told me how they bought a phone with the Union Jack on and how they have some black and white canvases of Westminster on their living room wall where the bus is still red. You know what I mean. I cringed but tried my hardest not to burst any bubbles. He then called his wife and told her that he was speaking to a real English person and then passed the phone to me to just say something. It was beyond awkward and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Of course places get romanticised and people want to travel there, but really?

One thing I’ve noticed about Georgians is that they can be surprisingly snobby. Everyone wants to look like they’re spending a lot of money, even though people don’t have money. It’s common to go to a supra (you remember I told you, a typical Georgian feast) and order everything so plates are piling up (the average supra tends to have atleast 4 layers of plates) and gallons and gallons of wine. Then they’ll finish after 8 hours or so and just leave it. It’s ridiculous since it must cost several hundred lari and on average people are earning about 600GEL/month. So they’ll splash out, wear fake Chanel, have the latest iPhone and biggest Jeep but not afford food that month and be massively in debt. It sounds extreme but I’m not exaggerating, that’s the sad part.

I’m trying to remain objective here and sort of take context into consideration, otherwise I’m finding I get so overwhelmed and stressed with so much negative energy. Maybe it’s me and I’m only picking up on the negative aspects like I just described, but I’m very quick to smile at a waving baby or stop and admire a busker, so I dunno. Of course not everyone is like how I’m describing but you can safely assume atleast 80% of the population have their priorities like this. This explains the idolisation of London and the UK since it’s advertised seemingly internationally as the land of wealth and luxury. Hilarious for me having lived near Aldgate East. I had a perfect view of the poor communities of London when I turned my head left, and the City of London when I turned my head right. Slums and the City, if you will.

Of course I know London is a rich city (I too have scoffed at £15 for a Jack and Coke) and that the UK is a First World country but really, more than anything I’m dumbfounded that people take things so literally. Maybe I’m cynical but people aren’t questioning the things I find painfully obvious, like the blatant propaganda on the news channels, or the fact that neon clothes with real fur are never ever going to be a good idea. I know, I know, I’m privileged and naïve but I’m allowed to be bewildered at such things. Even more so when my experience of the UK is from the perspective of a working class upbringing. I feel like this snobbery is something I’m allowed to be upset by though, since it seems to be that competitive attitude here which is grinding everyone down, not just me. You always have to one-up each other and it’s exhausting. I don’t bother, hence the incessent staring everywhere I go.

In the UK if you dress like you have money with massive gold watches and Gucci plastered over your loo roll then people will just think you look like a dick, simple. I come from a small town where you will see more people wandering around in their haute couture pyjamas. Or brown-stained knickers, whatever. You think I’m exaggerating… So you can imagine my confusion when I provoked the reaction I did last summer wearing a plain black vest top and knee-length shorts with flip flops. Not that the ladies cover up here but I just looked way too casual, you know, as if I just wanted to do the shopping or something… It was exactly with arms full of veg on my way between bazaars when the police stopped me. I freaked out that I’d done something wrong or they were gonna ask about my visa or something (I was within my 90 days anyway) and he hit on me. A policeman on duty took the time to check me out and propose marriage. Thankfully the neighbour was nearby and explained in very angry Georgian that I’m taken but Jesus. Christ.

Anyway, in short everyone wants to wear a Union Jack and look European, but not so many are keen to learn English or adopt a European mentality regarding the big issues here. Then if you are a European and you do look foreign then expect lots of resentful/ judgmental stares. I’ve been assured they’re just curious but they look like they want to fight me everytime I step onto the metro, so what’s a girl supposed to think?

Amused, bewildered, psychotic, you decide. I’d love to hear what you think of this sort of thing, maybe you’re from another country that’s being romantised to the extreme or you’re on the receiving end of such ridiculous fashion trends?

Lazy Sundays

    

It’s been one of those days. We were reluctant to venture out into the rain today just for the sake of responsibilities and food shopping so we decided to huddle-up inside and avoid other human interaction. God, was it needed. Shota’s so busy with work and doesn’t get much time to just lay down and be quiet so he spent some time reading today while I worked on my website. Enjoying each others’ company without a word being said and it was lovely. Sometimes a day to rejuvenate is necessary so I made a cleansing smoothie (pictured) and we made a simple dinner since we didn’t actually manage to go food shopping like we intended…

The smoothie is made of just a handful of fresh spinach, half a broccoli head, two chopped apples, water and ginger. It looks a bit like pond water and smells like it too so if you’re a bit cautious around leafy green smoothies then maybe avoid it. I really enjoyed it though, it’s refreshing but with some punch to it thanks to the knob of ginger. Maybe we should’ve juiced it instead for a smoother taste but I’m lazy. If you like something sweeter then by all means add more carrots or apples to balance it but I think it’s tasty in its own right. It’s so good to try and throw in some leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, even into sweet smoothies. They’re full of vitamins and it feels like you’re drinking an army to protect you from Spring colds and hayfever!

We roasted a chicken for tonight’s dinner. Doused in oil, salt, dried rosmary and with half a lemon inside and surrounded by glistening potatoes, broccoli, carrots and a little bit of red pepper. I personally don’t like the chicken but Shota loved it, and it means we have some scraps to give to the local shmoogs too (one of which I saw burying a loaf of bread earlier, very clever).

I can’t wait to move out of this flat and into the new one. This building we’re in at the moment is very old, barely anything works and the kitchen depresses me. There’s no window so natural light and air is impossible so bear with me with the crappy photos. The photo above does a good job of displaying our table though. The juicer is amazing and can be bought here although it’s a pain in the arse to clean. Do you like our BFG wine bottle? The wine is homemade, given to us by Shota’s brother-in-law. Georgians are big on their wine especially in Kakheti where his sister and her family live. This is a white wine although looks more like rosé. It’s very dry and quite strong… Yes I am a little tipsy as I’m typing this.

When I’m inside all day I absolutely love spending time cooking, cleaning and being domestic. There’s something quite satisfying about tidying your home with your sweet only to relax together with a film afterwards. I’m determined to make this coming week more progressive and productive, technology won’t get the better of me now!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend too! What’s a typical Sunday like for you?

Ten things that made me happy this week!

This week march 3
This week has really tested my patience but the simple things have kept me smiling… Hopefully next week will be a little more optimistic!

1:  Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are going to have a baby! Babies are always good news, but this is even more reason for me to plan a post about Amanda Palmer and why I like her so much. I discovered The Dresden Dolls almost 10 years ago now (perfect for my angsty teen stage) and I still listen to them regularly. Amanda Palmer’s solo music is more for when I’m in a certain mood but I still love it and her whole approach to the industry is just perfect. Go and read her book and see how perfect she is. I saw her live in London a few years ago and it was probably one of the best concerts I’ve been to. I was given a flower by the person next to me and she had us all doing aerobics at one point. I’ll save the spewing of love for another post but yes.

2: I finally came prepared with sausage to give to the adorable shmoog near my student’s house. I think I’ve included dogs in every post so far but I’m sure you understand.

3: The accordion players in Tbilisi. I absolutely love the accordion and am amazed when anyone can play it well. So I always give them some change and smile and all of my frustrations vanish – for a second I feel like I’m in a fairytale in Paris or something. The gravelly-voiced one on the metro is charming too but I think I’m the only passenger that thinks so..

4: This weekend Shota and I chose our materials for the flat, like the tiles and flooring stuff. I get so bored being in those kind of places but it was exciting to see it start taking shape!

5: Blossom everywhere! Hello Spring! The first day of spring was welcomed in Tbilisi with heavy snow. Only the ducks were enjoying it. Sure looked pretty though. The weather is so odd here, snowing one day and too hot for a jumper the next.

6: The blogging community is growing, I’m so happy to get to know you all and see what you’re posting. It’s so good to chat with like-minded people and learn something new. Technology is amazing huh!

7: I found spinach in the bazaar. It doesn’t sound like much but buying it from the supermarkets is so expensive in comparison. Plus spinach is perfect with everything.

8: I can feel my Georgian improving. I understand the general gist of most conversations now and can sort of hold a conversation when necessary too. I’d like to do a post about the Georgian language since it’s very unique but maybe I’ll save it for a video (yes I’d like to start making videos soon but am having some technical difficulties at the moment).

9: Finally getting some time to relax more with Shota when we’ve been so busy recently. It really feels like we’re growing together and he just gets sweeter and sweeter everyday!

10: Skyping our friend in Berlin who’s always so supportive and excited to hear what we’re up to. Him and his wife are just the perfect couple, so intelligent and refreshing to be around. We visited them in January and it completely reaffirmed my love for Berlin!

What have been your highlights this week?

What to expect when: Walking down the street in Tbilisi

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If this wasn’t just before we were about to leave for Gudauri, this cutie would’ve come home with me!

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Taken on Rustaveli

So I got used to London. I was there for a year and everyday I was heading through The City of London (you know, with all the business people) so got used to everyone rushing and having somewhere to be. It’s taking every ounce of my patience not to get angry when walking down the street in Tbilisi. It’s a small city and therefore very likely that the person you’re walking behind will bump into someone they know, stop dead in the middle of the pavement and kiss, hug and reminisce with their dad’s friend’s sister’s dog’s uncle’s child.

You try to overtake them, unsure why you’re rushing, only to be cut off by a bebo (grandma) trying to sell you some lemons. If not a bebo, then a beggar/gypsy will be wound around your leg as you try to explain that you don’t carry change. You escape, only to be in the midst of a swarm of children just leaving school, then you remember you should focus more on the cars around you since they’re never looking where they’re going. You’re on the pavement though? Yeah, don’t get too comfortable. These cars will be beeping at each other angrily (I now understand and love the law in the UK that makes incessant beeping illegal), shouting out of their windows and sat across stationary lanes diagonally. The police have a more sophisticated approach where they can use built-in megaphones on their brand new police cars to shout at the people around them. Then you’re smug because you can move faster as a pedestrian than they can in their over-priced, fuel-guzzling Jeeps.

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Taken in Vake

The cars are smelly, they don’t have filtered petrol here so yes you are being poisoned as you breathe it in (more so than usual anyway). I’d recommend a tissue or a face mask but make sure to cover you mouth and nose unlike most of the people you’ll see who seem to wear it as a fashion statement. If the cars weren’t delightful enough for your lungs, you will spend the whole time breathing in peoples’ cigarette smoke. Sure it’s the same in most cities but you could be stood on the street alone and you will still be able to smell cigarette smoke. Be careful not to trip over the loose tiles, or even worse, to fall down one of the plummeting 6′ holes you’ll find in the middle of the street. And no you can’t sue them if you break your legs, you should’ve looked where you were going.

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Taken near Marjanishvili

People will be staring at you, no matter how inconspicuous you think you look. Old, young, fat, thin, tall, short. Whatever, you’re interesting and god knows why. Play dumb if you like when people try to talk to you. If you’re female the only way they will leave you alone is when you explain you’re married to a Georgian. The women will find it perfectly acceptable to ask you if you’re a ‘kargi gogo’, and expect to know how many kids you will have and why don’t you have them already?!

If you want to buy fruit from one of the vendors and you communicate with near-perfect Georgian, they will still know that you’re foreign and try to charge you more. Your best bet is shopping at Carrefour or Goodwill – solace for expats in Tbilisi. In other supermarkets you will most likely only find gherkins and tinned Russian meats. It’s nicer to ask for popcorn for 10tetri/cup on the streets if you fancy a snack. If you’re cute they might give you two cups for the price of one. The chocolate bars will make you crazy thanks to the additives they still have in them, that or they’ll be out-of-date so take your pick. Khachapuri and lobiani is available everywhere and is wonderful, but if you’re like me and can’t physically stomach a pizza-sized slice of cheesy bread everyday then maybe popcorn is better. It’s impressive how cheap things are here but sometimes less is more.

Do your best not to let these things get to you, everyone appreciates a kind face and polite words. Be patient, you don’t have anywhere to be in a rush either (yes you have to be there for 6, but Georgian time is +3 hours). Talk in the little Georgian that you know to say please, thank you and excuse me and don’t be surprised when your neighbours bring food or give you fruit just because you’re there. Focus on the dogs who have fun on the streets instead, and it’s absolutely vital to carry bacon biscuits for them because they’ve mastered puppy-eyes.

(Negative and slightly exaggerated but sometimes a girl needs to vent!)