What I’m Reading

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It’s been a while since I shared what I’m currently reading, which is mostly because I’ve not been reading anywhere near as much as I’d like. I recently finished To Kill a Mockingbird which I loved and still intend to review on here… Before that though, I’d really like to share what I’m currently reading, and what I think so far.

First things first, I’ve been reading Russell Brand’s Revolution since Christmastime deliberately slowly. I’m really enjoying it and am finding it such a good read that I’m trying to savour it rather than read the whole thing in a day. It’s the first physical book I’ve acquired in a long time (I’m abroad and tend to read when travelling so eBooks are just more practical) so I’ve been reading this one a chapter at a time when at home.

My favourite thing about Revolution so far is that you can hear Russell Brand saying it. For those of you not familiar, he’s a British comedian-turned-kinda-activist and has a YouTube channel called The Trews which you should watch if you’re interested in corrupt politicians and current affairs.

I was never a huge fan of Russell as a comedian, partly being too young and partly finding him a bit intense. I was skeptical about his political statements at first and still a lot of people don’t take him seriously, but really it all boils down to the fact that what he is saying does make sense.

Revolution seems to be a more detailed approach to the things he usually discusses in The Trews. He’s still funny and makes jokes, and is terribly scatty, but I’d love to have a chat with him over a cuppa tea.

He’s usually criticised for complaining and not offering any solutions, which he tackles in Revolution. It’s not a story book of course, but he includes a lot of anecdotes and experience which makes it much more interesting than other political books (says the girl who has John Major’s autobiography on her bookshelf…).

It’s not that the book will come to an end, since these things he discusses are still occurring. I just find it refreshing for someone who is so brutally honest to get involved with the political scene, even if all he’s doing is educating those who would be apathetic otherwise about what’s going on.

He’s from a working class background too and a lot of what he talks about is true. People say he’s exaggerating but I’ve seen it with my own eyes as well – and I’m just glad he’s using his celebrity status to help and encourage people!

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I love to read when I travel, despite the queasiness. I find it so relaxing whilst zooming through Tbilisi traffic and it really helps me to realign myself. So, since Russell’s book is quite big and heavy I tend to opt for eBooks when I’m out and about. At the moment I’m sort of flitting between James Joyce’s Ulysses and Albert Camus’s The Stranger.

I’m only going to talk briefly about these since I’ve recently started them, so let’s start with Ulysses.

Of course it’s a classic, and I love my Modernist literature, but Jesus is it hard. I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like so I’m trying to ease myself into it with some easy-read fiction books (Nabakov’s Lolita was perfect for that).

Ulysses is fiction, sure, and the pace of it is incredible. It’s just there’s so many external references and idioms that I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around what he’s saying! I read somewhere that Joyce did that intentionally, but if anyone has any tips on how to stay focused when reading this kind of book it’d be much appreciated!

Nevertheless, I love the characters. What I have managed to understand about them that they’re all seemingly likable so far, and the personalities shine through Joyce’s use of dialogue rather than detailed descriptions. I suppose most people talk about Ulysses for the writing style (like the longest sentence ever) rather than the plot… It’s gonna be something I keep coming back to and slowly delve into.

As much as I love taking books slowly, I need something easy and lighter to read to entertain me on a day-to-day basis. I downloaded the PDF of The Stranger a while back and finally started reading it last week. I think I’m already halfway through and again I’m sort of trying to take it slowly.

The writing is easy to read, but I can’t snap myself past the voice and tone of the character which reminds me a lot of 1984 if I’m honest. Maybe it’s just me, but the character seems so melancholy and distant, despite saying and doing some nice things like complimenting his girlfriend and meaning it.

Of course it’ll be deliberate, it’s written by Camus. I’m a huge fan of his thinking, but have never read one of his books all the way through and I thought this would be a good place to start. I’m interested to see what will happen next, despite it not being so fast-paced and dramatic. By the end of the book I’m anticipating an Existentialist epiphany, and I think it’ll be something I should chew on for a while after.

I haven’t finished yet and will review when I do, but I find myself skipping back to this book in my head when I’m busy doing other things. As far as I’ve read so far, the tone is the most prominent aspect for me and I have to concentrate to read past it’s monotony and remain an open-mind when Meursault goes about his days. No doubt the reason for this will be revealed but it’s already making me question why we do things the way we do… I dunno, I haven’t been awake long enough to discuss Existential philosophy but all I can say is I’m enjoying it thoroughly!

What are you reading at the moment? Can you recommend anything to me for when I finish these ones?

Ten things that made me happy this week!

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Sorry! I’m a little late this week thanks to a manic few days. Shota and I are even more tired after the weekend than we were the working week!

1: My two new students being adorable. It’s so refreshing teaching kids!

2: Planning my trip home and possibly to Paris. I really hope we can make it work, we both need a break and I miss my dog.

3: Peppermint tea, it’s so refreshing now the sun has finally appeared!

4: Knowing more Georgian than other foreigners who have been here longer… Smug, I know, but it’s nice to know that I’ve been exposed to it in a different way and know enough to be able to help others now.

5: Wandering around Vake. Vake is sort of the fancy area in Tbilisi, so it’s much more relaxing to wander around (thanks to the park) and has plenty of interesting cafes and restaurants to visit, It’s quite far for me to travel but my new job means I’ll be there more often

6: This new job I mention is one where I’m a voice over for a series of videos. I met them all the other day and got to know a little bit more about what it entails and it seems really good, so I’ll be starting there later today. Wish me luck!

7: Shouting at people playing loud music and shouting drunk the other day at 2am. I was crazy and never thought I’d be one to yell at people I don’t know (especially in a foreign language) but I did and it solved the problem. So satisfying.

8: New eyeshadow. It’s just a taupe L’Oreal palette but I didn’t actually have any eyeshadow here and it’s nice sometimes.

9: Generally improving relationships with kids here in Georgia. My students and others.. The language barrier makes it hard for them to understand me but the fact the most difficult one fell asleep cuddled up on my lap the other day means progress to me I think.

10: Picnic planning for this week since it seems it’ll be a steady 25 all week! Perfect weather, finally.

How about you? What have you been up to this week?

Food for Thought

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So since coming to Georgia I’ve become really conscious about food. I’ve always loved food and it’s an important part of my life (if you met my dad you’d understand why) so it’s interesting for me to observe these new thoughts as I go.

I’ve never been one for meat, never liked it and have always been way too attached to any fluffy animals to be happy eating them. That being said, I come from a meat and two veg family and was never allowed to be Vegetarian when growing up, since my parents were worried I’d become malnourished (baked beans weren’t persuasive enough unfortunately).

I’m forever worrying about making sure I and the people around me are eating properly. Moving to London in 2013 was my first experience of living alone and therefore cooking for myself, which I enjoyed although London restaurants were always more tempting.

So in Georgia, where restaurants are in abundance but mainly consist of meat, meat dumplings, barbecued meat and really mayonaise-y salads, I can’t say I’m so tempted. I love cooking, even more so when I cooked for a loved one. I’ve got a good opportunity here to experiment with new dishes and to get creative since some ingredients are very hard to find here compared to in the UK, but are generally natural and seasonal.

One little thing before I continue, despite the rich land and multi-cultural life of Georgia, since it’s situated between Europe, the Middle East and Asia and therefore has an over-spill of all of them, people can be painfully narrow-minded when it comes to food. No matter how much I love a dish, I can’t just eat it every day. Here, people tend to cook up batches of various dishes to be eaten cold throughout the week which drives me crazy.

I’m so thankful that I’m in a relationship with an open-minded guy. Last night his friends dropped by spontaneously when I’d just finished preparing dinner and they hated everything. Black bread instead of shotis puri, pasta with a homemade sauce, baked potato wedges, fresh salad, and fried fish for Shota. Simple stuff but they complained throughout and at one point even laughed at the fact there was only fish at the table. Now Shota has said to me that he’s starting to dislike meat too, so he’s happy with what I cook, but I was surprised – how rude!

Anyway, before I start ranting, the main thing I wanted to talk about is meat production here. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but this video which a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week spurred me on (be warned, it’s not pretty but there’s no images of carcasses or anything like that. It is sad though).

The photo above is of my neighbours’ pigs, just opposite our living room window and next to our garden. When I first arrived here I grew quite attached to the one I always saw hopping merrily around a plum tree, only to wake up one morning to the blood-curdling squeals as they slaughtered him for mtsvadi. I ran to the kitchen and blocked my ears, shedding a tear for my little friend.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a pig get slaughtered, and I doubt it will be the last. My first ever trip to Georgia in December 2014 included visiting a village in Kakheti where we stayed with Shota’s sister’s family and enjoyed her beautiful house and garden, full of homegrown veg and fruits. I woke up to a beautiful sunny but crisp winter’s day and joined Shota and his nephews kicking a ball around in the garden before breakfast. This charming scene was interrupted by a loud, pained squeal which I initially thought was a child until I caught on, and Shota gave me a cautious look as I realised. It was a harsh wake-up to reality in a Georgian village (and Georgia in general) but I wouldn’t say it prepared me enough for the pig’s head I accidentally kicked in the butchers the next day!

While this devastates me, I’m conflicted. Of course I would love if we all became Vegan and saved the planet etc etc but realistically, that’s not gonna happen on a large scale any time soon. Even more so in non-Western cultures where meat is the staple of any dish and they’ll happily eat if for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So, atleast I would want the animals to be treated well, which is what I’m seeing here in Georgia. That’s not to say there won’t be huge depressing factories like in that video, but generally everyone has their own livestock or atleast meat from the bazaar which has been brought in to Tbilisi fresh that morning.

The road into Tbilisi from the villages is usually lined with cars selling various chunks of meat from their boots. I don’t have a photo to show you, and generally don’t have photos of meat here because it makes me queasy.

The supermarkets are much more reliant on factories but the average Georgian won’t buy meat and dairy from them. They know the difference in quality and would rather slaughter the animal themselves than buy a chemical-pumped carcass from Fresco.

The animals are happy though, they have space, good food, fresh air, their own garden to play in… It’s all perfect except the killing part. If we’re talking about pigs, they usually cut their throats, halal-style (even though they’re not halal/kosher, but I think the impact of Muslims and Jews here over time has influenced this) which takes time and leads to a slow and painful death for the pig, usually held down by several men. They’re strong and intelligent animals – it shouldn’t be that way!

I don’t know the details of this kind of thing but surely a stun-gun would be better for everyone? But they have their traditions I suppose, and they’re never very keen to hear about people opposing them or trying to advise them.

This hasn’t been a coherent post and, just to summarise, I appreciate the quality of life animals generally have here since it’s much more healthy and natural, but if only they could have a little more empathy and hygiene…

What are your thoughts on this subject? Am I being too precious?

Ten things that made me happy this week!

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Phew! What a crazy month April is turning out to be! This Friday I turned 21, so that’s kept me occupied for a few days. I have to say, it’s this time of year where I’m really missing home. British Spring is my favourite time of year and I can’t think of anything better than to have a picnic with my nearest and dearest in Avebury. That being said, the weather finally picked-up in time for my birthday which gives me a good excuse to buy that skirt I’ve been eyeing for a while…

I can’t believe how fast time is moving, and I don’t just mean because I’m now officially a worldwide adult and have several grey hairs, but it’s almost May and there are so many things I haven’t done. It’s hard to keep my zen with this looping in my head but flowers and kisses always help.

1: My birthday, of course, should be in this list. Although I always get so melancholy and nostalgic. I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when I’m older, hopefully more spontaneous. I don’t like to do much to celebrate, even more so here where I’m not surrounded by my friends. The day itself was okay, but I spent most of it missing my dad and a roast dinner. It was my second birthday in Georgia though!

2: Relaxing after Easter. You saw the post, it was chaos. It proved to me how introverted I can be where I was physically aching for some time alone. It’s not that I dislike people but I get so anxious and overwhelmed when surrounded by so many people, and so many people I can’t communicate with well either!

3: Gaining some new students, two of which are some adorable little girls I’ll start teaching next Tuesday. Also been offered a job as a voiceover because I sound like the ‘Mind the Gap’ lady which is pretty cool.

4: Shota took me to Gardenia Shevanadze on Saturday where I got excited about buying a strawberry plant and some mint to plant in our garden. We haven’t progressed well with the garden actually since the weather has been awful, so wish us luck for the next few weeks!

5: My first Vegan week has been surprisingly easy and I haven’t been tempted by a Bounty at all! For my birthday I decided to pause for a day because there’s no chance of me finding a Vegan birthday cake in Georgia. I can’t say I miss dairy or anything and already I feel so much more energetic and clean. Also I’ve noticed I’m pretty intolerant to gluten too and decided to cut that out and feel amazing for it. Bye bye bloated belly!

6: Yet again I have to mention the Roogs of Tbilisi. I know I mention them a lot but I am overwhelmed by their sweetness. They’re just like Disney stray dogs – quirky and rough-cut but with good hearts. I befriended one that looked like an overgrown Beagle the other day who had a sticker stuck to his nose, cutest thing!

7: We had a huge powercut the other day which forced me to make time to read at home. I generally read ebooks when I travel so not to be bulky, then book books at home. My current book book is Russell Brand’s Revolution and then I’m alternating between James Joyce’s Ulysses and William Morris’ News from Nowhere. So glad that I’ve found time to read, such a good escape!

8: Waking up to the sound of a cock-a-doodle-doo-off between a Rooster outside my window and one on the other side of the settlement. It lasted for about half an hour and cracked me up with every elongated response. Alpha-Cocks.

9: Rediscovering my love for Amanda Palmer’s Radiohead Ukulele Covers album. The title is something like that but find it here. If you’re not familiar with her go and explore, she’s glorious even if the music isn’t to your taste.

10: Discovering a new silent place within walking distance from my house. With grass, with a small sandy beach, and with more privacy than the other area.

How has your week been? Sorry for my lack of activity but I’ll kick myself up the arse for next week!

What to Expect: At the Bazaar

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I have to say I’ve wanted to make a post about bazaars for a while now because it was such a weird experience for me the first time I visited one. It was actually this time last year, for Easter, when I first ventured to Gldaani Bazaar (one of the districts in Tbilisi) and was amazed by it.

That being said, since living here I don’t enjoy them so much. They’re pretty smelly and stressful, but always intriguing in their own way.

There’s plenty of pictures coming, so get cosy!

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