Monday, September 27, 2010

A Call for Requests of the Photo Kind

Dear Readers,

A real, non-creative update is soon to come, however, I would like to ask for your requests for photos that I can upload. You can be simple,real and/or outrageous in your requests, and I will try my best to fulfill them all. You can send as many ideas as you can think of. I will/may be interpretive in the fulfillment, but will try to get them all. Requests can be commented here, sent through facebook, or emailed to As time carries on, I hope for this to develop. Ideas are always welcome!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Tea

According to Balti culture, as expressed in Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s famous book “Three Cups of Tea,” tea is a catalyst to transform a stranger into a member of your family. From a different cultural perspective, this transformation occurs by means of an alternate medium.

 In Georgia, family is united and born from times of unique circumstances, usually over an abundant meal and wine. Tradition and Religion create part of the foundation this culture was built upon. Celebrations of life and mourning of those lost intertwine with these values through the creation and consumption of wine. To an outsider or passerby, wine may seem excessive or unnecessary, however, approximately 9 glasses of wine provide the opportunity to connect friends to other friends, old and new; to family; to peace and the wealth of nations; to the recognition of women, of men, of harvest, of hospitality; to common beliefs and religion; to memories and the past; to children; to our future and to hope. These symbols and spoken words go much deeper than drinking tea to become family in this culture, and the ties you develop can last a lifetime. In my experience thus far, tea in Georgia, and arguably in life, serves a different purpose.

After recently acquiring a French press, I can safely say that it holds 4-5 cups of tea. Sipping tea throughout an evening home alone is quite an experience. When freshly brewed (at optimum temperature), the tea is scorching hot. The experience is indiscernible as your sense of touch is overwhelmed by the white, hot ceramic tea cup teeming with fresh flavors. The golden brim beginning to separate from age perfectly accompanies the dainty dark red design wrapping around the side. A swift brush underneath the cup reveals a hastily scratched Chinese symbol into the wet clay indicating where or by whom the cup was made.

As the tea in your cup slowly cools and readies for consumption, the tea in the carafe continues to steep, darkening as time draws on. You might fall to distractions of obligation and taking brief leaves of absence returning to find a bitter brew. The strength may leave you dissatisfied with your decision to take part in this experience, but if you believe in not being wasteful, you keep drinking. Stronger and stronger the tea becomes, you have already begun to know it well. Tapping out the last couple of dynamic drops, you are left wanting more.

Some may go back for more, may trade in their carafe for a larger one, and/or may decide to purchase a larger cup. A number of people will make their tea with the wrong leaves or will not give it a fair chance, tossing out a batch of unknown outcomes, yet still learning something about their selves.  No matter what blend or brand you choose, a nice hot beverage warms the soul. In the moments of silence between the ebb and flow of warmth against your lips can come reflection and balance, as wisps of steam gently rise from the depths of your cup to lazily linger along the surface.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fast Walkin in the Rain

Walking in the city during a rain shower can be one of the most liberating experiences. As you take in a breath of nature in the concrete jungle, you look around to notice the people bustling down the sidewalks. There’s one woman up ahead trying to balance the exposed papers in her hand as they become translucent from water droplets and the cheap umbrella that’s too small to cover her tiny frame. The droplets also cling to the tips of her abundant espresso frizz as tiny jewels bestowed to her by the skies. Her olive complexion compliments her temporary gems, and her frantically elegant brown eyes catch yours with a momentary deep focus as she walks by. Your gaze snaps back to the chaos in front of you.

Silver and navy cars speed by tiny pools of water collecting on the road’s surface. Swirls of oil and eroded soil combine to create cloudy creations in the puddles that the wind enjoys to gently ebb upon, occasionally being reset by a passing car. The view around presents a brilliant contrast between the luscious green leaves and the cream-colored concrete structures lining the street. A sense of calm washes over you as you soak in the ambience that cleanses you of worry and woe.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Leaf – Turned Over

The great trip home has been accomplished. I am now sitting in my bedroom in the morning’s twilight hours waiting to greet the sun with my new roomie. He’s a really great guy. I’ll call him Wings to protect his identity. He’s really tiny, with dark leathery skin. He’s a little hairy, but quiet for most of the day. He’s been keeping me up that past couple nights with his little sounds he makes. He’s a homebody like myself, so we should get along well together.

The flight home was pretty rough. I can’t say I’ve ever been that irritable. I had a wonderful brunch at Cracker Barrel with some close friends. My friend bestowed a “silly band” upon me. Apparently, it’s a craze I missed while being in Georgia. Anyways, we were talking over brunch about screaming children on flights. I was surprised I couldn’t say I had really experienced the woes of screaming children during a flying experience… until now. It all started in London – Heathrow. I didn’t have the opportunity to get out of Terminal 1 for my six and a half hour layover there, so I had to occupy myself. I was fascinated by all the authentic English accents around me. Then, I transitioned to people watching with everyone who walked by. There were a couple of people who sat near me that were also clearly alone. I wanted to go up to them and ask them if they wanted to exchange some currency and go to a cafĂ©. Sadly, I never quite built up the courage to do so.

Eventually, all the people watching and lack of sleep from Tampa kicked in. I close my eyes, leaning on my carry-on with my backpack tucked between my ankles and fall asleep. Screaming twins 1 and 2 start the ambience. I open my eyes and a pair of parents across the way are attempting to gain control over the two. Fortunately, they didn’t stay there too long. With my eyes alternating alert, they close again. A mom with two kids, one older, one younger, sit right behind me. The younger child begins to scream as though he’s being tortured. He keeps  screaming and screaming. Not wanting him to get the best of me, I try to keep sleeping. Then before I know it, he comes to the other side and stands right in front of me and screams harder than he had screamed thus far. I’m really irritated, so I get up to relocate and notice the mom is trying to sleep and is ignoring her children. The lack of attention is what prompted this whole fiasco. As a single parent, I think I just wouldn’t fly internationally unless I had a full supply of 5-hour energy, redbull, and caffeine pills.

Once my flight’s gate information pops up on the display, I trundle across the terminal to greet a full room of Georgians and a few Azeris and Internationals. It turns out to get to Tbilisi from London, we were connecting in Baku. Baku is totally on the way, so I don’t mind at all… It’s not like it would put us an additional 2 hours out of the way. So they start to board and I feel like I’m already back in Georgia. There was no line. Then, on flights you are supposed to put your carry-on in the overhead bin and your personal item under the seat. Everyone proceeds to squeeze and cram their over-sized carry-on’s of various shapes into the bins. As the flight is in progress – seat belts come off and we are birja-ing in the aisles. Screaming baby behind me starts. The mom was trying to force the toddler to stop by holding her hand over the kid’s mouth, which only encouraged him. In the moments of calm with the child, he would scream a poorly constructed ABC song… AAA-BBEEEEEE- CEEEEE- DEEEEE- UHH-LAAA – LAAA- LAAA- EXXX- Y- ZEEE- ABC’s!!!! again, and again, annnd you get the point. There were several Georgians who pretended not to understand English with the flight attendants, and then made fun of her in Georgian. Bad parenting, poor sleep quality, and just plain rudeness. Welcome back to Georgia!!

In all honesty, I was happy to get back. I’d also like to add a disclaimer that this experience doesn’t represent all of Georgia, just a few bad experiences that have turned into some pet peeves of mine and not limited to just Georgia.

So I get in a taxi to go to my friends’ house for the night. I negotiated 20 lari for the fare. During the drive, the driver asks me if I’m a spy. No, I’m a teacher… then he begins to talk about how hard the economy is in Georgia, as though I didn’t know having been there a year. Then he talks about how expensive gas is, and how high it must’ve gone since I left Georgia… Ok, buddy I see where this is going. I have him drop me off a little early so as not to get charged more. At the point he dropped me off, he got angry at the 20 lari, I gave him 5 more, and lugged my 90 pounds of luggage the rest of the way, up the hill to my friends’ house. Georgians are talking about how funny I look as I walk by but don’t offer to help.

I spent a really good time at my friends’ house. I got to meet to pretty cool PCVs from Azerbaijan to boot. It’s always good to exchange experiences. We went to a Georgian polyphonic singing practice, where I learned 2 Georgian polyphonic songs. I’m a Bani singer (or bass). It’s the easiest part as well. I love singing and loved these two songs. One was in Megrelian (a much smaller regional language in Georgia) and the other was in Georgian. Then, I get across town very easily thanks to the help of several Georgians to the marshrutka station. On the marsh back to site, I start to lose feeling in the roof of my mouth. Then my face starts to go numb, followed by my arms. This continues until I get off near my apartment. I thank the driver in Georgian, and realized I was slurring and my hearing had been affected. It turns out I had a heat stroke. SO, then I go up and rest the remainder of the day, drinking lots of water per Dr. Marina. I’m fine now, so don’t worry, it must’ve been all the strenuousness of the trip.

It turns out my landlord bought and installed a new couch/bed in my room, washed my linens, and organized everything. She is such a sweet lady! I got to hang out with my site mate that night. And since coming back, I’ve watched (in this order) Prince of Egypt, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I love watching feel good Disney and fantasy movies! I’m feeling ready to knock out these last 10 months and school starts soon. I have a lot of good projects planned. You are all welcome to come stay with me here at my site. It’s not the best conditions, but good company is guaranteed.