These days, it takes being stuck in bed with a fever to get me to sit still and write something that isn’t for work. The positive side of getting sick in different countries is that it reveals local beliefs about remedies and convalescence (usually some combination of tea, lemon, and honey), and some castigation for whatever I did to cause the illness in the first place (in Russia, it was running outdoors). Here in Georgia, the advice has been to drink tea and either milk or vodka, depending who you talk to. I’m sticking to jasmine tea and the occasional glass of Nesquik just because it makes me happy. Combine that with bed rest and Pink Floyd on repeat, and I’ll be well in no time.
While I’m bedridden and comfortably numb, I’ll give you a disjointed overview of my autumn in Tbilisi.
1. I celebrated my 27th birthday in September. In the days leading up to it, I thought a lot about how many celebrities died at the age of 27. A tortured-soul-drug-over-dose is probably not on my horizon, but death by Georgian taxi driver or second hand smoke might be. Fingers crossed!
2. My best friend in Tbilisi— who organized the birthday party above– moved back to France a couple of weeks after that celebration. I still feel lost without her and our weekly (… ok, more like daily) conversations over wine and khachapuri, venting about life in Georgia, debating about our work and research, and crashing at one another’s apartments. After subsisting almost entirely on long-distance friendships for the past year, having Lucile a short metro-ride away was a blessing. But, like so many other people I’ve become attached to in this city, she left.
3. Autumn in Georgia means harvest time. Everyone in Tbilisi says he is from a small village somewhere in the countryside, even if he only visits there a few times each year. When the temperature begins to fall, everyone heads to their villages on the weekends to pick grapes and make their own wine, which they enjoy for the rest of the year. Or, like Khvicha, they give it all to me and it piles up in my kitchen. Wine shortage? Please. This country is drenched in it.
I was invited by a friend to help his family harvest in a quiet village near Gori recently, and had lots of fun picking grapes and drinking homemade liqueur. I will try to write a full post about this experience. Spoiler alert: it ends with me getting food poisoning from unwashed grapes and projectile vomiting on the Sheraton Hotel at a work function. Classy.
4. Georgia has a new president! As of October 27, Mikheil Saakashvili is out, Giorgi Margvelashvili is in. Saakashvili’s story is fascinating and disappointing. I’d recommend the following quick reads to anyone who is interested in learning about how this Rose Revolution hero rapidly reformed his country and then lost the respect of his people through the alleged abuse of his power:
- “Georgia After Saakashvili”, The Moscow Times
- “So Long, Saakahsvili: The Presidency That Lived By Spin– And Died By It”, Foreign Affairs
- “Georgia Elects New President, But Real Power Will Rest With Next Premier”, New York Times
5. Halloween? Nope, sorry. Nary a carved pumpkin here in the Caucasus.
6. I haven’t only been puking on hotels and wallowing in loneliness for the past few months. I’ve also made some new friends. For the first time since I came to Georgia, I’m socializing almost entirely with Georgians, and it has given me a new insight and understanding of the younger generation here. The downside is that living in the conservative, orthodox Christian Georgian bubble makes me feel strange and misled, like my priorities and path in life need adjustment. I don’t exactly fit the mold of a Georgian woman (besides my enthusiasm for feeding people). So I’m constantly trying to balance the benefits of my new social network with the requirements of fitting into Georgian society. It’s hard to know exactly how much to bend in respect to your environment and peers without a) blatantly lying or b) chipping away at your own beliefs and identity.
7. Winter is quickly approaching and I’m not looking forward to it. Georgian summer is lovely, bringing waves of exotic fruits and vegetables, like alucha in May and persimmon in September and feijoa in October. But winter is bitter and devoid of fresh produce, so I will be one cranky ex-pat. I would appreciate your energizing vibes to help me drag myself out of my apartment. მადლობა!