Thursday, December 2, 2010

my life on sex & the city

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 - Day 45

Dear Readers,
          This first full week of classes has been nothing but exhausting. Aside from the usual Georgian mishaps like complete disorganization of class times and my constantly changing "set" schedule, I was ill from the teacher's suphra for two very long days.
          The teacher appreciation suphra was last Sunday evening, exactly one week ago, where the tamada a.k.a. the toast-master went completely crazy with his dedicatory drinking. Instead of the usual steady procession of toasts he threw back glass after glass of wine - or should I say homemade malt-liquor. Suffice to say, something I drank or ate did not agree with me or four others.
          Struggling through Monday's classes, I called it a day and went home. Well, not before my little incident. I was in the middle of reading the listening section to my 11th Graders when my stomach decided it HAD to go. Quickly dropping the book, making an exit, and heading down four floors of stairs, I entered the only teacher's restroom in the whole school. In fact, I nearly didn't make it, which would have been the most embarrassing moment in all my life. Entering the teacher's squatty-potty and finding no tp, well...go ahead and call me Charlotte because I nearly pookipsied on my pants anyways.
~ There! are! no! words! ~
Well after that, I decided to scurry on home where the only thing I wanted to do was put on my over-sized sweater and get under the covers, which is basically where I spent the rest of the day.
          Clearly, I was not planning on going to school the next day seeing as how I spent the better part of the previous evening on the pot. So instead, my host sister, who was also sick, and I chilled in the living room sipping on this god-awful stomach settling concoction. As part of our vegging, we thought it might be a great idea to have an American moviethon. Ana was to choose the movies from the ones I brought seeing as I had already watched them all more times than I can count. In no time at all, we went through Something New, Corpse Bride, Alice and Wonderland, and How Harry met Sally.
          After four movies, I needed a break...a long break. Ana has probably one of the worst personalities for watching movies. Unlike most people who may chat throughout the whole thing or crack jokes at cliche moments, she simple never speaks. And I don't mean to say that she's quietly watches and then remarks on the film. Once the film ends, she takes it out and puts in a new one. No comments, no questions, which you might think is nice. But then you realize it's really quite awkward not to say something after a movie ends. I mean a simple "That's nice" would have sufficed. Anyways, I went for a walk, a long walk......
          When I returned from my walk, I find Ana has put in one of my gay romance movies. That's right. A gay romance. This is probably where you're asking yourselves why I didn't put the gay movies in a different place. And you would be right to ask such a thing. Only, the thought never really crossed my mind. I completely forgot which movies I had brought. So - struck with fear/panic/embarrassment/awkwardness I gently say, "Ana, I'm not so sure you'll like this kind of movie. Shelter is sort of a romance movie about gay people." To which she responds, "Oh don't worry. This is a 'modern' family." At this point, I really had no choice but to sit and to hope for the best - except that hoping never really gets you that far...
          To be honest, I wasn't really all that nervous. Sis & I had sort of already had the "gay talk". Well, it was more of a talk about gays rather than "the talk" about me being gay. In either case, I knew she didn't really have a problem with them so long as it wasn't in one's face. You know how we gays love to flaunt it!
          Anyways, things were completely fine until my 77 yr. old grandmother decided to join us right before the first kiss. Any smart person would have turned it off until she left. If you know anything about me, you'd know I don't do well in handling potentially awkward moments. I instead waved down Ana to let her know that something grandma shouldn't see was coming up. And again, I got a "don't worry, we're a modern family" wave back. As the first kiss between them began and then the passionate sex scene proceeded, I didn't know if it was better to stare at the screen feigning ignorance or prepare for grandma's reaction, which may or may not have involved the lighting of candles and some nervous praying. What I got instead were 3 simple questions:
  1. Are those two men kissing?
  2. With love?
  3. And they are waking up together?
[spotted: Durota making a slight edition to the story of Adam & Eve. Say hello to Adam's roommate Evan. And who says you can't teach old dogs new things?]

          Don't worry kids; this story ends well. Grandma decided to join us in finishing the film. She was in fact so enticed by the sex scene, she just had to have the rest of the story-line explained to her. Ironically enough, Ana found this movie to be her favorite that day.

from pooping in my paints to teaching queer 101, no one does it any classier.
xo xo m

Sunday, November 7, 2010

missing my all-american blue rain boots

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 - Day 33

Dear Journal,
          Why didn't I bring them?
           Getting out of bed this morning felt like moving heaven and earth. Today's going to be a rough day. the novelty of being here has completely worn off. I miss having electricity always. I miss getting a full night's sleep comfortably in my bed. And I miss taking hot showers - strong, relaxing, hot showers.
          But most of all, I miss the peace that used to come with sitting in silence. In the rare event I do get time to myself, I forget to stop smiling and breath. This is tiring well beyond anything I could have imagined. Forgetting there was no electricity again, I went to heat up some hot water for my morning cup of tea. By the time I remembered this, my host sister Ann spotted me. And somehow I've managed to send an old lady to a neighbor's home to boil me some water. Did I mention it was raining cats and dogs? I'd love for nothing more than to be left alone today just so I can recuperate. Every time I am alone, I feel as though I should be mingling. What to do?

searching for only a moment's pause,
xo xo m

Attention Train-wrecks, Gypsies, and Homos

Monday, September 6th, 2010 - Day 25

Dear Journal, 
          The past few days have been an adventure to say the least. Beginning with my arrival in Alycia's village, I knew the coming days would be the craziest by far. 
          Taking a marshutka to her village Wednesday afternoon turned out to be more difficult than expected. Having gotten on the wrong one heading into a different town, I had to get off 3 miles early to try to find the one that would take me to her place. Evidently, no one likes coming there since I didn't find a single one heading in that direction, which meant I had to walk the 3 miles in the blistering heat. Have I mentioned how people in this country can't drive? (see earlier post) Well, avoiding cow-pies and passing cars, I began walking down the loneliest road I've ever seen. Luckily, Alycia managed to find someone to pick me up so I didn't have to walk that last mile. Props to the strange man in his nasty pick-up. gmadlobt!
          After having arrived and seeing all of her village in five minutes, let's just say it was time to begin our weekend getaway in Tbilisi. Alycia, our friend Hannah, and I were off to the next town to catch the evening train. Naturally, this would be no easy feat. Arriving in Senaki at 4pm, we figured we would catch the 10pm train into Tbilisi. Little did we know that 'evening' for Georgians meant 3am. So for the next 8 hours, we roamed through the parks, markets, and benches penniless as we all had spent our last bit of money on train tickets. We were going to get paid that following morning, so no prob here folks. The Senaki police decided that would splurge on juice, coke, and ice cream to satisfy all of hunger needs. 
          About the train ride--you know I can't go on without mentioning the train ride. I mean come on. It was my first REAL cross-country train ride. And it was GOD-AWFUL! Not only were there no bathrooms, there was no AC, no comfortable seats, and no space to lay my head for the next 6 hours. It was the worst 6 hours of my life...or so I thought.
          When we arrived at the train station in Tbilisi nasty, smelly, and ill-tempered, our friend Stefani offered her father's best friend's maid's place (try reading it slowly) for us to stay at during the weekend's wedding events. We were ever soo thankful---again, penniless. The maid's nephew picked us up and off we were to have the weekend of our lives. So many things were in our favor: a nice, rent-free place to stay, the government paycheck that was to arrive that afternoon, and some sort of meal that wasn't Georgian. FAN-TAS-TIC! 
          So, sitting in comfy chairs with instant coffees in hands, we quickly learn Stefani has not confirmed with the maid as to whether or not we are allowed to stay in her lovely apt. this night or any night this weekend.  FML, actually F-Our-L's. And much to our surprise, Stefani wasn't even sure if she was allowed to stay there this weekend. I nearly killed her, but what could a penniless fool do but throw his hands up and ride out this train-wreck wave.
          That night, the group planned a mini pre-wedding part for the lovely, young couple who trained with us back in August. I was so ecstatic to see everyone again; to catch up on our home-stays; and to finally take a breather from all the pretense one has to have when being the only foreigner in a small town. Stefani had other plans. She decided we were to have dinner with the maid. Of course it would be the civil thing to do. I mean we had already assumed that we were staying there that night. One mustn't loose all sense of decency when traveling abroad. I will say it wasn't so bad eating with the maid. She did take us out for Mexican after all--well, a Georgian version of Mexican food. No complaints here. And to top it all off, she ever so generously offered to put us up for the night. (We'll just assume she meant the whole weekend) So kind.
          Finally, the party was on! Discovering the international street in Tbilisi was the greatest part of that day. Pubs and restaurants from all over world were to be found on this single street, which meant real food and real beer. This should have been the best night ever since having arrived in Georgia, except for two small problems: money and Stefani. The government still hadn't paid us by that evening which meant we were still penniless, something about not having enough money in their budget. And Stefani wasn't feeling well and wanted to turn in early that night. Of course, Alycia, Hanna, and I had no choice but to go with her. She was our rent-free key after all. If train-wrecks could get any worse, this one had. It was as if someone had forgotten to tell any incoming trains that this track was temporarily off-line and to take a different route. Instead, another train had just crashed. No survivors were expected to be found. 

          The following morning, we dressed for the wedding and were pleasantly thrown out of the apt for the rest of the day. Unsure of where the wedding was to take place and us without a penny to our name, we ventured out to the safest place any lost American could go when in a foreign country: the Elvis Restaurant --YEAHHH BABYY! And get this, they took visa! I know, I know. You readers are probably thinking why is this even being mentioned in this ridiculously long post. Well, my friends, if and when you decide to vacation in the Republic of Georgia, you will learn VERY quickly that visa and mastercard is not accepted everywhere. For lunch, we dined in style: checkered black and white floors, red leather seats, and more Elvis music than you can ever listen to. To top it all off, we did not eat hamburgers and fries or pizza and milkshakes, instead we eat huge plates of Chinese food. Who would have thought an Elvis Restaurant served Chinese. I don't hate it. 
          That, my folks, was probably the only highlight of my weekend. Soon after I left the restaurant, we decided to stroll down a popular street window shopping in our lovely wedding attire. We were clearly looking fabulous. So fabulous, in fact, that I was attacked by a 3-year old gypsy girl. (I know I'm going to sound so wrong when I tell you this, but what does one do when being mauled by a 3-year old.) All I know is that she came up from behind me, attached herself to my leg, and began crying. 

[spotted: Durota cringing in fear with tears pouring down her cheeks surrounded by dozens of on-lookers as a tiny, dirty child clings to her leg begging for change to spare. Will she gain the title of scrooge or will she never be able to show her face in this town again?]

Thankfully, the child was pulled off me by a store owner or I should say rather that the store owner nearly ripped the child's ear off trying to get her off me. Honestly, I have never felt so horrible in all my life. I was so ashamed of myself. She was a child, but she could not be reasoned with. She had been conditioned to do whatever was necessary to earn some change. What was a proper response? Calling DFCS felt like a good start. 

          By evening that day, I managed to regain my composure and my paycheck. I needed a drink; actually I needed several drinks. Anything to erase the fact that we missed the wedding because we got lost; we wanted to throw Stefani off the nearest bridge for acting ridiculously childish; and we were stuck in an awful city with no idea where to go. We managed to find our way back to the international street sans Stafani, and pockets full of puli to spend. Once the drinks began pouring, we completely lost track of time and place. 
          As fate would have it, I managed to find the ONLY gay club in all of Georgia. The party was in full swing; the single ladies were out; and the night was roaring with people. Once I entered the club, I didn't have to buy a drink the rest of the night. Creepy, old, and ugly--come one, come all! m was getting trashed tonight! Don't feel too bad for them. I worked for it; I danced my ass off. From one club to the next, the ladies and I were having the night of our lives. 
          Around 6am, we left the bars & a wonderful night of chaos to find we had been locked out of the apartment. Not that we were particularly surprised, but really? To be honest, by this point, I couldn't even be pissed. I rang every door bell and knocked on every door until the maid's nephew let us back in. Ridiculous, I know.
          Waking up the next morning, Alycia and I left Tbilisi for Kutaisi to participate in a Q & A panel on how we were coping with Georgian culture. Somehow, none of these events ever came up in conversation. Strange?

Life is never dull in this country of mine, 
xo xo m

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

three hail mary's and a liter of wine

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 - Day 15

Dear Journal, 
          Today is St. Marium's Day, and as I sit in the town square observing the townspeople, I'm rather ambivalent about getting the festivities started. So much of Georgian culture is grounded in the Orthodox Tradition that I'm at a loss when it comes to interacting at times. Evidently, Georgians love to party or 'have suphras' as they like to put it. These events usually entail a disgusting amount of food, wine, and vodka. So naturally this would seem appealing to anyone searching for an outlet to relieve some cultural-shock frustration. Coupled by a long day in church, anybody would be killing for a night off from being the foreigner, the town's special guest, and the new American English teacher. Being nice sometimes takes too much energy.
          Then, I went to an Orthodox Church Service for the first time. Being that I am Muslim, I was told to stand outside the back doors during this TWO hour hoe-down. Did I mention that it was hot as hell, and that there was enough incense burning to smoke out a small hotel? I'm almost certain I nearly choked to death! I was so close to calling a taxi to take me back to civilization where I would have taken the best bubble-bath of my life, glass of pinot grigio in hand. 
          Well, after my first Orthodox Service, I was ready to start any festivity that somehow involved drinking.....

........emotional drinking is never a good idea......this really ought to be a traveling tip......

Sunday, August 29th, 2010 - Day 16

[spotted: Durota re-living her freshmen year of college fast asleep on the toilet seat. Waking up naked on the bathroom floor - too priceless for words]

lesson learned: avoid suphras at all cost!!! Will probably die if that happens again!!!

xo xo m

where my money at?

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 - Day 13

Dear Journal, 
          Today was incredibly difficult in my new hometown of Abasha, Georgia, and yet sitting here in the town square, I can't help but feel some sort of relief. For the most part, I enjoy the traditions of Georgian culture. But there are several reservations I have towards acclimating entirely into their society. 
          After living with my host family for nearly four days, I told them I was moving out and into the Educational Director's apartment for having violated by contract by asking for money. As the official story goes, I met my family four days ago and was introduced to my new living conditions. I had a father, a mother, and a pregnant married sister. Soon after showing me my new room, they asked for roughly half of my salary, which of course I was neither obliged to hand over nor determined to do so. This naturally caused some uncomfortableness amongst the Director who was translating and the host family members. Strangely enough, I didn't feel too bad in denying them the extra funds. I wasn't exactly their monthly pay-check, like some foster child they needed for the extra cash flow. Rude. I know. Either way, I left that situation as quickly as possible. The downside, of course, is that both the father and mother work as teachers in the same school as me. Talk about your awkward moments....
          In any case, the people here mix familial ties and professionalism so much so that your vice-directors, teachers, and staff are more than likely somehow related to you. This would never happen in America, which really isn't the problem. The uncomfortable feelings arise when you have to challenge your faculty for not properly fulfilling their duties. I feel as if there are no boundaries or distinctions. This, by no means, creates an efficient and productive school, much less society.
          When I'm not thrown into these odd situations, I find walking to the town square helps to calm my nerves. Sitting on these green, plastic lawn chairs outside the only pub in a 10km radius seems to be my main form of relaxation. It may not be a Starbucks or a Panera or even a fast-food joint, but it's the best part of my week. 
          Sometimes, I wish I could sit in front of this water fountain for hours and just work on my writing. And then it hits me. I'm not here to really teach or even really work on my writing. I'm here to figure out me. As cliche as it might seem, I can't really move forward in my professional life, much less my personal life, without first experiencing a few struggles, some awkward situations, and more than my share of strange, Georgian customs.

looking past the green, plastic lawn chairs, 
xo xo m

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Surviving Georgia pt. 2

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 - Day 5

~ from the desk of m ~

Dila Mshvidobisa Friends! (clearly that's good morning)
          This should be no surprise when I tell you my body is not only rejecting itself due to unaccustomed foods, but also dying slowly from this exhausting training routine. In between said pot-sittings and cafeteria visits, I'm either sitting in intensive Georgian classes, methodology teaching skills class, or some other meeting where we are constantly bombarded with things we need to know to survive with future host family and village.
........pause....that's right. I said village...
I faintly remember saying once, "This 'Teach and Learn with Georgia' program is just like the Peace Corps but without the mud-huts, squatty-potties, and general lack of civilization." Clearly, I didn't read the fine print. fml. 

[spotted: Durota crying in the corner after discovering her new life for the next year is worst than Section 8 housing.]  

Off to morning classes, 
xo xo m

Surviving Georgia

Monday, August 16th, 2010 - Day 3

~ from the desk of m ~

hello darlings,
          m checking in with the latest news on the happenings/ins & outs of Georgian culture and my ridiculous stumble into half constructed ruins, instant coffee, and speedway driving. Don't worry' that's not even the best part. The past four days have literally been a blur - unfortunately not due to the invisible alcohol consumed or the apparent availability of drugs. If anything, surviving in Geogia simply takes a brilliant amount of naivete, no sense of direction, and a strong stomach. 
          So after traveling on three airplanes, I arrived in bustling Tbilisi, Georgia early evening on Sunday, only to discover that anything that can go wrong....has most definitely gone astray. Evidently, half the entire team of teachers' luggage has been misplaced, leaving me with less than zero chances of impressing my fellow colleagues in latest J-Crew attire, a BO-less body, and a presentable face (mostly due to my anger at still not having said luggage on the third day). Actually, scratch that last part. Who am I kidding?  This face stands out in this crowd. 
          Anyways, so we spend a rather lovely night in the capital city, which includes an exciting tour for those who need to stop at a goodwill because of having no luggage. Aside from the exhaustion of traveling, I quickly learn no one - and I mean no one - follows any sort of driving standards. Stuffed in a mini-van with six others, I grasp on to the seat and fellow colleague in an attempt to avoid having a nervy-b in public (traveling tip # 3, I believe). At one point, our driver, Data (pronounced Daataa) decides he's missed our turn and will reverse in the middle of the road. 

[spotted: Durota cringing in fear, doe-eyed, as incoming vehicles pass a reversing car at high speeds. Will she survive with some sense of dignity? Highly unlikely.]

          Obviously, I survived but not before giggling hysterically from shear fear of being killed as we begin to drive once again in the right direction. Naturally, this would cause some attention. Luckily for me, everyone thought I was enjoying the rush of adventure at nearly loosing my life. Damn I'm good!
          Anyways, so much more to tell, but dinner is calling. Will write soon, promise. 

from georgia to georgia with love, 
xo xo m

Fresh Steps

Monday, August 16th, 2010 - Day 3

Dear Journal,
          As morning classes begin, I sit on the front steps with the others and breath in the city of Kutaisi. A constant breeze uplifts the thick dust, overtaking those who stand in open places. And yet, the air here feels so light - not completely polluted by car fumes and industrial smoke. 
          The people here always stare. They wear the same face wherever we travel as if aged by the throws of being part of such an old country. They seem content. But where is the light in their eyes? No one smiles; no one laughs. I wish I knew about their lives, their stories.
          Surrounded by so many people from all over the world, I've never felt so American, which feels odd never having really claimed this identity. Funny really, I've never heard so many jokes about Americans. I most definitely know nothing about other countries' politics. And like a true American, I still have no interest in learning about them now...

          For the time being, I can't help enjoy myself in this new place, though I could kill for a Starbucks coffee right now. If only I could properly explain this odd setting; this make-shift training center with foam mattresses and rough sheets instead of spring mattresses and soft cotton sheets; this single, raggedy road with empty buildings and a police station marking the end of each lane. I never thought I'd be so glad to get out of the crowded, congested, roads of Macon, Georgia.

But here I am...
xo xo m

Initial Reaction

Saturday, August 14, 2010 - Day 1

Dear Journal, 
      I've only just arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia exhausted from two days of traveling, jet lag, and the general emotional roller-coaster of coming to another country halfway around the world. 
     Deep breath...
     What the hell am I doing here?!? Did I really hate living at home so much?!? This is crazy! I didn't even know Georgia existed, much less know they had their own language. Is this what a panic attack feels like?!?

     Too tired, 
      xo xo m