Sunday, November 7, 2010

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

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