First few days in Georgia
So, I got in and have been relatively busy since I’ve landed. I haven’t started any real research yet, my main goal now is to find housing, and I’ve been making plenty of new friends. I’m floating around a bit at the moment, rented a top floor of a Georgian family’s house for my first two nights, slept at a new acquaintance’s house for a night or two, and tomorrow I’m going to be moving to a guest house for a week while I continue to search for a permanent place. I’m going to try to find a multiple bedroom place with some roommates, so I’ve been checking through connections and calling interesting leads and real estate agents. In all, I’m not too worried about finding something – a place will come along, I just hope it is cheap and in a good neighbourhood.
There is quite an interesting expat scene here – everyone speaks English, but there are few Americans. Most seem to work for NGOs, like humanitarian organizations or the UN, and have great stories about the wild places they’ve been, and the relative futility of their aid work. The community seems quite close but open and easy to join. I’ve been out for beers a few times, and went to a sauna with a bunch of them at one point too.
Last time I was here, I ate one of the big national dishes – this delicious cheesy bread, every single day. This time around, I decided that I should pace myself so I don’t get sick of it or balloon in weight. So far, I’ve been failing, and it turns up everywhere, so I’ve had it about twice a day. It is still incredible, so I’m not complaining.
Besides the cheesy bread, the food is delicious and the beer cheap. The typical meal I’ve been eating is a salad of cucumbers, tomato, onions, a few spicy peppers, coriander (and a ton of salt), kebabs (pork mostly, but I prefer lamb a lot more), bread, and cheesy bread. The guy I’m staying with now has a great yoghurt connection and shows up with three jars of this wonderful home made yoghurt every day.
In all, it is wonderful to be here. Tbilisi is an excellent city, full of character. It is built along a river in a valley, so there are steep winding cobbled streets with beautiful buildings. Many are shabby with an air of grandeur. I’m starting to learn the neighbourhoods and their different nuances, and I’ve been working on learning the Georgian alphabet which is useful because the street signs, if there are any, are undecipherable.
Yesterday I went out to the American Embassy, which is in the sticks – they needed a place with a lot of room to build a huge fortress with layers of security to prevent a terrorist attack. I was shown around and given a dossier on Georgia, including the biography of every minister. I’ll be back there on Monday for a security briefing, where I’m expecting that they’ll tell me about all the dangers and tell me not to go to Abkhazia or South Ossetia.
On the way back from the Embassy, I ran into a group of elderly people gathered in front of the Parliament – just what I came to study. Unfortunately, I had somewhere to be, and the person I talked to wasn’t the right guy to choose. His Russian was broken and heavily accented, and I figured out that the elderly there were either sick and wanted help, or had relatives in jail and wanted them to be released early.
Who knows what tomorrow holds. While looking for an apartment, I’m going to be doing background research (bought a good book on the history of Georgia), learning Georgian, and making more friends.