The other day, a friend of mine expressed some good-natured job-related frustration, posting to his Facebook status that he would like to find a job that somehow would include “making (his) own hours, lots of time outside when it’s nice, and low stress.” And then he asked “Anyone have a job like that?” While my friends replied with helpful and well-meaning career suggestions such as hobo, moonshiner, freelance lumberjack, and Snooki, I sat back with the always-attractive openmouthed revelation look all over my face, thinking “Oh wow… I have a job like that!” And then of course I commented that he always could apply to go and teach in Georgia, which was mean because like most adults my age (who aren’t me), dude has obligations that keep him here. I mean, he could, but that feat would take some significant life-rearranging.
I feel that this reminder could not have come at a better time. Because now, as summer draws to a close, it has been two and a half long months, a lifetime and a world away, from Georgia. The problem is that it is so very easy to forget here. In my parents’ house in the comfy Washington, DC suburbs, Tbilisi and Georgia have started to seem very, very far away.
I’ve been home since the middle of June, and seriously I cannot believe that already the summer is almost over. These months have been one giant happy blur. I’ve told all my best stories and instructed friends on the proper etiquette for a traditional Georgian toast.
It took me almost three weeks to completely unpack.
After spending over a year living in Georgia, upon finally arriving home I surprised myself with how really very easy it was to slip back into old patterns, comfortable routines. Everything was just how I left it. I amused myself with the thrill of simple acts like being able to drive a car, take a shower whenever I wanted, turn up the central AC with reckless abandon, and grill up a giant steak on the grill. But peppered throughout the return to normalcy were little aberrations that made me laugh. For example, the first time I tried to operate a self-checkout was a dismal, hilarious failure. Re-acquainting myself with the apocalypse level of traffic on 95-S proved an unpleasant afternoon. And good old American TV, which I had been pining over for 13 months, soberingly turned out to be nothing more than marathons of Storage Wars and lots of commercials concerned with the male sex drive. It was a feeling similar to returning to a beloved novel you read as a child, only to discover that in fact the plot was terrible and the characters worse. I don’t think I’ve turned on the TV since the end of June.
But it took me forever to unpack because it simply took my brain a little while to reconcile itself with its two worlds. I didn’t unpack because those clothes were Georgia clothes. I didn’t need my kindle because suddenly there were books with pages again, books with bookmarks in them even, that I hadn’t had a chance to finish before shipping out. I even had a second toothbrush I’d left in the bathroom here. (The exception here to the non-unpacking was of course the Giving of Gifts to family and friends, which happened almost immediately upon passing the threshold.)
I’m not going to lie. It took a little bit for me to start missing Georgia. I had missed home so much, after all. And I was very, very happy to be back. Because home is mine. It looks just like me. It holds my shape and breathes my smells and is full of my people. I had gotten so tired of every little thing just being a tiny bit harder than I felt it needed to be, and this steady, niggling exhaustion was the primary emotion that I carried home with me, the one that lingered as my suitcases remained unpacked and half-exploded on my bedroom floor.
But then, I missed the mountains first.
On a clear day, standing on Kazbegi Kucha in Poti, you can turn away from the town center and see the Guria mountians hovering over the flat treescape like part of the atmosphere. In Tbilisi, Mtatsminda is part of daily life, a green and grey ridge that rides right into the center of the Capital like a challenge.
When the weather turned warm, my Tbilisi host family began holding mtsvadi supras in the yurt outside in their building’s courtyard, behind the soccer pitch. At the last supra I was invited to, I was the only woman, two-thirds of the guys were shirtless, and the one partygoer who could speak English made sure to translate each toast for me meticulously.
On the last day of classes, one of my 5th grade classes in my school in Saburtalo put on a Georgian production of Animal Farm. There was also a re-creation of the Pulp Fiction dance, for some reason.
Little by little, these images and memories began creeping back, re-asserting themselves and assuming their rightful place. I unpacked. I began telling different stories, ones less full of awkward misunderstandings and instead featuring breathtaking mountains and a people eager to show them to you.
When I left Georgia in June, it was with the understanding that I would be back in the fall. At the end of the day, I loved the country, I loved Tbilisi, I loved my school. Before I shipped off, I even left some personal books at TLG headquarters, which was not a problem as I would be returning in three months to claim them and to pick up where I left off.
But then something quite unexpected happened, and all of a sudden I was given an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do some traveling around Europe for a while. Simply put, it was a chance I could not pass up, and I asked TLG to defer my return until the spring semester. To say I never expected this is an understatement.
With the flurry of preparing for my trip (I’ve never backpacked before, wish me luck!), the truly ridiculous summer social schedule I had set up for myself, and the honest enjoyment of reading a book on the screened-in porch with a glass of cabernet sauvignon in hand, I’m afraid Georgia got derailed in my brain for a little bit again. Once more it just seemed so very far away. Unconnected.
And that’s why my friend’s innocent and unassuming Facebook post was so very well-timed. Fortuitous. He reminded me that, yeah – Georgia might not be the easiest place to live, but there are reasons why I fell in love with it. There are also reasons why I left my AC and personal bathroom in the first place. All those reasons are still there – the bad, and the good. Georgia’s worth another try. I’m looking forward to the New Year. Looking forward to seeing those mountains again, and toasting at my next supra.