The following is a list of native Georgians who have crossed my path during my residence here in the Republic. They have both aided me in my endeavors, and have, I can confidently claim, made my life better. Below, you will find my idea of the “Best of: Georgia”.
(Note: Within this list you will find a series of first names of Georgian individuals and creatures. I have left out last names, addresses, and phone numbers. So while this post has no place in the realm of utilitarian purposes, I certainly hope it will tug at the ol’ heartstrings.)
Best homestay owner in Mestia: Zviad
– This gentleman singlehandedly caused me to enjoy the longest hike of my life. Because of him, and his delirious suggestions, my partner and I decided to hike from Mestia to Ushguli in a single day, with only a small bag of chicken and eggs, given to us by Zviad’s wife. He claimed he had made the same journey the year before, with an American guest, over the course of eleven hours. Seeing the two of us hardened mountaineers, both products of ‘manifest destiny’ and both filled with a love for unreachable heights, he chuckled, and said that we could easily do the same. While his words led us to struggle over a 50 km course, from dawn until dusk, we have only him to thank. On a more personal note, he has a wonderful fashion sense (he sports a pretty sweet NorthFace pullover), and he rocks a haircut I have only seen in Japanese fiction/pop-culture (think Heihachi, from the Tekken video game series). Hands down, the best.
Best dog in the Chakvi/Mtirala National Park area: Cyclops
– There is absolutely no chance that this is his real name, but Cyclops’ shifty eye led my friends and I back home safely one day. We had set out for the weekend in search of a homestay in Mtirala National Park. The day before was a warmer day in March, and while the sun was bringing us our daily dose of Vitamin D, we still had to trudge through mud and snow to reach our unknown destination. Upon arrival to a house in the woods, we were brought in, unquestionably, and told that while our presence was not predicted, our hosts would present us with a banquet within the hour. This was true. After an afternoon of making snow angels and memories, we retired, with our bellies filled once again, to our quarters. The next day brought a greater challenge: getting home. While I do not wish to exaggerate, our trek was a great one. As we came to this realization, Cyclops came out of the house, as if to tell us that he would guide us safely. Over bridges, through forests, along clearly demarked paths, he showed us the way. Once again, we have him to thank.
Best ping-pong player in Adjara: Niko
– This is pretty self-explanatory. This thirteen-year-old gentleman routinely crushes my hopes and spirits over an eleven-point match of table tennis. To put an end to my constant defeat, I told the students in his class, all of whom have difficulty counting in English, that if they wished to play me again, they would have to use my native tongue to keep score. The result? Niko is really good at counting to eleven now.
Best two-year-old host brother in my village: Giga
– Aside from his love for unlit cigarettes, the dregs of my Turkish coffee, and irritating our ferocious beast of a dog they call Belka, he’s a good guy. If there’s anyone I can count on waking up to early in the morning, wearing bright blue pajama bottoms with the big toes missing, and sporting a smile rarely seen in the older of our species, it’s Giga. I sit and listen to him on the front porch, watching him point his hands at cars, or airplanes, or trees, wondering what could possibly be the meaning of his words. He knows I have difficulty understanding him, but he goes on anyway, glad to have someone listening. I’m sure glad to be the one. For a man of only two and a half feet, he sure has made things wonderful here in the village. And so for this, I give him “the Best of the Best of: Georgia”. Thanks, Giga.
That’s all I have! I hope you enjoyed a rare look into the superlatives of my life, and I sincerely hope all is well with you.