No really Batumi: the pleasure is all mine.

Posted on April 10, 2013 by

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Last night I was barrelling and swerving deeper and deeper into a foreign country’s road in the dark, through pouring rain, without a seatbelt, at 130km/h, and praying for the mercy of some obscenity-calling-and-wildly-gesticulating marshutka driver and his companion who continuously assured me I would be in Batumi soon.

I’m crazy, and I love myself.

They did pay for my dinner however, and a very fulfilling one eaten at a rest-stop along the road. A quick stop it was, and off on the road we went again.

It was altogether a 6-hour journey, and when we finally arrived at the outskirts of Batumi, I was ready to fall asleep.

But as soon as I saw the twinkling lights of the famed port city reflected in the Black Sea, a rush of adrenaline immediately woke me up.

Batumi is absolutely stunning. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been in, and that’s no understatement. I wikipedia’d it, and Barcelona is one its “twin” cities. I’ve never been to Barcelona, but I’ve heard from many people that it’s beautiful. Batumi is nothing short of that.

Palm trees lit from underneath sway in the breeze, and many majestic hotels beckon. Cobblestone roads wind neatly through the city. Gleaming fountains, golden statues, and bicycle lanes all boast of the city’s sleek modernity and all the while, the Black Sea purrs softly in the distance.

I came at the right time. It’s not anymore the summer and the Turkish, Armenian, and other European tourists that swarm the place then are no longer here. But it’s still warm enough for me to feel uncomfortably hot when my host father took me around the city today.

Thankfully we stopped on a lesser-known stretch of the stony beach and I went for a swim to cool off. It was wonderful. I made a friend with a jellyfish who was washed ashore. I’m sure he’ll be fine. I made sure he was nice and moist.

The Black Sea makes an unfamiliar clack-clack-clack when she rolls the rocks back and forth on her bed. As I lay on the shore and sunbathed, I realized that it’s a wonderfully pleasant and relaxing melody. I’ve mostly seen only sandy beaches. Here, multi-coloured smooth stones slightly smaller than my hand decorate the stretch. They ruin my shoes, and next time I will take them off and walk in bare feet.

We went to the bazaar today. Orientation took us to one in Tbilisi, but it was really just a crowded tourist-trapping market. Here, I followed my host father around the real deal, observing as he expertly handled the intricate bargains with deft, practiced negotiating strategies. He would look at something, ask for the price, and immediately leave when he heard it, occasionally giving a grunt of discontent. He was almost always called back, and was often given samples of food, which he cleaned and passed for me to eat.

Gemrielia? (Is it tasty?)

I always truthfully answered:

Xo. (casual yes)

I tried everything from pomegranates to baby cucumbers to plum-sized apples. He bought me ice cream. I loved it like a little kid.

This morning he showed me his lavish garden, picking raspberries off the bush and letting me eat. Showing me how to pick ripe figs and peel the skin to munch on the delicious centre. He taught me to pump water for use in washing clothes. He showed me the chicken coop and we laughed at the chickens climbing over each other in their haste to eat. He clicked at the family dog (Barsa), and showed me the family’s white rabbit (Barbara) and black rabbit (Rostoma). He’s a funny little man. I like him a lot.

We went to my school, which is only a short walk from my home. The teachers and the Director giggled and clapped at my attempts at qartuli (Georgian). I have my official meeting tomorrow at 11 with them. The senior English teacher speaks excellent English. I’m looking forward to working with her and the other teachers. They all seem very nice.

The house has a piano, which I was absolutely delighted to see. The girls played a bit for me and I played a bit for them. The instrument was a bit out of tune and some of the keys didn’t work, but it was wonderful. Music is a universal language. Using a President’s Choice USB stick, I exchanged my American and French music for the teens’ qartuli music. So excited to listen to it.

The girls and the boy are so great. For the sake of their privacy I won’t reveal anyone’s names. The girls speak decent English so I’m able to have them translate for me. They’re teaching me a lot of qartuli, of which I am grateful. Spending the day with my host father was fun, but it was tough work because I didn’t really understand anything he said.

The kids and I bonded over music, Facebook, and mostly over laughing at my bad qartuli. I’m really glad to have them around. I want to play futbol with the boy (and learn to be interested in watching it as the rest of the male populations seems to do so). The other two girls seem really into photography and music, which I am into also. I expressed my desire to learn Georgian dance and the eldest girl told me she had some friends who knew how to dance. We will go from there.

Tonight they made Adjaran katchapuri for me to eat, along with a hearty scrumptious dinner with fresh vegetables and fruits. I’m living the good life, I’m thinking. Really happy.

//photographs taken and post written during late September – mid October 2012, Group 45, Jackson Tse
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