Hot Times

Jesus, it has been quite a while again, hasn’t it? Guess I was caught somewhere between work, laziness, traveling and hanging around. And enjoying the spring of course! I have mentioned it before, the Georgian winter is absolutely gorgeous. And by gorgeous, I mean warm. This also translates into a warm and early spring, which I have been enjoying a lot.

Plenty of things have happened! Traveling to Armenia and western Georgia, Georgian Easter, our mid-term meeting, a week of being bed-ridden by fever, a youth exchange with young Danish people and the opening of the scouting season.

But let us write everything down from the beginning, shall we? Shortly after my last post we went onto an extended weekend trip to Armenia. Yerevan, to be more specific. Naturally we hitchhiked there and got invited to traditional Armenian food on the way there. The rides there went smooth, but a notable difference between the Armenian and the Georgian way of driving apparent. Both drive very crazy, with the difference being that the Armenians want to drive faster and more dangerously, but their cars and roads are too shitty to allow for that. It takes a while to get used to, but in the end, being on the edge of death every time you are on the road becomes a normal, daily thing. I have even witnessed myself getting bored when our driver was not driving at absurd speeds.
Anyway, back to Yerevan. We had a great time there, although generally I feel that Tbilisi is the more lively and interesting city. Armenia as a country is much more barren than Georgia, and very mountainous. When we were there, there was not a lot of vegetation growing yet, so the visual appeal of the nature was rather limited.

A few weeks later I was visited by Max and Kelsang, two fine German lads. I showed them a bit around Georgia, which of course included a trip to Kazbegi. For that we rented a nice fucked-up car for 60 Lari from some random guy. The trip went smoothly, until the way back. There was a big traffic jam in an unventilated tunnel. While that was scary enough, when it eventually cleared up and we wanted to start the car again; our key broke. In addition to that, it was an uphill-going tunnel. So we pushed the car out of the tunnel into the snowy mountains of the Caucasus. A police car stopped and tried to help us, but with no success. Eventually, we managed to start it again and returned it while being filled up with enough adrenaline to last the month.

Right after that we went to our midterm meeting, to evaluate our life in EVS so far. It was very pleasing, also because we all knew each other already. The whole thing was ended with a supra. Which was great, naturally. The midterm meeting sadly left me with an unpleasant sickness which tied me to my bed for a solid seven days. Fun times!

A very recent and memorable trip was us going to Samegrelo in western Georgia during the Georgian Easter. It was my first time properly going into the western part, and it was stunningly beautiful. Everything was green and lovely. We went to different places, including Martvili Canyon, Okatse Canyon and Poti. In Poti we got to witness the Georgian Easter traditions, which are very, very unique. Basically, all the family of a deceased one gathers at the cemetery to eat and drink with them on their graves. It was very unusual at first for us, but we got promptly invited by a family to drink and eat with them. Which was very fascinating, because to them it seemed it was the greatest thing in their life to make us eat Khachapuri and get us drunk on homemade wine.

Pictures Here! https://imgur.com/a/cBiQI

No winter blues

It has been a while, hasn’t it? Time in the New Year was busy, with work, traveling and cooking, among other things. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I ended my last post with the Christmas supra, and in January and February we used every weekend to be active. The first activity we did the weekend after the Christmas supra was a very pleasant weekend trip to Borjomi, the place of the world wide know mineral water. We took a super early train for two Lari to have our first decent train experience in Georgia. We were a quite big group, and the train was slow, but through the power of Chacha and Semiki we finally arrived at the Borjomi main station. There we waited for a restaurant to open, since it was around 11am and most of us had skipped breakfast. There we proceeded to stuff ourselves with food, and went shopping for alcohol afterwards. Our main goal was to go to the hot sulfur baths that Borjomi is also home to, and I have to say that they were really, really great. Warm, in the middle of nature, with some snow around it to roll ourselves in. I also have to admit that we got a little drunk there. 😀

The day after we took another train, the Kukushka specifically to Bakuriani. Over the course of two hours it goes up around 1200 meters through beautiful mountains and forests, otherwise untouched by humans. Apart from the temperature it was a great ride, would definitely recommend it for a snowy winter day. Arrived in Bakuriani we just walked around a little bit but didn’t stay long, since we had to go back to Tbilisi. We hitchhiked, and had the pleasure to meet the marketing manager of the Borjomi water, which proved to be a very interesting conversation.

The next weekend it was time for Daskas birthday! The night before it we had a little movie night, and thankfully I managed to convince the others to watch “Black Cat, White Cat”, one of my favorite movies. Thankfully, it was well-received by the others. On the day itself we finally managed to hike to the hill/mountain overlooking Rustavi, which features a giant cross which is illuminated at night. The view was astonishing, since the area around Rustavi is very flat, therefore we had an amazing view over the whole city. In the evening it was time to make some homemade Khinkali, Daskas favorites. This time we were a bit heretical by adding a pumpkin filling to them, which would be looked down on by any proper Georgian, but proved to be an exceptionally good idea! The party commenced in the evening, and at around 1am we went to Bassiani, which is supposed to be one of the best nightclubs in Europe. This particular night was called Horoom night, which had free entrance, but visitors had to go through extra security checks. Reason for that is that it is one of the few LGBTIQ-friendly spaces in Georgia, a country where 90% of the population see homosexuality as “unnatural”. We had a great time there though!

In the following week my clubs started rolling again, and we had to say goodbye to some of our friends who were leaving to Europe. I also began with properly writing with my application for an Youth Exchange through the Erasmus+ program in summer, a task that in the following weeks at a few of my nerves and energy. But eventually, I managed that through the help of many people. Now it is time to keep your fingers crossed it will be approved!

The goal of travels for the following weekend was supposed to be Sighnakhi, a city that is supposed to provide a beautiful view around the countryside. If you remember, I have already been there in September at the Belgian Scout Youth Exchange. Sadly, it was foggy. Very foggy. So foggy that we could barely see beyond three meters. We had a good time there anyway, and the trip on the following weekend was very much worth it. There we went to Uplitsikhe, a cave city similar to Vardzia. It was absolutely stunning, definitely on par with Vardzia.

Two weeks ago we went traveling again, and since we split into two groups, a hitchhiking race was proposed. 100km to the west, should not take more than 1,5h, right? The group consisting of Agnes (a German Volunteer from Tbilisi), Léa and I went on to lose this race in a spectacular manner. We went on to take more than 4 hours to reach the goal, Tsalka Lake. Reason for that was, our first ride was with a funny Armenian truck driver, who also played great music. Because of that we stayed longer in the truck than intended to take an alternative route. This route we followed slowly, until we met a dead end. On the map, it was supposed to be a regular cross-country road, in reality, we were told that it more or less does not exist. So we had to improvise a bit. In the end, it took us 8 different rides to get there eventually. But that’s the nature of hitchhiking luck I guess!

Now the Erasmus+ deadline is over, the application form is submitted. Now finally the question of “What am I gonna do after Georgia?” can fully occupy my brain and rob me of sleep.

Pictures: (plenty!) https://imgur.com/a/Ixel5

Trouble in Bukarest

I know the title is a bit of a twist, so let’s start from the very beginning here, shall we? My last post ended with our return from the land of the taxi drivers, and in the following week I had my last German lesson before Christmas with the kids from the school I teach at. I was bringing some punch and Christmas cookies for them, and apparently this word go to the kids’ parents. In fact that means I was greeted by three bags full of presents for me. I got wine, Chacha, Churchrella, and tons of sweets,it was so lovely! We celebrated a fun party with Georgian dances and German Christmas songs and I believe the kids had a ton of fun too. After that, it was time to wrap up the things in Georgia and prepare my departure back to Germany. Daška and Damián already left a few days earlier than me, therefore I was living alone for the first time in a while.

Living alone is weird. On the one hand it’s great that you are completely your own master and nobody complains if you don’t do your dishes or take your clothes of the hanger. On the other hand you can see yourself slowly descend into madness as you lack much human contact. It is a two edged blade, really.

On my way back you could clearly see that German and Georgian culture don’t go well with each other. At the passport control in Berlin the officers there clearly did not like the Georgian system of queuing, which is not queuing at all. Eventually one of the officers lost his nerves and pushed back everyone two meters.

The time around Christmas and New Years I spent at home in Germany, drinking tons of beer and having a good time with my friends. I went to a rave and a punk concert as well, so it was really great for me.

Now for the journey back, which inspired this posts title. I was supposed to take the bus at 3am to Berlin to catch my flight there at 8:15. Therefore I went to bed early, and when I woke up I received a mail that it would be an hour late. I went to bed again and an hour later to the bus stop. Problem was: no bus. Another half an hour later it finally came, much to the disdain of two other people, who had to catch a flight at 7am and were on a really tight schedule now. After boarding the plane a Georgian passenger in the row next to me reported heavy pain that went worse and worse while the fight progressed. Eventually the pilot made the decision to emergency land to get him medical assistance. Our destination was Bukarest, and the pilot slammed down the plane so quickly that another guy nearly passed out because of the pressure difference. Sadly the paramedics couldn’t really figure out what was wrong with the Georgian guy and he was eventually taken away into a hospital.

And then the real fun started. Firstly everyone in the plane had to identify their hand luggage, to make sure nobody sneaked something in. Secondly, the ground crew apparently didn’t notice that we only had an emergency landing and unloaded our check-in luggage. That meant everyone had to go outside in groups of 5, identify their check-in luggage and get into a bus to wait there. After everything was identified, we were allowed to go back into the plane. The whole process took around three hours, and I must say that the cabin crew handled the whole situation very well and stayed nice and friendly the entire time.

At this point I have to say that I believe that a situation where the public transport is not working properly is one of the best opportunities to make new friends and contacts. Because when something is not working, you want to complain, and usually you need somebody else to complain with. That way I met a group of volunteers from Germany who were working in schools in Tbilisi and were employed through a different organization than me. I also met a Woman from Azerbaijan who had contacts to the Azeri border control, which will hopefully prove very useful in the future. And I wouldn’t have all these things without that delay in Bukarest!

On the 7th we hosted a big volunteer Christmas with all the people from Tbilisi and Rustavi, about 20 in total. We had lots of fun and also to drink! 😀

Pictures: https://imgur.com/a/BAk96 

The Land Of The Taxi Drivers

The week after our on-arrival training flew by, and on Friday it was finally time to leave the country. Our direction was Azerbaijan, our mode of transport was the night train out of Tbilisi. We met up in the evening at the train station, and as Daška, Léa, Jess, Nana, Michele (an Italian volunteer) and I were complete, we boarded the train. It was an old one, the beds way to small that made my back hurt like hell in the morning. The evening we spent drinking Chacha and eating dinner in the train, until we reached the Azeri border.

Firstly, passport control.
Our exit stamps for Georgia.
Our bags were checked by a nice policeman.
Again our visas and passports were collected.
Passport, visa and identify control.
Two stamps.

And then we finally were in Azerbaijan. The border guards were like taken out of a movie, young, angry looking guys wearing long coats and ushankas. The remainder of the night we spent sleeping, until we arrived in the morning at the Baku main station.

There we met with two girls Michele knew through a friend, and they showed us around the city. They were very nice and knowledgeable! Baku itself is as fake and unreal as a city can be, competing with projects like Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Everything looked clean and neat, but totally without any history and life. It had an old part though, which we definitely enjoyed more. In the evening we went to a traditional Azeri restaurant to try out the local food. Food in Azerbaijan is heavily influenced by the Turkish cuisine, and has meat EVERYWHERE. Some specialties I really enjoyed though, which were Dolma and Qutab. Dolma is meat wrapped in wine leaves, and Qutab a pancake like thing filled with tons of fresh greens. The day after it was raining. The entire day. We went out to see some things anyway, like a mosque and a few museums. In one I got hold of a free cookbook for Azeri dishes, sponsored by the Aliav foundation. Aliav was the former president of Azerbaijan and partly responsible for the thing Baku is today.

After these two days, we wanted to go back west. Our direction was Shaki. Because we were poor volunteers and also spoiled by Georgia, we naturally wanted to hitchhike there. But as the title implies, it is the land of taxi drivers. Everyone and their mother is a damn taxi driver, which made hitchhiking quite hard. Also, that they didn’t understand that we didn’t have much money didn’t make it easier. Eventually, after going to wrong way, hitching a tourist bus, riding in the back of a truck we eventually got there. We went to our hostel and more or less just fell into our beds. Sheki was like a giant village, two story houses as far as you could see. It had some nice places though and looked much more “real”. Also it offered a nice view over the snow covered mountains of the lower Caucasus. We continued the next day by taking a mashrutka to Ganja, the second biggest city of Azerbaijan. There we met with Tahir, a cool guy Chris, a German volunteer that left earlier this year put me in contact with. In Ganja we were introduced to two polish EVS volunteers, with whom we had some chai with.

On this note, tea, or chai culture in Azerbaijan is crazy. The drink tea everywhere at every time, but on the other hand, coffee is something that rarely exists. Thankfully that didn’t bother me too much, and I got to enjoy nice chai all days! Ganja was very lovely and lively. And that was also thanks to our guide! In the evening we tried to hitchhike back to Rustavi, and firstly got a ride, but it went downhill from there. With night, coldness, wind and rain the whole experience is not a pleasurable as it usually is, so we managed to get home through a chain of mashrutkas and taxis. Thankfully there weren’t any complications at the border with Georgia, but we had half an hour of waiting time nonetheless.

The current week is all about Christmas time here and preparing my holiday in Germany, with making cookies, cooking punsch and buying presents for various people. It is quite nice!

The Billard Training

Hitchhiking in Georgia is ordinary extraordinary. Two weeks ago we did a little trip to the ancient cave city of Vardzia in central Georgia, close to the Turkish border. The Rustavi EVS mafia was complete, and we were joined by Laura, Veronica and Agnes from Tbilisi. Its as fast as driving your own car, plus the drivers are always super nice. First ride we got a coffe, second ride a bottle of wine. Convenient! We were the only ones at the hotel in Vardzia, where we checked in for the night. It was good to check the prices before, because the nice lady at the reception tried to rip us off. But not with us! In the afternoon we went to see a small monastery, this time with actual nuns still living there. It was a beautiful place, but sadly we didn’t take any pictures of it. The evening was spent with wine and discussions. Next day we went up to the cave city. I must say, it was quite convenient that I still keep my student ID, even though I am missing the stamps for the past three years. But here in Georgia, nobody knows or cares about that. The city itself very stunning, pictures are attached too.
At this point I want to further explain our tradition of “hiking Chacha” we are living. Introduced by Liz, our American friend, we always take a bottle of Chacha from the local Bazari with us. It gives a great tool to celebrate and appreciate a nice view or an exhausting climb.

After we did our deed sightseeing, we tried to hitch back. And BAM, the first car took us and was going all the way to Tbilisi. The driver found a special liking in us as well, since he did some extra detours to show us various things along the way. When we made a stop in Borjomi, he asked two old men at the side of the road: “Where is the best food in town?”. He got the directions, and promptly invited us for a late lunch. And oh boy, it was good! Supergood Lobiani, possibly the best I ever had. After this exhausting two days, we fell into our beds and had a good sleep.

The week was quite ordinary again as far as I know, at least until Saturday.

Because it was finally time for our on-arrival training! The Rustavi mafia was late to the meeting(we are already getting used to the GMT for appointments, the Georgian Maybe Time), but thankfully we didn’t miss it. So we went all into the Mashrutka and connected with the other present Volunteers. Some were from Yerevan in Armenia, some from Tbilisi and some from other parts of Georgia. The next few days we spent learning about EVS, our rights and responsibilities, reflecting our work and bonding with each other. I also want to mention our trainers, Hranush and Anna, who did a terrific job at everything they did. Food was provided, and I really enjoyed all the other facilities, such as a foam matress and a consistently hot shower. The best part was the Billard table though. We spend almost every available minute honing our skills to perfection at the table.
Also the evenings weren’t quite as you would have expected from German seminars. They didn’t consist of excessive binge drinking, it was more playing games/billard, conversing and listening to blues music. To all that a nice and cool bottle of beer. Maybe we are getting old?

The whole thing ended with a good and long Supra. The day after our merry group had to split ways again. But not all of us! The days after we hosted a few of the Armenian volunteers and spent time with them while they were exploring Georgia.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to be part of a project about freedom of art and culture. It was financed by the Friendrich Naumann foundation (ew), but I managed to navigate around their political views. It was quite nice though, I held a presentation about the Censorship of the Arts and got to meet artists from Russia, Turkey, Belarus, Georgia and Armenia. In the evening we had a meeting with the manager of the Bassiani nightclub, a top ranking nightclub in the world. And he was a super cool guy too! Very visionary and passionate.

All right, that’s it for now I believe. Stay tuned!

Pictures: https://imgur.com/a/RGjJy

no(tes)

Somehow, this is becoming more and more of a „What did Freddy do over the weekend?“ blog than an actual report of my Voluntary service, but that’s just how it is I suppose. Promised notes, of course I forgot a lot of things again. I am pretty much accommodated to daily life by now. German Club two times a week, as well as the English club at GYE. Apart from that its project writing and helping out around the scout centre.

For the German club I have been showing my kids various things so far, history and classical music. I even showed them twelve-tone music! I really hope that I won’t get in trouble with child protection agencies because of that. So far nobody has complained though. Two weeks ago we went together to Samshvilde, a ruined castle in the middle of two canyons. Very impressive view! We are considering going back there in winter, to see how it looks. Photos are as always attached. The one where I am sitting on the wall my hands over my head is me doing an impression of “Monty Python and the holy grail”. Props to everyone who gets it.
Of course we hitchhiked to Samshvilde, which was of course very easy, and of course very interesting again. Got my first ever ride in the back of a transporter!

Next days we had some kind of event at an orphanage. Firstly, we collected all sorts of scouts and volunteers from around Tbilisi and Rustavi. It was very far away from Rustavi and it took us 4 hours to get there. Also the roads were very bad and the Mashrutka driver took his new Marshrutka and of course was very risk averse because of that. We made a little stop at a canon that was full of waterfalls. Really beautiful, too. The orphanage itself was located in a very remote valley. For whatever reason.
At the orphanage the scouts and volunteers had prepared some kind of animation workshop for the children there, but we volunteers were not involved in that. Instead, we had the task of taking care of the culinary side. We prepared Kaiserschmarrn and Burgers, and some kids helped us. They were super nice and well behaved. Doesn’t really fit the stereotype of “asocial orphanage children without future” some people have. Tea said the reason for this was that the owners really put a lot of work and energy into their work, in comparison to other orphanages. It was really a nice experience there, and we will probably come back another day!

In the following week we made some contact with other EVS Volunteers from Tbilisi, which happened through Daskas work in Tbilisi, where she teaches Italian. Some from Italy and finally from Germany, namely Tomken and Agnes. We all get along very well and are already planning various activities together.

I think that’s all I can remember for now, sorry that it is a little bit shorter this time!

Pictures: https://imgur.com/a/FXikn

The grass is always greener on the other side

I must admit that I don’t really remember the past week clearly, maybe I should have made some notes about that. Probably it was not very eventful. I remember the last weekend though!

Originally, we wanted to go to Samshvilde, an abandoned village near a canyon. However, that came not to be since, Tea, who wanted to come with us didn’t have time in the end and Daška caught a nasty condition that involved the rapid displacement of half-digested food through the mouth. So we moved that to another day. Even to those circumstances, Léa and I still wanted to do something, we didn’t get up at 7am for nothing!
So we decided to go en route to the Davit Gareja Monastery, which was not far from Rustavi, only 35km. So we started hitchhiking out of Rustavi and got taken the first bit to an intersection. This is the point where the asphalt road ended for us. We knew it would be one more intersection 3km ahead, and we figured that we could just walk there for a chance of a car going directly our way. Luckily, after a few minutes we got picked up by an Azeri guy and his father, who took us there.

And that was it. Two people, in the middle of nowhere, one bottle of water. Next to us, an abandoned military base, the driver warned us of “big dogs” there. I looked the place up on Wikipedia, and sure enough, it was classified as a half-desert. That at least explained the exceptional heat in the middle of October. It reminded us also a bit of Mongolia or other steppe countries. Anyway, we decided just start walking there, a road, which we later found out was 4×4 only. Our plan to just walk as far as we wanted and then go back, because we didn’t see a single car on the horizon. We passed another Georgian military base, with signs saying “firing zone”. We walked rather fast past it. And then, in this hilly Mongolian desert we saw him: a lone steppe rider, on his horse. Like in the movies! We eventually crossed ways, and he greeted us with a friendly “Salam!” and made the international gesture for “I need a lighter”. Of course we could help him with that, and we parted ways. Still amazed by this encounter in the desert, we suddenly saw a white land Rover appear on the “road” behind us. Our rescue! It was crewed by swedes who were on the way to the monastery too, and were unsure if they were on the right way, due to the nature of the road they were driving. We decided to exchange our knowledge for a lift, so we continued together through the desert. Turns it the swedes were working in the Swedish embassy to Bosnia I Herzegovina and were for 5 days in Georgia for a conference. We gave them some tips, and eventually reached the monastery. Pictures are attached.

The monastery was really close to the border and we went up the final climb to have a look into Azerbaijan. And yes, it is beautiful! And somehow much greener. Hence the title. Also there were Georgian border guards walking around everywhere, armed with their trusty AK-47. That’s the life outside of open borders. On the way back none of the tourists wanted to stop for us, but the guards whom we have talked to earlier eventually stopped a polish tourist bus for us. So we went back to Tbilisi!

On Sunday we decided to have a Mexican night in the park, with Tortillas, rice, beans and everything. It was nice!

This week I had my first German lesson at a local school in Rustavi. I will be holding them twice a week for around 16 youngsters aged 12-13, to deepen their interest in Germany and the German language. First lesson went very well and they were very engaged! We will see how they turn out in the future.

I also took over the English conversational Club from Aira last week, because she had to leave for family reasons. The youngsters there are a bit older, but also very engaged and active. Also it has been more and more people each time, so I guess what I do isn’t that bad.

Now it is Friday and I am working on an Erasmus+ project about gender and religious equality in scouting and other youth organizations. I think it will be very interesting, stay tuned for that!

 

Picture Album: https://imgur.com/a/CN9q3

Hitching and Hiking

At some point between the last post and this day a new Volunteer from France arrived, Léa. She’s definitely a cool one. The day after she arrived, Chris and Moddy, the old Volunteers from Germany and france left Georgia for good, and we spend their last hours together in a bar in Tbilisi. Before they left, I made a bet with Moddy, that she wouldn’t stop smoking back in France, and as I was informed later, I was actually right!

On the weekend we went to the Tbilisi City festival, called Tbilisoba. It was very full and the entire valley Tbilisi is in was below a giant cloud of smoke from hundreds of shashlik grills. I was there with Léa and Jessica, and later Nana joined us also. We didn’t do much special things, but went ahead and planned our first hiking trip for the weekend! It led us to Birtvisi, around 60km from Tbilisi. We were a rather big group, 5 Volunteers plus Nana and Liz. Liz is an American who teaches English in Tbilisi. We are in the same Rustavi mafia together. “Mafia” is actually the common term here for a group of people sharing something in common, be it location, nationality or profession. For example, I am both part of the Rustavi and the German mafia, although the later was disbanded since Chris left. Birtvisi was really beautiful, and the weather was just right. And we even met a puppy, who we called Sophie that followed us all the way along the trail, climbing even the hardest parts with ease! I will attach some pictures for your viewing pleasure. In the evening we had a little movie night, we watched Mr. Nobody. It is a great movie if you want to spend a few hours thinking afterwards about the meaning of it all.

Tuesday, Tea and I visited a local school because they requested me to assist them with teaching German there for more advanced kids. And oh boy! You forget how terrible loud and crowded schools are if you are not there anymore. It was especially hard for me, since I turned into the main attraction within seconds. Tall people are not that common in Georgia apparently. I was swarmed with kids asking questions about my height and if it was because I ate so many carrots. Eventually we found a quiet room and we discussed in which ways I could be of assistance. For now I will be leading a German club twice a week to increase the kids’ interest in Germany and the German language. I am a little bit scared about the actual practice, since they have only A1 in German, which is barely anything. But we will see how it turns out. On Friday I put together a curriculum including a bits and pieces about German culture.

On the Monday before, two friends from Germany came and visited me, Lilofee(Hannah) and Tija(Tillman). I first showed them around Tbilisi and Rustavi. Tea offered me to take a free day on Wednesday, and we took the opportunity to hiking. And it was beautiful! Really, really beautiful. Sadly, in the afternoon it got a bit rainy and it was already late, so we tried to get ourselves invited in the village we ended up in. We “bribed” and old farmer with Cognac and we took us in for the night. They were rather poor though, but prepared bread and noodles for us anyway. We tried to communicate for a while, but it was really hard, since the couple only spoke Georgian and Russian. That was rather frustrating. Next day I had a little adventure to live through. I had to be at work at 12:00, but I was still 100km away from it and 7km from the next street. So I got up at 7, ran down the mountain, and started hitchhiking back to Tbilisi. The guy who to me with him, a painter, sadly dropped me on the north side of Tbilisi, but I had to go to the south to catch a Mashrutka to Rustavi. So I took the Bus, then a Mashrutka to New Rustavi, and then finally Rustavi. And I was only an hour late!

On the evening we were invited by a Georgian guy for dinner and some jamming. We had a nice time, but I went to bed rather early because I was still tired from the past week. Saturday, Daša and I, together with Giorgi, a Georgian and an Italian guy whose name I forgot, hitchhiked to Gori. There we went to see the Joseph Stalin museum, because he was actually born in Gori. The museum itself was not very informative, and one would need a bit of historical knowledge to me sense of most things exhibited there. It was mainly just a collection of things that belonged to him or were connected in some other way. We made some kicker photos with the statue though! And I brought my Sterni, a German beer to put on the photo, as Tom commanded me before I left! After that went to see the castle of Gori, it was nice but we didn’t stay long because it was going dark and the weather turned cold. While hitching back, we got picked up by one of the most amazing drivers I have ever met while hitchhiking. Elzawent directly to Tbilisi, which was good for us, but said she would have to make a 10 minute stop on the way. We said we didn’t mind and went with her. Turns out this stop was actually at the oldest church of Georgia and it was having its anniversary! She went there to place a candle a pray, and then we continued on our way.

Georgians are really crazy about religion though. Including crossing themselves whenever the go past a church, and kissing buildings and Maria portraits. Rather weird to me.

In Tbilisi Elza drove us to the Mashrutka stop and insisted on waiting with us for one. Which was really nice already. But after two minutes she apparently lost patience and decided she would just drive us to Rustavi. The whole extra 30km, just for us. I found that rather remarkable.

Next day we went grape picking at Aleks parents’ house. A task I am made for, naturally. After we were done the said we could take as much fruit with us as we wanted. This was rather appealing to me, since they also had a pear and pomegranate tree. So naturally, I climbed up the pear tree to get the very best pears. Then we went ahead and had Supra and tasted the wine and Chacha made by the previous EVS generation. It was a bit odd though, since it was only 3pm. We drank a lot anyway and listened to Georgian songs played by Aleks’ uncle. He is a very sweet guy by the way, and according to Georgian tradition, one who picks grapes at your place is an official member of your family.

I put the pictures into an Imgur Album this time, since I have limited space on here. https://imgur.com/a/wdjER

Of unemployment, Georgian lessons and regular drinking

The week after our adventure with the Belgians was rather uneventful. On Monday we held our weekly meeting, after that we designed promotional posters for our clubs. I tried using a more “professional” software, since I actually never designed something a poster from scratch. It is called “Scribus” and is pretty cool in my opinion. You can see the result in the photo section down below.

Next day we had our first Georgian lesson, and oh boy, it is difficult. We learned some basic phrases to get through our daily lives, and practiced pronouncing the alphabet. It is particularly hard for western Europeans, since some letters involve using parts of your mouth I have never used before. Also I had to make a shocking discovery: my name literally does not exist in the Georgian language. Reason is, that they have no “F”. Therefore, if I write my name in Georgian Script, I write “Prederik” ( ფრედერიქ) instead of “Frederik”. But such is life. It’s Georgia! We didn’t do much other that day.

And also the next day. Everybody in the scout center was very busy with preparing for the sustainable development festival that was coming up on Sunday. This festival is part of an UN program to raise awareness about ecology and human rights issues. On Thursday we were supposed to have another lesson, but Tea was busy all day printing and preparing stuff for the festival. But mostly we spent our days hanging around doing nothing. We hoped things would be better after the festival.

On Friday Aira, Daša, Moddy and I went to Tbilisi to have some drinks there. One of Moddys friends was also with us and we explored a few bars, but didn’t do anything too crazy.

The festival itself was nice, first we helped decorating everything, then we went around and gave away flyers. Which is a bit hard when people start asking you questions back, but as you know, I don’t speak Georgian. But we had a lot of fun nonetheless! At the scout centers stand there was a popular Georgian artist reading stories for children. There was also a skating competition, as well as other things. In the evening there was a concert of a traditional Georgian band, which was supposed to be very popular too. I personally didn’t like it too much because it was simply not my style of music.

On Monday we had our Monday meeting again and prepared us some more for our club, but it wasn’t much work. Next day we finally had another Georgian lesson. After that, I helped out around the Scout Center, pulled down the flags (A job I am perfect for) and moved some tables three stories high from the dining into the conference room. Wednesday Tea told us that we should come a bit later to work, and she would message us when she was ready. We waited, but to no avail. In the evening I cooked for all of us a curried butternut squash soup, then we had a few beers. Just like the day before. And the day before.

Today we had another lesson on schedule, but Tea had to go to a funeral. Or, as Nana put it: A goodbye party. We had our lesson with Nana instead, which was very fun too, but the lack of further work made me write this post today.

Two weeks in.

„Georgians, they have no culture. “ Aleks said, as he almost swerved into the incoming traffic to overtake some cars. “At least when it comes to driving!” he added.

 

So now here I am, in Georgia, two weeks in. Originally I didn’t want to write a hipster “ooooh, look at me I am going abroad” blog, yet here I am. So it goes, eh? This is going to be the first blog post I have ever written, and I won’t make any promises about an update schedule just yet. Perhaps I’ll write frequently, perhaps not. We’ll see.

So it is almost two weeks since I arrived at Tbilisi Airport and got picked up by Aleks, staring out of the window on our way to my flat in Rustavi, while experiencing that, indeed, the reports about the aggressive drivers in Georgia were true. I met my flatmates that evening, who arrived just the same day as I. I am living together with Daša and Damian, two people from Slovakia. Damian is a scout, Daša isn’t. Our flat is nice and big, and we all got our own rooms. Only the kitchen is a bit dark and small, but I will have to live with that. It is located in the old part of Rustavi, where there are not any soviet-era blocks.

The next day we met our neighbors, Aira from Estonia and Jessica from France. They are Volunteers at an Organization called “Georgian youth for Europe”, and the Scout Center I am working at cooperates very often with them. We had at meeting the Scout Center where Aleks gave us a crash-course about the live in Georgia, and how the next few days would look like for us. The next days we planned for the weeks to come and got used to our new daily lives. On Thursday, we were invited to a traditional Georgian feast, with tons of tasty food and even more wine. In Georgia, on such occasions there is always a toastmaster who makes a toast every 15 or so minutes. Then everybody toasts to it and continues eating. But be aware! In Georgia, you don’t look into each other’s eyes when toasting! Anyway, we had tons of fun that evening.

On Monday, we went to the Scout Center to meet up with a group of Belgian Scouts who were doing an exchange with Georgian Scouts. We did some activities and games with them, and in the evening we learned some Belgian drinking games. Next morning we went with them to Pona, where the Scouts had a Campsite. We five volunteers were responsible for the dishes and helped out in the kitchen, but there wasn’t much work to do. We also prepared some activities, as well as a night game.

One day we went into the nearby national park and went on a half-day hike to a very nice waterfall where we went swimming. It was cold as fuck though. You will find pictures of it at the end of this post. Apart from that we didn’t do a lot of things, which was a shame in my opinion, because both the Belgians and the Georgians were really cool guys. Partly it was the fault of the heat, partly just because there wasn’t much motivation all around.

The last day was the very best though. We went to Khazbegi, where the third highest mountain (5047m) of the Caucasus lies. The views we had were just off limits. Much like the Alps, but much, much better and bigger! We went up a small mountain to the holy trinity church which offered a beautiful view on the mountain and the surrounding valleys. At that point I want to apologize for the shitty quality of the photos, but my phone simply can’t do better. In the evening we went together to Tbilisi and had another traditional Georgian feast. It was a much more touristy location than the last time, and it was very loud. But on the other hand we got to see some traditional Georgian dances. Later that evening the restaurant transformed into some kind of disco, and even though I didn’t know any enjoyed the music too much, we had lots and lots of fun together. And then it was already time to say goodbye to our new Belgian friends, since they had to catch their flight at 6 in the morning. But they said they were interested in an exchange between German and Belgian Scouts, perhaps something will come from it?

The Sunday I used to recover a bit from the very intense week, so I didn’t do much. In the evening we went to the Scout Center to celebrate Airas birthday. Just before I wrote this post I created a poster advertising my English discussion club I am going to be hosting with the beginning of December. Since I forgot to tell you about what my activities are even at the Scout Center, I am going to list them here: I will be hosting a German beginners and an English discussion club, help write Erasmus+ projects and help around the Center. Apart from that I will be participating in any extraordinary events.

That is it for now, I believe this blog thingy has a comment function available, so feel free to ask any questions!