8:10am, the phone rings. Hello Steven, this is the director. (I won’t name names or institutions I’m working with) I will be there in fifteen minutes. Okay, I respond. I’m still a little unsure of what my relation to this director is (I have four or five “directors.”) I believe he is the head of the training institute, which I believe is the dormitory where I’m staying. This dormitory is appointed by the government to bring in ethnic minorities (Azeris, Armenians) in Georgia who are working professionals, for a three month crash-course in Georgian, and then sends them back to their jobs. But as far as I can gather, this training institute has nothing to do with the “training college” or vocational school where I will teach. My employers, unable to find host families for myself and my Pakistani counterpart (we’re like the runt puppies that nobody wants), put us up in this dorm (government connections), and appointed the director to be in charge of making sure we remain nourished.
The phone call, I assumed, was breakfast related. Whether he was stopping by a shop and bringing us bread and juice, or picking us up to go to a cafe, I did not know. I put my Turkish coffee on and ran from the communal kitchen to the hallway window where I could see the parking lot below, so I could gauge whether he was bringing us food or picking us up. When I saw him empty handed, I hastened to turn off the coffee, and sprint down the long hallway in my slippers to the room to put my shoes on, and wake up my Pakistani host brother to warn him that we needed to leave in two minutes (kind of reminds me of waking up Graham in college so I could get to class on time, which never seemed to matter to him.)
Phone rings. Hello Steven, this is the director. I am on first floor. Okay, I say, be there in two minutes. And I hurried down. Pakistani brother followed shortly after. We piled into his Ford Explorer and went careening down the cratered streets of Kutaisi.
Most blogs of teachers I’ve seen comment on how crazy the drivers are here. Having traveled through Eastern Europe a fair amount, I’d have to say I’ve seen a lot of crazy driving. And yes, it is exceptionally bad here. Red lights don’t always mean stop. Pedestrians crossing the street don’t mean slow down and be careful, and lanes don’t really exist. It’s kind of like the peleton in a bike race. Everyone’s trying to get to the front, and it doesn’t really matter how you get there; there are no written rules, you just go wherever, weaseling your way into gaps, even when there really are no gaps. I think the biggest reason driving seems so chaotic here is the condition of the roads. It’s like the surface of the moon, and I’m in a fairly large city (imagine what they’re like in the villages!). Everyone’s constantly slamming on their brakes for huge changes in the levels of pavement, or wildly swerving in any direction to avoid the craters. The sidewalks are equally cratered. I say sidewalk loosely, as a lot of them are dirt or gravel (lots of dirt roads too.) With all the rain Kutaisi has been getting, and all the craters in the streets, I’m going to be an expert puddle hopper by the end of my stay here.
Back to breakfast. It was around 8:45, and we were driving wildly around, stopping into various cafes. None of them were open yet, not even the ones with signs saying they were open. We finally stopped at Kutaisi’s nice hotel. We sat down on sofas and enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, bread, salami, cucumbers, and tomato. The Georgians love to eat. I imagine if we were in a host family, it would be much less expensive for them to feed us, rather than going to restaurants all the time. But I think soon there will be a cook in the dormitory, so I won’t complain for the moment; I’ll gladly enjoy good food while it lasts, before my diet turns to cafeteria food. A host family would probably also offer a bit more predictable meals, rather than phone calls with Hello Steven, I am here. We will eat now.