Sad Kutaisi “Host Family”

Dormitory director, his assistant, Pakistani host brother and myself all make up our own little “host family,” not too unlike the host families the other volunteers are living with. Director and assistant help out with pronunciation, reading the Georgian alphabet, menus, ordering us food, showing us shops, covering meals, making sure we’re fed and housed, etc. Meanwhile, we converse with them in English, help them out with pronunciation and grammar, and a few other things. I’ll probably start giving director private lessons a few times per week starting soon.

It’s a strange collection of individuals. I’m the only one who doesn’t really mind living in Kutaisi. Pakistani host brother has a running monologue about how disappointed he is to be here, that there’s nothing to do, that he just wants to be in Tbilisi, where things are generally a bit more happening: there aren’t any girls here, man! all the women are so conservative here, man! if I were in Tbilisi I could at least find some women! But I’m not so sure. I think if you’re out on the prowl, there are probably better countries to visit than Georgia, even if Tbilisi has a more happening night scene.

Dorm director doesn’t really like Kutaisi either. He lives here for work. He’s from Tbilisi, but has been working here for two years. He used to live in Tbilisi working for an energy company. His wife and two sons still live in Tbilisi, but since he’s so busy with work, he can only make the 3 hour drive to spend weekends there maybe once per month. He’s not too big of a fan of Kutaisi. He lives in a flat with 8 other people, and since there isn’t much to do in the flat, most of the time he just works until 10pm or something. He likes to watch football, but nobody else in his flat does, so he watches the games in his office most nights, often until 2am.

His assistant is also from Tbilisi. She also moved here for work, and is also disappointed in it. She’s been here for about four months now. She doesn’t know anyone in Kutaisi, and all of her friends live in Tbilisi. She likes to go dancing in nightclubs, but since there are no nightclubs in Kutaisi, she is bored most of the time, wishing she were in Tbilisi.

Then there’s me. I’m pretty much indifferent to where I’m placed. A happening night scene isn’t important for me. Sure, I might like to go to a club every once in a while, but I’m not much of a nightclub person; I’m more of a dingy dive bar/cozy pub sort of person than a clubber. It doesn’t bother me too much that there isn’t a whole lot to do here in Kutaisi. There are old crumbly streets to wander and get lost in; there are hills to climb; there are benches to sit on; there’s even a 9th century cathedral to go visit with crumbling, dangerous fortress walls around it that I can climb, and there are plenty of grassy areas up there to sit and read a book on a sunny afternoon.

I have my books, my journal, my cezve and Turkish coffee beans, and my moccasins. It’s my own little personal portable cozy ambiance. I just go out wandering around, getting lost and having adventures, writing them down, and I’m pretty much all set. I generally don’t need specific people or things at my disposal; as long as I have my library, journal, coffee and lounge wear I’m okay. It’s taken me a while to get to that point, but I can make myself fairly comfortable in most scenarios just with my portable cozy ambiance.

(I even have a little place in the hallway where I can sit on a chair, if I get bored of my room.)

Our little “family” goes out to dinner every once in a while. It’s so delightfully awkward. I’ve heard from another volunteer who was with the first wave, that meals with Georgians are always filled with awkward silences. Pakistani host brother complains about Kutaisi, but he talks fast so I usually translate. Where am I supposed to find girls here, man? Maybe I’ll just have to go to Tbilisi every weekend… And either director or assistant will interject I’m sorry I don’t understand. I try to make small talk until I tire of the one word responses or until I run out of topics. And then we sit in silence. Director goes through about 1/2 of a pack of cigarettes, assistant goes through maybe 1/3 of a pack in the course of the dinner, on average. I’ve never seen any country that sucks down cigarettes at the pace of the Georgians. Even the Bosnians and the Serbs have fairly clean lungs compared to the Georgians.

We sit in an awkward haze of cigarette smoke until the director says Okay, we can go, and we file out and back to the car. The three of them to quiet their disappointments in the solace of slumber, and me to scribble furiously in solitude.

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