Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Highlights from Life in Tbilisi

I just wanted to collect and share a few stories that have happened in the past few weeks in Tbilisi!

Sunday with the Neighbors

Adjarian Khachapuri
One Sunday, I came back from a morning trip to the store and found all my neighbors in the yard. They asked me if I wanted to join them for some "adjaruli khachapuri," and of course I said yes! So we all piled into a few cars and headed to a restaurant where we ate an incredible amount of much food. My neighbors are basically a big family- three couples, their combined 7 children, a 20-something single woman named Irina, and me. Interestingly, it's not weird at all, I feel very comfortable with them. They have adopted me into their circle, and take really good care of me. While at brunch, Goga (my landlord and all around good-guy) asked me if I had plans for the rest of the day. While I had a bunch of preparation to do for the next week at work, I didn't have any solid plans, so before I knew it, we were all back in the cars and headed north out of the city to one of the neighbor's dachas! The dacha is gorgeous- not just a little woodland hut and a vegetable garden like a lot of the dachas in Russia I've seen. It's a veritable mansion, newly built, with three stories, a wraparound porch balcony, in ground pool, fire pit with circle couch, a big back yard, and a little playhouse for the girls under construction. We played basketball for a while, and I've still got my high school talent haha I even taught 8 year old Natali how to shoot, and she made 3 baskets! My little baller prodigy <3
After basketball, I got a chance to ride (and drive) one of the quad bikes! It was so awesome; going to the dacha would have been worth it for just that experience. We then lit the fire, and sat around and ate khinkali and homemade bread and cold beer and mtsvadi (shashlik), and just chatted about Georgia and life. It was beautiful.
the dacha

dinner at the fire pit
quad biking with Goga

The German princess

One the way home from the dacha, it was casually mentioned that a princess lives in our yard/apartment complex...a our yard...
Apparently, the beautiful, traditional Georgian style wooden balcony in our yard belongs to an apartment currently being renovated for Gabriela von Hapsburg. According to Wikipedia, she has lived in Tbilisi since 2001 and been an art professor, viticulturist, and ambassador to Germany. Her ancestral titles are "Princess Imperial and Archduchess of Austria, Princess Royal of Hungary and Bohemia." Using those titles is illegal in Austria and Hungary, but she's still technically a princess, and also my neighbor, and definitely the most eminent person I've ever shared an address with!

Chairman Usupashvili 

Two weeks ago, Tbilisi Parliament hosted a week long NATO training course/conference, organized my Member of Parliament (and my boss) Tedo Japaridze. I got to attend the conference, and on the first day we toured the Parliament, and the delegation was greeted by Chairman of Parliament Davit Usupashvili. We took a group photo, lots of people schmoozed him, shaking his hand and introducing themselves...including me. When I introduced myself, though, I said my name and that I was interning for Tedo Japaridze, and he smiles, "oh, you're the American girl, yes?"
He knew me!!!
It was super exciting. He said that we will "definitely" see each other again, and he looks forward to working with me! It was a very cool moment, where I felt like I was finally becoming part of the team here at Parliament, and being seen as a valuable member with something to contribute.

Run in with the ambassador

Shortly after the tour the rest of the participants left for their hotel and I headed back to my office. Since I was left in a completely different wing of the building, however, I got super lost. I ended up wandering around for about half an hour. I found some interesting places, including a library and a media room and a lot of vending machines...but not my office. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself outside and realized I could theoretically just cut across the courtyard back to my wing, but there were barriers set up across the yard and guards everywhere and I was about to give up, when I saw my colleague Nino! She was walking with some men, and I waved to her, and she gave me the "just a minute" signal. I sidled up next to them, smiling and trying to look professional while she said goodbyes and put the men in their town car. As the car drove away, I noticed little American flags on the side view mirrors...turns out one of the men was the American ambassador to Georgia. Who knew.

Parliament- even larger than it looks
Охрана Любовь
(Security Guard Love)

After meeting seeing the Ambassador, Nino pointed me back to my wing, and one of the guards offered to guide me back through the maze of weirdly dark hallways, elevators, and velvet-lined staircases. While we were standing in the elevator, he tried to talk with me in Georgian, but quickly realized we had a language barrier. I said "ar vitsi kartuli" (I don't speak Georgian), but apparently he only heard my Georgian and not the actual words, insisting that I DO in fact speak Georgian. So he started chatting with me and I just smiled politely...then he asked if I had a Facebook. Well, obviously, everyone has a Facebook! But that was the wrong answer, because then he handed me his phone so I could find my profile on FB so we could become friends...
I guess I could have been rude to the Parliament security guard, and just walked away, but I was still lost and so I just typed my name and continued to awkwardly smile.
When I got home, I saw he had sent me several messages calling me beautiful and offering to teach me Georgian (supposedly so we could actually communicate and then of course get married). I just ignored the messaged, unfriended him, and cross my fingers everyday that I won't run into him at work.

Georgia- always weird. Always wonderful. 

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