Leave Tbilisi July 22nd --> spend one night in Kazbegi
Enter Russia July 23rd
Leave Russia Sunday July 26th --> back in Tbilisi that night
Back to work Monday July 27th
So it's Saturday night, and I'm back in Vladikavkaz. While in Grozny, I met Ibragim (who offered me a job at his language school!), who happened to be visiting friends in Vladikavkaz that evening anyway, so we shared a taxi there. The taxi driver was his friend, so when we arrived we all got dinner together. After dinner, we went our separate ways. As my last night in Russia, I didn't want to go home quite yet. I decided to just stroll around the downtown pedestrian area, soaking up the nighttime atmosphere. I found myself standing on a street corner around midnight, as the bars and restaurants were closing, and young people poured out onto the sidewalks- lingering, saying slow goodbyes, trying to squeeze out the last drops of their Saturday night. Suddenly, a man called out to me from inside a car "девушка!" (girl), in typical Caucasian fashion. At first I ignored him, but eventually walked over to see what he wanted. He asked me if I needed any help, since apparently I looked lost and/or confused. I explained I was just people watching, and once he heard my accent he became really interested in me. Every time I tried to walk away (I was standing outside his car, talking to him through the window), Zaurbek reeled me back in "wait, one more question!" We talked in this way for about 30 minutes, and then I agreed to go get a drink with him.
I hopped in his fancy SUV with South Ossetian plates and we cruised around the town for a bit. He pointed out different places "that's the most exclusive club in the city," "that's where my mom works," "that's my favorite pizza place"...
We ended up at one of the only bars that was open, where we chatted over glasses of so-called Georgian wine (that was extremely disappointing compared to wine actually from Georgia) and a big bowl of french fries. It was awesome!
Around 1:30 in the morning, his phone rings. It's one of his friends calling to remind them that there's a wedding tomorrow that they're supposed to attend. "Do you want to come?" he asks me. All evening he had been trying to get me to stay another day in Vladikavkaz, but I kept explaining that I had to be at work on Monday and I needed to leave tomorrow, but now that this wedding was on the table...I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see my first Russian wedding- and a Caucasian one at that! So I agreed.
The next day I spent the morning shopping for a dress to wear to the wedding. I had no idea what kind of thing people wear to weddings in Ossetia, so I was texting Zaurbek for advice, but, being a typical boy he was absolutely unhelpful, and asking the shop girls to evaluate my choices. In the end I found the perfect dress:
When Zaurbek came to pick me up from my hotel with two of his friends, I immediately knew things weren't going to go as plans. Instead of getting in the car and going, everyone got out of the car to have a smoke and deliberate our plan. I seemed to be the only one enthused about the wedding...the boys weren't convinced the wedding would be fun.
In the end, we ended up skipping the wedding. They instead proposed a trip into the mountains- but not the really pretty mountains that were too far away, just some smaller, less nice mountains. I was wringing my hands, regretting my decision to stay the extra day in Vladikavkaz for nothing. We just drove around, apparently aimlessly, looking for corn (??) and beer. It started sprinkling and I thought for sure our mountain picnic plans were dashed. Instead, we waited out the rain in someone's brother's little cigarette shop for half an hour before forging ahead.
In the end, it turned out amazingly, and I'm so glad I stayed!
Originally I planned to leave by 4 pm so I could get the last marshrutka back to Kazbegi, but we were having a such a good time in the mountains that I decided to just go back in the morning. I can't even imagine what the bigger/better/further mountains must be like. The place we were was absolutely gorgeous: sharp W's of green-faced rocks, clumps of pale yellow and purple flowers, twisting pebble-strewn roads. On the way up we passed an ancient family watch tower- one of the most famous symbols of the Caucasus.
Zaurbek is a former professional freestyle wrestler- he went to the Olympics and was the world champion in 2009!
Vadim is a young, handsome dentist who apparently the ladies love because dentistry is a very lucrative field in North Ossetia!
Soso is playful, a big joker, who brought homemade beer!
|L to R: Soso, Vadim, Zaurbek|
Also saw a relative of Princess Diana, apparently...