This is the first back-to-back weekend, since being placed in my village, that I have decided to spend the entire weekend at home. What is there to do?
I have devoted over a week to the smoothed pebble beaches of Batumi on the fringe of the Black Sea of which I split in half by delving into a short and lackluster relationship with Trabzon, Turkey, promising I'd return to her and give that crazy bitch another chance – Istanbul this time. I came home to Samikao for a short while, the logic being to rest, recover and eat a decent meal that didn't make me wish for sudden death, and perhaps even wash my clothes. Alas, cabin fever had set in more quickly then I realized and before I knew it, I was gone again with a brief stop in Tbilisi then succumbing to the call of Yerevan, Armenia. She was simply a beauty. Within this mad rush of travel by train, marshutka, bus, taxi and good old fashioned bipedalism, I managed to also see a great array of Georgian cities beyond just Tbilisi and Batumi including; sphincter Abasha, bazaar-happy Samtredia, refurbished Kutaisi, political Zugdidi, breathtaking Mestia and the lesser known and sparsely visited dollops of civilization that pepper the Georgian countryside. I have found genuine beauty, anxiety, frustration, tranquility, adventure and intoxication within every stop across the Saqartvelo map. Especially intoxication. What else is there to do here but eat, drink and be merry?
I don't rightly know what sobriety feels like anymore, but if I wasn't so drunk, I'd probably miss its bland approach to life. I know what some of you are thinking though, I am a man of at least passable intelligence and autonomy, and I could easily act to end this cross-country wine tasting expedition with a firmly spoken 'No', but to this, all I will express is that you so-clearly have never been to Georgia; under the roofs of these wonderfully gracious hosts and guilt-experts, they gleam with pride, ready and willing to offer up whatever they have and to make you so comfortable, it's uncomfortable. This is concludes not being satisfied until you've sampled their wine 400 times and fill empty bottles as take-home offerings.
There is a general store in Samikao village, but this term is used vaguely and only to evoke some sense of meaning, to convey that there is a place in the village selling products for consumption. Chabuki and Teona offered to take me to this store perhaps in thinking I needed something or maybe just to acquaint me with its location and stock. I walked in to find on dusty racks nothing but laundry detergent and bullets. Crisis averted I thought; I need not travel far if I need to replenish my ironically named brand of laundry detergent, Barf, and fuckin' bullets. Aside from supply and demand which I vehemently rejected as a motivation for stock selection, I stood between the goods wondering what connection soap and ammunition could have...
Step 1: Place soiled clothing in wash basin.
Step 2: Fill basin with water.
Step 3: Add in ½ cup of detergent, or as desired.
Step 4: Load clip and fire all ammo into water to agitate.
Step 5: Yo' shit be clean, suckah. Hang to dry.
Caution: Make sure to exhibit, as is the Georgian way, no evidence of satisfaction during any step. Be sure your facial expression does not change from the frozen expression of serious constipation; as if you weren't otherwise having the time of your life.
Note: This drying step should take no time at all, seeing as all garments are now full of bullet holes.
My Scrubs-like daydream is crashed by the horn of the car. We go back home and I scribble down my experience on a pad of paper, saving it for later.
“Modi Coro! T'chamsachameli!” I am interrupted in writing this blog entry by my awe-inspiring host mother.
“Gmadlobt, Deda. Me ar minda sachameli. Tu sheidlzleba!” She looks at me sternly with those black eyes when I say, 'Thank you, Mom. I don't want food,' then her, Bebia and Teona burst out laughing when I say 'Please,' in plea.
After lunch my host sister weighs me on a gigantic and ancient soviet relic of a scale. Within my first few days of arriving here I weighed 76 kilograms. Standing on the opposite side as the scale's numbers, I knew the counterweight sat far in the wrong direction. 81 kilo's. My vain Western ego takes a direct hit.
"Goooood, Coro,” they say, “but eight five, best.” They simply ignore my sharp disagreement that unnecessarily obese is not better and I walk away wondering if there's a prize for the community who manages to grow the fattest TLG volunteer; like pumpkin growers at an Autumn county fair. Tsalenjikha is the clear blue-chip front runner. What is there to do other than eat, drink and feel like a disgusting, gluttonous blob?
To keep fractionally active I've participated in activities wherever I could, but even that had its limitations. The women here have impressive work ethics and they take great pride in what they do... which is quite literally everything. I am not allowed to clear my plate, let alone wash dishes, or am I even trusted to clean or tidy my room. The latter will just be done over by her, ensuring in her mind only then has it been done properly. I can't even do my own laundry, and I'll be honest, after some precarious street food, water adjustment periods, or long sweat-filled hikes my boxer-briefs should be deemed as biohazardous waste or at least be burned for the sake of all mankind. It has taken me two months of persistence and covert operations just to pull my laundry off the line myself, fold it and put it all away.
I was appreciated when I harvested corn in the final hours of sun early one evening. After a short day at school and a quick afternoon nap waiting for the heat to subside, the family, the farm employees and myself all went out, clad in boots and straw hats. I was working on a decent tan from Batumi that I wanted to keep adding shades to so I worked without a shirt. Apparently I am allergic to dried corn husks, I surmised. The Choroglashvili women were horrified every time I performed a 'farmer's blow' blasting a huge goober of snot toward the Earth (also known as a 'snot rocket', for clarification). The men thought this performance was fantastic and laughed like small children at every show. We finished off the corn harvest in three short hours and I actually felt somewhat accomplished, though when I entered the house, they shrieked at the hives appearing all over my exposed epidermis. In my silly and ignorant Western egotism, I argued extensively that a quick, cold shower (as if I had a choice in temperature) and an allergy pill would settle things down. They argued, without end, non other than three (or more) large pulls of homemade vodka would be the only course of action.
Following the previous days sense of accomplishment, when I was asked if I wanted to wield a machete then shuck corn in the fields again, I agreed, assuming we were helping a neighbor. Nearly ten hours later in another field of Chabuki's, in the direct midday sun which blasted extreme heat through our straw hats, I was toasted, fried, exhausted, done. His second field was massive though managed to finish it at the end of the day by working quickly, determinately. When I declined the next day to again pull manual labor for no money, I was met with harsh disappointment. I felt bad for saying no, but I had a job and I had already given them half of my weekend, so I declined, choosing instead the relaxation of a book and some much needed quiet time. The previous day's ten hours in the sun with the locals had torched my skin and my patience; I could only listen to a gaggle of annoying women and girls tease and giggle at me for so long. Their relentlessness was astounding. At some point at least, I knew the Sun was going to relax and recede behind the horizon, whereas these girls were never going to relax their mouthes.
As mentioned in a previous post, I did have the opportunity to fill my time by petting some of the pigs while fairly inebriated. Actually, just one, who lay outside the iron gate of our compound unable to get up, overloaded with pregnancy and clearly giving no shits, not moving for anyone or anything. We became friends; the pig spoke as much English as anyone else in the village. She was a good listener, and I provided her with a comforting stroke of her prickly hairs and a bit of additional shade which I think she appreciated. A week or so later I was present just after the piglets came flying out. It was after a supra when they showed me, so lots of wine had been drunk. All of them were adorable and beautifully pink except one, the ugly duckling of piglets, who timidly watched as all his siblings suckled away at an exhausted momma. He was a burnt orange in comparison sporting black spots all over his body. I felt bad for this ugly little bastard, so I looked over at Chabuki, pointing to the runt and asked, 'Ramdeni lari?' How much? He laughed then sensing my seriousness, and being a businessman he engaged me in bartering. I had no knowledge of how much a piglets worth was but we went back and forth, punching numbers into our mobiles because my knowledge of kartuli numbers ended at ten. The final result is hazy at best and I'm still not sure if we settled on a price or if money changed hands but in any case I still visit the piglet who I'd named Sir Winston Churchill. The runt has ballooned and has become quite dominant in play among his brothers and sisters. It seems someone has been sneaking into the pen and feeding Winnie a little extra The mystery remains unsolved.
During my second visit to Batumi, a calf was born in our backyard. I missed her birth by only a few days and named her Hannah for no other reason than her huge brown eyes and long eyelashes seemed to warrant the name. I have purposefully detached myself from our new, sweet girl because cows are very stupid and louder than you might think. Also because I had witnessed an employee of the farm, Givi, through the window of my room walk a calf over to the manicured front lawn of the house one morning. After pulling myself out of bed and shuffling over to the hand pump to brush my teeth and splash water on my face, I saw it there, strung upside down from a tree. Quick and painless I thought, how efficient a kill. Only it wasn't dead. At that moment Givi plunged the knife into its esophagus and the previous silent calf screamed a horrid and chilling wail. I was sad and small at this sight. A twenty nine year old little boy. A spoiled Westerner who purchased his choice of neat cuts of meat in grocery stores without ever needing to experience the true consequences of being a meat-eater. This was my motivation to head back to Batumi for the second time, just missing the birth of little Hannah.
I had a friend hang out in my village one weekend. Derek met the family and it took him no time at all to sandbag me with my hosts, solidifying my name as Coro when they had just started to get it right. Apparently, here, a Coro is a large bird of some kind that swoops in and steals chicks and small chickens from the yard. I hate the nickname a little less now. A supra evolved as soon as he arrived, with endless and all-too-familiar utterances of 'come, sit, eat Dedek, Coro.' He met my friends Givi and Igori who toasted to Georgia, Canada, America, life, death, love, friendship, all members of our host families and our families back home. From the first toast, Derek emptied his glass where I had left some to remain in the bottom, and Igori stoked the embers of an inevitable drinking contest. Samikao versus Tsalenjikha. I was not going to let the little bronze buddha statue win. It was on. After dinner our contest of manhood extended to milking cows. He destroyed me. I shouldn't be surprised that he excelled at stroking the creamy liquid from a phallic piece of meat. Homo milk.
Igori, clearly frustrated at seeing me periodically, at best, squirt milk from the cow grabbed my attention. My arms were covered in milk, the bucket had a few drops somewhere at the bottom, I was sure. He held up a piece of rope that was tied to a post and unused at the other end. All other posts had cows attached to them. The duty to find the missing cow was an instant mission of Derek's despite the falling rain. I was reluctant at first, for about a second and a half, never one to turn down a Zaney Adventure. We suited up in pants, rain shells and headlamps then set off through the gate. Chabuki was ecstatic to have these two morons hunt down his cow in the rain while he supervised from the protection of his old, white, soviet piece, grumbling and choking, bumbling down the road behind us. Four kilometers away the pasture gate was open which allowed all the cows to meander home shortly after six, just as they did every day of their lives. We hiked around the tall wet grass of the communal pasture for a few hours. I was convinced the pregnant cow had lay down and was giving birth. Chabuki looked with us for a while then hopped back in his car and out of the elements. Derek and I became lost for a short time then followed a sound as he pressed impatiently on his car horn.
We wandered the streets of Samikao for a while but then as we entered Maidani, the next village over, we spotted a cow. Chabuki had stopped to chat with some friends a while back, but satisfied we had found our cow, we started to herd the stubborn whore home. She had plans of her own that did not include going home to pack a bag. On one such wrong turn had her bolt down a side street in the wrong direction. Derek, looking like a elfen, overweight Usain Bolt took off like a shot to head her off. Stepping on a shiny flat stone in his well-known Choco sandals and man-capris ensemble, he ate shit. So hard. It looked as though in his drunken stupor he didn't even bother to extend his hands to ease his fall, but evidence to the contrary was the palms of both hands sliced up from landing on the crushed, sharp, stones. I laughed my ass off and ignored the cow who bounded down the dark road.
Also, if you think cows can't haul-ass, you're mistaken, they can also clear a five foot high fence, and if they don't clear it, they simply crush it. We managed to get her back soon enough but by the time Chabuki had caught up with us, several members of the community were in tow. Unsure of which cow was ours, we decided to herd every one we saw meandering the streets; four in all. Men came out of the blackness and into the light of our headlamps thinking we were stealing their livestock. (Knowing Chabuki, he would've been okay with it if we were successful in the heist). Herding four dumb ass cows was fairly easy compared with trying to break off four cows in four entirely separate directions. In short, all hell broke loose. Men barked orders at us in stressed Kartuli from somewhere in the dark, Derek yelled orders at me in English, Chabuki leaned against his car between the headlights and I watched the shit-show unfold laughing hysterically. Somehow the mayhem subsided and the men mumbled things in harsh tones, probably to Derek and I, as they herded their cow back home. Chabuki gave a chuckle to their comments before hopping back in his car. We had no idea where we were now, but he guided the way by driving slowly behind, signaling with the car's flashers when he wanted us to turn. This, on a few occasions, was not as fool proof as you might think as we made a few more wrong turns before finally getting her in for the night. This is active village life as I know it.
MATURE AND DEEP REFLECTION::
Most time spent in the village is done thinking, like a requirement, I sit outside my room on a bench and enjoy the nice manicured front yard of the Chorgolashvili household and quickly find myself wandering the universe of my mind. One's thoughts can be of significant intrapersonal value when given the benefit of time, such as searching through part(s) of yourself you want bettered and working out how you may go about reaching such a lofty goal. I've played with elementary philosophical ideas and have been provoked to think considerably by paragraphs or chapters in the books I read.
Other times, however, even with good intention to think significantly, deeply, I drift off into a realm of thought as if I had nothing remotely intelligent left to ponder. These thoughts are far less complex ideas and tend to be mere simple questions inspired by the things I see around me, like:
Why can a horse run and poop so naturally, yet has to stop to pee?
Why does Georgian conversation, whether discussing the cuteness of puppies, or, caught in a blizzard of bitter dispute, look and sound absolutely identical?
Why is it when everyone else says 'No', it means no, but when I say 'No', it means yes I would love more food and much, much more alcohol?
How big is my bush going to get?
What's a vagina again?
What, kind sir, is the weave of this fine garment you're wearing? Oh, it's your body hair. You must spend a fortune on conditioner.
Do we have to watch another home video of a wedding you attended six years ago and listen to you recite the entirety of every speech with precise inflection and timing?
So it's the wedding videos or this poorly dubbed Spanish soft-core-porn/soap opera, and I have to sit beside grandma?
What else is there to do but eat, drink and question everything?
What is there to do in the village? What else is there to do but eat, drink and accept every opportunity for adventure?