Traveling to Georgia took less than 24 hours, but, with the time differences, spanned three days. I left DC on Friday evening and arrived in Tbilisi at 3 AM on Sunday morning. In Munich, my last stop before Tbilisi, I met the four Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) who are also spending this academic year in Georgia. Jess, Sara, Gabby, Eric, and I will be living in five different cities around the country, and I am excited that I got to meet them, as we will get to spend time together and work on some projects together throughout the year.
Between getting off the plane, waiting for our luggage, finding our driver, and getting to our hotels, it was after 5 AM by the time I finally made it to my room. I was surprised to discover that the people working at my hotel were primarily speaking Russian, not Georgian. (In retrospect, I suspect they also speak Georgian quite well, but are more used to communicating with foreigners in Russian). As I speak neither Georgian nor Russian (yet!), we got by with me speaking Slovak and them speaking Russian. (Yay for language families and cognates)! Honestly, I felt a little rude trying to communicate that way, but it worked, and no one seemed offended. It was significantly more effective than my few words of Georgian would have been: mama, deda, gegma, erti, ori, sami! (Father, mother, plan, one, two, three… I think 🙂 ).
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I spent most of my first day in Georgia in the hotel room, but I was absolutely exhausted (and it had a great view from the balcony and rooftop terrace). I did venture out that evening for dinner with two of the ETAs, Sara and Gabby, at, “In The Shadow of Metekhi,” a restaurant overlooking the river and the city that serves traditional Georgian foods and has live music.
Together we ordered a variety of food (and wine, of course!) and shared them all. The food was truly as good as everyone had told me it would be. Seriously, it was really, really good! I can’t remember everything we ordered, but some of it included khachapuri, chicken in a blackberry sauce, chicken in a garlic sauce, grilled or roasted vegetables, mushroom soup, a fantastic potato dish, and dry white wine. I also wish we had taken a picture, but it came out in stages and we were hungry!
Monday was a blur. Jet lagged, I woke up early and drank coffee on my balcony while watching the sunrise.
After breakfast, I went for a walk in the city, taking pictures of Old Tbilisi before going to the Embassy for orientation with the Fulbrighters. (I’m the only ELF in Georgia this year).
The Embassy is far from the center of Tbilisi so we got to see a good bit of the city during the drive there. It’s really a beautiful and fascinating city. I’m looking forward to going back there to explore more (and glad that I’m living close enough to do so). After orientation we were taken to get SIM cards for our phones and then dropped back off at our hotels that evening. I joined Sara, Gabby, and Jess for dinner again, which involved a lot of khinkali. I think khinkali may be my favorite Georgian food so far.
After dinner we all went back to our hotels to rest and pack up because we knew we’d be leaving Tbilisi on Tuesday morning to head to our respective host cities…