Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kiss On

I have a book in me. It is about the kiss. You know, “The Kiss”. The kiss by which all others are measured. It is that magic kiss that haunts memory.

I have researched this. I have asked random strangers if there is a kiss that they have never forgot. Each time they stop in their tracks, get a look that says they have reawakened to a dream memory.

Often when asked they share the memory with me. We then dwell in the same magic kingdom of memorable kisses.

I have had a few kisses that keep the bar high.

In my marketing of self on dating sites one of my trolling quotes was, “Kisses are underrated.” This has served me well. It weeds out the bad kissers and attracts those who want to pick up the gauntlet.

Kisses bemuse me; my enchantment with them does not fade.

And then comes Georgia! My Georgia kisses could get their own chapter. Kiss upon kiss. Each kiss endearing.

I have been here less than two months yet can fill pages of the kiss anthology.

The school janitor kisses me on the hand each day when I arrive at school. One of the schoolgirls kissed the sparkly pencil I gave it to her. A police officer that looked like he was sent to liven up a middle age babe’s birthday party blew me a kiss as I walked down the street in Tbilisi. (Not since my teen’s baby!).

A toddler just threw a bunch of smackaroos across the room a la Georgian style with his little curled lip. The village babbias when they discover I am here to teach English pucker up and hit both cheeks with an extra soft kisses that only the toothless can give.

Kisses and more kisses. Sweet kisses, dream kisses. Kisses that just open up some love portal in me. Kisses that mend some neglect that I confused as carnal.

Kisses that call unspent tears.

Best of show, makes a chapter in the book was the one my host mom gave me. I had retreated to bed. All snugged in, I was spent from too many new noises, names, foods, sounds. Empty, my energy spent from navigating the foreign, longing for the familiar. She just opened my bedroom door, stepped over to my bed, and kissed me goodnight. She smiled, all rosy and stepped out. And I missed my mom, and my dad and the thousand kisses I had given my own darlings before they slumbered off. And I rolled up into the little womb ball the takes me to dreamland, all sweet. Sweet like I was before any kiss had tarnish. Ah Georgia.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hit the Wall Baby!

I was dead on the road, murdered I think. I was laying next to the wheels of a big tractor. The sky was all pastel, faint like the houses in my village. The sky was all luminescent and glowy. Though my life had ended violently I was peaceful. Earlier before the killer caught me I was with my children. We pulled angel cards, (a little ritual in our family).

Mine said birth. I could intuit that my life might end. Perhaps this was rebirth. I assured them I believed, in a mystical everlasting ever after.

I was peaceful as I lay dying. An army helicopter loomed overhead. (We hear them frequently at my home. I think it is because the BP pipeline runs near by to the Black Sea.)

So I awoke dead. Also weary. The teenager and some men friends stayed up till three in the morning playing video games on the big screen TV. The teen girl in the next room was getting texts all night long from the boy in the next village. Ding, Ding.

The lovely sun had left us. The day was wet, it foreshadowed winter. I got an immediate case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. One day without the sun, my bones wept in grief…bones do not die I think.

I was chilled all-day and longing for the sun.

School was school. It is a hat I wore for so many years I can automatic pilot with the teaching bit. Also my co-teacher has a three-month-old baby with the colic, who does not sleep and she must take a two-hour marsuka ride (marsukas make the subways of New York seem like Rolls Royce’s. So she gladly gives me the reins.

But I was cranky. Cranky that I had made a plan to have two little fellows meet at my house. One said he would not let Mata come, as he was an imbecile. So I gave a preaching on this.

Then I got invited to the ninth grade. I figured to do a little sermon there. They are not included in the TLG Program, only first through sixth grade. I worry that if they do not catch up, they will spend their lives all dull like the village cows.

I walked in the room, all those years giving me teacher swagger. Well to them I was like the ultimate audience of one. It was opportunity to show their peers who among them had most swaggers. The ringleader to the brouhaha was the young man who lives at my house. He has it. He has looks, brains,is tall and an athlete. He is the it man on campus. He owned the class. He cracked jokes, translated like he was the co-teacher. He was the current I had to swim against to get anyone else's attention.

And the little mind monkeys, those things one must make small or they will just take over, well I had a least ten of those.

My computer got a virus. Yes I was looking for stolen, pirated video’s (I would have paid but very few sites are available in this country). So I am haunted by some freak pop up window every six seconds and never did see a movie.

I have not had green food in a week. So for dinner I ate boiled cabbage and walnuts.

My system is on some sort of revolt against Georgia and nature refuses to call. I have ignored the roaches and the fleabites from the cat. But now it seems that the summer guest had head lice. The little girls are walking about in babushka with shaved heads underneath. I have lice. I just know it. Well at least I have such fear that I am certain I can fell them crawling. My phone has no minutes, and I am such a tender lass just now when it says “blocked” I am certain that I was cast to the land of the unloved.

Oh, and my little student who I adore came for his private lesson and my host mom shooed him away, saying something disparaging in Georgian about “His Momma”” (And of course in Georgia Momma is actually daddy so I am in some baffled state about what one does when one’s momma is trash talked.

And got in trouble at the house, trying to be proactive I wanted to make granola for myself (You know go with my Birkenstocks and all). Well near blew up the kitchen as host mom was out making wine (thus no dinner). But they way things are better she should make wine.

(But should not complain about my lack of food as my young lad, my swagger king had only broth and bread for dinner. So I am wondering if his behavior is diet related).

And that is the sum of my day, except of course this land always gives you your lemonade. Maybe I did die? When I want to bolt it enchants again. Late in the afternoon the sun came out and just put sheen on the land and all was a glimmer. I took a little walk about and did my head writing, which was really all my whining about the bad day, and as I was heading toward home one of the hard working babias (grandma’s) handed me off some roasted chestnuts. They were like Christmas and I tasted heaven. Maybe I did die?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Am I coming or going...?

Literally there are no words. There are no metaphors. There are no similes. I think of how to describe this life and think aha that is it. Then an event will take place.

Some random moment will occur and I am again lost. Perhaps this is good to be lost. Life in the end makes little sense.

In the last two days it is I have lived so many moments that my head spatters about like the Black Sea in in the wind. Now I am at Maia’s home with her children, Nardoli (14) and Katie (15). Lika and her husband and their two children and a random cousin Maria are here on summer holiday escaping the cities heat to village life. The chickens scurry all over and the main entertainment for the little ones seems to be seems to be to shoo them out of the living room.

There is always a flurry of unanticipated activity. Feral animals are chased. The roosters seem not to know night from day. Folks call me and say “tchama/eat.” at unpredictable intervals. Is this a typical Georgian farm home? It is mine.

I am considered lucky by the other volunteers that to have an indoor toilet (though it does not flush). I am happy to be a plumber’s daughter to understand how to inspire the septic system. We have chickens, a turkey, a cow, a pig who stays secluded in his pen and two little flea borne kittens that that only come about to eat fish scraps. We eat fish often, as we are three kilometers from the sea. The cats only go near Maia, as she is their source of sustenance. Maia seems to be the source of sustenance for all in this little home. She is a placid, powerful woman. It is easy for me to live in this house with Maia. I do not speak the language. She is comfortable with silence. She is a widow and much rests on her shoulders, which are strong. She carries fifty-pound sacks of harvested hazelnuts up the steep mountain.

I spent yesterday in a groove with Maia gathering nuts. I did not understand where we are going or what we are going to do. I am thinking it was a little walk about. I am in a frock from the boutique, my sparkly Birkenstocks, with my ankle bangle. We climb down (near fall down) a steep hill. It is all very lovely and medieval us in a forest. Up the hill the pig’s oink sends out an occasional greeting. I am thinking she is gathering some buckets for her family. After the first hour I understand we are at farmers. It is harvest season. I think on the painting of the Angeles. I now understand how the farmers kneeled so reverentially in prayer. They were weary and only the noon prayer was their respite. I am thinking, ring bell, ring. I am thinking “Collette”, (all here call me Irene, my legal name. I am happy about this as it sounds so lovely Ehreene) “Collette you do not have to do this. You could be writing.”

When Hemingway was in Spain did he harvest in the fields? Then I am thinking it is crazy how back home I spend much money and time for exercise. Here I have hazelnuts, so I just keep picking. We pick two fifty-pound bags. Maia sits on the earth in the cool holler of trees and teaches me to use my teeth to crack nuts. We return home, spend more time shucking them for sale. We eat cheese, tomatoes, and nuts. I sleep an uncluttered sleep.

Georgians are very devout. Maia particularly so. She is trying to heal her heart from her husband’s death by a car accident. She volunteers in church each day for hours selling candles. This day, Sunday, all is quiet. Church goes for hours. I am home trying to bring my brain back together from such change. It is not common or accepted to have alone time in Georgia so I glad for the silence. I clear the clutter of a tongue not my own, yet hear nothing.

I have made a friend, Nona. She runs the coffee stop on the highway in route to the sea. I walked down the hill to explore and found Nona who says each time she sees me “ I love you Irene”. Nona is a hottie. I think the Marsuka drivers just stop to see her smile and her rare blue eyes. At her little shop/shack you can also bet the horses. All stop there.

She decides to enculturate me to Georgia. We go out eating, drinking (vodka, a leftover from Russian invasions, kill the sorrow and all that) and dancing. There is a scuffle between Nona and a Georgian man as to who will dance with me. I am wondering about her persuasion I find is common in Georgia to be possessive of one’s dance partner.

At the shop I met Kheladze. She is a summer resident. She will help me to learn Georgian. An elder Georgian man is introduced to me, kisses my hand and truly me who is so bold blushes, deeply.

Kheladze shows me the way to the sea. I am lucky to be so close. Prior to coming I could not even wish where to live, the mountains, the sea, the city? When I thought on the sea I had visions of the Normandy coast, all fierce and desolate, charming and wild.

The Black Sea is not this. It is lovely and the water amazing, but it is like spring break Daytona Beach. Much life, many tourists,, lots of vendors. Still all are happy. My beach is famous for healing as it has black sand. Lika buried my shoulder in the magnesium rich black sand. I am thinking my orthopedic doctor would approve.

This is a little snapshot of life in Georgia, a land where even a picture does not tell 1,000 words.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It Begins

Forgive the silence. I have been in intensive training, with little time, jet lag, and living from a suitcase in a hotel that is very much like the one inhabited by Jack Nicholson in the Shining. Sometimes a worker (with great talent) will sit at the grand piano in the lobby and play Chopin. This city where I stay (Tbilisi) is a mixture of Paris and Detroit. Enchanting and paradoxical. I have met the most amazing!! Young folk who have made me feel welcome in spite of my status as an elder. (In Georgian there is even a particular way you ask questions to an elder.)

But though I am an elder, as tourist is rarely seen in this land I have had a kiss blown at me during one of my walks.

After much anticipation I have just today received my assignment. It seems I will be in an area called Curia in a very small village about a half an hour from the Black Sea. The village is so small even Google maps have not found it.

I will leave on Friday with a host family that will come to collect mi. may go missing from cyber world for a bit and will have to tend to that. But if you do not hear from me for a bit do not be concerned. I am very happy to be living in a village. Though I have many and much to love in the states I just had a longing to review the world, look at life through a different lens.

I have a month until I begin to teach, so I will take a holiday. There are some lovely young folks who are in near by village and we plan a trip to hike a mountain pilgrimage to a cross.

I must again thanks all that helped me so and held this dream for me. It is bittersweet to leave such a wonderful coup of people...Love to all so...

I am not much for photography...but will attempt to share two photos. Be well...I will try to stay connected but may take until I am at school where I am hoping there will be internet...but today we were advised to bring our own toilet paper...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where Is Kansas?

So here I am in a village whose name I cannot say, where at this moment I cannot reference north, south, east, or west. I know I can walk to the Black Sea, but just how I do not know.

I was driven across the country into the west with my principal Nina, another principal, another TLG (Teaching and Learning in Georgia) volunteer (a sassy fun loving twenty five year old women from New Orleans named Ren). A silent driver took us. For the entire trip the car was silent of speech, only the continuing drone of bad imported music, which went inexplicably silent whenever Rhianna and Eminem came on crooning “I Love the Way You Lie”. (When ever I tell any one where I am I hold up hand, say Deetroiteedade, Eminem and it seems to give me some status.)

We had been frothing at the bit to go met our families. Training was intense, felt almost like a cult or an urban version of the televisions Survivor series. People were stuck with high maintences roommates. All kinda crazy going on.

There were cases of food poisoning, and sessions that lasted until eight at night. All the while the lovely city of Tbilisi beckoned, “Come explore”.

Ren and I had been the last to leave. Everyone else got a kiss from their host family and headed off into their adventure.

We waited in the lobby of our faded starlet like hotel. We sang a chorus from Annie, the Broadway musical about orphans, paced a bit until our chariot arrived.

A Beemer (BMW) with the silent man. Lovely vehicle but not big enough to hold the luggage of we two who had packed to live in Georgia for five months.

No room in the trunk. No we must after much discussions (Most decisions in Georgia are collective, even at the pharmacy where I was to buy a laxative which is kept under lock and key five employees discussed this amongst themselves. At least this is what hoped they were discussing.) With no room in the trunk we had to go to the Marshutka station (these are mini busses that fill like sardine cans of humans to escort the citizens to work, family and tend to all life business) The Marshutka hub was crazy in a New Years Eve Times Square way. There were hundreds of mini vans, Russian drivers, and Romali (Gypsies) gather. (Forgive my political incorrectin, I am baffled, her they speak of these displaced people in ways reminiscent off pre Civil Rights movement of African Americans in the states) Once the Marshutka was secured we anticipated our homes and families. I cannot describe this event our drive through this paradoxical land. It was as if random pop up windows were around each curb. I just kept trying to qualify the unquantifiable.

All was lovely as we left Tbilisi, verdant, elbow poking, head turning. Then industry, then striking mountainous vistas. Then placid, willful cows stopping traffic looking all-indolent like this was Delhi and they wee sacred beings.

Then stops at the fruit stands and our first “Georgians Style” toilet (which are holes in cement, which may have sat in the same mound of earth for the last century).

We just settle and think and start feeling the ride just take us, supplicating to the erratic speeds, roller coaster roads and a daredevil ride of no seat belt tapping toes to music. (The protocol is talk all the time, talk loudly, passionately but in the car it is a symphony of resounding Georgian music, Techno or the worst American music. All listen in stillness as if in a concert hall.

Ren and I bound as we are all squashed up together. We encounter the remains of an accident, a toppled car, and Marshutka. Looked like a fatality accident, our lack of seat belts and all we had left behind had me with a case of buyer’s remorse. I was now Dorothy longing for home. What is this I had done?

I do not speak the language, I am feeling like I am in caffeine detox, Further I will never find love here but as single will be certainly offered for a bride. And my mind is buzzing with thoughts maybe I should have asked to go the mountains where there seemed to be more churches. Having seen the accident I understood how it is that all cross themselves shelves walking past a church. Aye. Why can I not be like other sixty year grown ups at home acting sensible, enjoying the Dancing with the Stars. This is no Eat, Pray, and Love novel life, going to make the New York Times with my story. This is just crazy for me to be going to some obscure place called Georgia. So obscure that I have to say “No not where the peaches come from, no not Russia. This is a small country north of…” Blah blah, I keep explaining to folks back home. Yep this is straight up crazy. Where in the whole rest of the world do I have to keep toilet paper balled up in my bra so as to pee in a cement hole and not just drip dry? And just where do I think I am going to wear this Eileen Fisher wardrobe that was my preparation muse when planning to come to Georgia

All the other volunteers, they have right, cause to be here. This group of vital, dynamic world changing young folks well it is a least developmentally appropriate to be on this soul excursion. But I have already had my adventurous decades.

My head is crazy making me. It gets no better when we arrive to a home for a toast of local wine and a bite of dinner. I am not thinking it would be a good idea to drink with my principal as I have already messed up protocol by putting my bare foot up on the seat. Bare feet near personal space are apparently a cultural taboo. Nope I am Dorothy. Well I am Dorothy, but is she, just with no shoes. I want Kansas. Even a sip of wine did not temper my agitation.

But then my Glinda arrives in the form of a cow and I am given hope. The cow at the house where we had stopped stepped into the kitchen and was snacking from the table. I love cows. Though a city kid I milked one at the State Fair. That cow in the kitchen just gave me something. All those years of looking out the window in Dearborn, all the hours I spent straightening the kitchen, all those times I spend times perseverating on unimportant things. That sweet brown cow standing in the kitchen well I would cross time zones and stay there for a bit just to have that moment. Enchanted.