The driving in Georgia is conducive to practicing the rememberance of death, because everyone drives so fast, risky, and (by American standards) illegially, that one feels in danger of a head-on collision at about 10 mph at any moment. Yesterday we all left Tbilisi at around one in the afternoon and drove to our respective assignments — I’m in Adigeni, as I mentioned (say it with a hard “g”; I can’t write out pronunciation very well — “a” in Georgian is like in “father,” i is a long e, and the g is always hard. There’s another letter that is pronounced like a soft g or a French j, but I think they write that one like jh or something). Another volunteer, J, and I drove with a police officer from this region, which took about three hours. J is a young woman from Ohio (I think), who’s family is from Liberia. The drivers here have a tendancy to go as fast as they possibly can, and to pass one another on somewhat crowded two lane highways, so that one might be humming along at 80 mph, come up to a semi going 40 or so, with other traffic going about the same speeds. Nobody, by the way, wears seatbelts here. So we’re going along, come upon this semi, and sort of hover to the left a bit, until there’s a little space in which to pass it — there may be three or so of them in a row — at which point we speed up to something over 100, and pass the trucks. The catch is, is very often happens that some other car is coming from the other direction, also very fast, at the same time, so that for part of the time while passing there are three cars on the road at the same time, very close to one another, going very fast, and heading in opposite directions. As they’re driving through the villages, if there’s soemone crossing the road, they simply honk so that the person knows they’re there, rather than slowing down. Any sufficiently large road appears to be treated as a freeway. I am very glad that I don’t have to drive here.
In any event, we did survive getting here, and met some other police officers at a resteraunt a few villages away from where I’m living. They ordered plates of xinkali, which is a kind of traditional meat dumpling; roasted chunks of meat, like shsikabobs (I don’t think that Georgians are very strict about keeping church fasts — or not so I’ve observed); and hajapuri, which is georgian cheesy bread. They insisted that we eat as much as possible, and when we had each eaten several (or six or seven, in the case of the guys) xinkali they took the rest, fried them, and asked us to continue eating them if possible. At the resteraunt I met Gea (short for George — pronounce all the letters as long or hard to make it sound like they do here), and then went with him back to his family’s house. He has a wife, Anna, and two children, Gea (11), and Turnike (6). Both the elder and younger Gea know some English, though not very much, and Anna and Turnike know almost none. They’re very nice.
After a spending a bit trying to communicate with mixed success, P came over and helped — he’s a police detective who learned English in college, so he can speak fairly well, and then we went over and they showed me the police stations, and introduced the policemen who I’m supposed to teach, starting Monday. Most of them know no English at all, so we’re to begin with the alphabet. I was thinking about this, and English phoenitics is crazy complicated compared with Georgian, where pretty much one letter stands for one sound, and that’s it. The only exception is that sometimes letters are hard to say together fast, and are softened a bit, so I’m not sure how that’s going to go. Fortunately P is supposed to help me when he can, and I have also met N, a young Georgian woman who teaches English at the school; she said she might be able to help sometimes, and I’m teaching fairly small groups. Later we came back for dinner, and A, who drove us from Tbilisi. came over for drinks with his wife.
Today I had breakfest, met N, and walked around town for a bit. It’s small and quite lovely, with lots of grass, some plants that are being grown for food (they say that a lot of them are for grapes), lovely forested hills, and a stream going through town.