I- Toasting the World
Last Wednesday, I left Tbilisi to visit some TLG friends throughout Western Georgia. I headed out to Guria and Samegrelo, the regions in which most of my group live. I had been told that it was raining buckets in the West and so I brought my umbrella hat.
After driving for hours through winding mountain roads, the low-hanging rainclouds began to lift and the sun shone down once more. The westward trip from Tbilisi is a very scenic one with many cows in the road, scores of roadside honey/candle/carpet/clay pot salesmen, and that exhilarating Georgian practice of passing eighteen-wheelers on a two lane high way going around a curve and up a hill. And every so often, you even encounter boulders!
In all fairness, Georgia is beautiful and anyone who takes the time to drive across the country will surely discover that for themself:
Katie lives with Geographers. This means that when I arrived and we started drinking (two immediately sequential events) many of the toasts and much of the conversation was about the World. The family has a map of the world in Georgian on the wall and asked me to point to where I live. I put my finger on Maine and Giorgi, Katie’s host brother, said, “Oh, Boston! Very good.”
As the tamada (toast master) Giorgi led us first through the traditional order of Georgian toasts: to peace, to friends, to family, to the dead, to the people you miss in Boston, etc. before launching into a stream of worldly toasts such as, “I like Germany. What do you like? You like Italy? You like Spain.” and “Let us toast to the countries of the world. But not Russia. And not China. And not Iran.”
Katie told me that a few days prior, Giorgi and her host dad had gone around the world telling her which countries are “Friends” and which are “Motherfuckers.” The world would certainly be a far simpler place if we all just divided into groups of Friends and Motherfuckers. God, I miss the Cold War.
We downed many many shots of Georgian vodka (“No, is not tcha-tcha!”) and watched the Boondock Saints on Georgian TV before heading to bed. The next morning, Giorgi was feeling unwell and assumed that I surely shared his hangover. As Katie’s host-sister-in-law (Note: Not Giorgi’s wife, but Goga’s) prepared breakfast, Giorgi opened the fridge and pulled out a 1.5 liter bottle of Natakhtari beer for to share at breakfast.
I drank my beer, praised Italy, and continued on my merry way through Guria to visit more TLG volunteers. It was definitely a solid start to four days of adventuring.
II- The Toilet Adventures of Christine and Raughley
I had already missed two marshrutkas and a bus from Ozurgeti to Ureki and was not about to miss a fourth. Christine, Nathan, and Hanna had graciously agreed to accompany me to the bus station to make sure I caught the final bus of the day. While we waited around for the bus to leave, I realized that before embarking upon another 1+ hour bus ride, I should probably find a bathroom. Christine had similar needs. I turned to Christine and asked, “Christine, would you like to go on a Toilet Adventure with me?” “Yes,” she replied, “Let me grab my tissues and my hand sanitizer.”
Let me pause here for a moment to point out two things: 1) I don’t often invite people on Toilet Adventures with me. These are typically the types of Adventures I prefer to enjoy alone. Christine was extremely lucky that I was in such a sharing mood that day. 2) Wise Christine carries her own stash of tissues and anti-bacterial hand sanitizer with her because she knows full well that Georgian toilets are not to be trusted.
It looked like it would be a short Adventure as we saw a parasol and top hat with cane painted on the wall. Clearly this meant ladies’ and men’s rooms were around the corner. Sure enough, the smell led us right to them. I volunteered to go first and scope it out. My scoping determined that both Toilets were sealed with extremely solid-looking padlocks. The Adventure must go on!
We returned to the bus station to ask the ladybehindthecounter where we could find a toilet. “Bathroom?” asked Christine. The lady blankly stared. “Try Georgian,” I suggested. “Tualeti?” asked Christine. The lady blankly stared. “T’ualet’i?” I asked. The lady told us how to find the parasol and top hat toilets. “That’s bullshit!” Christine said, “How come she didn’t understand ME?” And people wonder if Georgian is difficult!
Knowing that the ladybehindthecounter’s preferred toilets were locked we began exploring the station itself for bathrooms.
After returning from upstairs, a kind old gentleman (tragically sans top hat and cane) told us that the nearest toilets were at the bazaari and gave us walking instructions. Toilet Adventures II: The Hunt for the Bazaar Toilet had just begun.
We followed his instructions and began walking towards the bazaari. We stopped to ask some old guys where the toilets are and he pointed, saying, “The bazaar has them. It’s further down the street.” By this point we’d been walking for about ten minutes and we’d been on our Toilet Adventure for about twenty. I can’t speak for Christine, but it wasn’t infeasible that we’d soon have a crisis on our hands.
As we arrived at the bazaari we looked around, trying to see where the toilets might be.
Instead of Toilets we found a lady with a floppy hat. She told us, “Go back, turn left at that van. You will see a police station down that road. The toilets are just past the police station.” We finally knew where we had to go.
We crossed the busy street and my phone started ringing. Nathan was calling me from the bus station where he and Hanna were guarding our things. “Yo dude, I think your Marshrutka is getting ready to leave. You’d better hurry up!” The concluding chapter of the trilogy, Toilet Adventures III: Tug the Rope, had just begun.
Now before you start disgustingly speculating about what “Tug the Rope” means, let me clarify. We decided that we did not have time for a Toilet Visit but that I would have to hurry in order to make it back to the bus station before my bus left me behind, if somewhat physically relieved. I began power walking back the way we came.
“Raughley, you’re doing it wrong,” pointed out Christine, “I used to work at a gym and my friend and I always played this game when we walked around our neighborhood. You pretend that you are pulling yourself along by tugging on a rope.” I turned my powerwalk into a game of Tug the Rope and let me just say, it is quite effective! With a smidgen of imagination you can actually feel as if you are pulling yourself forward on some sort of invisible rope. It’s really quite remarkable! You should take a break from reading and Tug the Rope across the room right now!
If it didn’t work for you, you clearly just lack imagination. The rest of us felt it.
So we tugged our way back to the bus station to find Nathan and Hanna watching as the Marshrutka’s trunk was loaded up and people began gathering. Though our Toilet Adventure had failed, Christine and I hadn’t wasted our afternoon–quite the contrary. We took a nice walk through the back allies of Ozurgeti, explored the upper reaches of the bus station, and learned to play Tug the Rope–a game I have continued to play ever since! All told, I think that The Toilet Adventures Trilogy was well worth the effort.