Mosquitoes, Questions, and Answers

I spent the weekend in Zugdidi lending a hand in Marissa’s school, killing a cow while wearing a blazer, attending a Halloween Party, and most importantly, feeding the meek, poor, and hungry Mosquitoes of Zugdidi. I accomplished each considerable task with great aplomb and flying colors. Many of these colors were red.

Let’s start with the Mosquitoes.  As a note to appease an inquisitive friend, I will continue to capitalize “Mosquitoes” throughout this post (aka when I remember to!) as a sign of deference and respect for their power.  As Pauli and Marissa have written, the Mosquitoes in Georgia, and in Zugdidi in particular, are an otherworldly force capable of intense speed and ferocity, as the situation warrants.

Whenever I go to Zugdidi I stay with Marissa and her kind, generous family.  I get the bed and Marissa takes the couch because even though the couch is “Patara” and I am “Mets Patara!” Marissa is, in her own words, “Tsota tsota!”  (“Little,” “I’m little too!,” and “A little bit little bit,” respectively).  Marissa has a very nice, if cramped, bedroom with a small window that leads to the kitchen.  It has no glass (though I hear that’s changed since I was there two days ago) but that’s only a problem if you make it a problem.  Or if you don’t like Mosquitoes.

Marissa is also taking Russian classes on the side.  She has a spiral notebook full of Russo-English words that she uses to learn words and phrases like “Chut-chut,” “pyats,” and “Spasibo.”  The notebook also doubles as a weapon.

I arrived the other night and her host dad encouraged/forced me to drink a lot of wine with him.  It was tasty, village-made stuff and we had a good time.  Then it got to Mosquito-killing time.  Every time I stay over in Zugdidi I get a million bites on my face.  I sleep with just my head and maybe bare arms/shoulders sticking out from under the blanket.  As I sleep I frequently wake up to the dive-bombing sound of Mosquitoes against my ears, flail wildly and disgruntedly in the dark and then fall back asleep.  When I get up, my arms, shoulders, and face are covered in bites.  Even just thinking about it makes me itch!

This weekend the bites were particularly bad and, again to quote Marissa directly, I “look[ed] like shit!”  Alternately, “You look like your face got stomped by a dragon!” or “You look like a thirteen year-old pizza-face!”  Thanks, Marissa, love you too.

Note: The above photo is not a topographical map of Mars. It is, in fact, my face.

I spent a good part of my stay in Zugdidi using Marissa’s notebook for its secondary (primary?) purpose.  I stood on Marissa’s bed and swatted at the Unholy Swarm mostly in vain.  Despite the impossible difficulty of killing most of these little buggers, Marissa’s ceiling had (until very recently) 26 Mosquito corpses pasted to it.  The notebook itself is stained with the blood of a dozen Mosquitoes as well.  I guess technically it is mostly stained with the blood of Marissa, via Mosquito.  (Marissa, if you’re reading this and you have the time and wherewithal, please send me photos of your ceiling and your notebook! [Addendum, I perfectly realize that I still have your {repaired!} camera in my possession, and so this is an impossible task.])

Nino, our dear friend and former director/trainer remains convinced that there was something more insidious happening to my face (as in other kinds of worse bugs than Mosquitoes).  I am sure she is wrong.  The talent and eagerness of the Georgian Mosquitoes prove the success of their program of nightly raids against Americans’ faces.

Pictured here: Talent and Eagerness.

When I returned home to Tbilisi, my host family’s reaction to my face was fairly expected.  It ran the spectrum from “What the Hell happened to you in Zugdidi!?!?” to “It looks like your face got stomped by a dragon.”  Immediately my moms sprang into action, caring for me.  Manana brought me an anti-allergy pill while Tata entertained me with chit-chat about bugs and Tina brought out the anti-itching cream.  She helped me apply it to my face and arms and they all got a good laugh out of my discomfort and appearance.  All told, it was a successful run for the Mosquito faction.  Though I killed many Mosquitoes, they certainly came out on top this time.  Fear not, Anti-Mosquito Loyalists!  Marissa and I have cooked up a scheme to thwart the buggers once and for all!

My face is terrible. Even now, three days after this photo was taken my face still looks "like you got rubber banded in the face area!"

Now, on to your questions!

Recently, a commenter on my blog asked me to answer a few questions about my time in Georgia.  Here is his comment, reproduced here below without his permission or really very much effort expended at all:

Raughley,

You’ve being there for several weeks already, and seems you still are having a good time. I’ve got a three questions for you to summarize your experience:

1. What would you change immediately in the country, in the host family, your students and teachers – what drives you most crazy?
2. What was the most important things you did not take with you but you found out that can’t live without them?
3. What would you advice to people who will be coming later on TLG program so they are successful in their jobs?

Thanks in advance,

(Note: He did not sign his comment)

So, to answer them in reverse order (for maximum confusion, of course), I’ll start with number three!

To any and all TLG volunteers, past, present, and future, my two pieces of advice are as follows: 1) Be Patient, and 2) You Make Your Own Good Time.

You’re going to have to be patient because this is not your home country.  Things don’t work here exactly the same way that they work in America, or Canada, or Australia.  You are doing yourself a disservice by constantly thinking, “Well in America…” because this is not America, for better and for worse.  Come into the program with this realization and you’ll have an easier time adapting and coping with the new, strange, and exciting things you find here.

My Grandfather, and namesake, Raughley L. Porter always used to say, “You make your own good time.”  This is something I’ve taken to heart.  Essentially, you are the arbiter of your own pleasure and entertainment.  If you have nothing to do, you find something to entertain yourself with.  Learn to juggle, go for walks, do lots of thinking, be happy!  Funny thing: Sometimes just being happy can make you happy.  I don’t know science, so I can’t tell you why, but as long as you make your own good time you’ll rarely be bored, sad, or lonely.

As for things I wish I had brought with me, that’s a tough question.  I had an intense craving for oreos yesterday.  My local market does not sell oreos.  Damn!  Other oddball items–maybe a drumset and probably my Star Wars DVDs.  I just outed myself as a big nerd, and you know what?  That’s OK with me.  I miss Star Wars.  I’m not ashamed.  Other than that, nothing really comes to mind.  In general I am very satisfied here with the things I brought/have acquired!

And the number one thing I would change about my experience here?  It’s actually a little thing.  I tend to be a very laid-back person.  Not a lot bothers me.  Sometimes our power goes out.  Sometimes people can be closed-minded (but show me where that’s not the case and I’ll show you a place with mindless people!).  The Mosquitoes are Hell, as I mentioned.  But really the only thing that has ever pissed me off or made me frustrated is the fact that the children run in the halls between classes.  They run in the halls.  They wrestle each other.  They scream and shout.  I wish they would Twist and Shout as my ten minute between-class breaks would be far awesomer if they entailed Twisting and Shouting.

No.  Yesterday, after an awesome weekend of too many sleepless nights (for better [Party!] and for worse [Mosquitoes, I shake my fist at thee!]) the last thing I wanted was to be jostled and shoved by rambunctious children in the stairwells and to have my eardrums pounded to the insidious rhythm of hallway chaos.  I just want them to sit down and twiddle their thumbs quietly and contentedly!  Is that too much to ask??

Yes.  I think it is.

Tune in next time when I’ll begin to answer some more questions like:

What's hiding behind this dragon!?
What does this cows head look like without any skin?
What on earth is going on in this photo??

Find the answers to these questions (and more that you didn’t even know you had!) in the next few weeks only on Raughley Goes to Georgia! (and if you’re hyper-plugged in, you might find some similar answers on other blogs by TLG Volunteers.  I hope I have the monopoly on skinless cows and dragons, though.)

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3 thoughts on “Mosquitoes, Questions, and Answers

  1. Raughley,

    Irakli is here – the author of three questions – sorry for clicking ‘send’ before I signed my previous message. Thank you very much for answering them and contributing into knowledge sharing. As I’ve said before – I really hope that you and your fellow TLG colleagues will be the catalyst for changes happening in the Georgian society.

    As topic of the post indicates one of possible answer to question #2 might be to bring a mosquito repellent with you but I seriously doubt that anything can detour local mosquitoes…

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