Ilia and I were hanging out one night, chatting and watching youtube videos in his room when I realized that it was quite late and I had to teach in the morning. I stood up and said, “Goodnight, Ilia!” He said, “No, wait Rali!” and pointed to the music player he had been listening to. It was some Georgian song. I didn’t really see the point of waiting around, but when I tried to leave he insisted. When the song’s chorus came up I heard the female vocalist switch to English for a brief few seconds. Long enough to say, “Goodnight!”
I glanced at Ilia who was sitting there with an enormous grin on his face; proud with his sneaky accomplishment. Unfortunately for him, I was prepared to do him one better. I searched on YouTube for the “Sound of Music Goodbye Song“. He loved it, naturally. And now, whenever one of us is going to bed we sing the word, “Gooodbyyyyeeee” and wave our hands over our heads, a la 2:32 in the video linked above.
Sadly, I had to say goodbye to Ilia a few days ago, at school. He is traveling to Kutaisi and Zugdidi this week for friends’ shows and whatnot. That meant he wasn’t around to hang out the night I left. It was strange saying goodbye to Ilia, knowing I wouldn’t see him for a solid month. Strange saying goodbye to my host mom’s too, for that matter. They’ve been living with and taking care of me for four months now and it’s hard to just walk out one night.
They all said brief goodbyes to me the night I left, though Tata went an extra nine yards and brought me a present from her workplace. I can’t say what it is exactly as I will likely be using it as a Christmas present! The thought to get me even such a small present was really sweet, especially coming from Tata!
But all’s well in terms of my host family. I’ll be skyping with them in another day or two and I’ll see them all back in Georgia in January. Parting is such sweet sorrow, right? It’s far less sorrowful when it’s only for a month.
Some of the sadder farewells, however, were made between some of the other TLG volunteers and I. A few close friends are definitely not returning in January–meaning that next time I will see them is tragically unknowable. But let’s back it up a bit and switch to a more narrative style.
I’ll start with last week after Marissa had already left (Don’t worry, Marissa, your story is gonna get told! I couldn’t leave that out!). My friend Simone returned from her jaunt to Armenia and that same night at five in the morning I got a call from Cristen and Stephanie Bradley, who had returned from Istanbul and were walking up to my apartment. When the three girls awoke the next morning, snug as bugs in rugs, Stephanie’s terrible, terrible cough had mostly dissipated. Nonetheless, Tata demanded we call the doctor.
Koba showed up, wearing a surgical mask and joked around with us for a bit while the doctor diagnosed Stephanie and prescribed her four different medicines. Sadly, Stephanie was commanded to stay inside all day and could not come out with us. No worries, we went out pretty late anyway.
On our way to the metro, Simone, Cristen and I stopped in for a shave and a hair cut. Cristen got her face shaved and I had a blow-out. Meanwhile, Simonespontaneously decided to get her nails done. The barbershop workers adored us and wanted to know all about us, “Which school do you teach in?” “Are you from North or South Korea?” “What happened to your eyeball?”
Before long, Simone and I were engaged in a lively toe-touching contest with the idle ladies of the shop. I lost.
We headed out to meet friends at their hostel and, from there, to a bar near the Radisson. Everyone was there. Group 4 and 5 had posted up in the same bar, but they must’ve recognized that Group 2 was out-awesome-ing them and so after a while they left. (The bar also ran out of draft beers, but I stand by my first assumption)
Group 2 had a blast–a sad blast. Every couple of hours someone else would leave, sometimes forever, and tears would be shed. This was Saturday night and only a few people had flights on Sunday, but still–saying goodbye to the Ozurgeti Girls for the last time was rough. We retired after a night of drinking so that we could get up early the next day.
Sunday Morning, Stephanie was deemed healthy enough to go out. She got up, got dressed in her going-out clothes, and was ready to hit the town for some shopping!
Simone and I went to Sameba Cathedral while others met up in old town for brunch/coffee. I don’t know what they did, because I wasn’t there. We wandered down from the Cathedral to rejoin everyone in Old Town and head to a sweet market for some shopping.
Whenever I rode the 49 marshrutka during the day, I noticed a sweet marketplace along the side of a bridge/in a park. I’d never been there until the day Marissa left. It turns out it’s as cool as it looked and so I brought others there. I gave a brief tour-guide speech about what was located where and haggling and meeting back up in an hour, and then we split, heading in to the market in search of our various goods. Pauli instantly found something that spoke to him. In German.
This souvenir market has some great stuff. Lots of touristy things, old Soviet Paraphernalia, flatware, and Machine Parts! In an effort to consolidate stories, I’ll even include some pictures of the goodies Ian, Cristen and I found a few days later!
We left the marketplace and headed back to Rustaveli to share a last supper together. We had khinkali, mtsvade, beer, and Pear Limonade for Pauli. It was a delicious meal! Then we got coffee and ice cream and the remaining crew began to peter out. We boarded a subway to get back to Mukhiani, as Stephanie and Simone had left their things at my place and would be catching a cab in the wee hours. On the train I said my last farewells to Pauli, Joanne, and Stefanie Wallace.
Joanne was standing at the other end of the subway and turned to see me coming down the car to her. She smiled and said, “Oh hey!” then her face instantly crumpled as she realized why I was walking toward her. “Oh noo!!” she moaned as I hugged her goodbye. Saying goodbye to Joanne and Pauli was really sad, but not terribly difficult. I know we’ll be seeing lots of each other next semester and especially next summer when we work for a hot air ballooning company in France.
That night, I caught a cab for Stephanie and Simone and slept in my own bed for the first time in a week. A few days later, Cristen and Angela were over, waiting until 3 am to catch our own cab to the airport. We helped Angela lighten her suitcase by drinking down a bottle of wine as we played Beatles sing along courtesy of the internet and my mad bass-guitar skills. It was a phenomenal send-off.
When we got to the airport we found Bootstrap Bill puzzling over what to do with a 20 lb box of fruit and wine that his family had insisted that he take with him. That being silly and illegal, Bill had a dilemma on his hands. We helped out by eating fruits in the airport, but it was a (wait for it) fruitless endeavor and he wound up giving them away to a Georgian who was leaving the airport.
Despite a small flight delay and a shorter-than-anticipated layover in Amsterdam, I made it home safe and sound on December 22nd. It’s been about a day and a half now, and I’m rather enjoying it. I’m already looking forward to going back to Georgia and reuniting with my friends and family there, but for now I’m content to have traded this:
(So yes, I’m home now, sledding, but I have a bunch of catching up to do, so there’ll still be posts about my time in Georgia over the course of the holidays. Stay tuned! Also, if you’re lucky I’ll even tell you a bit about Maine!)