Every so often, I look around at my surroundings and think to myself, wondrously, “This is my life.” Two Sundays ago was one of those days.
So, it’s been a long while now since then and I, therefore, must refresh your memory and my own by giving a bit of a reminder/backstory to last, last Sunday. Joanne and Marissa and another half dozen folks were in town for the six day weekend celebrating Mothers’ and Women’s Days! Friday had been a day jam-packed with awesomeness and Saturday involved going and buying some necessary gear for Sunday and paneling for TLG’s group…thirteen! (Wow, thirteen already?)
I’ll skip all of boring Saturday, but I do want to take a moment to share with you my only photo from that day:
We were at the shops and bazaari, looking for ski pants because, that’s right, we were going skiing!
Unfortunately, it was not the trip that Max had so kindly planned–we hadn’t the money for that adventure–but instead one of my students (at a second teaching job where I teach adults) had invited us to Gudauri for a day of skiing. It was super cheap and super awesome.
That’s all I’m going to say about that trip though. Nothing spectacular happened, really.
We got up super early to meet David by Didube and begin the two hour drive to Gudauri. The ski mountain in question is North of Tbilisi in the Kazbegi region. It’s about 80-100 km from Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia and one of the largest cities in the North Caucasus–aka the Russian part.
Along the way we stopped at a castle above a dam for a leg stretch and to feed some stray dogs. That was almost a bad idea, but ultimately worth it because David and I had to open the food package with a hatchet. Epic.
Each of us was wearing like six layers of clothes–something we began to regret in the sweltering ski-rental shack. En route, the girls took a brief opportunity as we dropped off David’s step-daughter at her ski school to change into their snow pants, or as I like to call them, the sexiest outfits known to man.
When we arrived at our destination, Joanne did a full-on modeling of her get up for us and man was she looking sassy!
We began walking towards the lodge and suffered some of our most bruising falls on the icy driveway. Seriously, I think I still have the remnants of one on my hip…though that might be from this weekend…tough to tell….
Getting the gear on was a bit of an ordeal. It had been maybe eight years since I’d gone skiing and probably about the same for Marissa (?). Joanne had never been. Between the three of us, we managed to get suited up quite nicely. All that bending over and straining had us exhausted and sweating before we’d even hit the slopes! (TWSS!! Jeff Zimmer, I hope you’re reading this one.) When we finally did, though, man were we in for a treat!
Joanne opted to pay a bit extra to have an hour long ski lesson with a trainer. He caused her several crashes as he snowboarded backwards in front of her and over her skis. While she tumbled about on the bunny slope with a moderately-competent instructor (who surely taught her way more than we could ever have hoped to!), Marissa, David and I headed upward towards the top of the mountain.
Every time I go skiing, which is rare and far between as it is, I forget how to use the ski lift. Most importantly, I forget how easy it is! You just waddle your way up to the designated spot (“Posadka Zdyes,” Marissa!) and let the chair sweep you off your feet, both literally and romantically! When the time comes to dismount, you just slowly get up and push off the chair with the backs of your legs, poles (if you’ve got them; we didn’t), and hands. Easy as pie!
I hoped that the lines would be pretty easy to navigate. After all, everyone would have skis on and it would be pretty single-file leading up to the ski lift, right? Not so. The base of each lift was a mess of people crashing their way through the crowd, Georgian style. Some would be carrying their skis with them for greater maneuverability. At one point as Marissa and I got our skis crossed in the muddle, I had to put my hand on a man’s chest and push him backwards. “Erti tsuti, katso!” I shouted as I got him off my back, giving me the space I needed to get off Marissa’s ski. Oof, it was kind of frustrating.
The mountain was about…5000 meters tall, I believe. That comes to around 16,000 feet for all the Americans, Liberians, and Thai in the crowd. It had a series of lifts to get you to the top and it took probably about thirty minutes of riding the lifts to get to the tip top of Gudauri.
On our first run, Marissa and I had a lot of falls. Nothing really serious, just tumbles or controlled demolitions, if you will. We didn’t have poles and Marissa got scared when she started going to fast. Oftentimes this led to her knocking herself over as a safety measure. Sometimes that was definitely the best plan. Other times it led to greater difficulty in that we had a devil of a time righting each other and ourselves with no ski poles. But we kept smiles on our faces the entire time!
Except for once. We were at the edge of the trail and about to turn and descend. I turned sharply and Marissa turned not at all. This led to her skiing over my skis and us crashing into each other at speeds of up to 2 miles per hour! Somehow we managed to go down in a tumble of limbs and skis. It probably looked like this:
As we came to a stop, Marissa cried out, “Ow! My knee!”–not what anyone wants to hear at the top of a mountain in the North Caucasus. I ditched my skis and scrambled over. Turns out her knee was fine, mostly (maybe a torn MCL, but not badly torn?), and we had her up and skiing again in no time. I, on the other hand, had taken off my skis on a steep patch of slope. It took me literally fifteen minutes to get them back on. Did I ever mention I’m not that great a skier? That could’ve probably been done in like two seconds, had I been.
We made it down to the top of the first lift where we met Joanne for a delicious, delicious lunch of beer and cheeseburgers. Sadly they were out of fries, but look at these faces and tell me you don’t see the perfect picture of contentment. I dare you!
After some more sassy photos,
the three of us got onto the chair lift together. The lifts were of varying sizes, but this one was a three-seater, perfectly suited to our needs! As we rode up we kept snapping photos showcasing our joy and our surroundings.
The mountains around us were so unbelievably gorgeous that I’m going to go ahead and do the next few photos speak for themselves. (Keep in mind, the previous sentence was a lie as I will still caption each photo, thus removing them of their own voices.)
David took us to this phenomenal restaurant on the road home. It had some of the best khinkali ever and loads of other delightful treats like “chicken inside,” which, of course, translates to “Chicken Insides.” That s at the end is quite crucial for understanding the nature of the dish, you see.
We had our own little private room with a fireplace and everything! It was chilly at first, but David cranked up that flame and we were toasty in no time! It helped that we still had all our ski gear on. We feasted and recounted our day, imagining what bruises Monday would reveal. Finally we got up and David drove us back straight to my apartment.
There’s not much more to tell, except that Marissa and Joanne graciously offered to help me grade the ~70 tests I had waiting for me at home. It was seriously the most fun I’ve ever had grading. Plus, we got this “Sexy Schoolteacher” photo out of it!