Last semester I got buffeted with an unexpected windfall of friends-of-friends. Word has gotten out that I’m still in Georgia after 3 years and that I’m a decent go-to guy for questions about living here. Which has led people to recommend me to their Georgia-bound friends. And hence, I have been steadily building a network of friends-of-friends.
Take Amal, for example. Amal got a job here in Georgia and got advice from a friend of hers about a friend of hers who had been to Georgia. That friend was my good buddy Jay who accompanied me on my first visit to Georgia in March 2010:
Jay put Amal in touch with me and we began to correspond about her impending trip to Georgia. When she arrived, we met up and became friends, rather than just friends-of-friends-of-friends. It was a nice thing.
At the same time, I also heard from Kristen Moses, a friend-of-a-friend who had just been assigned to Georgia as a Peace Corps volunteer. Similarly we corresponded for a while prior to her arrival. The timing was unfortunate, though, as she immediately entered the Peace Corps’s three-month training in Khashuri and I shortly afterwards left for a summer in the States. We’ll come back to Kristen, though.
It so happens that I don’t go back to the US very often. My pattern of late seems to be once a year. We’ll see what this Christmas brings–maybe I’ll make it to my parents’ new homes in Maine, or maybe I’ll go on a jaunt. Sorry for keeping you in suspense, Mom and Dad!
When I’m there, I do my darnedest to see as many people as I can. It’s a matter of scheduling, travel, and financial and temporal budgeting. From the two weeks I spent in Maine in June to the three weeks of traveling I did in August, I worked hard to see as many people as I could. It worked out fairly well, all told, but the best part wasn’t actually seeing people I’d been missing. It was introducing them to each other.
My first post-CTY adventure brought me to Chicago where three of my dearest friends all live. There’s Haven from high school, Tian from college, and Lauren from study abroad/grad school. None of them knew each other, but they all know me.
After several days of bouncing around town, finishing work, visiting Georgian bakeries, and looking at animals inside-out, I finally managed to get Tian and Haven together. It was a great experience! Tian and Haven have loads in common and I couldn’t help but smile and watch as they got to know each other over delicious whatever-it-was-we-were-eating. Hummus?
This was only the second time I’d ever introduced friends from wildly different parts of my life and it was wonderful and rewarding to see two people I cared so much about get along so well.
This became the pattern for the rest of my time in America. From picking up Tamuna at the airport and bringing her back to Nana’s house it was a non-stop ride of introductions. And they went incredibly well.
Everywhere we went, New York, DC, Baltimore, we met up with friends of mine from all kinds of settings. My college roommate-cum-doctor David who regaled us with hilarious stories of his medical misadventures and fretted about whether restaurants and bars would let him in while he was dressed in his scrubs.
Angela who so graciously hosted us for three nights in DC and who humored me with meeting up with literally all my friends in the area.
My sister and Caitlin Smith, former TLG Blogger, who met up with us at the zoo and then joined us for Mexican food and Margarita’s.
Everyday was a new moment of revelry for me as my friends became more than friends-of-a-friend. Haven and Tian exchanged numbers. Rebecca gave Caitlin advice when she mistakenly ate an entire jalapeno. David had Angela in stitches with his hilarious contributions to our card game. It was the perfect convergence of people I care about.
It all came to a head on our final day in America. We got a little bit of a late start but were nonetheless out the door by noonish to meet more new old friends. Having gathered Vijay from the metro and Katelynn from the side of the road, we all sat down with a pitcher of apparently bottomless Mimosas and had a delicious brunch together.
Whenever the waiter came around with top-offs for our drinks (Seriously, free refills on Mimosas??) I would down my glass to make room for more. It was a dangerously delicious strategy. As we sat there in the diminishing shade of a small tree, I looked around as Vijay, Katelynn, Tamuna, Angela, and, for a brief moment, Marcia laughed and chatted together, getting to know each other and sharing a great meal on a beautiful day.
It struck me that I have some of the greatest friends in the world. They’re all just objectively wonderful people and to see them together in one place warmed the cockles of my heart. It’s schmaltzy, but it’s definitely true. I proposed a toast and told everyone how much it meant to me that they all had come out to visit with me before I left for Georgia. I told them how much I loved spending time with them individually and as a group. I told them how lucky I was to have friends like them.
And that’s true of all of my friends. Whether you are here in Georgia, holding down the fort in the US, or living abroad, you’re all extremely near and dear to me and my biggest regret is that I can’t spend more time with all of you together. I have great friends and I am so excited at the chance to introduce them all to each other, piecemeal though it may have to be.
Luckily, just because I have come back to Georgia doesn’t mean my friend-sharing days are over! Far from it! In fact, just last night we celebrated in true Georgian fashion by bringing together a bunch of strangers and turning them into friends. With Tacos. And Sangria. This was the first time I met Kristen of the Peace Corps, and she brought some of her friends. It was another wonderful friendship-networking moment where disparate folks doing different things and knowing each other for different reasons all came together to have a good time. I really love my life.
Jenni Stobiecki has just arrived in Georgia. We worked together this summer and now she’s here to share in the adventure that is life in the Caucasus. I am lucky to have the chance to welcome her here and see Tbilisi through a fresh set of eyes again. I get to introduce Jenni to all of my friends here in Georgia and to one of my greatest friends–Georgia itself!