This fall I find myself in a peculiar and pleasant situation. I’m between jobs and spending my time in Tbilisi. Life is cheaper here than in the states, and I can still fairly effectively search for jobs in the US without much trouble. As such, I’m having lots of time for fun solo adventures around town on the weekends (Note: for the “Funemployed” everyday is a weekend.)
This evening I went and visited my old, beloved host family in Mukhiani. It’s always such a joy to see them, even though Ilia hasn’t been home in ages and Luka peaced out after a few hours to go see the relatives’ new puppy.
Whenever I go visit the host family, it’s like I never left. Tata still corrects my grammar, Manana asks about my love life and compliments me on how fat I’ve gotten, and all the while Tina makes funny comments and gives me knowing sidelong glances. They remember which foods I like and which I don’t, they ask after my old TLG friends, they recall details about my family’s lives “Is your brother still in school? Did your sister get married yet? Has your father had another child yet?” You know, normal stuff.
But the tricky part is, none of this takes place in English. Nor does it properly take place in Georgian or Russian. Rather, Chez Alavidze, we speak a blend of all languages.
I first realized how truly messy our conversations were a few years ago when a Russian-speaking friend paid me a visit at my host family’s. As she knew no Georgian, I figured that if we stuck to Russian she’d fare alright. Boy was I wrong! The problem lay in the fact that my family and I have completely polluted our Russian and Georgian with words from each other.
Besides confusing guests who only speak one or the other, this also presents a grammatical problem that interrupts the flow of conversation. I find myself assigning Russian genders to Georgian words so I can say things like “Khoroshaia manqana” (Good car) and using Georgian declensions on Russian nouns like “Camoletit” (by plane).
My exceedingly random Georgian vocabulary comes in handy, as well. For example, when trying to relate the story of my mom’s dog Lucy getting skunked in Maine last week, I struggled to explain skunk. In Georgian [and Russian], I was able to say, “It’s an animal with black and white colors, it lives [in the forest], it has a bad smell. When it [is afraid] it psssht and then bad smell comes. Oh! It’s like a raccoon!” Yup. I can’t say “forest” and cannot be relied upon to remember verbs like “to be afraid,” but I can come up with “raccoon” in a pinch.
It’s a mess, but it’s our mess and we like it that way.