Thursday, December 22, 2011

The big walk

Yesterday was the official walking tour, but today we managed to walk many times farther by heading up the island and across a bridge over the Golden Horn to the northern part of Istanbul. Along the way we watched man fishing off the bridge and admired and petted some of the city's gagillion stray cats.
By ignoring/misreading our map, we managed to get good and lost among the city's twisty streets, thus stumbling upon a warren of fascinating little shops where we visited and/or observed a wood carver, a miniature-maker, men playing cards and backgammon, a very attractive older woman with the most lovely lavender hair, a musty secondhand book/record/radio/ephemera store tucked deep in a narrow building, and a hairdresser sweeping water out of his basement thrift shop.We also managed to find yet another restaurant where nobody else spoke English (best. chocolate. cake. ever.) and came home exhausted enough to collapse in our hotel room with a couple of giant cans of Efes beer and a sack of cheese, halvah, olives, bean salad and pomegranates.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Culture club

On our second day in Istanbul, Trevor and I decided to soak up a little of the ancient city's history and culture (in addition to its beer, trinkets and snacks).We started the day by soaking up a little of its rain while waiting for our walking tour guide. (I like how Trevor is gamely attempting to act like he's having fun.) Miraculously, the rain let up while we were touring the Hagia Sophia, just when our guide was showing us the windows designed to point towards Jerusalem.After spending a day hitting the high points and listening to a running commentary that was equal parts crash course in Turkish history and mispronounced English gibberish, we felt we had fulfilled our mission.

Next up: more drinks, shopping and pomegranates.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Istanbul (not Tbilisi)

We're not in Tbilisi anymore. One way I know this for sure is by the food, which blessedly leans more towards vegetables than cheese and bread. This is what I got at a little hole-in-the-wall-dive where the menu was only in Turkish and the waitress only spoke enough English to understand "vegetarian."
Score! Also, there are bikes.
And the Grand Bazaar, oh my. I only wish our suitcases weren't already crammed to bursting.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Goodbyes

One of the things about Peace Corps that truly sucks is meeting people you never would have met in a million years, growing to feel like they are your long-lost beloved family members, and then having to say goodbye, knowing that it's possible you will never see them again.

Monday was wrenching, to say the least, especially at the airport when Larisa and I said goodbye amidst quite a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Luckily, most of the weekend was more fun, such as our attempts to devour this giant cake my mom's friend delivered in honor of our departure. (The cake won. Larisa tried to pack some of it up for our trip, but I refused. I also deflected the offer of a bottle of home-brewed cha-cha, which I now regret.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting it

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it can be frustrating to have this incredibly intense experience that you want to share with everybody at home but that is maddeningly difficult to capture in any amount of blog posts or pictures.

It doesn't help that people at home tend to ask how it was but glaze over after the first 15 seconds of the answer.

As challenging as it was to spend the past three months away from Trevor, I'm glad that he at least got to visit. He didn't get the whole experience, but at least he's sat in the kitchen with my host family, walked Tbilisi's streets, sampled khatchapuri and homemade wine--and even slept in the race car. On some level now, he gets it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fun

Trevor and I spent the afternoon walking around some of Tbilisi's crustier neighborhoods with a couple of Peace Corps friends. They showed us this crumbling church they discovered, which is knee-deep in the ashes of charred Russian books.We also stumbled upon a painting studio, met Guram the painter and bought an excellent piece of artwork to bring home. (And he threw one in for free! Mbasela!)

Now we're home to eat lobiani (bread with bean paste baked inside) in honor of Barbaroba, the feast day for Saint Barbara,"traditionally the patron of armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who worked with cannon and explosives," and, at least according to Wikipedia, "venerated by every Catholic who faces the danger of sudden and violent death in work."

That would not be me. But we're eating lobiani anyway! Happy Barbaroba!

Friday, December 16, 2011

De-luxe apartment

After Anri got out of school Friday afternoon, Larisa took us all to visit her sister Shorena, who lives across town in one of Tbilisi's high-rise Soviet-era apartment blocks that's grim on the outside but cozy inside.In typically Georgian fashion, we ate until we were too stuffed to move, drank perhaps a bit too much, colored with markers and watched videos from the 1980s on VH1. (Why yes, that is Spandeau Ballet in the background. Made me want to slow dance.)We also rode in a tiny little elevator that costs 5 tetri to go up (eight floors) and another 5 for down. (Normally I would be too cheap to spend even 3 cents for a ride, but the staircase was dark and scary.)Good times. Seriously good times.