Tag Archives: republic of georgia

English Lessons

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One of my host moms, Jamila, is all about learning English, and I love giving lessons whenever we find ourselves with a free hour. We’ll translate misspelled French sentences into weird Arabic transliteration, then she’ll write try to write out the English in Latin script and I’ll correct her spelling. Or something like that.

Native Arabic speakers have difficulty WITH: the P sound (which does not exist in Arabic), the American R (that one, I believe, periodically causes aneurysms for many non-native English speakers trying to learn the language. It’s a rrrreal killer), and the “th” sound, both voiced and unvoiced (which I actually don’t get, because those exact same sounds DO exist in Arabic: ث and ذ; but hey, I sound like an idiot when I try to speak Arabic, so who am I to judge?). Anyway it’s great fun, because I learn a lot of Arabic, we both practice French, and I get to discover over and over how FIDDLY the English language is.

When Jamila and the kids borrowed a French and/or Arabic-English dictionary the other night, the first word they decided to yell was: “BLOW!”

I giggled. They were using it as a noun, as in “hit” or “punch,” and I could already see them heading down hilariously dangerous path of noun/verb usage (“I BLOW YOU” as opposed to “I HIT YOU,” for example) and proceeded to define what “to blow” meant as a verb (AS IN BLOWING OUT BIRTHDAY CANDLES GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER) and told them to be careful of their usage because it’s got a sexual connotation as well. They giggled  too.

too?

Oui, ça veut dire “aussi.”

“What about to?”

“That’s a preposition, as in I go to school, or a part of the infinitive form of a verb.”

“…what about two?”

“deux.”

“…merde.”

Yup.

Today, during teatime, I taught my host family the verb “to fart” and its proper usage when referring to the Rim the Farty Kitty (I’ve renamed her now, since she’s no longer pregnant. I think Rim the Farty Kitty goes rather well with Tomi the Barfy Kitty, don’t you?). As Abir, Abdenmabi, and Jamila repeated, “da cad – the cad- the CAT…FARDED!” I recalled walking to school with Ernie and his host brothers one morning in Buknari.

(For new readers: I went to the Republic of Georgia for spring break to visit Ernie, who teaches English there.)

“Ernie, you are suck,” Tengo said, as Temo walked stoically beside him.

Tengo and Temo are Ernie’s ninth-grade Georgian host brothers. Tengo is tall and talkative and Temo is short and silent, though Ernie says that’s only because he speaks less English. Tengo tied a piece of brown yarn around my wrist one evening to join the other bracelets there, which was probably some kind of weird Georgian marriage proposal. Temo is a wrestling champion who changed into his tight blue wrestling onesie and medals when I brought out my camera so we could take pictures of him, his medals, and his muscles. Temo enjoys doing backflips off the giant Soviet truck in the yard, and Tengo enjoys swearing at Ernie.

“You are sucking,” Ernie corrected him. “It’s the present continuous, remember.”

“Fuck you,” he replied, and looked over at me. “Ernie is beautiful woman.”

It’s funny: here in Morocco, saying bad words can either be really, really bad, or a strangely hilarious translation misfire. I was talking to another of my host moms about how weird it is to try to translate directly from French to English, from French to Arabic, la dee dah, and she agreed.

“Par exemple,” she said, “le mot: fucky.

I choked on my tea.

She laughed and went on to explain how that’s the way this particular Arabic word is translated into English, though it has a more pedestrian and everyday meaning in Arabic. Shit’s bizarre.  Also, who decided that “fucky” was an acceptable English swearword in the first place, much less one that could serve as a decent translation from Arabic?! “That’s pretty fucky” is a swear that makes “motha’ flippin” feel better about itself.

Anyway, this weekend’s pretty awesome thus far. I was going to do work, but I ended up sitting up in the room on the rooftop terrace listening to the rain and working my way through the View Askewniverse: Clerks, couldn’t get Mallrats to work, Chasing Amy. Next up, Dogma (again), and then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, then Clerks II.

I love Kevin Smith. I love watching Kevin Smith movies while the pouring rain pounds the roof and terrorizes the cats on the riverbank fifty feet below us. What a delightfully improbable situation!

Oh, I like that phrase. A Delightfully Improbable Situation: A Memoir.

Pax in terra, bros.

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Nobody to Check over my shoulder for

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We left our plucky heroine halfway through a blog post when she passed out, exhausted, in a hostel in Istanbul. Where had she stopped in her narrative…airplane? Airplane. Well, the airplane ride was just like any other, except as we landed; I’d never been in a plane whose passengers burst into applause the moment the aircraft touched down. A collective cheer went up throughout the cabin, and my first thought as I applauded with the rest was I’m going to like Turkey. And so I did.

You know that knee-jerk reaction we have to check over our shoulders to ensure that whoever we’re with is still there? As I stepped off the plane, I had that sudden urge to look around, to make sure that–oh. There’s nobody I need to check for. Just me.

I’d like to write about how it was some big epiphany, but it wasn’t really; it was more a sudden realization of my absolute solitude and independence in the world at that particular point in my trip. It made me want to laugh, dance, throw my blue carpetbag in the air and SING. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING! I AM IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY, BY MYSELF, AND I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT I’M DOING AND I LOVE IT! I’M FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

After figuring out how visas work (it’s simpler than I thought. You go hand $20 to the guy in the corner behind the desk that says “VISAS”) and making it past passport control, I wandered – bemused, amused, confused – to change another $20 to Turkish liras. I had no clue what was going on, and was grinning like a goddamn fool, so I guess I figured having some local currency would give me some small sense of security. I also realized that nobody changes Moroccan dirhams except in Morocco, because it’s illegal to export dirhams. Oh yeah. I walked out of the first set of exit doors and was greeted by an enormous, chattering crowd of people hanging over the bar, holding signs, craning their necks for loved ones and, in my case, strangers. I found my name printed in neat, red block letters on a piece of paper taped to a couple other pieces of paper. I met Sammy, a young Turkish guy holding my sign, and then went to an ATM to get cash to pay the hostel. Their prices had been in Euros, so I got some Euros and started laughing at how my coin purse was now a mind-boggling combination of Euros, Turkish Liras, Moroccan Dirhams, and American dollars. This whole trip just makes me want to laugh out loud like some delirious inchworm.

It was with this exhilarated sort of energy that I marched out of Ataturk Airport to stand munching popcorn and wafer cookies, talking animatedly with a couple random Turkish men in that crowd waiting for loved ones and strangers. Was it only Thursday that I presented a research proposal, went to Arabic class, and packed my blue carpetbag with my stomach churning? Only yesterday that, terrified but determined, I got on a train to Mo’5 airport? How we change when we realize our own agency to live fully, how we thrive when we grab our lives and experiences by the balls and MAKE them our own! I feel awesome about living right now. I can see why people travel just for the adventure of it. It feels so good to do things under my own steam, for my own reasons, in the big, wide, strange, wonderful world.

When I first wrote this in my notebook, there were 4 of us waiting for the airplane to Batumi, which made me want to laugh even more. What a great trip. How strange that, over the course of my first 2 months in Morocco, surrounded by people all the time, I felt lonely–and here, alone in a beautiful, dangerous part of the world where my language skills are useless, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m relishing this short-lived solitude, loving the challenge of figuring stuff out, enjoying my own cluelessness about the world around me because that makes is so much more FUN. I’m having a blast. What a weird story.

Anyway, Istanbul. I am in love with Istanbul. After waking up and eating breakfast with some Swiss and German people, I went for a walk in the brilliant sunshine and crisp morning air. I walked to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, talked to several Turkish people, and had an all-around fantastic morning. Istanbul is a beautiful, beautiful city, and Turkish people are awesome. I returned to the hostel to catch a shuttle bus to the airport, but not before giving the matron of the house a Moroccan Dirham note to add to the world currencies displayed beneath the glass on their kitchen tables. An American who lives in Morocco? they say to me. that’s weird. Georgia? Wow.

Istanbul, I’m in love. See you soon.

And now I’m waiting to catch a plane to Batumi, Georgia, where I’ll see an old friend. Going from imaginary to real again will be awesome for him, I’m pretty sure. It must be tough being imaginary. Lots of my friends at home are becoming steadily more imaginary, as our shared experiences dwindle as we live in different parts of the world, doing different things. That’s not a bad thing; we’ll pick up where we left off, with all the more stories to share. Okay. BATUMI. LET’S GO.

AAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

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Okay. So here’s the sitch.

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a train at early o’clock to some town in Morocco, getting on another train to the airport in Casablanca, finally actually paying for a plane ticket to Georgia, flying to Istanbul, and crashing in a hostel there. I will see Istanbul. (I WILL SEE ISTANBUL WHAT) Hopefully, I’ll meet some beautiful Australian man at the hostel or airport or in some Turkish café, and we’ll run around the city till I have to head back to the airport late Saturday morning, to catch a flight to Batumi, Georgia, where hopefully Ernie will pick me up. I can always call him though, because I just randomly did to see if his number worked and I definitely woke him up. Sorry, Ernie. (But actually. I find I’m always tired here, probably because being in a place where nobody speaks your language is freaking exhausting. Plus, he’s a teacher, and that shit’s hard. I realized that it was 1am his time (FUNNY STORY IT’S NOW PAST 1 MY TIME) a little after the fact; so for realz, apologies for waking you up. My very impulsive bad.)

I KNOW I WAS BEING ALL COY BEFORE BUT GUYS GUYS GUYS I’M GOING TO EFFING GEORGIA! REPUBLIC OF, NOT THE STATE. THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA. LEARN AS MUCH AS I KNOW ABOUT GEORGIA HERE!

This song has been stuck in my head all day, even though I know Ray wasn’t talking about this Georgia.

Especially since an old sweet song in the Republic of Georgia would probably sound more like this:

COOL.

Anyway, I’m practically shitting kittens here I’m so nervous. I feel as though my stomach is trying to do yoga again, but this time I didn’t even eat anything weird, which is categorically unfair. Packed in my bag is some clothing, a book that I hope will be awesome because I’m writing about it for Gender class, a list of Fousha vocabulary (actually, I just tore the glossary out of the back of my book), some dates and almonds, and a camera. There’s some other stuff too, but it’s less poetic stuff like soap and a small towel and so I thought I could leave those out. I’m not even sure why I’m writing about what I packed. I’m just nervous and tired and nervous and tired and nervous and tired I guess!  HAPPY SPRING BREAK! TAKE YOUR TOPS OFF! AND THEN PUT THEM BACK ON, ALONG WITH A SWEATSHIRT, BECAUSE IT’S COLD IN GEORGIA!

But really. I’m excited to get out of Morocco for awhile, to hang out in a country about which I know next to nothing. See a good pal, trade some good stories, go somewhere completely random and improbable. I AM SCARED AND EXCITED. On this side of this trip, things like change trains once to get to the airport sound terrifyingly complex, and the idea of traveling by myself, a white western unaccompanied woman, sounds even scarier. So, put in equal parts Scared Shitless and Excited as Hell and you’ve got the Traveling cocktail brewing in the pit of my stomach right now, as my blue carpetbag sits packed at the foot of my bed.

Also, I’m going to be spending the week wearing what might possibly be the biggest crime spree against fashion since Aaron Carter’s hair: lots of boots & harem pants. At least I’ll be comfortable.

…And have way better hair.

Also also, I just checked the weather in Batumi and Tblisi. I might need to borrow another jacket, Ernie, if you have one. I’m glad I packed Cameron’s hat.

Okay, it’s two in the morning now. I’m going to sleep. Spring break:go to the coldest motherf**king country you can think of. Great idea, Brain. F**k off and enjoy the last few hours of not-being-cold.

Peace, everyone. Wish me luck! HERE I GO! NEXT STOP, EVERYWHERE!