I’m here! I’m here! I made it! After a five-week, two-country bureaucratic nightmare, I finally got my Azerbaijan visa and made it to Baku on Sunday afternoon. I’m currently holed up in a hostel in the Old Town, trying to figure out how to find an apartment in this city and when I can start work. After so much forced down time, I’m pretty antsy to get back to Kiva once more.
But this post isn’t about that, not yet. It’s about the fact that I spent a wonderful three weeks living in Tbilisi, Georgia, in a small private room with a space heater perched above Marjanishvili, and wrote nothing about the experience. Not here, not in my personal journal, not even in the tiny cork-bound notebook that I use to catch my immediate impressions and rattling thoughts.
I was trying to figure out why that was, and it took me a while to settle on the right answer. Was it because my time in Georgia was so marvelously packed that I had no time to reflect? Because I spent all my free time working on grad school apps and sorting out my visa woes rather than writing? Because after the myriad surprises of Tajikistan, Georgia just felt so developed and familiar and comfortable that I slipped right into lives I’d already lived in Russia and America? All of those were true, but they didn’t get at the core. No, I decided; it was because I felt like I didn’t know a darn thing about where I was. Ordinarily, before I go to another country, I do research, I scour travel guides, I buy a textbook and learn how to navigate the local language before I hit the ground. With Georgia, I stumbled in so unexpectedly that I didn’t even have time to learn the alphabet before I came. That degree of ignorance makes me uncomfortable. And I hate to write without knowing what I’m writing about.
So it’s saying a lot that, in three weeks’ time, Georgia became one of my favorite countries in the world. Where do I even start? The Caucasus has to be among the world’s most beautiful places, both in its architecture and in its natural splendor. Georgian food is both distinctive and delicious in ways I’ve never encountered before. (Beef with pomegranate juice? Eggplant with walnuts? Yes and YES.) Georgia’s history is rich, complex, and proud, and I love its devotion to musical and artistic culture. Just about every moment I spent there made me happy.
And I owe a big part of that to DJ, the wonderful Kiva Fellow who’s currently working in Tbilisi. Almost as soon as my plane hit the ground, she took me under her wing and welcomed me into her social life, bringing me to parties, inviting me on trips out of the city, and doing everything to make sure I had a great time. She’s the best, and I’m endlessly grateful.
In my next post, I’m planning to share a bunch of my photos from Georgia. So keep an eye out!