Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Feeling 16 All Over Again

Our car arrived this past week. No time to post anything in the blog, we are too busy driving all over the place.

You never realize how much you love, love, love your car until you don't have it.

More later, I have to drive myself somewhere now. LOL

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Silence of the Goat

The other night Dave and I had a hard time going to sleep. It wasn't because of the neighborhood kids playing in front of our house because we have the only house with lights out front on the whole block. Nope. Dave found the breaker that turns off the front security lights and we switch it off every night at dusk...once everyone has headed home we turn them back on. It wasn't the random dogs barking. We've learned to tune that out as well. What was keeping us awake? A goat.

The people who live directly across from us aquired a goat that afternoon. We know the exact moment they brought it home because it started it's mournful bleating "mmmmmaaaaaaaaaahhhh, mmmmmaaaaaahhhhh", and it continued to bleat all day long. We figured once it got dark, it would go to sleep (logical, no?). Well, it seems this goat was an insomniac. All night long "mmmmaaaaahhhh, mmmmmmaaaaahhhh" every 10 or 15 seconds. Earlier in the day I had joked with David that the goat was probably going to be dinner one night. At about midnight, I was willing to go over and fire up my neighbor's bar-b-que.

The next afternoon David, Blaine and I were heading out to catch a cab for a little shopping and lunch downtown and as we were leaving the house it hit us - silence. No crying, bleating, annoying goat sounds. As we walked on the path next to our neighbor's fence, we heard slamming/chopping sounds - much like those I heard at the butcher shop when the butcher took his axe to the side of beef. I tried to stop and peek through a hole in the fence, but Dave just pushed me along, embarrassed by my nosiness.

When we got home that evening, there were still no goat cries, but there was a lovely bar-b-que smell in the air. I wonder if they ate him with some fava beans and a nice chianti?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All My Fears Wrapped Up in One 10 Minute Ride

On Friday, Dave and I took Blaine to Vake Park. This is a beautiful park in downtown Tbilisi, acres of lawns, trees and in one corner, a small amusement park much like the one in Yerevan, Armenia. We spent the afternoon there and had a great time. Tickets for the rides are 50 lari a piece, which is approx. a quarter. Most of the rides take one ticket - it's a great, cheap way to spend an afternoon. We won't discuss the 1950's era Soviet roller coaster which Blaine wanted to go on and, against my good judgement, Dave talked me into going on with them. The only comment I have about the roller coaster is that the safety bar was a piece of rope. Yeah, a piece of rope. Anything you imagine from that point on is probably better than the actual coaster. 'Nuff said.

But the roller coaster was not the scary ride. Well, it was scary, but it was small potatos compared to what David talked me into riding on the next day. As we were leaving Vake Park on Saturday, we saw a cable car going up the side of the mountain. Dave wanted to hop on but I said no. Blaine was getting tired and it was late and I just wanted to go home. Dave agreed and home we went.

The next morning Dave woke up ready to head back to Vake Park and ride the cable car. I tried to put him off. Excuses like "It's too windy" and "It looks like it might rain" went right over his head. He even had Blaine all excited about this - Blaine was running around the house "I wanna go ride the swing up the mountain". Thanks, Dave. So, we headed out to lunch and after lunch we took a taxi over to Vake Park. Climbed the (crumbling) stairs to the loading platform and paid the man 80 tetri (about 50 cents) for Dave and I to ride. Blaine got to ride for free. Yippie.

How to describe this? Much like a ski lift that takes you to the top of the mountain, but you stand inside it. Packed like sardines with as many other people as they can get in it. I think there were (counting Dave, Blaine and I) about 9 or 10 people in the car. One of the people in the car was actually employed by the cable car company to stand in the car and hold the doors closed. Really. Safety first, that's what I always say! The car starts going up the side of the mountain, scraping tree branches as we leave the platform...this is when I start to hyperventiliate. You see, I am clausterphobic (thanks, mom) and I am also a bit freaked out by heights. So, hey, smart idea! Let's combine the two! And let's do it on a cable car in Tbilisi that is dated 1965. In a country where the power goes out on a regular basis. Basically, I was ready to pass out. I was unable to appreciate the view from the cable car and I'm pretty sure the two teenage Georgian boys who were squished in front of me were making fun of me.

I survived, obviously. And I rode that sucker back down the mountain (it was quicker than walking). I was quite proud of myself for even getting on the cable car and going for the ride. The only thing it had in it's favor was there were no roaches. I'm deathly afraid of them too. If there had been roaches on the cable car, all bets would have been off.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I'm Becoming a Chickentarian

I have always been a carnivore. I love steak. I love prime rib. I love hamburgers. Meat. Yum yum. Chicken is good too. Pork, not so much. I don't really "dig on swine" (one of my favorite quotes from Pulp Fiction).

Then I moved to Georgia. Chicken is still good. I have no problem with chicken. I can buy pre-packaged, frozen chicken breasts at the grocery store and they look and taste the same as good ol' USA chicken. But the beef? Well, settle in and let me tell about my first visit to a butcher shop in Georgia. I joke and say it was like a Fear Factor episode. My father just laughs at me and says "culture shock". You be the judge.

We had not bought any beef since arriving in Georgia. Everyone here told me "You have to go to the butcher shop - don't buy it from the grocery store, it's not fresh". Everyone here also has their own opinions on which butcher shop was best. There is the Turkish Butcher, the German Butcher and the Kosher Butcher. One of my friends raved about the kosher butcher. She had tried meat from all three and claimed that the kosher butcher was by far the best. So, David and I decided on trying out the kosher butcher.

Our driver, Roland, is Jewish, so he knew exactly where I wanted to go when I asked him to take us to the kosher butcher. Blaine fell asleep in the car on the way there, so when we pulled up, Dave decided to stay in the car with him and I went in with Roland to buy the meat. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start with us pulling up to the "butcher shop". Roland takes us down a small alley - no stores or shops nearby - and pulls up in front of this decaying building with big blue metal doors which are pinned open. There is a car parked in the alley and two men are sitting in the car staring at us. When Roland and I get out of our car, the two men get out of their car and come over and greet Roland. It appears these two men work at the butcher shop.

We all walk into the butcher shop. There is no refrigeration. It is Spring here, and the temperature was probably in the 70s. Flies are buzzing around. Whole chickens are laying in rows like dead soldiers on a cardboard pallet in front of the counter. Hanging behind the counter is a huge side of beef. Roland translates for me that I would like some steaks. 2 kilograms of steak, please. The "butcher" (the man who had been sitting in the driver's seat outside) grabs the side of beef off of the hook, places it on a huge round wooden butcher block. Then he reaches over and grabs an axe off of the wall. And proceeds to use the axe to hack off a piece of beef for me. I wish there had been hidden cameras. I would have loved to see the look of pure horror on my face as this man re-enacted a scene from Friday the 13th with a side of beef. Afer he finished chopping off a section of cow, he throws it on a scale - no paper underneath it to keep it from oozing juice onto the scale, or to keep previous oozes from mingling with my hunk of beef. I pay - 17 Lari, which is about 10 bucks US - and the man wraps it up in butcher paper and sticks it in a bag.

When we got home I had to take this 4 pound hunk of cow and trim it down into steaks to the best of my ability. I have never in my life had any desire to be a butcher. I had no clue what I was doing. I have no idea what part of the cow I got from the butcher. Ass? Hips? I have no idea. All I know is that every "steak" I cut from that hunk of cow was washed competely before I wrapped it up and stuck it in the freezer.

We still haven't had the courage to thaw any of it out and cook it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

You will be happy to know

I bought a jackets for Blaine and I today. I went to the local open air market, where you can buy anything under the sun, much like the Georgian bazroba. I bought a jean jacket for 12 bucks and for Blaine, I got him a cute corduroy jacket for 6. I also bought diaper wipes and bras, but you probably didn't want to know that.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How NOT to Pack for a trip to Armenia

1. Don't bring any longsleeve shirts. It's spring. It's warm.
2. Ditto that for a jacket. No jackets. Don't be a sissy.
3. Don't, under any circumstances, bring an umbrella.
4. Make sure you don't pack any of the above for your child either.

Yeah. So Dave and I are idiots. Between the two of us we were not smart enough to bring anything remotely warm. Gee. It's not like Armenia is in a mountainous area where it RAINS all the freaking time. And when it rains there is no sun. And when there is no sun, it's damn cold.

Yesterday it was sunny and warm. Very little rain. It was a great day. Today, it's overcast and grey and raining. Blaine and I headed out of the hotel during a break in the rain for lunch. He wanted "flied lice" from the local Chinese restaurant which is about a mile or so away. I'm wearing a t-shirt and capris. Blaine has on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with 3/4 sleeves (the warmest shirt I packed him). I wasn't expecting the icy blast of air that hit us as soon as I walked out of the hotel lobby. I mean, yesterday it was WARM! Almost HOT! Where the hell did this cold front come from?

We went to the Chinese restaurant anyway. Everyone giving me looks like either I'm crazy for being dressed the way I am or I'm a BAD BAD BAD mother for taking my precious child out in this weather without a jacket.

I was planning on buying him a jacket while we were out (after we ate) but it was too damn cold to go to the children's store and it was starting to rain again. So we hustled back to hotel and now he is watching Russian cartoons (which he totally loves, go figure) and I'm killing time on the computer.

Next time we head to Armenia, I don't care if it is dead in the middle of Summer, I am packing jackets, sweaters and the umbrella I bought on our second day here.