28 November 2009


After much fanfare, we were able to secure a turkey through a friend.  The magic is just incomplete without a turkey, and as I love turkey so much, I simply had to have one.  We did it up garlic-style with stuffing and boy was it good. We were able to find pumpkin the night before, and as we sacrificed the pumpkin (so it may have pleased the stomach gods), we disregarded how much work pie-making was going to be.  The pies we made turned out OK except that the crust was no good.  We could not find N. American pie pans, so we had to make do with what we had.  The filling turned out well, and that's all that people want to eat anyway, right?  Well, unless we're talking about crust in my family.  Below is a shot of Sora looking pumpkin-cidal. 

It turned out I was the one to commit pumpkincide, however.  We were both up late making pies, and as Sora's energy began to wane, I found a friend in the M*A*S*H* movie and stayed up with a pie whose filling refused to set.  At 2am it decide to start burning, and I decided I ought to call it quits while Frank Burns and Hot-lips were still ahead. 
The turkey, although a primary component of thanksgiving, is not the be-all end-all (except for some like me).  So the table had to be perfect, and the ladies did a wonderful job job making it so.

And to our dear friend, whose fate was sealed the day she was born, we thank you for feeding us.  Sorry about the rapid and border-line violent thawing measures, but we had to get you in the oven!

And as we go into this next week with turkey sandwiches and turkey soup, I look forward to the day I can make turkey again...maybe Christmas?  Thus ended the best holiday there is.  one without materialistic assumptions, religious conotations, ethnic exclusions, nor modern political scores to settle.  Though there is always a bone to pick (in this case literally and figuatively) with such a statement, Thanksgiving remains my  favorite holiday because of its inclusivity and universality among North Americans. 

13 November 2009

The Great Outdoors: Backpacking in Borjomi

The post is not very punctual, but I figured it should be written anyway.  Our October trip to Borjomi National Park was lovely, complete with wildlife, campfire, and ancient fortresses.  We began early, but evidently not early enough, as the Marshrut we needed left by the time we got to the proper metro station.  We ended up finding a place on a marshrut with a neighboring destination and proceeded west off into the morning only after an hour of waiting for the arguments about seating, why we weren't going, why the driver didn't have change, etc. to subside.  About two hours later, Dan and Liz, our neighbors, and Sora and I arrived at the ranger station.  A quick check-in and

Anyway, we left from Likani and went to Queviskhebi. After a steep initial hike, we came to a clearing suitable for camping.  we intended to climb a summit if water and daylight allowed, but stayed the night.  After breaking camp next morning and heading down out of the park, I took several photos of the mountians and flora around us.  Sora and I had to geta photo in a clearing.

On the way down we happily stumbled upon a serene meadow.  The gradiet was more preferable than the steep, loose dirt of what we came down.  
Of course, we had to get a group shot.
There we found an apple tree with some yummy apples.  Very few were wormy, which made a nice treat for lunch.  
As we went further into a system of meadows, tall pillars of rock began to rise above usfrom the surrounsign forest. 

 And on one such pillar were the remains of a fortress, a testament to the history and resilience of this region.

  We began to see more wildlife as we descended to the villiage:
And some not-so-wild life:
A great, long trip; and Dan & Liz's first!  Now if only those passing by would happen to have space for us...

06 November 2009

March of the Do-gooders

My expectations were low.  One of the few "institutions" that was carried over from soviet times successfully is that of organizers and bosses to put on shows for outsiders and talk the talk.  My experience on my first brief foray into being one of those do-gooders on the gound was quite mediocre. 

We went to and Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camp near Gori this past Thursday.  There we were shown some of the work that a group called Hellenicare does.  This is a travelling clinical service with several sponsors.  This first photo is of IDPs waiting outside one of the houses-converted-into a clinic.  The clinic is composed of three nurses and a doctor, a van + driver, an ultrasound machine, EKG machine, diabetic testing/solvents, simple meds.  The house is one of the many built after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war by the government.  This settlement seemed to be quite well off, with electric and gas hookups.  There was minimal running water in the buildings;  outhouses out back. 

Life seemed to continue as usual in this settlement, with standard domestic crops and animals in the yards separating the perfectly blocked-off settlement.  Here is about half the corn I saw in the yard--the other half not husked.  We saw very few children around since we were there during school, but residents in general did not seem jaded about not knowing whether they could ever go back to their homes.  Even if residents were allowed to go back home, many of their homes no longer exist. 

After visiting the IDP camp we traveled back to Tbilisi to see an orphanage, in part supported by Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, an organization my family has long been involved with.   The Group supports families who have and who wish to adopt, as well as sponsors direct aid projects which benefit orphans and related infrastructure.  This third photo is one of three siblings who were orphaned.  The oldest was able to speak Russian with me, as he lived in Russia for a time, but in general the children could not understand me nor I them.  

The fourth photo here is some of the kids at the entrance.  Despite the great intentions of such projects, I cannot help but question the utility of giving kids a sack each with some sweets, a set of paints, and some pencils.  It pains me to see a seventeen year-old guy receive a sack with such meaningless things as heart-shaped stickers and a small notebook...and then a large stuffed animal later.  

For the most part, kids were happy, and the sacks were appropriate for the ages of students there.  They were happy with attention and the occassional flash of a photo.  Just being visited goes a long way to putting a smile on a face. A boy helps us with our heavier boxes upon our arrival:

Some of the kids gather around an American nurse drawing hearts for them:

01 November 2009


Every year there is a festival in the capital called Tbilisiva (Tbilisi Day).  Last weekend many streets were closed as crowds swelled in our part of town around performances, vendors, and folk attractions. In old town, a stage was set up below the mosque and trademark old homes with multiple balconies.  Group after group performed, each representing a different ethnicity found Georgia.  The group in the photo is a Ukrainian women's group.

 Our landlord, Justani, was also in attendance with his nephew, Luka.  Here is a photo of them together with Sora, festivities in the background.

The bridges were packed and people were everywhere milling about and enjoying the music and festivities.  here is a shot of the bridge nearest our house with the presidential mansion in the background. I think he was going for a Reichstag/White House/Greek-Asian fusion, but time will tell how architechture schools feel about this new interpretation of the executive image. 

All in all, a wonderful weekend--but by the end of it, one is Tbilisova-ed out.  There are even more photos:

Kabob fodder in a van and wine in the foreground.  
The classic painting re-enacted; a supra on a raft.  Our neighborhood in the background.
And one more from our front door: