Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Settling In

Hello again everyone!  I apologize for the lack of posts.  Finding internet that works on my computer, and that I can spend enough time on, has been one of my tasks.  I will most likely have to venture downtown to find a place to use Wi-fi.

I am also just settling into life in general here in Tbilisi.  I live in a northern district called Gldani, in a flat with my host family: grandmother, father, mother, and 15 year old sister.  They are so nice and hospitable, but it's an adjustment back to a dependent life.  I am also teaching about 20 classes a week, 1st through 6th grade.  I have my WorldTeach duties too, plus other things possibly on my plate soon... ahhh!

Things are overall enjoyable, and I am happy to be here getting this new experience.  I'll try posting more soon!

From the top of Narikala Fortress, overlooking Tbilisi.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


გაძარჯობა! (Gamarjoba! = Hello!)

Greetings from Georgia!

I have been here for five days now, beginning the next chapter of my life abroad… but how do I even begin to talk about Georgia?

Do I talk about the capital city of Tbilisi?  It has gorgeous rolling hills surrounding every edge, and a river flows right down the center, separating it into the east and west banks.  The buildings are quite a mix, with centuries old churches and forts in the midst of modern buildings and blocky facades from the former Soviet days.  The sky has been terribly blue, the wind has been fierce, and it’s been quite crisply cold, but beautiful nonetheless.

Above - looking down the river towards the main part of Tbilisi, and the view from the walkway near our hotel.
Below - a view towards the cliffs over the river at night.

Or do I talk about the food?  You all know by now how much of a foodie I am.  I haven’t had a chance to try many foods so far, but I will slowly make my way through it.  We’ve sampled some of the national dishes, such as archuli khachapuri – a giant bread boat filled with cheese, a freshly cracked egg, and butter.  I also started sampling the various meats they have, from veal to trout.  The flavors are pretty subtle, nothing like the myriad of tastes available in southern Asia, but they are hearty and comforting.

Above - the archuli khachapuri and trout stuffed with walnuts.
Below - stewed veal, and a view of one of the restaurants we ate at.

And do I talk about the people, my fellow volunteers?  I’ve gotten to know several people, from my big group of 20-some-odd people that I take orientation classes with, to a few select people outside of that ring.  We spend all day and night together, discussing our materials, practicing the Georgian language, and going out at night to enjoy the town and experience our new homeland.

Celebrating at the restaurant next door with some great food and drinks.

All in all, I’m really enjoying it here so far, and I’ve been pretty busy.  Not only am I a teacher with the governmental program, Teach and Learn with Georgia, but I am also the Head Teacher on the ground for WorldTeach.  What exactly does this all mean?
Well, I’ll tell you later.  For now… ნახვამდის! (Nakhvamdis! = Goodbye!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

#4 - Food

(#4 is the food… and damn, was the food great!)

I am extremely glad that I will literally eat anything – you name it, I’ll try it, and I’ll even eat it if I have no idea what the hell it is.  Several people in my life have been amused by this.  When I lived in Chile, my host mother made it her mission to find something I wouldn’t eat.

She never succeeded.

I delighted in all of the treats – kelp, different fish and shellfish, alcoholic drinks with raw eggs, pig and sheep innards, fresh sheep’s blood, and more.  So, when I went to Asia, I was excited to see what this continent could offer me in ways of new food.  I wasn’t disappointed.

(And yes, to answer the un-asked question: I did get sick quite a few times, even violently ill once.  While I do love telling those tales, I'll save your stomachs for now.)

Below are some of my favorites, names and locations (if I can remember them), and even some reactions and random memories.  Hellooo food porn.

(Left) Breakfast, with roti, vegetables, and egg with chilis and onions. (Bandarban, Bangladesh)

(Right) Lunch, with chicken, vegetables, salad, rice and daal, and a big fat lime slice. (Srimangal, Bangladesh)

Limes were all the rage in southern Asia.  It was impossible to find anything resembling a lemon.

(Left) Fresh lime juice and a sugar rim. (Bandarban, Bangladesh)

(Right) Fresh lime juice and iced tea. (Langkawi, Malaysia)

Ahhh, mishti!  All kinds of sweets graced us.  My favorites were the big fat brown kalo jams and the crumbly cham chams (left).  Most were made from cheese or milk, with lots of sugar.  (Chittagong, Bangladesh)

The sweets were different in each region and country, though.  Some had custard, nuts, fruits, or other ingredients I could never name.

(Left) Pomegranate studded delicacies. (New Delhi, India)

(Right) What I affectionately dubbed mishti tacos. (Jaipur, India)

Cotton candy now, really?  I couldn't resist a special treat on my birthday, which was also a significant holiday in Bangladesh - National Mother Language Day, dedicated to student martyrs and the fight to make Bangla the national language when Bangladesh was under Pakistani rule. (Chittagong, Bangladesh)

Ahhh, phuchka.  A popular street snack throughout southern Asia, made from chickpeas, potato, onions, chilis, and spices, stuffed inside a paper-thin fried shell.  One variety is served with spiced water to pour over the phuchka, but the other variety - doi phuchka - comes with sweet yogurt. (Top, Chittagong, Bangladesh; Bottom, Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Random memory: there are other varieties out there, which I didn't know for awhile.  When I was in Pokhara, Nepal, Bikash took me to a stand that sold what I assumed was just regular phuchka.  Imagine my surprise when I popped one in my mouth and (a lot of!) spicy water poured out, with very little chickpea/potato filling.  These were panipuri, a variant more commonly found in Nepal and India.

Momos.  What can I possibly say about momos?  They are now one of my favorite foods in the world.  A delicious little dumpling filled with your meat of choice (mine is buffalo), onions, garlic, some spices, and served with some type of dipping sauce. (Both, Kathmandu, Nepal)

(Left) I ate a lot of coconut milk-based curries and soups for the perfect balance between sweet and spicy. (Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand)

(Right) The ever-popular barbequed chicken and papaya salad. (Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand)
I ate a lot of new foods in Cambodia.

(Left) Vegetable amok, a curry with coconut gravy. (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

(Right) Spicy frog meat with tomatoes. (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

(Left) I also ate durian, the fruit that smells so bad it isn't allowed in public places.  It tasted sweet and mellow, with the texture of avocado. (Kampong Cham, Cambodia)

(Right) And itty bitty snails, fished straight from the Mekong River. (Kampong Cham, Cambodia)

I am also eternally grateful for my students' hospitality.  In Cambodia, Ayla and I stayed at Samouy's house with all of the undergraduates and experienced amazing home cooking while they worked on their summer project.  I will always remember the Khmer noodles (and Samouy's mother laughing at me!). (Kampong Cham, Cambodia)


During my second time in Nepal, Ayla, Karin, and I were invited to our student Dipa's house for lunch and a tour of the surrounding area.  Dipa and her mom made us a lot of great Nepali/Newari dishes  - rice and daal, curry, spicy buffalo, and more.  I wish I could remember the names for everything! (Kathmandu, Nepal)

(Top left) Fried pork in Kampong Cham, Cambodia; (Top middle) Sweet lassi yogurt with nuts and raisins in Kathmandu, Nepal; (Top right) Fried chicken lok lak in Siem Reap, Cambodia

(Bottom left) Pad thai in Ko Pha Ngnan, Thailand; (Bottom middle) Deer meat and chilis in Bangkok, Thailand; (Bottom right) Spinach with chilis and garlic, eggplant, cucumbers, rice, and yogurt in Chittagong, Bangladesh

(Top left) Clams and onions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; (Top middle) Fish, vegetables, daal, and curried eggs in Chittagong, Bangladesh; (Top right) Sweet dish of custard, rice glass noodles, raisins, and pomegranate seeds in Dhaka, Bangladesh

(Bottom left) Chicken parts and potatoes in Dhaka, Bangladesh; (Bottom middle) McDonald's in Jaipur, India; (Bottom right) Kashmiri tea in Khajuraho, India

(Top left) Colorful styrofoamy poppy thingies outside of Jaisalmer, India; (Top middle) Aloo paratha in Khajuraho, India; (Top right) Sugary fried thingy that was like hard king cake in Kathmandu, Nepal

(Bottom left) Thali (assorted dishes) in Varanasi, India; (Bottom middle) Chicken satay with rice, cucumbers, onions and peanut sauce in Langkawi, Malaysia; (Bottom right) Black noodles in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

*Again, a gazillion photos courtesy of Jessi Hinz!  (And a couple from Karin Johnson, too!)