Gori (not Glory) 

 A few pictures from Gori. 

The Stalin museum is well worth the overpriced ticket and entry into the “wagon.” Not pictured is Stalin’s fur coat to the dismay of “too many muskrats” … And apparently my guide, a young man troubled by the fact that Stalin never wore this coat that all the animals died for. Interestingly, he seemed less concerned about the number of people executed or imprisoned during a similar time period. “It is not so much.”

A less well known Gori delight is the ethnography museum. Much more reasonably priced, and brilliant! Not overwhelming, perfect size.  My guide (below!) was the greatest gift a museum could offer. An American studies student who indulged my questions and promptly added me on Facebook. 

  
    
 

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It took me a minute 

I’m not gonna lie, it took me a minute to warm up to Georgia. I knew instantly it had the qualities of a country I would love – friendly people, amazing history, and, copious amounts of wine. Actually liking it though took a full 24 hours…

Yesterday I wandered around a bit dazed and confused. Lacking Georgian and Russian, things didn’t seem to be going my way. What’s more, I fell sick to 8 days of constant travel, extreme temperature changes and lack of nutritious meals. I went to bed sick, and woke up hungry. 

But today! Today, I visited Gori and the Stalin museum… Which is perhaps the best museum I’ve ever been in. Second only to the museum about the Iraq war that I visited in Kuwait way back when. Stalin everywhere! Even carpets with Stalin’s face on them. If I didn’t think Barry would murder me, I’d totally bring that home for our Mississippi living room. 

  
So without the carpet, I wandered back toward Tbilisi. By wandered I mean my guide (also known as the random guy, not guide who relied on Siri to locate just about everything) careened down a country road and dodged random goats while telling me “oh I like this road. This road is nice.” In broken English and broken Georgian (he tried his best to help me understand, with my pathetic grasp of Russian or Georgian) he told me about the area. 

Once in Tbilisi I wandered down for a bath at the sulphur bath houses. More on this in a coming post. Let’s leave it at my love for a good bath will instantly move me from the “eh it’s okay” category of country love to the “oh my god. I may never leave” category. Why can’t America get on board with a good bath? For real? 

Tomorrow I’m bound for wine tasting – as one of my last trips before the move down south, I’m making this one count. 

Georgia 2 

Tomorrow (or today, really) I am bound for a visit to the Joseph Stalin museum. To say that I am excited is clearly an understatement, for now… Here’s some quick snapshots of beautiful Georgia. I will certainly be back for a proper visit.  
  
  Freedom Square (above)

  
   

Tbilisi from the top of the hill. 

Georgia 

I recently arrived in Tbilisi…

I have a few rules about arriving in countries that I’ve never visited before. 

1) never arrive in the dark 

2) always carry a bottle of water with you

3) have a minimal amount of local currency 

Arriving in Tbilisi at 4:30am… I violated all my rules. It was dark, I was out of water, and I had no local currency on me. I found the guy, or at least the guy I hoped was actually from my B&B, and hopped in the back seat – speeding off into the great unknown. 

On a blog post I’ve recently misplaced, I said that I hoped the wine would be plentiful. That, at least, seems to be true. Everyone is offering it all the time.  

Take my favorite Georgian lady… I ask her for directions, she decides not to write me off for my lack of Georgian and Russian. Instead, I got a very useful lesson in wine pricing, and recycling of bottles for the ever important purpose of $1 wine. She also attempted to give me some lessons in the local language, emphasizing I needed to know how to order a shot of vodka. She also spent a long but of time lecturing me about my terrible choices of foot wear before sending me on my way with a bouquet of lavender and a liter of wine. 

   

Greetings from Chicago

I’ve just arrived to Chicago for the 75th annual conference of the Midwest Political Science Association Conference… I’m theoretically going to present a paper on how the threat of ISIS shapes Bahrain’s sectarian challenges (more on that later, although perhaps never).

Arriving back to the U.S. sometimes feels like the ultimate culture shock… I’ve been in plenty of airports around the world, and it’s always natural to feel a bit of tension in the immigration line… but hands down the U.S. seems to be the best at this.

To put it this way, some years ago at a border crossing in eastern Europe, some stupid woman snapped a photo of the guard armed with a machine gun. He subsequently flipped out, and made her delete the photo. The 5 minutes before that, I don’t think a single person on the bus took a breath while watching him question her about her choice. So why does that story matter? Because the minute I enter the area for US border and customs-whatever-they’re-called-these-days, I would rather be on that bus, and sometimes I would rather be the woman who took the photograph.

Yes, I love my country (especially the whole freedom of speech thing), but entering/exiting this country I do not love. I have countless stories of immigration horror. You may say “Well that’s because you’re coming here from x y z place in the Middle East…” But the truth is that even flying in from Europe or Canada, it’s not much better.

Take yesterday for instance… beyond the fact that I thought the couple in front of me was about to get a divorce since the husband FORGOT to eat his apple on the plane, and his wife was panicking that they would face trouble from the checkpoint for bringing fruit in… I just don’t like that whenever I enter the U.S. I have to feign relief/happiness/gratitude so that at the various checkpoints to enter the country, they don’t give me more trouble. After 14 hours flying with screaming babies, maybe I just want to hand over my passport and walk on.

The guy looking over my paperwork asks me “so you back for good, or just a break?”

me: “just a break – 3 days, and I’m back out again”…

him: “well you certainly don’t look happy to be back.”

Me: “Sorry (smiling), I’m just tired – long flight and all.”

Him: “Well this is America. Welcome back. Put a smile on.”

me: Smiling the biggest smile I can put on without looking sarcastic. “That’s true! thank you!”

or the times before that, when border guards have dumped the contents of my luggage out and gone through it piece by piece in the most degrading way possible.

 

 

Pet passports, tornados, health insurance

This move is doing some crazy things to my type-A, list making, obsessive over details self, and praise be to Barry who is just sitting on the side-lines watching the crazy whirlpool happen.

Normally when I travel, all of that gets set aside and I just go with the flow…

but 3 major country/continent moves have taught me just how bad of an idea that can be when applied to actually moving somewhere…and this is a US move, so my default make-a-scene-and-if-all-else-fails-bribe-someone, can do attitude may not work so well.

To help organize myself, I bought a notebook and keep it in my purse to keep track of the random things that come to mind at any point… there are a lot of lists happening, most of which reflect my inability to focus. Today’s three items are:

  1. Pet Passport
  2. Tornados (or is it Tornadoes???)
  3. Health Insurance (this is on every list)

You see, we are in the process of getting Boomer ready to travel…even though his departure will be well after mine…and at 3am last night, I woke up and thought “does he need to get a photo taken for the passport book?? Where would I even do that?”

Then my mind wandered to what you actually have to do for your pet in a tornado… which brought me to a 4:30a.m. google search of the appropriate plural form of that word, as well as advice as to what goes in a tornado kit for your home.

If you see Barry, wish him luck for the next three months.