A day in my life: Georgia edition

Date Time Coordinates: 12 Aug 2018 CE (Common Era), Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, Earth, Sol System.

I go to sleep around 0430 after a couple hours of reading A Clash of Kings (Book 2 in the A Song of Ice and Fire Series; or some know it by the name of the first book A Game of Thrones). I suppose it’s technically the day in question though really….

I awaken around 1300 and head for the bathroom. I reach for the toilet paper to clean up the mess I made of the porcelain, and am greeted with an empty roll. WTF?! There was half a roll there last night. What did my roommates do; eat it? This is particularly disturbing since I’m the one that bought that roll last week. Not that it’s that expensive; it’s just the principle. If you use the last of someone’s TP, you should replace it. It’s common courtesy, right?

I wander back to my room, and notice someone’s hung their laundry from my cloths line. That’s fine. I’m not using it at this particular moment, and I did hang it in a common area. As many times as the roommates have been subjected to my drying underwear, it’s only fair if someone else does the same. I grab my phones and head for the kitchen.

The Indian couple are making lunch. The kitchen’s not large enough for two people to use the stove at the same time so I figure out what I can do while they’re at it. Let’s see…grab cutting board, chop an apple, start the electric kettle making some hot water…. I finish a good deal before they’re done with the stove.

I’ll check my social feeds while I wait. Oh look, a picture of the girls we met yesterday at Bauhaus (a popular bar). When was this posted…oh, midnight. So that’s an hour after she DMed me to ask if I was there. I’d told her I could run down there and meet them, but she’d waved me off. Did she not want me there? Was she just trying to be considerate since they didn’t get there until an hour later, and it was latish? I’m putting way too much thought into this. It’s not like I want to date one of them or anything. They’re travelers, and will be somewhere else in a couple days.

Anyway, the Indian couple’s done with the stove so…time to finish making my oatmeal (or porridge for Brits). Now where’s the small pan? I can’t find it anywhere. Someone must have it in their room. I guess I’ll have to make it in a skillet. That’s a little more difficult, but…do what you have to do I guess.

Throw the sliced apples into the skillet, add oats when the water’s boiling, go for the butter, and…. Where’s my butter? There’s a specific place I leave it every time so I’ll know which one’s mine (because everyone’s bars look the same, and there are about 4 of them in there). The Swedish guy must have borrowed it. It’s cool, I told him he could use some if he desperately needed it, but now I don’t know which bar to use. I don’t want to use someone else’s, because…you know, rude. I send him a quick message explaining the situation. Maybe it won’t happen again. Though, who am I kidding? It probably will.

It’s rather annoying since I need the butter right now, but I guess I’ll just have to go without. Should I add the egg? It’s so much more work to stir it into the oats when they’re in a skillet. Fuck it; I’m already butter-less. What’s no egg going to hurt? I’m such a lazy bitch…. Except…. With no butter, the oats are sticking to the pan. Ugh, I want my oats lubed! Oh well, not the end of the world.

I sit down, enjoy my apple oats with tea, and continue browsing my social feeds without incident. And now I have to take a dump. Except someone used up all my toilet paper, and didn’t replace it. I guess my first stop is going to be to the grocery store a block down the street.

I hit up the grocery store, grab toilet paper and some other sundries while I’m there…. Oh, my typical cashier is working. I’ve developed something of a…I guess you could call it a working relationship with her? “Hello” she says (because she knows English is my primary language). “Hello, გამარჯობა” I respond (I’ve been attempting to learn some ქართული [Georgian]). She finishes bagging my things, I pay…. “მადლობა” I say. She says something as I walk out. She says the same thing every time, but I haven’t been able to figure out what it is. I know it’s something you say as someone’s leaving, but that could be several things. I’m pretty sure I’m not hearing all the sounds she makes when she says it, because I never get an appropriate translation from Google Translate when I punch in the Georgian sounds (in the Georgian script). Someday….

I get back and unpack the groceries. I put a roll of paper in the small bathroom, I go to place one in the large one…damn it! There’s water all over the floor (as usual). I’m pretty sure one of the roommates is used to the bathrooms where the whole room is a shower. I don’t know if it’s the Indians or the Georgian. In any case, this bathroom is not like that. There’s no drain in the floor, and there’s clearly a shower curtain. This bathroom is not supposed to look like a hurricane just came through, but since I’m too lazy to try explaining that…. Reason number 743,956,872,707 why I always wear flip-flops in the house.

Anyway, I take my dump now that I have toilet paper. Sweet, sweet comfort. And since I bought the paper, it’s not the cheap, sand-paper kind that makes your ass feel like it’s on fire after use.

Now it’s time to pay some bills. The combined electric and water bill arrived a couple days ago so let’s have a look. Hmm…this is much more expensive than the last one. I wonder what made it that way. I take the bill and head for the kiosk that’s half a block away. Georgians use these things for everything. They’re linked to the local banks, phone carriers, utility companies, car insurance providers, and I’m sure I’m missing something. These would be so amazing if they were everywhere, but alas, only in Georgia.

I go through the prompts, input the correct information, and…. Oh cool, it breaks it down and says what’s due for which part of the bill. Let’s see…water, normal…’cleaning’ (that must mean water line cleaning), normal…electric, ouch!

It seems most Georgians don’t believe in central temperature control systems. Only one of the rooms in the house has a wall unit so we’ve been using it to attempt to cool the whole house. It’s obviously far more than the system was meant to handle, but it can get the house (minus the kitchen with the gas burning stove) to a reasonable temperature. Since the highs have been over 30C (86F) every day of last month, and most of them have been over 35C (95F), we’ve been running the AC pretty much non-stop. While that makes the house a tolerable temperature (again, minus the previously mentioned kitchen), it also makes for a rather unpleasant electric bill. It’s a good thing it’s August and summer is on its death bed (at least for this year).

I pay the bill, divide it by 5, and send out the group message informing the other roommates of how much they owe me. They’re not going to be pleased, but it has to be done. At least splitting it between all of us brings the cost down to a reasonable level.

I return home, and the landlord starts group messaging us. “Good morning Happy Family. First full night at our beautiful home.” She has some funny ideas. While the last room was signed for last night, I don’t think any of us have seen the new guy yet, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t stay here last night. Also, the Indian couple will be moving out in a couple weeks at the latest. When that happens, we’ll be finding new ‘family’ members for their room.

She did manage to find us someone to clean the house. That’s fantastic since everyone staying here has a different idea of what exactly ‘clean’ means. Yes, I will gladly pay a small fee for someone to make this place look presentable. There’s far too much “I didn’t make that mess so I’m not going to clean it” going around, and it’s resulted in the common areas accumulating a few not so pleasant patches.

I poke around on the internet a little to amuse myself. The WiFi we were promised over a month ago still hasn’t materialized so I have to tether my phone whenever I want to get online. So, no streaming videos, music, or other bandwidth intensive activities. Writing blog articles is fine though, and I start writing this one after a little while.

In the middle, I see a Snap come in. I have an 83 day streak with a friend in the States so we ‘have to’ send something to each other every day. I snap a quick picture of my computer screen with this article being written. Send it off, download the pic, go to Instagram to add it to my story….oh, wait.

That chick I talked about earlier in the article is following me on Instagram. Okay, I guess I won’t add that pic to my story. I hope she doesn’t look at my bio, find a link to my blog, and read this article. Well, if she does…. Hi! This is…umm…awkward…. Moving on….

A little later in the article writing, I’m interrupted by the ‘new guy’. Oh, hi! Nice to finally meet you. He wants to get the key to the yard so he can put his bicycle back there. You ride a bike; in Tbilisi? Brave man. This city was not designed for bikes, and the drivers sure as hell don’t respect them. Pedestrians are usually okay, but bikes…not so much. Anyway, the Swedish guy (who has the key) isn’t here so he has to take his bike through the house. I go back to writing this article. He interrupts me one more time to ask for the WiFi password. Sorry dude; no WiFi. Oh how I wish there was….

And that brings me to here. Like, literally right here where I’m writing these words right now! Queue The Twilight Zone theme music.

I’ll probably poke around online a bit more, maybe play some games, and do some more book reading before going to sleep tonight. For all practical purposes, though, the day’s pretty much over (or at least the entertaining parts).

I hope someone (other than me, of course) has been entertained by this. If not, well…. Comment down below about what you’d like me to write about. If it’s reasonable, you’ll have won yourself a brand new article written just for you! Anyway, time to do something unproductive. Later….

Banking in Georgia (Part 1)

Will there be a part 2? Maybe? Anyway, I’d been waiting to get all the information for you guys, but that may or may not happen so…. Here’s a little story about my experiences so far with banking in Georgia. Off we go….

Quick insert from future me: There will absolutely be a part 2. This topic ballooned into something far larger than I’d originally thought.

So first thing’s first, why open a bank account in Georgia of all places? Well…this is going to take some explaining….

What to look for in a bank and/or economy

You know how in the West, banks give you like 1% interest on their MMAs (Money Market Accounts) if you’re lucky? Well, good news: the whole world isn’t like that! There are so many places that offer reasonable interest rates (think better than the US before 2008). I’d heard Georgia was one of those places.

But you want more than just good interest rates. You also want something stable. This comes in several forms that I’ll briefly cover: bank stability, government financial stability, and inflation. And yes, I know some of those are the same thing, but examples below should clarify why I separated them.

You don’t want a situation where the bank plays it fast and loose with loans. Anyone that was paying attention in the US around around 2008 can tell you what happens then. It also didn’t help that around half the US economy was related in some way to housing. But I digress….

You also don’t want a situation like Cyprus in 2013. For those unfamiliar with the story, the government dealt with their financial crisis by simply confiscating a bunch of money. Banks are, frankly, an easy place for governments to get at your money. You have been warned.

Additionally, any place with an insanely high inflation rate should be considered very carefully. Everyone’s probably familiar with Zimbabwe, but it bears repeating. What good is a 100% interest rate when the inflation rate is 1,000%? At that point, you’re losing rather than saving money.

Quick side note: this is also why many people in the US are putting their money anywhere but in a bank. It’s contributed massively to the housing crisis, several stock market boom/bust cycles, and a general culture of spending over saving. If that thing you’re purchasing devalues at a lower rate than inflation, you’re winning. Or if the interest rate for a loan is lower than inflation, you’re winning there as well. This is not a situation anyone should want.

I’d heard Georgia was also a decent place as far as these factors went too. So…research time.

Do Georgian banks meet the criteria?

“So…about that government stability thing…. Wasn’t there a Russian and Georgian conflict in 2008?” Yes, there was. South Ossetia and Abkhazia didn’t want to be a part of Georgia. Both ‘countries’ gained the support of Russia during the war, and are now autonomous areas.

People have asked me whether Russia might just decide to invade Georgia, and take over the country. While there’s no question Russia could do that, I don’t think they will. Ostensibly, the reason Russia got involved in the last conflict was to free the two previously mentioned areas. Since they are now de facto autonomous, I don’t think there’s going to be another war. The two countries definitely don’t like each other, but that doesn’t impact the stability of the Georgian government.

All other signs I see point to a growing economy. Batumi is a sea-side resort town with a lot of fancy hotels, restaurants, casinos, and karaoke bars. Tourism (especially from Russians) will keep that place running for a long time.

Tbilisi is a recently modern city. Every time I walk around town, I find new places full of construction. Much of the city is still old and looks pre-Soviet, but that’s rapidly changing. The city is definitely financially stable.

And the countryside…. Small villages still exist everywhere, but they’re being increasingly propped up by a quickly growing tourist industry. While Russia has long seen Georgia as a tourist destination, the West is just now discovering it. The increasing number of tourists is bringing prosperity to the small villages as well, and will continue to do so (in my opinion) as more people figure out that when I say Georgia, I don’t mean Atlanta. (Insert favorite joke about geographically illiterate Americans).

Government financial stability: check.

So how about the banks? Are they stable? Well…I don’t know what it’s like where you’re from, but in the US, there’s a whole system devoted to determining if someone deserves credit. It might not be the best system in the world, but it’s developed and stable. There’s nothing like that here.

I’ve heard a lot of locals complain about not being able to get a mortgage, because the banks don’t trust them. It seems in order to get a loan, you have to rent a similar property for at least a year before the banks will even think about approving you.

So that Opera thing Western banks do…. (“You get a loan, you get a loan, everybody gets a loan)” Yeah, that doesn’t happen here.

Additionally, their services are pretty sweet. You know that NFC (Near Field Communication) technology that people go nuts about in the States? Yeah, they’ve had that here for a while. Just hold your card up to the reader, and…approved!

Bank Stability: check.

Inflation…. You know what? I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of numbers, and charts. If you like that sort of thing, a quick Google search will pull up all the information your happy little heart desires. I’m just going to tell you inflation is not a problem. See? Easy.

Inflation: check.

But, no…really…why?

So now that I’ve overloaded you with all that information, you’re probably saying to yourself: “That’s fantastic, Porcupous. Georgian banks are a decent place to stash my cash, but why…please, tell me why would I want to go through all that trouble?”

I could tell you it’s a great diversification strategy. You don’t want all your eggs in one government’s basket.

But the real kick in the pants? What if I told you that CD rates for holding US Dollars was between 5-6%? Or that if you wanted to hold Georgian Lari, rates are between 10-12%? Well, this is not fake news, that’s actually true. So if you’re a saver like me….well…you know…you could open a Georgian CD or something. You know, for the LOLs…. That’s what those cool kids say these days right?

Summary of part 1

So hopefully, this answered the ‘why’ question. Because this is ridiculously long already, I think I’m going to save my experiences for part 2. What I actually found here is not exactly what I was expecting.

So stay tuned. The next time I get a few hours to pound out 1000+ words, you too will be able to read about the pain, the agony…just kidding, it wasn’t that bad. Or was it?

Sexism: a traveler’s story

So a lot of you are aware that I moved into a house in Tbilisi. There have been good and bad parts to it. One of the things I have learned is just how pervasive sexism is. It’s like a fucking epidemic! Let the story time begin….

My new landlord is an Israeli woman. Apparently, she owns several homes in different countries. She’ll buy them cheaply, fix them up, and rent them out. I can respect that. It’s actually something I considered doing for a while as a way to make a little extra cash.

We were conversing in the yard about future improvements, and related topics when she said something I didn’t expect. She said we should find a woman to live here so she could cook and clean for us. What? She doesn’t do that. She’s a business woman that runs around different countries managing her business. So why would she think…. Moving along….

The maintenance/foreman guy will often bring Georgians through the house to show them what he’d like them to do. It seems they always come when I’m preparing or eating dinner. If I believed in an intelligent universe, I would think it was trying to tell me something…. Anyway, I’ve run into the same sexist attitude on two of these occasions.

One of the guys saw me eating (I’d made a delicious pasta thing, and was eating it out of the pan, because why dirty a plate?), and decided to have a brief conversation with me. He said I should find a woman to cook for me. Then he went on about how they were also good for having sex with. He finished it all off with the thought that he liked to ‘fuck before eat[ing]’, because he got tired after meals.

I was too stunned to do anything except nod, and wave at him as he left the kitchen heading for the yard. However, now that I’ve had some time to prepare, I’d like to challenge these ideas that we’ve managed to (mostly) eliminate in the west. I want to tell these people that it’s possible to get so much more from a good life partner than sex and domestic chores. You can actually speak with them, and maybe even learn something from their ideas. You can have…you know…an actual relationship!

And maybe then, I could move on to the point that it doesn’t have to always be the woman that cooks, cleans, and generally minds the house. I’m no chef, but I’ve made some pretty tasty concoctions in my time. And I actually enjoyed it!

If someone doesn’t like my cooking, that’s a fair point, and they should absolutely make their case. However, bringing women into the argument is like telling me while playing basketball that they have a black friend who I should meet. Is said black person good at basketball? Maybe. Or maybe he trips over the ball when he tries to dribble. And what does he have to do with my ability to play?

Have any of these people even considered that I might actually enjoy preparing my own meals? Or are they too hung up on the notion that men shouldn’t cook; that it’s not their job? Maybe that’s a better approach. Instead of being all triggered, and grilling them about how backward their views are, maybe I should ask them why they feel the need to bring this up in the first place.

Well, this took an unexpected turn….

How about you on the other side of the screen. Yes you, the one who’s reading this article. Have you run into people like the ones I’m describing? Did you try to talk to them, and figure out what’s going on? Did you get all foamy at the mouth and scream at them about how sexist they are?

This has been real talk with Porcupous. Tune in next time for…. Just kidding. I may or may not follow up on this. Either way though, I’d definitely like to hear from you.

Settling into a house in Georgia

For those that don’t know, I really like Georgia (the country; not the US state). I like it so much, I decided I should stick around for a while, and see what it’s like to live here. One of the people I met at my hostel found someone who was renting rooms in a house. At first glance, it seemed pretty awesome. Renting a room in a house is cheaper than staying a hostel, and I get my own room! But, as with anything like this, there were a few negatives that weren’t immediately obvious (at least to me).

Disclaimer: these are all specific to the house I moved into. Your experience (should you choose to duplicate it) will hopefully vary; especially after reading this post.

So a little more about the place…it’s a decent sized house. There are 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (one of which contains a bath tub and shower), a kitchen/dining room, and even a yard (with trees)! When I came over to look at the place, it was clearly in the process of being renovated with workers constantly going in and out of the place. It was claimed that it would be ready to move into by the 1st of July which was 3-4 days away. The bedrooms came in different shapes and sizes with the larger ones being slightly more expensive than the smaller ones. They all ranged from $150-$200 (US Dollars) per month. I picked one that looked good, and [after a few hours of thinking about it] told the land lord’s proxy I’d take it.

First problem. When I showed up on the first, they were still in the process of renovating. It’s not uncommon even now to have a bunch of workers wandering around the place and improving it. That would normally be a minor annoyance except for problem 2.

When I was scoping the place out, I was told that only one of the rooms had an air conditioner. I thought an air conditioner would be nice, but wasn’t exactly a necessity. I was so wrong; especially when combined with problem 1. When they’re in the house, they open all the windows, and leave the doors open. I get it; they’re constantly moving things in and out, but it doesn’t make for a very pleasant temperature inside.

Also, the last few days have been record-setting in their heat. I’m told the average high for Tbilisi in July is 33C (91.4F), and the record is 40C. Yesterday it hit 43C (109.4F)! And there’s a river that runs through the city so it’s not exactly a dry heat. I do not deal with that kind of weather well.

Fortunately, no one’s moved into the room with air conditioning so my 1 roommate and myself have taken to sleeping in there. We’ve also closed all the windows and set up a system of fans to pull the cool air into the rest of the house. When there aren’t workers running around opening all the windows, it’s actually almost pleasant. I hope no one takes the air conditioned room before the end of summer.

Another problem that wasn’t readily apparent, has to do with the washing machine (for cloths). It’s brand new so that’s nice. However, it wasn’t hooked up properly, and the hose where water drains was sitting on the floor. I was pretty pleased with myself when I figured out how to turn the thing on, and get it started on my roommates cloths. When we got back to the house later, we discovered water all over the floor. We of course, had no idea how to fix the problem so we grabbed a pan out of one of the bathrooms, and placed it under the hose.

Then, we spent the next 4 hours monitoring it, and emptying the pan when it got full. Why was it taking so long to wash a load of laundry? Neither one of us speaks (let alone reads) Georgian so figuring out why was an impossible task. After said 4 hours, we finally hit the pause button and waited for the machine to unlock the door. The cloths were very clean by then so we just had to hang them, and wait for them to dry.

Except that there are no cloths lines installed, yet. I let my roommate borrow the travel cloths line I had the foresight to purchase before I started my traveling adventure. For once, being a little over prepared turned out to be a good thing.

The stove was hooked up, and there the landlord was kind enough to provide dishes and flatware. So I figured I could do some cooking to save money. I’ve been in Georgia for a month now so I don’t necessarily have to go out every meal to try the Georgian food. Except that there’s no cookware…. Now we’re in a bit of an awkward position. We don’t want to buy cookware since we’re unsure if the landlord will purchase some for us. So for now, we’re sticking to meals that don’t require cooking.

I suppose we could message the landlord and ask her about any of these things, but there’s a whole list of ‘problems’ (I’ve only mentioned what I consider to be the most pressing ones). Additionally, the place is still being fixed up so we’re not sure if these are known issues that will be resolved on their own eventually. We don’t want to be annoying tenants that are constantly pointing out problems either. So yeah…new house problems; they can add up.

Well, I hope this has been somewhat informative. Perhaps if any of you are looking for a place, you’ll have an idea of what to look for and some good questions to ask. Or maybe you’re all veterans of house hunting, and I seem like a complete moron. Frankly, I feel a little dumb right now anyway so….

Talk to you next story….

That Kazbek mountain thing

My normal method of travel involves just showing up somewhere and exploring. However, one of the friends I made in თბილისი (Tbilisi) wanted to go on a day trip labeled ‘Kazbegi’. So I decided to be a good little tourist go on a group tour.

The marshrutka (from Russian: маршру́тка; it’s basically a large van or small bus) was supposed to pick us up at 0915. Apparently, traffic was particularly bad that Monday morning, and the tour company employees came out to talk to us around 0930. We then walked down the road a little (this was not in the original plan) and got picked up at an alternate location. I didn’t mind, but there were a few people with luggage because they were flying out after the tour, and one person brought a kid and stroller. It was a little tricky getting their stuff over the few cobblestone sections.

We headed out of the city, and eventually hit the საქართველოს სამხედრო გზა (Georgian Military Road) going north. Traveling on this road is amazing. It winds through the mountains and hits 2,379 meters (7,815 feet) at its highest point. This was also the first time I felt cool in months as I’ve been in ‘warm’ countries.

The first stop did not disappoint from a scenery perspective. We were on the side of a mountain looking down on a lake that looked like it might have been artificial as there was a huge mound of dirt on the lower end of the canyon. There were also a couple shops, a bathroom, and some wool outfits with accompanying sword/gun we could wear in a cheesy attempt to look like a local for Instagram. If I ever make it out there to stay for longer than a day, I’ll be sure to wear an actual outfit for my pictures so…I stick my nose up at you, fake costumes.

 

Small church

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The next stop was at a small church. While I only took pictures of the typical ‘churchy’ things, there were also a lot of defensive structures. The church is surrounded by a wall (that’s now in varying states of functionality), and a tower that’s entrance is a very narrow passage between it and a church wall. No armored (or fat) people are getting through there.

What a shitload of minerals in the water do to a mountain side.

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Then we came to a place that reminded me of Pamukkale, Turkey. This time, the mineral being deposited is orange, and makes the water taste like soda water. There’s no carbonation, it just tastes like it.

This is also around the time we started seeing the tunnels on running parallel to the road on the mountain side. These tunnels are at sections of the road where the uncovered area is closer to the edge. In winter when the roads are covered in snow and ice, these tunnels are vital to ensure vehicles can both make it up the mountains as well as prevent them slipping off, and having a very bad day.

We continued on to the town of სტეფანწმინდა (Stepantsminda). This place is pretty close to the Russian border, and is very touristic. There are a lot of hotels and restaurants. We ducked into one of the latter to place our lunch orders. We were going to continue our tour while they prepared the food.

On the way to, and pictures of Kazbegi, Georgia.

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Then we all jumped into some 4x4s (all terrain vehicles), and went up the dirt roads to…. A church overlooking the town. It’s a very plain church that consists of a lot of rocks, and no real decoration. It doesn’t need any as the view is spectacular: very green mountains, rivers, maybe a couple flocks of sheep, and the town that doesn’t have any structures near the church. It’s pretty isolated, and would take a couple hours to walk up to so I can’t imagine it’s used to hold services. We wandered around for about half an hour taking copious pictures.

When the selfies were done, we went back down to the town for lunch. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Georgian food is fantastic! A lot of it is vegetarian as well; non-meat eaters rejoice.

After lunch, we started the long trek back. We stopped a couple more times along the way. Once, at the friendship monument which is a large semi-circle wall covered in art, and overlooking more stunning views of mountains, valleys, waterfalls…. The scenery on this trip did not disappoint.

The whole trip (minus lunch) cost me less than $30. That was money well spent even for my cheap ass. I also feel obliged to mention some sections of the road were destroyed which meant a very bumpy ride in some spots. The long winters with all the snow and ice make it nearly impossible to keep the road comfortably traverseable. It definitely took its toll on my old, grumpy self too. By the time we got back to Tbilisi, I was very ready to walk around. Also, if you get carsick easily, this trip is going to be hell for you. I was mostly ok, but I know not everyone will be.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful and/or entertaining. I know most of my friends in the US would have a hard time placing Georgia on a globe (hell, some of them have a hard time with the US state of Georgia), but this place is so worth visiting. See you guys next post.

Dental care while traveling

It had been about 6 months since I’d had my teeth cleaned. Given how much I abuse my teeth, I figured it was about time to give them a little love. I also figured it would be a good chance to show Georgia is not the third-world country many people think it is.

Challenge number 1: finding a dentist in Tbilisi. This would have been far easier in Kutaisi as I saw dental offices everywhere while wandering around the town. But I’m in the capital now so I turned to what is almost always my first option: Google Maps. It turns out, that was not a good idea. Many of the places Google thought there was a dental office had no such thing at that location. So I reverted to wandering and looking for tooth symbols on signs. After a while, I found one…that was (of course) unknown to Google.

Whatever, I walked in searching for a reception desk. There was just a lobby. No big deal; I just sat down, and waited for someone to wander out. The woman that eventually came out looked confused, and asked me something in Georgian (I’m assuming, ‘what are you doing here’). When I asked if she spoke English, she wandered off and found a co-worker which I’m assuming is the most fluent person in their office. I asked if they cleaned teeth, and she responded they did but there wasn’t time that day. So I asked if I could schedule an appointment. She walked in back, and their ‘scheduling person’ (for lack of a better description) came out with a calendar. She told me to return the next day at 1030. Sweet!

The next morning, I woke up at a decent time (for a change). There were other travelers eating breakfast, and we started conversing. When we’d finished, I discovered I should have payed more attention to the time; I was going to be late. I got ready as quickly as I could and walked even faster than normal to try being close to on time. I ended up arriving 2 minutes late. But it didn’t matter as it appeared I was simply waiting for an opening in their schedule.

One of the employees came out, and gave me some plastic ‘booties’ to cover my shoes. Then, I waited for an hour. I didn’t care since I was in no particular rush so I chilled and watched soap operas in Hindi (I think) dubbed in Georgian. I didn’t understand a single word, but it held my attention. Finally, someone came out, pointed at me, and gestured for me to follow her back.

I was greeted by a couple chairs that looked just like the ones back in the US with all the same equipment. The first time the dentist wanted me to spit, she pointed at the drainage contraption next to the chair and said a word. Every time after that, she repeated the word. I don’t remember what it was, but every time she said anything, I just spit. It seemed logical to me….

When we were done, she wrote something on a notepad in Georgian, and handed me the sheet. Then it took her about 5 minutes of searching online to figure out how to translate something. When she showed me the phone she’d been searching on, it said ‘buy this at a pharmacy’. No prescription; just whatever it was written on a sheet of paper. She also indicated (through gestures) that I should swish whatever it was 2 times a day for 10 days.

Then it was time for the bill: 40 lari! That’s a little over $15! In the States, it would cost at least 10 times that much for exactly the same treatment (well ok, so there wouldn’t be a language barrier, but I’ll take that any day for that price). Even many co-pays (where insurance covers most of the bill) are more expensive than that.

Then it was time for the next challenge: finding a pharmacy. That was much easier. I walked up to a counter, and handed the pharmacist the paper. She asked me something in Georgian.

Me: “I’m sorry.”

Pharmacist: “For what?”

Me: “Teeth”

She went back, got a bottle, and gave me the price: 17.50 lari (less than $10). I later discovered it was some sort of anti-bacterial mouth wash.

So if anyone from the US (or any country that has expensive health care) needs their teeth cleaned, I recommend just waiting until your next vacation. The quality is just as good, and you could save a lot of money. I know if I need anything medically, I’m going to check wherever in the world I happen to be before hopping a flight ‘home’.

I don’t know how it is in other places, but there’s some seriously strong nationalism going on in the US. A lot of my friends would say the US is ‘number 1’ in everything; the best country in the world. When I’d ask them if they’d been anywhere else to compare, they would almost always respond they hadn’t. So how did they know? This experience has taught me that health care in the US (at least when it comes to dentistry) is not the best. It’s probably not even in the top 10.

I hope this has encouraged you to validate your preconceived notions. Go explore, and find out if what you were told from those famous people on TV is actually the case. I know from my own experiences that almost nothing the propaganda machines (media) in the US told me is actually true. It seems the old saying is true: travel will destroy any prejudices you have.

How I got around Turkey

Having spent over a month in Turkey traveling up the west coast and across the Black Sea coast, I figured I it would probably be good if I wrote something about how I did it. My way may not be everyone’s, but at least this should give some ideas if anyone else is thinking about traversing the country.

So, I entered via ferry from Rhodes, Greece. While that was great for getting in, that’s the last ferry I’ve taken. (Quick aside: ferries are fantastic for getting between the Greek islands and/or between Turkey and the Greek islands.)

Once in Turkey, I found the easiest thing was to take buses. The country is well connected via roads, and buses travel to even very small towns. The word you’ll need here is ‘otogar’; it means main bus terminal. Every town has one. There were a few instances where neither I nor the local bus driver spoke each others’ language, but I was quickly able to identify if he was going where I wanted by simply asking: ‘otogar’? If he wasn’t going there, this was generally followed by a bunch of pointing and speaking in Turkish. ‘Teşekkürler’ (thanks), now I’ll just walk in the direction you pointed to and find another bus driver.

People that speak English get pretty scarce in Eastern Turkey, but I was always able to find someone that spoke well enough to walk me through buying a bus ticket at the town’s main bus station. Actually, they usually found me. I’d just wander into the terminal looking lost, and they’d come up and ask me where I was going. If that doesn’t happen though, just walk up to a desk, and ask. They’ll find someone that speaks English, and even send you to another company if they aren’t going where you need to go.

There were a few instances where I needed to take a couple buses; I had to go to one place to catch another bus in order to finish the trip. This is where the site Rome 2 Rio comes in handy. Even on the times when I didn’t look up the connecting city first, the employees would tell me I had to go through a certain place first.

Some people I ran into suggested I go online and purchase my tickets there. While that would have been great, I have yet to find a page that’s not in Turkish (and there were no other language options). Additionally, there are many bus companies and routes that are not listed online. I found that there were always multiple buses throughout the day heading in the direction I wanted to go. So just showing up was a lot easier, and I never had any problems doing that.

I should also mention that flying and taking trains are also options between the larger and/or more popular cities. These are also very affordable options, but I preferred to stick with a consistent mode of travel that would get me anywhere.

I also occasionally took metros (in the large cities) and taxis within a town when walking seemed like too much of a pain in the ass. Most of the time though, I didn’t mind walking. I know, I’m weird.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful. There’s a handy little comments section if there are any further questions. Until next time….