Sunday, December 25, 2011

Case Closed

Tuesday, 13th December
I went to work, expecting a call from K. I thought that if I hadn't heard from her by 10, I'd call her myself. Most offices and businesses open at 10.

Come ten o 'clock, no word from K. I called her, no answer. A few minutes later, I got this email from her: I have been thinking about your case and I am terribly sorry for the
situation and problems you had to face. Rejection for a visa is terrible and
I understand how you feel now when all your plans got ruined.

On the other hand, the organisation has special procedures according to what as soon as
we provide a you with the requested ticket there is no more the organisation's
responsibility on changing it or canceling. We have bought your ticket back
in October, because we had your flight request and your several
confirmations and all is kept in our email archive. We have paid xxx GEL
for your round trip ticket and now the airlines do not allow us to cancel it
or get a refund.

Your case has been closed and unfortunately the organisation cannot buy another ticket
for you to send you home. I am really sorry, but there is no way Ministry's
financial department would allow us to buy two vacation tickets for one
Person, when we have such restrictions in our regulations and monetary
transactions are extremely big deal here.

I would recommend you to get in touch with the airlines yourself and maybe
send them the scanned version of the passport where the rejection
information is presented and maybe they will be able to help you. I can also
give you the contact information of the travel agency in case you
need to talk to them as well.
I am terribly sorry once again and wish I could do something to help, but
Unfortunately nothing is under my control anymore !

Hope you understand !

My whole world came to a stand still. I was still at school. I had a free lesson and was helping my colleague marking test papers. I asked to be excused and headed for the library to use the internet to get in touch with the agency and the airlines.

I loaded my phone with tons of airtime and made some calls. I called the agency, they seemed nice, promised to help me as much as they could. The ticket I'd got was non-refundable. I had 3days to make the impossible happen. I was dying. I felt lost. I didn't know where to start. I imagined the worst. There was no time to be weak and to feel sorry for myself, I had to keep going.

The agency took my details and promised to call me back, I had to cancel the travel insurance and figure out the next step as I was on my own in this. I managed to cancel the insurance. Apparently, it takes a while for the transfer of funds. The consultant said she's pressurise the head office to prioritise my case. I had to email a copy of the rejection letter and my passport to the travelling agency for them to send it to the airlines as motivation for my ticket cancellation. They wanted the docs by the end of business that very day. Time was of the essence. All that was 8 hours away, in Tbilisi. I asked my friend to please scan and email it for me. She said, 'I'm on the road, I left your passport in my apartment, please come here and do it yourself'. It was around 4pm, the agency closed at 7 and I was 8 hours. If you do the Math, you'll see that it was impossible for me to get the docs to the agency in time.

I called and asked them if I could email the stuff to them first thing the next day. She didn't mind. I took a bus to the station to buy an overnight train ticket to Tbilisi. I was freaking out on the way, hoping that they weren't fully booked. I waited about an hour for the bus. I'd already had a ticket but it was for the day after, I just wanted them to move it forward by a day. They did it! I got my ticket.
It was around 6, I had to head back to Sarpi, and pack and be back at the station by 10 for 10:25. Whew!

I got home, charged the cellphone, and packed. I'd been told that the org had a new home for me for January, which means I had to vacate my room. I didn't know where the new family lived, I didn't have time for that. I had already asked my family if I could store my bags at their house until I come back in January and they agreed. I had to pay rent for the weeks I'd stayed at their house.

The family wasn't home when I arrived. I packed as quickly as I could. I couldn't even weigh my bag to ensure it's 30kg. That's the limit with the airlines I was going to fly with.
When I was done packing, I headed to the main house to tell them I was leaving. They expected me to leave the day after. That was the original plan. When I moved in, the host sister, that speaks English told me that the last bus to Batumi leaves at 9. I was hoping to leave with that bus. I'd be there just before ten. At 8pm, I told them, I was about to leave, they told me there weren't anymore buses at that time! WHAT? But you told me the last bus is at 9. She didn't understand that. She went blank! Great! The host mom fixed me a really nice dinner. I didn't have time to eat and I don't eat before travelling but I had to be nice. I paid her before I ate. She took the cash and mumbled something in Georgian, the atmosphere changed in the room.
I heard the sister ask how longs I'd stayed there for. The mom said 3 weeks. That's 21 days. I'd been there for 17 days and I paid them the exact amount. I guess she expected me to round it off. Here's the thing about expecting people to round things off for your advantage, what if they expect you to round it off for theirs? For example, what if I thought she wouldn't mind me rounding it off to 2 weeks, i.e. 14 days, instead of 21?
There I was, at the table, in front of a delicious meal I was forcing myself to eat to be polite and everyone's mad at me for not paying them what they expected. Fortunately, I'd only dished up a spoonful of an eg and the tiniest chicken piece.

Just before I paid, host sis had translated to me that her dad's getting his brother to take me to the station. I asked them how much he was going to charge, they said nothing. AWKWARD! I finished eating and moved away from the table. I was the only one eating anyway. The host mom asked me why I didn't eat, I just said, 'nooooo thanks'. I had enough to deal with as it was to be stressing about food. There was too much tension in the house, I just wanted to get the heck out of there. I asked where the uncle was. He was on his way. He arrived in no time.

As if it wasn't awkward enough, I had to accept a favour from the people that believe I'd short paid them. And they insisted! Also, they did mislead me by telling me the last bus was at 9. At 8:20 or so, we left. Not before I asked again how much the guy would charge me (for the free lift). I thought that things may have changed after they saw how much I paid them. And they did! They discussed the fare I heard 80GEL (R320) from the uncle and 15GEL (R60) from the host mom.
The final result from the translator was NOTHING. You don't have to pay anything! I thought to myself, you know what? Just get the heck out of here, don't try to figure these people out, you've been here for months and you never could figure them out.

The whole clan accompanied me. Host mom, sister, brother and the driver, host uncle. I thanked the host dad and left. They sped through Batumi to Makhinjauri station. I'd told them that my train would leave at 10:30. That's 9:30 in Georgian. So the sister mis-translated. We got there at exactly 9:30. Which means if she was right, we would've missed the train. Anyway, we were an hour early. Great! We had to pretend for an entire hour. Crap! I discovered that the host mom had packed me a plastic bag full of naartjies (mandarins). This was over and above the 50kg baggage I already had.

There was an English speaking Georgian dude sitting next to us in the waiting room. He asked me if I liked Georgia. Of course, I told him NO. He translated to my family what I'd told him. You can imagine how much more awkward that made the already awkward situation. Perfect! The host family mumbled amongst each other. More tension ensued. I tried to do damage control by telling the dude, I'd nothing against my host family, they were nice people, I just didn't like Georgia as a country at that very moment. Of course, he translated that to the family as well. I don't think they cared. They were also not impressed that I mislead them by telling them I needed to be at the station by 9:30 instead of ten. I did tell them 10:30, but the truth got lost in translation.

The train finally arrived. They dumped me in my carriage and left. I was sooooo relieved. I met a nice English speaking Georgian in the train. I called him Superman, a story for another day.

Michelle called and I realised that I wasn't going to be able to see her before I left. That sucked! We had an appointment for Wednesday, but I'd to leave a day too soon. Which meant not getting to see each other. I hoped to see her one last time in Tbilisi.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Visa application Results

Monday, 12th December
I'd asked a friend of mine to collect my Visa from the embassy. My flight out of Georgia was booked for the 16th. I had to be in Tbilisi by the 14th. I couldn't travel all the way to Tbilisi for the 12th, back to Batumi, and then back to Tbilisi by the 14th.

I gave her my receipt and informed the guys at the embassy that she would pick the visa up for me. Let's call her D. I sent her a text Sunday afternoon reminding her. I called her monday morning, she assured me that she hadn't forgotten. Nevertheless, I called her again, in the afternoon. No answer. The nerves started! My stomach was turning, I was so anxious.

I remember being on the phone with my friend Michelle and asking if I could call her back because I realised it was before 5 and my visa appointment was at 4:30pm (obviously). I called D. No answer! I sent her a text, asking if she got it, and called again thereafter! I was freaking out. It was done! Either she had received it or not. The latter would have killed me! I'd already made so many plans, my friend and her husband were expecting me. I was going to have my first white Christmas. I kept calling, the calls were not answered. I had funny thoughts. 'What was I thinking trusting someone my visa? What if they took it and travelled with it? Oh my Lord! I was dying!

She called! I quickly apologised to God for accusing this chick of being a thief. 'Brook! Call me back'. SURE! I must've called her back before she even hung up: SO? DID YOU GET IT?
'No. They did not give you! I'm sorry my sister! I was so upset! I scattered the whole embassy. I told them to take it back! You already have a ticket! What are you going to do? ....'. She was so worried about me. How sweet. I sat there, eyes popping out of my head. I was in shock! Utter shock! I thought I was dreaming. The worst thing that could happen, happened. I had 4days left. No time to appeal or re apply or anything. I was screwed!

On asking her why the visa was not granted, she said, 'I asked them and they told me to read the rejection letter! I kept asking him, and asking him, he just told me to read the letter'. So I asked HER to read the letter for me. She told me, 'it's better you come her and read it yourself. Maybe I'll leave something out'. I asked her if it's a long letter. She said 'no, but I don't want to be the one to bread this bad news to you. But I think that the person that's inviting you over did not provide sufficient documentation'. Okay, but can you just read me what's on the letter? 'Ok, Brook, I'm on the way, right now, I'm about to take the bus, call me in 2 hours. I've to view an apartment, call me later'.

FCKKKKK! Darn it! Now, I've to wait a few hours to find out why I was rejected. Not that it was going to change anything, but still! It would be nice to know. I called K the lady in charge of flights. I'd already told her when they asked me to submit my flight request for the Christmas holidays that I was in the process of applying for the visa. I told them I wanted to wait for the results first, they insisted on my confirmation because they had a deadline. We then went ahead and bought a flight ticket to France. Without a visa! I called and told her that my visa application was rejected and I needed a ticket home, to South Africa instead. She was very sympathetic. Telling me she had been through the same before. She told me to appeal and move my flight date or re-apply. She said to first find out what the reason was and take it from there. I told her how ready I was to get the heck out of that place, I couldn't wait another day if they were going to pay me. I didn't just want to get the heck out, I needed to! It was vital that I left! ASAP! She told me she'd call the travelling agent and ask them to start making the arrangement as we didn't have much time. She told me that my other option would be to stick around and leave in January. SAY WHAT? You mean I should spend Christmas AND. New Year's in this hell hole? I don't think so Madam! She promised to at least inform the travelling agent in the meantime and update them.

At 9 o'clock, 2 hours later, I called D again, to see if she 'had' my rejection reason. She picked up the third time and told me she was about to get home, to call her back. Great! More waiting! I asked her to rather copy whatever was the 'reason' and text it to me. 15 - 30mins later, I tried her again. She told me she was done rewriting it on the text and was about to send it. I thought that if she had finished typing what was on the letter, she'd know what it said and asked her to tell me. She said, 'it's all on the sms, hang up, you can read it yourself'. No problem, I've waited 2.5 hours, I'm sure I can wait a moment longer. NO TEXT! I was dying of impatience. 15 minutes later, she sent me a blank text. WHAAATTT! WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON!
I waited a bit and got nothing. I texted her that the text was blank. I was getting more and more anxious. If she spent 45 minutes typing this text, why is it blank?
Dear Lord! It was late, I still had to get back to K. About 5 minutes later, I got the text. It read: The information submitted regarding the justcation for the pupose and condition of the intended stay was not reliable.

3 Lines! I waited 5hours for a 3 line text! Can you say weird? Spell check and forward to K. I spent the rest of the night thinking about things, how you can plan this and end up being dished up that! I was still in shock, I was hoping there was a mistake somewhere. I had to tell the family and my friend that was going to host me that it wasn't going to happen. Nobody could understand why I was rejected. My sis had got a visa to the very same destination 3months ago. And about 3 years ago. No questions asked. The only difference was that she applied in South Africa and I in Georgia. One more reason I love that place so much. It makes possible impossible.

Friday, December 09, 2011

My Anger induced Panic Attack!

It looks like the dodgy adapter I got from my new host family damaged my blackberry charger. Yesterday, before I went to school, for my one and only class, it still worked. I thought I’d get a new one and replace it either because I didn’t want it to damage my lifeline to the real world AKA my blackberry. The wires were sticking out. It looked dangerous.
I was an hour early for school, so I quickly went to That huge electronics store and they didn’t have a blackberry charger. Oh well, at least they played nice music. David Gray – This year’s love.

I bought sellotape (sticky tape), and thought I’d try to fix the wires myself. It can’t be that hard, right? Wrong! When I was done with it, it wouldn’t work at all! Oh well, it could’ve been worse! My phone coud’ve exploded or something. I made peace with the fact that I had lost my charger and tried to charge it using the USB cable I nought in Tbilisi, that didn’t work either. I kept getting reset errors, the phone would die, Oh my word was it frustrating! I couldn’t put my SIM card on the work phone, but I was not about to do that! I watched Wipe Out (or something) on the PC and went to sleep.

This morning, I watched Better off Ted and forced myself to come to Batumi and buy myself a charger. And here’s how that went:
I found a small little cellphone shop, near the marshrutka station(taxi rank). There was a Georgian lady behind the counter, I greeted her and asked if she spoke English. She doesn’t. I told her I wanted a charger. She showed me one for GEL7 (R28 – obviously Fong Kong) and one for GEL3 (R12 more of an FK than the above). We tested them both. The much cheaper one, wasn’t working. I asked her to charge my phone while she showed me their earphones. For some reason, my earphones won’t work, the iPod ones And the phone ones. They won’t work on either the iPod or the phone! Sometimes they work karaoke style, just the instrumental, no voice. Where were they when I wanted karaoke in Joburg? Anyway, I saw some cute pink and white ear phones for GEL 15 (R60) and GEL12 (R48). The 15 Lari ones were weird, and the 12 sounded great! I took those ones! I need them to block out all the zangi sayers and the rest of the crap I don’t need to hear! I know now how come I never heard the word Zangi until I got to Batumi: It’s because I always had my earphones on the entire time I was in Akhaltsikhe! Anyway, I bought the 12Lari Pink and white ear phones that match my phone as well as the 7 Lari charger. I noticed that, suddenly the shop was packed with random guys talking about me. The shop owner who may or may not have been Chinese, (he looked half Georgian/half Chinese) uttered something and all the guys laughed. First he asked the lady that was helping me what I wanted, she said she didn’t know. Then the joke and loud laughter. I paid for my items, thanked the lady and left.

As soon as I got outside, I tested my ear phones again. They worked on and off, if  I so much as moved or shook my phone, they would stop working. I made a quick U-turn back to the store. They did tell me that their stuff didn’t have  any guarantee. But we all know no guarantee means at least 7days or 1month guarantee right? You can’t sell someone garbage and boast that your store has a no guarantee policy. It doesn’t work that way! Back at the store, some of the guys that came in while I was still there were still there. I told the lady that doesn’t English that her ear phones are faulty (in English) and that I wanted my money back. She asked for my phone, to test them, when she saw that they indeed were faulty, she kept forcing them in and out, I was like, excuse me, can I have my phone back! She said, erti tstuti (one minute). I was like, no, mam, they are not working, can I please have my money back?

She told me to take me something else, I told her I wanted my money. She told me that they don’t refund cash, I had to take something else. Seriously! I just left your store a minute ago, and you’re going to act like you don’t know me, no, I want my money! She told me my phone is faulty, there’s nothing wrong with the ear phones. SOOO! SO WHAT? Say the problem is with my phone, that means I can’t use your earphones, therefore, take them back, and give me my money! Some random dude, came out of nowhere and tried to explain that they had already rung the sale and for that reason they couldn’t refund me. I gave them their receipt back and asked for my money. She ignored me, and starting packing up the shelves. I stood there for what seemed like forever. Fuming! I literally was about to throw up my insides, I was so angry! EXCUSE ME! I DON’T HAVE ALL DAY, TAKE YOUR EARPHONES, AND FOR THAT MATTER, TAKE YOUR CHARGER TOO AND GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK!
She ignored me. That made me want to DIE!
UUUggghhhhhh! I went ballistic! I banged on the counter, told them to take this crap, give me my money or I would call the police! Police sounds the same in English and in Georgian. Then I cursed them in all the curse words I know, English, Xhosa, Afrikaans! I just wouldn’t stop, I was soooooo piiiisssseeedddd off! I said a lot of the F word too, obviously!  I know they know that word. I think she she may have cursed me too, just once! I didn’t care, That’s when I started pouring them out in Xhosa. If you know me, you will know that I don’t even curse. I will say the F word when I am really angry, but that’s it! She wouldn’t take the charger back, she took the earphones, took out my 12 Lari and threw it on the counter. There was  an adaptor and a universal cellphone battery charger on it, it looked like they were battling to charge the battery, because they kept checking it and fixing it’s position on the charger. After she threw me my money, the coin fell in the adapter, I took my money and my charger, grabbed the adapter threw it with the cellphone batter and the charger on it as hard as I could on the floor. I opened the door and banged it on the glass shelf inside,showed them the middle finger and walked away. I WAS SO ANGRY!
I can easily say that was the most pissed off I have been in the 6months I have been here.

As I was walking away, I was shaking! I called my friends, 3 didn’t answer, one dropped the call, one asked me to call her back so I just talked to myself.  I didn’t care! They think I am an animal anyway!

You're an Ass-hole my friend!

Friday 2nd December
........ I don't know if my room-mates / carriage mates slept at all the night before, but I woke up and find them all staring at me. I suppose they were curious to see what a zangi (nigger) looks like first thing in the morning. I pulled my beanie (hat) down, trying to hide underneath it until I cleaned my face up. the stares wouldn't stop!
I cleaned myself up as much cleaning as you can achieve on a train. It was still early, around 6am and we were scheduled to arrive in Tbilisi at 07:25. I lay down again, and faced the wall, anything to avoid the stares. At 7 o'clock, someone scratched me in the centre of the palm of my hand. You know when someone's trying to 'seduce' you while you shake their hand, and they sneakily scratch the centre of the palm of your hand? Yup! They did that to me while they thought I was asleep. IGNORE! I woke up about ten minutes later.
More stares, more zangi jokes I couldn't understand, more pointing at me and laughing, more of the same stuff as the night before.

When we finally arrived in Tbilisi, I couldn't wait to get out! On my way out, I went over the 'English speaking' Stand up comedian and asked if he knew what an ass hole was. He was like, 'me?' DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN ASS HOLE IS OR NOT? 'ME?' YEAH, YOU! YOU'RE AN ASS HOLE MY FRIEND!
Then I walked away. Whether he got it or not, I couldn't be bothered, it just felt nice saying it to his face.
I went over to the booking side of the station to book my return ticket. After a long wait, when it was my turn, the lady said something in Georgian or Russian, who knows, who cares? I know I didn't understand her and everybody looked at me when she said it. She then walked away from the counter and started cleaning up her office. I thought she may have closed, but everybody else, behind me stayed in line. I was the only one that didn't understand what the heck was going on. Some of the guys in the queue tried to explain to me what was going on IN RUSSIAN (Georgian are convinced Russian is English!) and then they pointed to another queue. I know there's a lady that speaks English on the other counter, so I just went over there and queued all over again, trying not to let it get to me. I had had a long morning as it was. As soon as I left that queue, that lady went back to work, I guess she just didn’t want to help me. Fortunately, the other lady was willing to help. I got my ticket and took the metro (subway) to Marjanishvili.

The office opens up at 9:30 or something, I needed to collect something from them. I was early. I went to Mc Donald's for breakfast. Fortunately, the staff speaks English.
Do you speak English?
So So
Ok, how are you? (to see how so so her English was)
Thanks, you?
(Oh Lord!)
May I Please have a Mc Feast Deluxe?
A Mc Feast?
Do you sell a Mc Feast at all?
Do you know what a Mc Feast is?
Excuse me, sorry, WHAT?
Okay! Uhm, does anyone speak English here, because, clearly, you don't speak English at all.
One minute please!
(She calls another dude, that looks like he doesn't speak English.)
Not convinced that he would understand me - Hi, I'd like a Mc Feast De Luxe please?
Oh a Menu? No problem!
Okay, so nobody speaks English at THIS Mc Donald's! I'll take the menu thanks.
do you have a meal with  2 burgers and 2 cheeses?
2 Burger Patties?
(yess English!)
Yeah, have you got that? Wish two cheese slices?
blah blah blah, until English speaking staff showed up out of nowhere, like 3 or 4 of them! They must've been in English Speaker's training or meeting. It turned out they don't have Mc Feast at all. Sorry, I am not well clued up with the latest Mc Donald's menu, I'm in Georgia, there are only 4 Mc Donald's in the entire country, and none where I live.
I enjoyed my meal, or kinda did. There's something about Georgian Mc Donald's, it tastes like something's missing, like ketchup (tomato sauce) or something. And I don't even like tomato sauce!
They did nail my milk shake, I asked them to make it really thick, and they understood the word thick. Unlike the Indian restaurant where they thought thick meant really thin WITH LOTS OF ICE CUBES! (to make it super super weak!). Mc Donald’s 1 - Indian Restaurant 0.
They played really nice music. Lots of Mika, some of the songs I don't even know, but I love Mika, so yeah.

I called the office and told them I was already in Tbilisi, I needed directions to the office.
Me: I am at the Metro Station, won't you please direct me to the office, you can sms me the directions.
Office: Ok, no problem, it is very near, please go straight until you get to the office.
Me: Oh, that simple? Cool. Wait, Say I am in front of the Mc Donald's and I am facing the Metro, which direction should I go.
Office: go straight.
Me: Ok, this is an 4way street. There are 4 straight directions here, which one should I take? Should I walk up towards the ... Church or? Can you please explain to me?
Office: Go down the street....
Me: Oh, opposite direction to the Church?
Office: Yes, we are near the bank.
Me: Thanks, I will call you when I get to the bank
I walk down the street and see the said bank to my right, and another one across the street. Great! I look around for the office that supposedly clearly marked, and see nothing!
Me: Hi, I am in front of the bank, there are 2 of them! Where about are you?
Office: From the bank, please come this way and you will see the entrance to the office!
Me: Uhm, which way?
Office: You see the bank?
Come this way, we are on this side of the bank. Is there someone that speaks Georgian near you? Can you give them the phone? We are really not far from where you are.
Me: Not really, if you are close by, could you just direct me to where you are? ......
........ Until I found the office. Whew!

I got my document and headed for the Embassy, the reason I was in Tbilisi to begin with. My appointment was for the 8th of December, it was the 2nd, I was hoping for the best. I didn't want to wait until the 9th, it's too close to my departure date, what if there was a problem with my application? I wouldn’t have enough time to re-apply or something. It was snowy in Tbilisi, more snow than I've ever seen in Batumi. Parts of the city were warm, some were really cold. It was fascinating! I waltzed up the never ending drive-way praying a never ending prayer that they help me that dat. I got to the gate and the security recognised me from the first time I was there. He let me through, no questions asked. I was nervous and excited and confused and and and.
When I got in, I saw the guy that I talked to the first time I was there. He waved and disappeared into the offices. Oh Lord! Maybe he knows I don't have an appointment :( I was debating whether to be honest and appeal to their kindness by begging for their help or lying and telling them I had booked for that day and acting super confused and not impressed when they tell me my name was not on the list.
He came back and asked if he could help me. I had to bite my cheek because I knew I was about to lie through my teeth. I felt like he could see right through me, Which i why I never lie. I suck at it! I got caught too! He told me my name wasn't on the list. I stood there, blank faced, he called the call centre and they told him my appointment was the following wee. He came back and told me that because I had come all the way from Batumi, he would help me. I was glad he remembered and that my never ending prayer was answered. I just had to hope that I had all the required documentation.
Alas, I didn’t! He was so kind, he snuck me his email address and told me to scan him the missing document. Yesssss! I couldn't believe my luck! SUCCESSSSS!

I took the bus back to the city. I was on the phone the entire time. Sometimes that's the best thing you can do to avoid all the stares and the madness. I got off and wandered about while still on the phone. An old Georgian man walked, slowly towards me, he stuck his tong out and did that thing that perverts do with their eye-brows (think up and down motion). I may have thrown up in my mouth a bit! I crossed the street and encountered 2 gypsies. They cornered me, called me zangi, felt my skin, one of them kicked me in the leg. I wished I were dreaming. I wasn't, they followed me for a while. Nobody said a thing. I thought they wouldn’t, but they stopped and walked away. Whew!

I called my friend, D, spent some time with her at hers then we went over to her new bf's. After a little bit of awkwardness, that I won't get into, I decided to leave.
I prayed for a more peaceful train ride than the night before, And I got it! The next morning, I was back in Batumi - then Sarpi. I couldn't be happier to be back in my own little room, all by my lonesome!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

SMS-es from the ex host mom

My ex host mom's been texting me ever since I moved. A text per day, on average.
Here are some of them:
1) Hi least what  crimet we. What grieve. Why go there? So to speak implicitly. Sometimes go in a visit.
2) I am sad. Nothing undersand.
3) Heloy Babala,how are you?
4) Hi Babala.How are you.i am sad.for tomorrow bring money?what is the time waiting?
To which I responded: I told you to sms me your banking details. I'll pay you for the time I stayed in your house and for the time you fed me.
5) Ok.soon see
6) I am anything grieve? You want  leave me?
7) Heloy.shi live in sarpi?my vilich gonio.

Thursday Morning, I got a call from the Rep telling me ex mom wants her rent money, she told the rep I'd sent her a text she didn't understand and wants the rep to call me and find out. I wish they'd just forwarded each other the text, figured it out and sent me the banking details but noooooo!
I explained to the rep what I'd said on the text, she also wanted to know how much I was going to pay her. I also told her that the family has Internet, why wouldn't they use google translate? She said it's possible they don't have a bank account that's why she didn't understand what I meant by banking details. I asked her to find out from the host mom either way. Rep called me back and told me the host doesn't have an account and my only other option is to take the money to their house. I was like, 'with all due respect, I'm NOT GOING BACK TO THAT HOUSE! I KNOW SHE HAS A BANK ACCOUNT. SHE'S BEEN TRYING TO GET ME BACK TO THAT HOUSE EVER SINCE I LEFT AND THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!'. Rep then told me to give her the money at the office and she'll take it to the ex host. Fine by me.

I only have 2 classes on Thursdays. They're in the afternoon. I took the bus straight to the station to buy a ticket to Tbilisi. I didn't have cash with me. Assuming there would be an ATM near the station. For obvious reasons. There were 2. None of them my bank. I just withdrew enough for the ticket.
There was a dude behind the counter, he could've been security, or God-knows-what, he stared at me from the moment I walked in. I heard the lady that was helping me answering questions about all my personal details on the passport to this dude. I was boiling inside, ready to explode. I just wanted to buy a train ticket in peace. Nope! Not gonna happen! Not now, not here! I got my ticket, and was out before you could say GO.

I took a bus back to the city centre. It dropped me off halfway, I had to walk the rest of the way, it was cold and rainy. I was on the phone, when a gypsy approached me. I can't stand them! I don't trust them! I hate that I've to hold on to my valuables when I  See them as if I'm in Joburg CBD. And they like to touch! I've watched them, they don't touch Georgians, they target us foreigners. Sometimes they hang on to your arm or your leg, until you give them money. I'm glad that hasn't happened to me yet. Knock on wood! Anyway, he came toward me, filthy as hell, the hands were sticky and black. He said 'money! Money!' Before I realised it, I'd kicked him in the ass. LITERALLY! Infront of his mom and sister! His mom called him, he ran back to her, and I carried on towards school.

2 classes. Done!

I went to Bank of Georgia to pay for the insurance. I asked the guy at the information desk where the tellers were. Believe me, you would too! That bank's complicated. It's pretty though, I like it. The guy walked me to the tellers and stuck around to chat with his friends while we waited in line hoping for someone to help us asap. He kept one teller off her job, chatting up a storm. Finally my turn, dude walked over to the teller next to the one that was helping me. I heard her reading out all my personal details for the next teller and the random dude that brought me there. I wanted to die! I had to be nice. I needed a favour from her. I asked her if she could fax my deposit slip to the insurance people. I'd given her their business card where they'd written their details in Georgian. She told me she couldn't. I was like, really? Do you not have a fax machine? I asked this looking at the huge fax machine behind her. She told me they didn't. Okay then! I asked if she could call and tell them I've paid. She said she'd love to but she couldn't. Uhm, really? I looked at the phone that was on her desk right in front of me. She said yes, I can't. But if you give me their phone number maybe I can phone them for you. (Go figure!). I told her their number was on the business card in her hand. She asked for my number:
Me: 5 double 7
Teller: 557, and then?
Me: 5 DOUBLE 7!
Teller: 557 and then?
Teller: aah! Five five seven, and then?
Teller: aaaahhhhh! Five five seven
Me: (imploding) khuthi, svidi, svidi (577)
Teller: aaaahhh! Five seven seven.
She also called the insurance people for me, got me to sign a piece of paper that she FAXED to the insurance people. This is the same person that had told me she couldn't fax nor call the insurance for me because she didn't have a fax and a phone.

I then wandered about trying to find a photo shop for Visa photos. One website said they need 2 photos, the other said 3, I got 3. The guys in the shop were nice, they speak some English. One of them is also a Seaman. He walked me to the library where I was going to chill and use the Internet, to kill time as I was done with Visa arrangements and the train was only leaving at 10:25 pm.

Lo joined me at the library where I met a nice teacher from NY, we exchanged numbers. The library closed at 7. We walked to the bank, it was still open lights were off and they used candles. We decided to find another branch. We just needed an ATM anyway. On our way back from the ATM, a random guy commented about how not white we are.
Off to the pharmacy. 3 ladies were sitting behind the counter. They talked about us the moment we walked in. I know they were, because that's what they do. They giggled like little girls. I thought I'd have some fun with them and take take pictures of them on my blackberry.

Let's see how uncomfortable that would make them.
Lo needed moisturiser. I told her to ask them to recommend something. They gave her some green box. While looking at that, she needed to take something out of her bag. There was a till (cash register) by the door, with a chair behind it. Lo put her bag on the chair and did her thing. The lady almost died! She told her 'ar sheidzleba! (you may not do that!).  She told the chick to relax. I was busy boiling inside myself. I took pictures of her while she was being unreasonable with my fellow black sister.

 I told Lo to leave the bag right there while she shopped further. She was like, 'do you wanna give them a heart attack?' ERRR YEAH! She decided against it.
She didn't want the green boxed moisturiser they have her, as she handed it back to that chick, you should've seen the expression on her face, trying not to make contact with Lo's hand while she took the box back. I could've died! I told her 'let's touch all the stuff in here, and then leave!' She said, no it's ok! I was like, you know what? I can't do this, otherwise I'll end up in prison! I went outside. Not without leaving the door wide open. Just for the fun of it. It was nice and warm in there, I wanted them to come close the door themselves. I can't believe Lo bought something from those people. I'd never spend my money and support that kind of behaviour. Sorry!
We went to a cafe, chilled a little bit. I flirted with a waiter...
Lo approved, Thanks Lo, I knew I could count on you! But I think I'll pass.
 Marshrutka to the station. I tried to figure out which side my compartment was.

 I asked one of the stewards standing outside the train. As she directed me, the guy said something along the lines of this Zangi (nigga) was going to one of his carriages. Ar minda (I don't want...). I got in. There was a Russian lady sitting on the bed beneath mine. She was with 3 guys. They joked around with me. More and more people came over to see the Zangi. I told one of them, that spoke some English not to use that term. He apologised. An older lady that was sitting with us, told him what to say, I'd never heard that term before. I forgot what she said.
The three guys left. Some dude with spectacles came in. She screamed from afar that she spoke English. She made small talk with broken English. Some of the words seemed point blank made up. When I didn't understand him, he started making fun of me. All the guys around us came over and they were hosing themselves with laughter. Good times! I noticed that only the guys were laughing so whatever he was saying must have been really rude and below the belt. It was a stand up comedy show in out carriage. Not just the compartment, the entire carriage! I made my bed and slept in it. Literally :)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Hello Nigger!

Tuesday, 29 December A cold and rainy day in Sarpi (my new neighbourhood) and Batumi. I had my first few lessons and a break. I asked the Computer teacher if I could use the internet, I needed to fill out a visa application. No problem. I was almost done when the bell rang. I had a lesson and my co-teacher hadn't been to work for days. You can't save the application form, I had to log off and come back later and do it all over again. My teacher was at work that day. Great! I should've finished my application. The next lesson was replaced by a Maths class. Cool! I ran back to the computer room. I finished my application, printed out everything I needed online. And the visa application requirements. The first one was: please complete the form in CAPITAL LETTERS. Fabulous! This meant I had just wasted 2hours of my precious time. I kept it either way. And I had printed out a blank copy just in case. I thought that if they didn't accept the printed copy, I'd just re-do it by hand in caps. I had a 2class break where I quickly dashed out to Bank of Georgia. Where my friend told me she got her Travel Insurance. It started pouring. I was facing the direction of rain, which can't be good. I wasn't sure where the bank was. I had to ask around and hope for the best. Where they say something is, isn't necessarily where it is. So you've gotta ask a few people and still hope for the best. They could all be wrong, there are no guarantees. It was pouring into my eyes, I battled to keep them open. I found the bank. An English speaking Georgian lady offered to translate for me. They told me they don't sell insurance, and gave me a piece of paper with the insurance institution's number. More walking! I saw a dead body! I came by an intersection where I had to wait for a funeral procession to pass. A few man held an open coffin up. There was a middle aged woman in there, all made up and hair styled. A very disturbing site if you ask me!I kept walking. Two guys in a nice, black Mercedes ML SUV, drove by, the passenger, opened the window and yelled 'Hello Nigger!' Out. I generally don't react to such behaviour, but I did show him the middle finger. Note to self: don't do that again. Don't let them get a reaction out of you! I came by a branch of Liberty Bank on my way, and decided to ask if they sold insurance. There was an OPEN sign on the door. I walked in, there were 3 ladies in there (staff). Me: Hi, do you sell insurance?Them: Closed! Closed!Me: Do you sell insurance or not?Them: The bank is closed. Me: Obviously not! You are in here and so am I. Couldn't you just tell me if you sell insurance or not?Them: Power, no. Isa... No power! Me: Do you need power to tell me if you sell insurance or not? Do you speak English?Them: No. Pissed, I walked out, opened the door and left it wide open. It was freezing out and their little bank was nice and warm. (This is the same bank where, they told someone that was translating for me before to come back 15minutes later. They were closed and couldn't tell us if they had an ATM or not). I passed the street where my school is, and just kept walking. The roads were flooded because there are no drains here. If it rains, which is daily, the streets become flooded. I finally found the Insurance place. 'Hello! Please have a seat. How, er, what do you want?'. I need travel insurance, please. She called someone else, 'hello, I'm listening'. Man! This people use the strangest phrases in here! What happened to how may I help you? Or just plain, can I help you! I told her what I wanted, she told me to go BACK to Bank of Georgia and apply there. MAM! I JUST CAME FROM THERE! IT'S POURING RAIN, I HAVE TO GET BACK TO WORK, I CANNOT KEEP WALKING UP AND DOWN THE CITY! 'You didn't have to come here at all, we could've done the whole thing over the phone'. HOW WAS I TO KNOW THAT? THE LADY AT THE BANK TOLD ME TO COME HERE, SHE EVEN WROTE ME THE ADDRESS ON A PIECE OF PAPER. HERE IT IS! 'What I can do is, I'll take your information and give you the papers, but you'd have to go back to the bank and pay, come back here, give me the proof of payment before I can activate your insurance'. CAN I FAX OR PRINT IT TO You? 'Yes you can'. She had my passport in her hand and asked me where I'm from. IT'S ON MY PASSPORT IN YOUR HAND! She took down all my details, including what my job was before I came to Georgia. Go figure! In less than 5mins, I was done! Back to school! One class and I had another break. This time, I went to Liberty bank on the main street, I know that some of them kinda speak English and the manager definitely speaks English. I needed banks statements. I got to the bank, and they had three notices stuck on the door. All in Georgian. And the doors were locked. I had to keep walking to find another branch. It wasn't that far from there. They air conditioned the living daylights out of that place. It was boiling! I waited my turned, hoping not to die in there. When I was second in line, the teller just wouldn't finish. I waited! 5minutes, nah, not done, then I stopped counting. I had to get back to work. Me: Do you know how much longer you're gonna be?Teller: NoMe: you don't know how long you'll be?Teller: NoMe: Do you have an idea? I've gotta get back to work?Teller: No. Me: Do you speak English?Teller: NoA kind lady in front of me told me she speaks English 'what do you want?' (Which makes you wonder because she'd been there the entire time, she should've heard and understood what I was trying to ask the teller). I told her I need a bank statement and want to know how much longer before someone helps me, I've got to get back to work. 'Aaahhhh!' To the teller 'er, isa..(Fill in anything. Anything at all because I don't think she understood me). Back to me '*##@$"-+ *#R+!!:/;' (translate to something something in Russian'. Me: sorry, but can you say that in English? You said you speak English remember?'+@@?/62*6!o*#' (more Russian, maybe in her head, she's convinced she's speaking English. Poor thing was lied to all her life. She thought Russian was English. Aaawwww). She signalled for me to follow her into another office. I assumed that that lady spoke English. I told her I needed three month's bank statement. She told the 'English speaker ' that she doesn't speak English. LISTEN THIS IS NOT HARD, (I pointed at the PC monitor) SEPTEMBER, OKTOMBER, NOVEMBER (then I pointed at the printer). 'Aaaahhhh' I handed her my passport and my bank card. She printed out the statement, gave it to me and I was a gonner! SUCCESS! not. I had my last two lessons and an hour's break before my English club. During my last lesson, I double checked my paperwork and realised my names were spelt incorrectly on my bank statement. All three of them! Babalva Bruk (instead of Babalwa Brook) and my first name was spelt with a k instead of a c. Which means my initials were no longer CB but KB. How can that be right? I had to go back to the bank! I rushed there, in the rain, sooooo frustrated by how these people can never get anything right! Goddarnit!When I got there, I was fuming. 'Mobdzandit!' (Come here!). Dajeki (sit). I took a seat, pointed at my name on my passport and my bank card and pointed at the name on the statement from the same bank. Why would I think to check if my name is spelt correctly by my own bank? I have a bank card, with all my names spelt correctly from the very same bank. What happened? Ugh!She told her friend that she doesn't speak English and called another lady that also doesn't speak English. That lady repeated everything that lady said to me in Georgian. EXCUSE ME! DO You SPEAK ENGLISH? She called a third lady who also doesn't speak English to come 'translate'. She repeated what the other ladies were saying in Georgian. EXCUSE ME, DO You SPEAK ENGLISH? 'No!'WHY ARE YOU GUYS HERE? THIS IS SIMPLE, CORRECT MY NAME ON THE COMPUTER AND PRINT OUT THE STATEMENT. HOW HARD CAN THAT BE! They called another lady, into the mix. She looked like she could be the manager or something. She didn't speak English. I tried to explain to her in my non-existent Georgian (when I'm pissed off, I go completely blank and forget all the Georgian I've learnt over the months) that I cannot present that statement and my passport as proof that that's my statement if all the names are spelt differently. All that proves is that that's Not Mine! She said no problem and showed me the door. I called my regional rep and asked her to tell those people why I was there. She did. The teller, started typing in some stuff on the pc and I heard her ask where I was from, the other one told her America, as she was typing that in, I said EXCUSE ME, MY PASSPORT IS RIGHT INFRONT OF YOU! I'm FROM SOUTH AFRICA! 'Aaah!' Then she called someone, who I think speaks English, and asked me, 'are you married?'. NO I'm SINGLE, BUT WHAT'S THAT GOT TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF EGGS? PLEASE JUST CORRECT MY NAME AND LET ME GO!!!! (Ignored) 'What is your phone number?' NO! NO NONONONO! YOU'RE NOT GETTING MY NUMBER! THIS IS NOT AN APPLICATION FOR A BANK ACCOUNT! YOU'RE NOT GETTING ANYMORE EINFORMATION FROM ME! I called the rep again, and told her to tell those people what I wanted and to let me go. She talked to them for like 2minutes. Which made me wonder what they were talking about. She didn't give them my number. Then they gave me a form to fill in. It was in Georgian. I told them I wasn't going to sign it. I called the rep she said, 'uhhhh Hello Kanisa. ... Ok, Kanisa, in Georgia, if you want your name to be changed, you have to sign a form. It is just to say that you authorise the bank to change your name'. UHM, THAT'S NOT WHY I'm HERE! MY NAME HASN'T CHANGED, I'm THE SAME PERSON I WAS WHEN I CAME HERE! I JUST WANT THEM TO CORRECT A MISTAKE THEY MADE ON THEIR COMPUTERS. I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO FILL IN ANY REQUEST FORMS.'Please give them back the phone Kanisa. Five minutes later, my statement was printed with the correct names. I thought I had died of frustration, I called Michelle to see if I was still alive and whether someone on the other side of the phone could here me. 'Hello'. MICHELLE! 'Hello! Hello! Brook are you there? Hello? Brook! I can't hear you! Hello?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

My new Host Family

So my regional rep, with the help of my school director (principal), found me a temporary home. Just for until I go on my christmas break. It's 30mins outside Batumi, right by the Turkish boarder. I have to commute to work. Bus fare is 80 tetri (R3.20) to and fro).
the rep called me Friday night, she told me she found me a nice home with air conditioning, she also asked for a heater for me, just in case. they have hot water, 24/7 so that issue was covered as well.

I've an 11yr  host brother who goes to my school but not to any of my classes, a 17 year old host sister, a host mom and dad. So far, I think my host dad's (like all host dad's) nice, happy, and wants to make sure I'm comfortable in their home. The brother's just too cute. He has a permanent smile on his face. Host mom and sister, I haven't figured them out. Host sister stares at me ALL THE TIME. English speakers always say that Georgians stare because they're interested in us and don't speak English and therefore all they can do is stare? My host sister speaks English! She always sits at an angle where she'll have full view of me and will stare at me until I leave the room. When the family or myself, need her to translate, she'll say 'ar vitsi' (I don't know). For instance, if I say, 'ask your brother where he was yesterday at 6, we had an English lesson'. She's say, 'yes'. That's it. Or if the family' asking something about me, which they know she doesn't know because they all don't know me. Instead of asking me, she will tell them she doesn't know. So there's hardly any communication between the family and I.  We do try though. I use the call a friend card and ask Lo to translate or talk to them.
This is a guest house but because it's off season, there's no business. I think that's why they can host me temporarily. It's a 4 storey house. They're still building it. It's new and damp and therefore VERY COLD and it's on the mountain. Right by the sea. Again, very cold. Nice view, but cold!

Turkish border gate on the left and the Black sea on the background.

 I've my own entrance to my room, and own bathroom. GOLD!

that's me in the mirror:)

 No more Georgian poo sightings. At least for 3weeks.
So far, I've been fed. I've to go to the main house for meals, but they've called me since I've been here. Don't know how longs that's going to last for. Yesterday, I got home at 7:30. I was on the phone, I had to let my friend go so I could go have dinner. Either there was nobody in the house or everyone was already asleep. It was dark. I wasn't about to go make myself something to eat in someone's house. First find the lights switch, then stumble my way to the kitchen to find the kitchen switch and then look for food. I haven't been to their kitchen and they haven't told me to prepare own meals. Usually, they tell you.
I toyed with the idea of going to the shops to buy something and I was like, in this cold? Heck no!
I did hear voices and foot steps around 10pm. Maybe the family was out.
Can I just add that, it's very very cold here? I've a small heater. I mean small.

 Host dad has asked me if my room's warm enough, (I think that's what he meant). I told him nope. He asked if I don't have a heater, I told him I do but it's too small. It really is small. Believe me. Then I heard the nice cousin, that was here for the weekend, say something that sounded like they should give me the bigger heater. That was it. No comment.
Needless to say, contrary to what the rep had told me before my move, there is no air conditioner in this house. And my bathroom water is almost luke warm, if that's possible. My first day here, someone had to heat up a wood gyser for me and I used a random bathroom, somewhere random. They also told me that there is no hot water in the mornings, I'd have to shour at night, go to bed clean and ....well, that's it!
I opted to just familiarise myself with my luke warm shower.

I asked the family for an extension chord. I got one for 3 plugs or whatever those things are called. Perfect! Turns out the one in the middle's damaged, and burnt. So, we're down to 2. Still better than one, I can connect laptop and hard drive. Uhm, when you plug something in, you hear a shhhh sound because the thing's burning the metal in your plug, then it kicks in. So everytime you use it, you have to hold thums, pray, think positively, or do whatever It is you believe in.

Yesterday morning, I heard the shhhh sound on the wall socket where the actual chord's plugged in. That's right above my bed. I was like fffccckkkk! I gotta take this out, QUICK! I pulled it out. HARD! Nah, won't come out, oh craaapp! Should I be using my hand! Heck yeah, there's no other way, I did it! Then I folded the chord up and gave it back to my host mom on my way to work. The thing with their wall sockets is, they don't have on and off switches. You plug your thing in, and you're ready to go!
Two days ago, not too long after the cousin had suggested I get the bigger heater after my host dad asked if I'm cold here, the host sister came into my room. Headed straight for my heater. I was like yaaayyy! She disconnected it, I went in the bathroom, when I came back to watch the rest of the movie,  she was gone and the heater was still here. The chord was gone and the computer had been disconnected and had subsequently shut down. I plugged the pc on the wall and had to figure out where I'd stopped with the movie.
She brought it back about ten mins later and said, sorry. I think someone told her to say so.
aaand my bed(s)
My co to teacher asked if I like it here. I told her it's ok. I mean, I don't know these people and they don't know me yet. She went ahead and told the director that I'm in love with this place and the family and I want to stay here until my contract ends next year.
I'm not sure how I feel about all that.