Please note that the contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
I've put off posting about this weekend, but I figure I should say something. I won't be posting pictures here (other than the title photo). The timing for that just feels wrong. Read on and you'll understand. I'll post them somewhere eventually.
This past weekend, Lexi organized five of us PCVs for a brief road trip. Lexi, Randi, Zack, Christy, and myself converged on Kutaisi where we met up with Gaga, a friendly driver and friend of Jill (another PCV).
The first stop was the Okatse Canyon (a model of which is seen in the cover photo). This trail was decidedly non-horizontal until we got to the canyon itself. Then we walked on a rusted suspended walkway on the side of the canyon to a lookout point. The view was phenomenal, but you're not allowed to go all the way down to the water. That's a good thing because that's a heck of a vertical. Surprisingly, there' no bungee jump set up there.
The second stop was the Kinchkha Waterfall. This was even less horizontal. I'd swear at times the road had a 30 degree slope in blazing sun. We were also mocked by the cars that someone drove through the roadblock to park at the top, proving once again its who you know or at least that you should time your approach with the guard's smoke breaks. The falls themselves were amazing. There was swimming and climbing yo be had. Also a charlie horse, that part really sucked for me. The rock formations and the ruin built over one of the sections gave this location a depth of beauty not commonly found. This location also proved a popular spot in the late afternoon as people were arriving and starting cook fires. One group even slaughtered a goat to cook up.
The next day soreness, but we gathered for a period of reflection and late breakfast at a Kutaisi restaurant before going our separate ways. I spent the next couple of hours shopping for materials with my director for our English Cabinet and the upcoming METS Camp. It was after this that the weekend declined.
The marshutka ride home was onerous to say the least. For those that don't know, these are vans modified to just carry a lot of people, often time with less than comfortable leg room. This one was roomy on the inside, but the driver should have invested that money in the engine because we broke down in Zestaponi. After 30 minutes, the driver got a battery from someone else's car to jury-rig the marsh and we were on our way... one passenger short. She just stepped out to buy a drink and the driver wouldn't stop for her. His gear shift has major issues. Every time he stopped, it would take many tries to shift gears again, which just led to more engine issues. Fortunately for the woman we broke down again less than 100 meters up the hill. She caught up by hitchhiking and chewed the driver out (she also have 4 bags on the marsh). A few more tries and we were off again, then broke down again. It was while we were stranded in the highlands that I got the text from my director: my host grandfather died.
Soso Gogoladze (aka Babua Soso) was many things. He was sometimes the surrogate dad that I could barely understand. He spoke in a low rumble of a voice that even some Georgians had trouble with. He was also my school's deputy director and math teacher. Although he could come down hard on students (school discipline was part of his job as deputy director), he cared for them immensely and was always quick to laugh. His work as a math teacher spilled over to home where he tutored students from all over the town and surrounding villages. With me and the host kids he took a keen interest in helping us when we embarked on some building project. He was also always quick to offer a drink to one and all. He and I were the only residents in our upstairs. Now it almost feels lonely up here. Soso will be missed but not forgotten.
I did eventually make it home. The marsh died one final time just past Chiatura. The driver managed to get someone else to drive us the rest of the way after a good 15 or 20 minutes. The two hour trip had become four, plus the walk home from where we were dropped off. The house was empty. I know at least some of the family is at the village in mourning. The kids returned this morning though, quite crestfallen, and hugs did little to help. Even though Soso didn't stay here much this summer, the house feels even emptier knowing he won't return.