drew's blog

there & then (part 2)

February 10, 2011
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In my new seat I spent what felt like hours in limbo-in this case, the space between being awake & asleep.  It turned out to be 40 minutes.  Then I sat up & reached for my guitar.  I haven’t played James Taylor or Stephen Fretwell for some time, but for some reason that’s what I ‘picked.’  When I got bored of that, I set my guitar down & as I was doing so, I heard, “Thank you, that was a treat.”  It was Penelope.

I didn’t even realize she was sitting next to me.  I was still in limbo.  Flying is exhausting, especially when you’re nervous the whole time you’re in the air.  Penelope doesn’t get nervous about flying.  Her visa had expired in Israel or something & she had to leave for a spell.  She had just returned from a tiny hiatus in Poland & was waiting for the same train as I.  Penelope is from Australia.  Or was it New Zealand.  I think it’s Australia.  She has no family to speak of.  She’s got to be 60, at least.  She’s got a a boy-cut for hair & piercing blue eyes.  Most blue eyes are.  She generally looks worn-out, but the good kind of worn-out.  Not from drugs or alcohol or any other vice or sin but from enduring in careful work.  It’s how I want to look.   She’s volunteering service in Jaffa & has been there for a year.

I told her this was my first time to the Land & that already, I was probably a suspect.  I told her about what happened with my luggage.  She laughed hard.  Not the kind of laugh that’s half natural, half forced, & still hard. But the kind of laugh that links people unconsciously.  For a moment, we were the same age.  After another couple zingers about bombs, I made myself simmer.  When she settled, I asked her if she was Christian & she was.  I said, ”Me too,” and that that’s really what my trip was all about-a peaceful journey to grow closer to God through Christ.  I also wanted to re-up my energy to continue teaching in Georgia.

A negro janitor came by & saw my bottle of water on the floor.  He gestured as if to take it & I told him ‘No, thank you.’  He made a face, I think because it was empty.  What he didn’t consider is that I had plans to refill it so that I didn’t have to pay $3 for every bottle.  He lingered by.

Negro.  I don’t know if  ‘black’ works in Israel, although, I suppose the difference is the same.  African Israelian?   Here, we shall call him Efah.

Efah is a small man who was one of the darkest men I’d ever seen.  Some negro people are light skinned, maybe because they’re mulatto or something.  Others are dark, but they have a shine to their skin.  Efah was so dark, he had no shine.  He looked like he got plucked straight out of Ethiopia & dropped in the airport.  I don’t think he even spoke Hebrew (which I really want to learn).

Penelope asked me my denomination.  I told her I’d been raised Catholic but converted to LDS (Mormon) when I was 19.

“I think that we’re meant to progress through different religions before we land where we’re supposed to, ultimately, closer(closest) to God,” she said.

I chortled.  “Yeah, maybe you’re right.  For some people, anyway.”  There was a pause & then she asked about my guitar playing -how long? Who do I like?  What do I want to do with it? -that sort of thing.  I told her she probably wouldn’t know any of the musicians I liked, except for James Taylor, but I did mention Age Pryor (from New Zealand) & Tommy Emmanuel (from Australia).  “I’ve been playing for about 7 or 8 years & I suppose I want to do what everyone else does: play my songs & let people know it’s all ok if you use your body for love… The recognition & fame & all that’s fine too.”  She smiled & I reached for my guitar when I noticed Efah was there again gesturing for a half-eaten bag of potato-chips.  I grabbed it & started eating the rest.  Penelope was laughing hard again.  I found myself thinking I’d rather be a comedian than a Musician.  I would too.  But I’d rather be a funny musician than a musical comedian.  Efah was happier to know this time there was a reason he could not  have the trash.  It wasn’t yet trash.  Penelope & I discussed whether or not we should give him SOMEthing; an old wrapper we had stuffed in our pockets, a piece of note-paper we no longer needed.  It felt a little too much like giving a table-scrap to a dog, or a bread-crum to a pigeon.  He was gone anyway.

Finally, it was time to go catch our train.  Originally, Penny (yep, I’m calling her Penny now), was heading to a different location via another train, but she decided to catch a bus from where I was going.  I told her I could use the help getting to the right place.  I left a wrapper & the potato-chip bag for Efah & Penny escorted me to the train.  I really believe Efah was happy to have something to do that wasn’t just walking around looking unbusy.  He could’ve gotten fired had I not left that trash.

We arrived at the platform & Penny confessed she wasn’t sure which train to get on.  We asked an employee whose shift had just ended if she could help.  She told Penny what she needed to know & then basically held my hand until I got on my bus for Jerusalem.  Sometimes I forget how good people are.  We make friends & then stick to them.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just that those friends gain more  & more power to hurt you & you them because of how deeply you know each other.  I like meeting new people.  It’s easy to go the distance with ’em.  They are often their best selves when they’re new to someone.  Call it a complex, but I think it’s a nice idea knowing that strangers can’t hurt you emotionally.  Especially when it’s the last thing I want to do to them.  And if by chance they say something at random that happens to bring tears or pain or what have you, you’re defenses are down because they don’t know you.  You let them in & you let them help.  This is eternal mercy, and evidence of God.

At one point in our conversation, sitting in the airport, waiting for the train, I was telling Penelope my feelings about being in Georgia & returning home.  I started to go a bit sour, expressing frustrations & worries over the pleasantries & joys.  Penelope stopped me, held a finger out (up) & simply said, “He knows.. He knows.”  I don’t think she just wanted me to shut up.  She believes that, & reminded me that I do too.   To be continued.

To friends:  Thank you for going the distance with me; for allowing me to forget the concept that one of us has control.

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here & now

February 2, 2011
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I’ve been back in Georgia for 3 weeks. Time has flown & I’m choosing to take that as a good sign (originally typed ‘god sign’ by accident..)  School has been back in session for almost 2.  It’s been an exciting start.  Everyone seems happy I’m back & I feel the wame way.  Strangely enough, when I arrived at the airport in Tbilisi, I felt like I was almost home.  I approached the baggage claim carousel & on the screen it read ‘Tel-a-wiwi’.  After getting my bags I walked out to the lobby expecting to see someone from the program.  Instead it was a random friend of a friend of the program whose English extended as far as my name, airport, taxi, & money.  He took me to what he called a hotel & I would call some lady’s house.  It was a hostel, but it was located 4 flights up with no elevator.  I was lovin’ every minute of it.  The next day, I found my way back to Kutaisi where i stayed in another ‘hotel/lady’s house’ until my host-teachers could find me a host family.  After a week of no luck (and perhaps no effort. I love this country), finally push came to shove when the owner of the house I was staying at called my host-teacher & said I had to go.  I don’t know why.  I was rarely home.  It might have been an issue of payment.  I certainly wasn’t going to pay -not my responsibility.  So on a Saturday morning, I was enjoying a rare occasion to sleep in & my host teachers & some of my students even show up to help me move.  I had clothes & books everywhere.  They through my things in bags & we were out the door.  We walked about a block when I was told to leave my stuff with one of the students (who ended up losing my capo -a very necessary piece for my guitar & my music) & come with my host teacher.  This was all worth it.  Later that evening I was taken to a house that would be all mine.  And that’s where I currantly stay.  I want the experience of living with a Georgian family, but I really like living alone.  Besides, 3 months with the Datuadze’s was enough.  I think we’re all better off.

About classes, I have less than last semster because some take place simultaneously.  I’m okay with that.  I’ve learned something this past week.  Many students are educated privately outside of school.  They take English, Georgian, Math, Geography, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, & others.  School is the place they go to goof off with friends, unless they’re female.  Females tend to study diligently wherever they are.  There are some good boys but they’re rare.  For this reason, I spend as much time with Tiniko teaching after school as I do teaching at the school.  Anyway, it’s all good.  Almost all the children in the younger grades do everything required of them.  It’s the 8th grade boys that don’t give a damn. We have fun, though.  It’s been a pleasant start to the new semester.

There & Then

Israel.  Wasreal.  Realgood.  I had such an uplifting time walking in the footsteps of The Savior & His prophets.  But I’ll type about that in a bit.  I want to take you day by day starting from the beginning.  I think I was more scared on this flight than on any other with the exception of my first ever flight from Ontario, California to Salt Lake, Utah.  There’s been times when I’ve floan pretty much unbothered, but I remember being nervous for my flight from Chicago to Amsterdam last year, & this flight to Tel-Aviv was even worse.  ANYWAY.  Normally, I’d think it pathetic to applaud a landing, but when all the Georgians on my flight started clapping as we touched down, I almost did too.  Then I thought, ‘We SHOULD clap!’  We just sat on a chair moving through the sky at 400 mph, 5 miles up! Yeah, I know.  They say you have a greater chance of dying on the road than in the air.  It’s not true.  I don’t care about statistics. 72% of all stats are made up on the spot…  I believe in my gut & while I’m in the air, it tells me that if ANYthing goes wrong with this plane, YOU WILL DIE.  But we landed, all plane parts and body parts in tact.  I had to spend the night at the airport and wait for a train & bus in the morning.  I found a seat, plopped down & after about a minute of that, I decided to do some browsing.  I went straight for the junk food & book shop.  This was a delight.  It seemed that Israel has everything Georgia doesn’t.  I wanted to buy a boat load of books right then, but there was no way I was going to purchase any merchandise in an airport.  I had to rationalize food, but I was hungry.  When I returned to my seat, my luggage was gone.  I should have known better than to leave a suitcase lying around in an airport, especially in the place where people have been warring for land rights for centuries, even if it was only for 3-4 minutes.  I asked the ladies sitting nearby if they saw anything.  They pointed to the employee who removed my things from the building who reproved me not to leave my stuff unattended & then took me to where it was.  I pulled it back inside & sat down, in a different seat.  To be continued..

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I'm currently teaching English in the republic of Georgia. I started this blog so that those I love & those interested can read all about my experience.