Thursday, April 7, 2011

Description of pictures:

Stalin’s toilet in his private train car
Me on Stalin’s bed
Me looking stoic next to a statue of Stalin and behind me the mausoleum that incases the home where he grew up
Op’plis’eikay an ancient community of cave homes that had a church built on top of it. It was really windy here.
The Armenian Georgian border how many Mercedes and BMW’s can you count?
Met’sceta the old capital of Georgia and the second kingdom to accept Christianity as a state religion after Armenia making it the second oldest Christian country in the world
Fortress around a church
Church along the Georgian Military Highway in the lower Caucuses range
Kazbeghi the second highest mountain in Europe in the distance
Laoura Daniel and myself sporting typical Georgian shepherds wear. The hats are made of sheep’s wool and smell as bad as bad as they look.
The old fort built by the Persians overlooking the city of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital
Saint George slaying the dragon and the name sake for the country of Georgia


Two weeks ago I went on what will probably be my last vacation during my Peace Corps service which by the way will be finished in just 4 and a half more months. I went to Georgia with my friend Julianne (whose dad dated Martha Stewart). Georgia is the country right above Armenia on the map and the largest in the Caucuses. It might pop into memory because of its 2008 war with Russia.
Georgia was a pretty cool country. They have their own unique alphabet, really good food, great wine and mineral water and a fascinating group of over 10 nationalities woven into a small country. And if you’re a fan of Greek mythology Georgia is the place where Jason found the Golden Fleece and they still have a small Greek community in Georgia. Julianne and I went to a restaurant named Khengali House where they serve the Georgian national dish Khengali, a dumpling with meat, mushrooms, cheese or potatoes inside. My favorite was the potato. Anyways, as we were sitting at the restaurant three guys from the table next to us came over, two Mengrelians (a Georgian community on the Black Sea coast) and an Azeri. They told us a bit about their history and about Tbilisi the capital of Georgia and how to toast in Georgian. It’s easy; you make your speech and then drink a full wine glass of wine. So don’t toast too much otherwise you can’t enjoy your meal or get up the stairs later. And speaking of stairs I was walking up some when a gypsy girl grabbed my leg and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t know what to do so I kept walking awkwardly up the stairs.
We also met two nice girls one from Poland and one from Latvia and a guy from Germany who we traveled around with. We went up to Kazbeghi the second highest mountain in the Caucuses and coincidentally the second highest in Europe. Just across the border was Chechnya a place that was virtually destroyed by the Russians in the 1990’s and 2000’s in the Chechens bid for succession. We stopped at some beautiful and ancient churches along the way and saw some really beautiful mountain scenes. The snow was piled above the taxi at times.
The most interesting historical place we went was the home of Joseph Stalin who was a Georgian by birth, a Russian by choice and a son of a bitch by trade. The small cabin he grew up in was enshrined in a marble mausoleum and the museum dedicated to him was dark and cold, very Soviet I thought, and full of interesting gifts he had received over his nearly thirty year campaign of mass terror. The Georgians actually still revere him as a famous person from Georgia and some statues of him still stand around the country long after most other Soviet countries pulled them down.
The ride to Georgia and back was incredible. The north of Armenia is incredibly beautiful with winding mountains, rivers and forests along the entire route. We rode back with two nice Iranian men who were celebrating the Iranian New Year. Drinking in Iran is banned so many Iranians come north to the Caucus for that. And the streets of Yerevan were full of people from the Islamic Republic looking for a place to party. All of them were super friendly and nice, so don’t be fooled by what George W. tells you.
The weather here in Armenia has changed. After five months of bitter cold and darkness snow and ice the weather has warmed and the snow has melted. The sun stays up until 9 o’clock and people can be seen on the streets again. It is still a little cold but that will change soon. And in just a month and a half the school year will be over. Summers in Armenia are a lot of fun. The country is green and fresh fruit and vegetables are everywhere. You can get a kilo of tomatoes for less than fifty cents.
My Skype is working so if you want to add me look up Michael_T_Anderson I want to talk. And this weekend I’m going to see Aida at the opera house in Yerevan. Who would have thought you could do such things in Peace Corps?