Back in the (former) U.S.S.R

It’s a 30-hour trip from California to Georgia. The time difference is 12 hours. Needless to say, things are a bit rough the first few days after arrival. Unless you manage to sleep the entire way. I didn’t even take melatonin. I just slept…from Sacramento to LA. From LA to Munich, and from Munich to Tbilisi. I arrived so energized and perky, I found myself annoying. I was so excited to be back in Georgia, I wanted to skip through the streets and sing.

However, there was that unfortunate part: I was, again, actually expected to work while I was there.

Before this trip, I had hired a Russian grad student from a local university to tutor me. She and I had run through the basics, drilled on vocabulary, and conjugated verbs until I pled for mercy. She had very little mercy. I suspect she may still speak of my substandard study habits with a slight shudder.

But I was back, slightly more functional than before, and ready to try out my marginally polished up (yet still appalling) Russian. Oh, and work. And possibly, just possibly, eke out a few weekends exploring the country.

And then the universe sent me what I can only describe as one of the Best Gifts Ever. It sent me a friend.

Not just any old friend, mind you: Everyone who travels to foreign countries should find a friend like this. A friend who is the same age. A friend who is very smart, very cool. A friend with a great sense of humor. Oh, and did I mention this friend is fluent in English and Russian, and pretty damn good at Georgian? No? I should probably also mention that she loves to travel, was planning trips to the Georgian countryside every weekend, and invited me along…

Never one to turn down a gift, I immediately joined forces with her. Our first weekend out, she took me to Racha. We stayed in a dacha in Racha. (Yeah, I did that on purpose.)

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