Visiting friends and looking for Sparta’s family

The past week was all about visiting friends.

First, we visited our friends Mustafa and Sibel in Kemer. We met them in December, when Tamara’s family was visiting. They were so welcoming in December and it was exactly the same now. We stayed longer than we had planned, enjoying their lovely company. We also swam in their pool, ate some delicious food and explored Kemer a bit more. I think we could have stayed here for another week. And we might have, if it wasn’t so hot! Even at night, it would still be over 25 degrees, which made it pretty hard to sleep. Luckily, we could keep our windows open, since we parked next to Mustafa’s house. When we go wild camping, it doesn’t always feel safe to do this. Especially in this area, where there aren’t many off grid places. There are houses and hotels everywhere!

After our wonderful stay in Kemer, we drove up North, towards Isparta. Since we had some trouble finding a good place to park for the night, we decided to drive up Davraz mountain. This was the place we went skiing for one day in December. We found a great and quiet place for the night and the next morning, we were planning on driving to Isparta. Before we did, we decided to drive to the little town where we had found Sparta! We hoped to see his mom there, or maybe his siblings. Unfortunately, we had no luck. We did take Sparta out of the car and walked around his birthplace for a while. No idea if he still remembered any of it, but he always enjoys a walk!

In Isparta, we stayed with our friend Farzane. It was fun to be back in the city where we worked in December. We got a haircut (our last one was here as well, over 7 months ago), did some shopping and went for drinks in the places we liked. After 2 days we said goodbye again, to head towards the West. We want to explore the coast above Izmir a little more and we will also visit Canakkele. We have heard that it’s a really fun city.

What’s next?

A question we ask ourselves almost weekly. If it wasn’t for Corona, we would have been in Kirgistan by now. But we are not, we are actually driving in the opposite direction.

So, what’s next I hear you think. Well, we wish we knew! There really aren’t many options at the moment. Our car was only allowed in Georgia until September, so we couldn’t stay there for much longer. Georgia has many bordering countries (Armenia, Azerbeidzjan, Russia and Turkey) but because of Corona, Turkey was the only country we could enter. So we did, since we really enjoyed our previous months in Turkey. There is still a big part of Turkey that we haven’t seen yet, thus, this seemed like the best option for us now.

We are now in a part of the country called Anatolia, in the South East. It’s very different than what we have seen before. We love being back in Turkey! There are very good roads, delicious foods and friendly and welcoming people.

At the moment, we are doing a Workaway close to a city called Dogubayazit. We’re working at a huge cow farm. It’s the biggest in the South East and it’s working according to EU standards. We get up pretty early in the morning and start the day with some weeding. The farm has a big vegetable garden, but it’s really overgrown. We usually work for 2 to 3 hours and then we enjoy a warm lunch, cooked by the staff. After lunch, we relax, go for a walk, look around on the farm and sometimes water some of the fruit trees. It’s over 30 degrees every day, so it’s usually too hot to work during the afternoon.

At night, we help feeding the calves, definitely our favourite job here! There are about 40 of them. The older ones drink from a bottle themselves, but we feed the younger ones by hand. So cute! Every day, we look forward to this moment! A couple of days ago we witnessed a new calf being born, this was very special.

We will leave this place on Saturday and explore the South East of the country a little more. After that, we will slowly drive up to Antalya to meet some of the people we met 8 months ago and to (hopefully) get the radiator fixed. After that, it’s really all still up in the air. We only have a 3-month visa for Turkey, so we need to think about our next destination, but Corona makes that almost impossible. We could try to go back into Europe, but because of some Dutch ‘car rules’, this is a very tough thing to do. Besides, Sparta’s test results really weren’t sufficient. Another option would be to go back into Georgia, but with a mandatory, very expensive quarantine and us having seen most of the country, this doesn’t sound very appealing. So, to be honest, we can’t really answer the question of what’s next. We will just wait and see and live in the moment.

Georgian hospitality

We’ve been in Georgia for more than 5 months now. When we first entered the country, our expectations were pretty high. Not only about the nature and the culture, but also about the people. A lot of Turkish people had told us about the hospitality of the Georgians. We found it hard to believe that it could be even better than in Turkey. The people there were all so welcoming and friendly, how could it be better? Even our guidebook and some online source mentioned the hospitality, so our expectations were sky high.

To be honest, the first couple of months were kind of a letdown… Maybe because it was winter, but we really didn’t see much hospitality at all. We hardly met anyone, since people were inside a lot. Hardly anyone tried to communicate with us and there weren’t many smiles at all. Most people just stared at the ground or looked a little grumpy. We were pretty disappointed and sometimes even longed back to the nice Turkish mentality. Adding to this fact that the weather was pretty bad the first months we were here, we have to admit: Georgia was not one of our favorite countries at all.

Luckily, things have changed! We are not sure what caused the change, maybe it really has to do with the season and the sun, but boy have we noticed the hospitality lately! Georgians love to go out for BBQs and picknicks and just this past week, we were invited to two of those! Not by people we know, just by random strangers on the edge of a national park.

We spent the last couple of days in Borjomi National Park. Tiny was parked just outside the entrance of the park, in a big picnic area. When we got back from a short hike to a pretty church, two very friendly ladies came up to us. “Modi, modi” (which means come, come), so we followed them and were invited to sit with them. They were having a big family picnic and they really wanted us to join in. Unfortunately, the only one who spoke some English was an eleven-year-old girl. But, with our little bit of Russian and the little girl’s English, we were able to communicate and we had a really fun afternoon with some delicious ‘Shaslick”.

The next day, we got up early to go on a long hike. The hike was rough; the way up was very steep and we even needed our hands to climb up some parts. The view on the top, however, made up for it! When we got back in the afternoon, we just wanted to put our feet up and not do anything at all. We did joke around a bit, because there was another BBQ going on and all the smoke was blowing in our direction: ‘hmm, maybe they will invite us too’.

It was only a minute after we said this and a man came walking in our direction with some Shaslick. He told us to follow him. It’s very hard to say no, because they really insisted and so we did. There were about 20 people on the benches: all teachers from a nearby village. They were having an end of the year BBQ and said they would be honored if we would join them. We had a blast: we enjoyed a meal with 6 courses, sang, danced and had a fantastic afternoon. Again, there was only one lady who spoke English (the English teacher), but that didn’t spoil the fun! It was so nice of them to invite us. We don’t think we would ever ask two random strangers to come and join in on our parties back home and share all our food and drinks. But who knows, maybe we would by now!

Besides these invitations, we have had a lot of people coming up to us lately to invite us for drinks or just to give us food (lots of watermelon, so far). We also got so much wine, we almost get more than we drink! By now, we can definitely say that we were wrong in the beginning: Georgians are super hospitable!

One of our other highlights this week was visiting the cave town Vardzia. Around the year 1200 it was built by ‘King’ Tamar and her dad and it was exposed due to a big earthquake. The city is humongous. We walked around for almost 2 hours and still didn’t visit all the caves, tunnels and ‘houses’ that were there. We did walk a ton of stairs and small tunnels; some were pretty scary too! We spent the night on the hill facing Vardzia, it was beautiful! We also went to a lovely castle in Akhaltsikhe and because of Corona, the entrance was free. It was a huge complex with even a mosque inside!

To end this week’s blog, let’s talk about what we are going to do tomorrow. It’s our never-ending story; we will visit another mechanic. This morning, we were all out of coolant, again. Whenever a mechanic ‘fixes’ our radiator, it always only seems to last for a couple of weeks. Maybe they all use the ‘Egg trick’ our friend Lex told us about. Who knows… Hopefully they will be able to fix it for real one day, preferably tomorrow. We still want to drive up some high mountains and we don’t feel comfortable doing that with a broken radiator. So, please cross your fingers for us!

Another week in Tbilisi

When we entered Tbilisi last week on Friday, it was exactly one month ago that we had left. The main reason for coming back was that we needed some things done: the best places to do that is here in the capital, where most people speak English.

We’re staying in an AirBnB very close to the city center and the park; it’s the one we stayed in before. It’s actually pretty nice to be back and it almost feels like we are home again. By now, we have managed to get most things done: we went to the dentist, Sparta has had his castration and the car is fixed, once again (we hope).

Getting your car fixed is such a different experience than in The Netherlands though. Here, people don’t do the annual checkups like we do. Georgians only go to get their car fixed when something is broken. The only thing in Tiny that is really broken, is the leaking radiator. However, it doesn’t always leak. When we got to the garage, of course it didn’t. So, we couldn’t show the problem. Besides this, unfortunately, the three mechanics didn’t speak English at all, so it was quite a challenge to tell them what we needed to get done.

Besides having the radiator fixed, we mainly wanted a good check, but that didn’t really seem possible. After one hour of waiting, standing around the car and trying to communicate, the mechanics told us that we could leave and that we would get a phone call at 5 o ‘clock. They kept our English list with things we wanted done, told us they would fix ‘everything’ and then we left.

A little after 5, we gave them a call and we understood the word ‘modi’, which means ‘come’. So, we took a taxi (there is an Uber-like service here that is very cheap and super-efficient) back to the garage. Tiny was ready for us and we had to pay about 200 euro. Of course, we wanted to know what they actually did before handing in the money, but even with someone translating for us, we still don’t know everything… They said they fixed the radiator and fixed some other things, but we still are not sure what they did exactly. We will just have to trust them. Time will tell if our radiator is really fixed this time. We certainly hope so!

Besides getting all the things done, we are also enjoying our time in the city! It’s so nice to see that things are slowly opening up again! Of course, with a lot of Corona measurements, like everywhere: we have to wear face-masks in every shop and before entering a shop (or having a coffee/food at a restaurant) we also have our temperature measured. It’s a bit annoying, but at least things are open again!

Yesterday we went shoe shopping, which was a challenge! Some shops are very strict and yesterday we ended up buying shoes before even trying them on. Trying on shoes is not allowed because of Corona and so we had to buy the shoes first, go outside to try them, get back in to exchange them and so on! Luckily it didn’t take long to find the right pair.

During our stay here, we also met up with some of our friends. On our first night back, we enjoyed a night with the people that we had been travelling with before. Most of them were back in Tbilisi and it was very nice to catch up. However, we did have to leave ‘before the party was over’: our hosts called us to tell us that there were 5 police cars next to our van. Apparently, one of the neighbours had called the cops because Sparta was barking in the van and they were worried that someone had forgotten about him. It was late at night and not hot at all. Sparta is really used to sleeping in the van at night, but with all the things going on in the street he must have woken up and started barking in the front seat. We usually put him in his box, but he is too big now and we just let him stay in the van. We always leave a note in the window to call us if something is wrong, but we guess our neighbours didn’t see it.

Luckily, our host could convince the cops that it is Sparta’s house and that he is used to being in there (with food and water). By the time we made it home (pretty freaked out, because we were worried that maybe they had broken Sparta out), he was asleep, and all the police cars were gone. Because of this adventure, we have now bought a ‘barrier’ to make sure that Sparta doesn’t go up to the front anymore.

We’ve only been here for a week, but with all these little adventures, it feels a lot longer! I guess we also know the city pretty well by now and have been to a lot of different areas. We take a walk around a part of the city pretty much every day. Today, we ran into two of our friends from Gudauri! I guess you know that you have been in a country for too long, when people start recognising you on the street… So, it’s time to go! First, we’ll see some places that are still on our to do list and then, maybe, we will finally be able to leave this country!

From wildcamping to another Workaway

Our first two weeks of post-corona wildcamping flew by! We built many campfires, played a lot of games, had a lot of homemade wine and we met a lot of very nice locals. We spent 11 nights at the beautiful spot next to the Lagodekhi National Park (check out last week’s video). In the end, we were with nine persons; five from the Netherlands, one guy from Germany, one guy from Switzerland and an Austrian couple. Together with this group, it felt like we had made our own, ‘private’ mini camping!

The weather was great, twenty plus degrees and very sunny, so most of the time we just sat outside. We also had three days of rain, but whenever it would stop, all of us would gather outside to see if we could get the campfire back on or just to have a chat. Two nights, we moved to a different spot to do a hike there. By then, most of the rangers knew who we are and we communicated with the ‘head ranger’ a lot. (One day, there was a boy on a horse who came from the village and handed us a phone: it was the head ranger for us! This felt really special).

Back to our new spot: when we got there, a ranger that we hadn’t met yet came up to us and handed us his phone. This time we weren’t allowed to camp there. Because of Corona, the park is officially still closed. He escorted us to a place just down the road, on an open field. It was ok, but there was no river nearby. The ranger told us that we could not do the walk because of Corona, but he also said that it was okay to walk up the trail for a little bit. The border guards (the hike was very close to the border of Azerbaijan) would probably just stop us on our way and have us turn around.

Luckily for us it turned out great, because we met some really nice border guards. They stopped us and asked for our passports. We waited for approximately 45 minutes and then all we had to do was sign a book and we were good to go! The hike was nice and it had some great views, but our previous hike was definitely better. Especially because our destination was an old fortress and there was not much left of it. When we got back to our camp spot, we decided to stay one more night and then head back to our previous spot.

Last Tuesday was our last day there, and it was definitely one to remember! Since it was a national holiday, it got pretty crowded with locals. 40 guys celebrated someone’s 60th birthday party and they were having a big feast. At the beginning, some of the men came up to us with beer, meat, strawberries, bread and even a chocolate cake. One of the guys played accordion and he came up to play something for us. They kept inviting us to join their party and after a couple of wines, we all agreed. We had a lovely afternoon with singing, dancing and a lot of food and wine.

Right now, it’s Thursday afternoon, one day after we left our spot and the group behind. We would have loved to stay even longer, but we were also ready for a new adventure. We are finally doing a Workaway again! It’s a small organic farm with a German owner. This morning, we helped clear out a part of the land so that we can start growing new crops soon. Later in the afternoon (when the sun goes down, because it is 30 degrees now), we will do some harvesting. Tiny is parked in the middle of the land, and we have a beautiful view. Wide open fields and in the background, we see the Caucasus, with still some snowy tops!

As we are staying with a family of four, with two dogs, four puppies, a cat and one kitten, there’s a lot going on. Sparta already started playing with the dogs and he is not as afraid of people as he used to be. We can wear shorts, sit outside all day and play with the animals. And besides this, we will learn a lot about natural farming. Let’s see what other chores we will have to do this week!

We are on the road again!

It feels so good to write this! And it gets even better: I am sipping my Georgian wine (which we just got as a gift from some locals) on my camping chair in the sun, wearing a tank top and shorts and with the sound of a wild river floating by. This is what we love about travelling! We are located on the edge of the Lagodekhi National Park, in the Caucasus region. We parked our van next to a ranger station, on a big open field in the middle of nowhere. It’s just us and Polly, Brian and their dog Busso here. It almost feels like there is no Corona!

But… let’s start from the beginning. Yesterday, we finally left Tbilisi. Wow, it felt like we were ‘moving house’ again! It took us a few hours to pack up all our stuff, but then we were ready to leave. As you probably know, we have spent the last 5 weeks with Polly and Brian, a Dutch couple. Together with them, we left Tbilisi, heading towards the South East of Georgia. Close to the border of Azerbaijan are some monasteries that we wanted to visit. These David Gareja monasteries are located in a beautiful landscape. Polly calls it ‘bacon hills’, we will try to add some pictures so you can decide for yourself. Unfortunately, the last 30 km to the monasteries was all off-road. On one big bump, we even hurt Tiny again. We now have a loose (and low hanging) wastewater tank, which makes it difficult to drive off-road again. When we go back to the city, we will do another garage retreat.

However, when we got there, it was worth the drive. The surroundings were stunning and the one monastery we could visit was quite picturesque too. The bigger one that we didn’t get to visit, was too close to the border of Azerbeidszjan and the border patrol wouldn’t let us through. We guess this is because of Corona.

After visiting the monastery, we started looking for a place to camp. We were not allowed to sleep in the ‘border zone’, so we had to drive all the way back to the nearest village. Because it was getting late, we decided to ask some locals where we could sleep. Soon, a nice guy let us use his closed campsite for the night, for free!

The night was pretty bad: the wind was so strong, that it felt like we were sleeping on a boat on a wild sea! We decided to leave early the next morning (today), and the main goal was finding a nice wildcamping spot. That really turned out not to be easy! We will spare you all the details, but on our third try we finally found a spot! Without the help of the apps, but with the help of some very friendly locals who even gave us a bottle of chacha and 2 liters of homemade wine. We will probably hang out here for a while!

The spot is beautiful, and we are located 20 meters from the entrance of the National Park. One of these days, we are planning to hike up to a 40m high waterfall. We will enjoy the sunshine and all the things this place has to offer. This afternoon, Nienke already took a dip in the wild, but o so clear river! Right now, she is prepping a fire for our dinner. Wow, it feels amazing to be camping and just to be back in nature again! We are going to love it here!

 

Covid 19 in Georgia

Finally, the sun is back! Because the weather was so good yesterday, we decided to go on a long hike. We went to see the Tbilisi Sea and from there, we walked all the way home. All in all, we covered 15 km and were extremely tired at the end of the day. So, one day late, here is our new blog about the corona situation here in Georgia.

The Georgian news website keeps telling us how good Georgia has been handling corona. The Georgian PM gets a lot of thumbs up from surrounding countries and even receives compliments from all over the world. Today, 539 people are infected with Corona, 6 have died and 178 have recovered (Georgia has a population of 3.7 million).

You’d think that corona has just started here, but actually the first cases were discovered on the same day as the first case in The Netherlands. So, what did they do to prevent corona from spreading?

At the end of February, Georgia had its 3rd case of corona. By then, the government decided to start being careful and they took the first measurements. Schools have been closed since March 2nd and at the beginning of March, borders to surrounding countries were closed too. Besides taking early measurements like closing borders, closing most shops, setting a curfew (we are not allowed to be outside from 9 pm until 6 am), wearing gloves in supermarkets (and now also facemasks), people had (and still have) to go into quarantine a lot! Whenever there is a slight chance you’ve had contact with a person with corona, you have to go into quarantine. This happened to us in the restaurant in Gudauri. There had been some customers with Corona and all of us had to go into quarantine.

On top of that, the police actually check that you stick to the quarantine and hand out a really high fine when you don’t obey the rules; all fines are terribly high. There was never a full lockdown here, such as the one in Italy for example, but whenever there is a city with a larger amount of infections, that city or county will be closed off completely! This way, the government tries to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible. And they were doing really good, until Easter came…

Easter is a bit different here. The orthodox church is the biggest church in Georgia and Easter is a week later than it is in the Netherlands. With Easter, people go to church, share the same spoon (to drink the blood of Jesus) and get together with friends and family. A lot of families go to graveyards and have picknicks next to the graves of their ancestors. The government was very worried that corona would spread rapidly during these days and tried everything they could to prevent this. But they did not close the church or forbid the Easter ceremonies. Obviously, churches here still are pretty powerful!

What they did do, was close down the 4 main cities of Georgia. Since Tbilisi is the biggest city, from then on, we were stuck here! Besides this, they also put a ban on private transportation. It was so quiet on the streets for a week, it was great! They even closed all the graveyards for the Easter weekend, which we noticed when we went on a long walk.

We ran into a dozen police cars; they were all parked near the small entrances. We even had to cross a police line to get to the church we were headed. Luckily, they let us! On a side note: on a lot of our walks, we pass the most beautiful graveyards. Some look like entire cities! There are benches and some graves look like picknick areas…

But… back to Corona: all the measurements seemed to help a bit, because even though there was a raise in numbers, it didn’t spread as much as some people thought it would. Last Monday, the Government even started an 8 week ‘re-opening’ plan. Every two weeks, more restrictions will be lifted. It is really nice to see some dates on which we can go back to ‘normal’ (even though some might be postponed later). If all goes well, in 7 weeks we might be having dinner in outside restaurants again! Unfortunately, there’s still no word on when the big cities will open again, so we will just have to wait and see.

Yesterday, we read an article that stated that Georgia might be one of the first countries to start opening borders for tourists again. That would mean that we would be able to start moving freely again! We can’t wait.

Of course, we would love to continue our travels and our plan, but that will still take a while. We might have to change our route, but planning is impossible these days. For now, we are just glad that, very slowly, life seems to start returning to ‘normal’ again.

Just another week in Tbilisi

This will be one of our shortest blogs so far. That’s because it’s Thursday, 5.30 p.m. and we just realised that this is our blogging day. We usually finish our blog a day before Thursday, and we usually have a lot of ideas on what to write. Today, however, we just forgot and to be honest, we don’t have much to tell either. Like everyone else in the world, we mostly try to stay at home.

We went on only one adventure last week: a 25 km bike ride! We hadn’t used our bikes for months, so it felt really nice. We biked all the way to Tbilisi ‘sea’ (we are not sure why it’s called a sea, because it really is just a big lake). It is beautiful though, and it felt really nice to do some exploring again. To go to the Tbilisi sea, we had to bike all the way up a pretty tall hill. Going up was very tiring, but the way down was fantastic! It felt like we were flying! Of course, we ran into some cute puppies again and did some cuddling.

Besides this fun trip, we really didn’t do much this past week. We walked to Rike park every day, which is a really pretty park close to the old town in Tbilisi. Sparta can walk there without a leash. Besides walking to the park (and to the grocery store), we didn’t do a lot. We just watched Netflix, read a book, played games and studied Russian. We started studying Russian about one month ago. Hopefully, it will come in handy one day, when we are able to travel to all the ‘stan’ countries. For now, it’s also useful in Georgia! There are more people here who speak Russian than English, and a lot of signs are in Russian.

The last thing we did, was move to a different house! Yesterday, we moved to a new Airbnb. Although our previous Airbnb was great and the location was very nice (just 5 minutes from Rike park and 10 minutes from the old town), we decided to move anyway. Our new Airbnb has a big yard, which is great for Sparta! Especially, because we are not allowed to go out on the streets after 9 pm. With a backyard, Sparta can still pee after 9 pm and that would mean that we will be able to sleep a little longer. Besides this, we now have roommates, which is a lot of fun! Our new house is pretty big and has 10 beds, so we are sharing it with a Dutch couple (@easyoverland). It’s nice to have a chat with someone else, eat together and play a game with more than just the two of us. We are hoping that spring weather will come back soon, so that we can enjoy our big backyard and do some barbecuing. For now, we will just enjoy the fireplace and finish another bottle of tasty Georgian Kindzmarauli. Gaumarjos (= cheers)!

Should we stay or should we go now?

Last week, we were still sure that we would stay in Georgia, but things have changed so rapidly… First, we have to tell you that we are still doing good and are still feeling safe here in Georgia. However, the thought of going home crosses our minds pretty much every day.  This has everything to do with all the information we get through different channels.

Every day, we see pictures of other overlanders/travellers who have returned to their home country. They are all very sad to pause travelling, but they are really happy to be home too. All of them have different reasons to go back home, but they all thought it was the best thing to do in the situation they were in. By now, it seems like there are still only a few overlanders on the road and we are among them. Should we have left when all of this started?

Besides seeing all these travellers go home, we get e-mails from our government almost every other day. They provide us with the latest information about the situation in Georgia and tell us about the last possibilities to come ‘home.’ We got our first e-mail about the ‘last flight’ home last Friday night; the flight would leave on Saturday morning, so we would have never been able to get on. After that, we got another e-mail saying that there would be two more flights leaving Tbilisi, but both of these flights were leaving when we were still in quarantine in Gudauri. Now, there is another option: Georgian airlines is flying to Amsterdam one last time to pick up Georgian citizens. We could get a ticket to come along. It will leave in 5 days and this might be our last chance to go home… again(?).

Here are some thoughts we would like to share with you, if we do decide to go back to the Netherlands (we wanted to type ‘home’, but right now, ‘home is where we park it’ and that means Tbilisi, Georgia):

  • Getting on this flight would mean that we probably can’t take Sparta: he got his Rabies shot, but we would need proof that he doesn’t have Rabies. This is done with a test, but we believe that this can’t be done in a couple of days.
  • It would also mean that we would leave our house behind. We would have to find a safe place to park it, which might be doable with the help of the Embassy, but it doesn’t feel great. When would we be back? Will it still be ok then? How do we handle the export of our car (our car can’t stay in Georgia much longer)?
  • Flying ‘home’ means that we would probably have to go into quarantine for two weeks, by ourselves without seeing any of our friends and family. After these two weeks, where will we go? We think (and hope) that some of you will offer to come and stay with you, but no0o one knows how long this situation will last. And again, we won’t be visiting anyone else till corona settles down.
  • What about our health insurance? We are allowed to go back to the Netherlands only 3 weeks a year. That means that we have to go back to our old insurance, which (we’ve been told) is not easy.
  • Last but not least, what would we do at our temporary home? We know a lot of our friends and family are a little bored because everything is closed and so will we, but besides that we don’t have a job to go to either. On the positive side: we would be close to friends and family and we would be in a country where we speak the language and where we understand the information we receive.

For now, we have decided to stay in Georgia. We were allowed to leave Gudauri last Tuesday, so we did. We walked up the beautiful mountains one more time. Tamara took her snowboard and did one final run. Then, we said our goodbyes and left Drunk Cherry, the restaurant where we stayed for a month.

At the moment, we are in an AirBnB in Tbilisi. It’s situated close to the old city and we still feel pretty safe. Yesterday, we went for a long walk in Rike park. It felt very nice to be able to walk outside again. We felt ‘free’ again, even with the Corona situation surrounding us. The streets were a bit empty, but for now it’s still no problem to go outside. A lot of people wear mouth covers, but they still walk in big groups. We’ve tried to keep our distance, but a lot of locals don’t seem to bother. When Nienke bought a bottle of wine, everything was disinfected: from her hands, to the bottle of wine and the money she gave to the vendor. People talk to us in a friendly way and we still feel welcome. We’ve heard many stories in which foreigners were called ‘Corona spreaders’ or were even chased away. Nothing of that has happened to us so far. Tonight, we will meet up with some other Dutchies who are stuck here as well. We will talk about the situation and who knows, maybe change our minds about staying again.

The Georgian government seems to be handling Corona pretty well. A lot of people are under quarantine. They make sure that people really stick to it by guarding them. Schools have been closed for weeks already, just like a lot of shops. So far ‘only’ 88 people have been infected and 0 died; we can only hope that these numbers are correct and that it doesn’t increase as much as it did in the other countries.

Things might get worse here too; maybe we will go in a total lockdown one day. With the help of a Facebook community we found ourselves a place to stay for as long as we want. So, we will stay here, for now…

We would love to hear your thoughts about our decision!

 

 

 

 

 

What else would we want?

“The sun is shining, we are outside most of the day and we can play in the snow. What else would we want?”

This is how our blog ended (the one that we wrote two weeks ago). By now, we know the answer to this question: we want more students and more work. This might sound a little silly when we are in this great ski resort, as to most of you it might really sounds like a vacation. We won’t try to complain too much, but some days we feel a little useless here. We like to be helpful, useful and busy. Here, we feel like we just have to talk a little and that’s it. But we need more.

Of course, our days on the slopes are awesome, but we don’t go up every day. On the days that we stay at the restaurant we are actually a bit bored. There is not much else to do around here besides skiing or snowboarding. Even though it’s a great place to spend your winter vacation, we have walked all the paths and we have seen all the shops (hardly any) by now. Thus, we just hang around the bar/restaurant and try to ‘work’, but these days go by so slow.

Let’s tell you about one of those days. We usually get up around 8. We walk Sparta and have a coffee in Tiny before we head over to Drunk Cherry, the restaurant/bar where we work at. We ask the chefs to prepare us some breakfast (yes this is pretty great! We’ve never eaten this many eggs in our life though) and eat our breakfast. At 10 AM we go upstairs to wait and see if anyone wants to have an English lesson during working hours. It’s the end of the season and a lot of the workers seem bored in the morning; there isn’t much to do between 10 and 12. But instead of improving their English, the waiters just hang around the bar, smoke on the terrace or play on their phones. We hoped that changing the lesson time from free time to working hours might give us more students, but that didn’t happen so far. So, we just wait around, do some things on the computer or play a game. We even started learning Russian! Around 12 we go back to the van to go on a walk with Sparta. Then, we go for lunch in the basement again, usually some soup. After that, we play with Sparta some more, sit outside on the balcony, read a book, play a game, go for another walk and try to chat a bit with the waiters. Most of them don’t really feel comfortable speaking English, so we haven’t really made any friends yet. Some of them are definitely really nice to us, but they keep their distance and without a mutual language it’s hard to communicate.

At 5 in the afternoon we finally have a real lesson; it’s the most exciting part of the day usually. (Although these students don’t always show up or feel like a lesson either.) Jimmy and Giorgi are our regular students and they are both beginners. We have a lot of fun teaching them and they are really improving! The lesson usually lasts 30 minutes to maximum 1 hour. Afterwards, we have dinner: staff food, something else every day, it’s not as good as the food that they serve at the restaurant, but some night it’s pretty tasty! And we get amazing leftovers sometimes! At 7, we hope to give another lesson, but then most of the times no one shows up either. As we are usually sitting in the staff room, we have small talk with the waiters who come in for their breaks (most of them live here until the season is over), but it’s always very short and a one-way conversation. Between 8 and 9 we go back to the van and just watch some Netflix or play another game.

As you see, it’s a very relaxing day, but we have had so many of these that it is starting to get quite boring. So, now we try and keep busy with some other chores too: every couple of days we bake cookies to go with the coffees they sell at the restaurant. We also cut a lot of stickers last week, but the manager said there are enough now, so we won’t be doing that anymore.

We tried to create another job: we put up a paper offering our services as nanny’s, but I guess the season is getting to an end. So far, we only took care of a child twice. We keep trying to get people to come to our English lessons by changing the times, location etc., but so far, no luck. Oh well, I guess we will just go skiing some more. Unfortunately, there’s not really enough snow for that. A lot of it has melted and it’s more mud then snow at the moment. This weekend it’s supposed to snow again, so hopefully we can do some real skiing/boarding on Tamara’s birthday again! And on our boring days… we’ll just try and enjoy the sun :).