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Okinawa Day 5 – Sayonara Naha

20160118_144925“Sayonara – Japanese for ‘goodbye’; however, it carries more finality. Instead of being used at the end of a day, as in “Goodbye see you tomorrow,” it would be used in situations where you will either not see the person for a long time, if ever again.”

On day 5, which was a Friday, there isn’t much to report, as I woke up, caught the monorail to the airport and flew back to Korea, where I live and work. I had curry for breakfast (Japanese curry is great) followed by pineapple ice cream (Blue Seal* ice cream is everywhere in Okiwana, having been introduced by the Americans in the 1940s).

It’s maybe also notable that the airline I flew with, Jin Air*, a Korean budget airline, is facing penalties as they didn’t close the door properly on one of their flights. So maybe I should be glad that I made it back in one piece!

To summarise my trip I’d say that I enjoyed it and that there is plenty to see and do on Okinawa island*. However, there are some other islands in Okinawa Prefecture* which sound more interesting. Tanegashima* is home to the Japanese space program, Iwo-Jima* has an active volcano, Yakushima* has giant (and really old) trees and Tokara-Retto*, along with all the other islands I just mentioned, has natural, outdoor Onsen (hot springs) and is a good places to go hiking. Though Yakushima is reputed to be the wettest place in Japan. Some of these islands can be reached by plane and some by ferry and there’s 150 of them, spread out of approximately 620 miles, so a lot to see.

When my photos come back from the developer I’ll post some here, though I was quoted 3 weeks when I dropped my camera off the other day, that’s technology for you I guess. Thanks for reading!

Links

*Blue Seal Ice Cream – http://en.blueseal.co.jp/

*Jin Air – http://www.smh.com.au/business/aviation/jin-air-passenger-captures-video-of-unsealed-plane-door-during-flight-20160105-gm03hi.html

*Okinawa Island – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_Island

*Okinawa Prefecture – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_Prefecture

*Tanegashima – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanegashima

*Iwo-Jima – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iwo_Jima

*Yakushima – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakushima

*Tokara-Retto – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokara_Islands

 

 

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Okinawa Day 4 – Ryukyu

20160121_142325This morning I made a mental list of some places to visit and first visited ‘Manga Souko*’, a 24/7 second-hand shop, which sold all sorts: clothes, books, music, electronics, toys and various miscellaneous items. It was a bit expensive and also quite disorientating inside, with each different section playing different music which, when all mixed together, was a bit much. I spent a long time here looking at hats, as in the past I’ve been told that I have a “hatty face,” and settled, in the end, on a flat cap, which is something that every northern Englishman should own.

After that my next stop was to be Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum*, as the Museum of History closes on Thursdays. It sounded interesting anyway, plus it was raining and definitely not a day to be walking around outdoors.

I found a restaurant which let me order breakfast at 10.40, even though they finished serving breakfast at 10.30, which was great and meant, of course, that I didn’t have to go on a ‘Falling Down*’ style rant at the hapless restaurant staff. They also provided unlimited drinks or a “drink buffet,” as they called it.  The coffee was very good too.

Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

The museum was great and very informative, covering all the history of Okinawa up to the present day, as well as folklore, nature and archaeology. It was also refreshing to read acknowledgement that there’s too much land development going on in Okinawa, which are small islands, though it seems unlikely that the development will stop anytime soon. They also seemed to paint a fair picture of Okinawa’s history, stating that Ryukyu* (as it was known), a kingdom which had been independent for around 500 years, had wanted to remain independent when they were annexed by Japan in the 1870s. I also learnt that from 1945-1972, Okinawa was occupied by the USA*, so the history of the islands is very interesting. There’s still an American military base there to this day, which probably explains the abundance of fast food restaurants and, judging by this quote, the relationship is still a bit testy.

“75% of the US military installations in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, where people have been plagued by crimes and incidents committed by US service members and the military’s civilian employees, threatening the lives and livelihoods of the citizenry.”

Some other interesting things I learnt about were: Minatogawa Man* (prehistoric people of Okinawa), Shisa* (a mythological beast which often adorns Okinawan houses) and Sanshin* (a Okinawan musical instrument which take many years to produce). The art gallery was good too, featuring the profiles of several wartime artists.

Next, to continue my day of doing things indoors I headed for the Zuisen distillery*, which makes Awamori*, a local spirit. However, after wandering around in the rain and being unable to find it I gave up, as I had a hole in my shoe and the rain was showing no signs of relenting. So I headed back to the hostel to relax and dry off.

I spent my last night in Okinawa in the Ukishima Float Cafe*, which was run by the same people who owned my hostel (Guesthouse CamCam*) and promised ‘Orion Beer, Awamori and Okinawan Food.’ Plus the beer was 300 Yen (which is cheap).  For dinner I had Taco rice* which is notable, not only as it’s the only dish I ate that I can remember the name of, but also that it didn’t contain any pork! It doesn’t sound like it’s very traditional though, having only being invented in 1984. I also got to sample the elusive Awamori, though to my unrefined palate it tasted just like Sake. This was a good little bar though and I had a lovely evening, chatting with other customers and the staff.

Links

*Manga Souko – https://www.mangasouko.com/en/

*Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum – http://www.museums.pref.okinawa.jp/english/

*Falling Down – I want breakfast – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eREiQhBDIk

*Ryukyu Kingdom – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyu_Kingdom

*American occupation – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Civil_Administration_of_the_Ryukyu_Islands

*Minatogawa Man – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minatogawa_Man

*Shisa – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shisa

*Sanshin – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanshin

*Zuisen distillery – http://www.zuisen.co.jp/e/index.html

*Awamori – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awamori

*Ukishima Float Cafe – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ukishima-Float-Cafe/614533125339797

*Guesthouse CamCam – http://www.camcam-okinawa.com/index-en.html

*Taco Rice – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taco_rice

 

 

Okinawa Day 3 – Hiji Falls

okinawaDay 3 started with a breakfast buffet, which is always a good way to start the day, though my notes say “pretty good but no bacon or toast!” So the hotel loses some marks there, though that’s irrelevant really, as I can’t actually remember the name of the place.

I took a taxi to the bus station then caught the 67 bus to Hentona village. I wanted to travel further north from Hentona but the ‘village bus’ to Cape Hedo*, the most northerly point on the island, didn’t seem to exist.  So I found a coffee shop and decided to explore the area, which included Okuma beach, Yanbaru wildlife centre and Hiji waterfall.

Hiji waterfall**

It was a nice walk in the woods and the waterfall, even though it was only about 50 metres high, was worth the trip. The downsides were that I had to pay 500 YEN entrance to the national park and that the place was a health and safety officers dream, with ‘Warning’ and ‘Danger’ signs everywhere, rope fences and about 90% of the path was stairs, which I guess is why I had to pay an entrance fee. It’s worth noting that this area does inlude a campground and places to have a barbeque, so I imagine it’s a great spot in the summer.

yanbaruThe Yanbaru*** is an endangered flightless bird and there is, allegedly, as conservation area devoted to it. I tried to find it but by following the signs towards it but ended up at the waterfall. The sign did say it was 1.1km away, but the then the next sign said that the ‘Yanbaru Toy Shop’ was 3.1km away, so it’s location remains a mystery to me. I had a lunch at a rest stop (fried pork again) and had a look around the gift shop, which sold lots of ‘Save the Yanbaru’ merchandise.

After lunch I had an hour to kill before the next bus back to Nago city, so I followed the signs to the beach. I passed through a small Okinawan village on the way, caught my first glimpse of some of the elderly natives**** (who have one of the highest life expectancies in the world), and finally got to the beach (which was a posh resort and very quiet), so I went on the beach anyway and took some photos, before heading back to the bus stop and Nago city.

I had it in mind that I could maybe visit ‘Happy Land’, the Orion beer brewery, before heading back but sadly time was against me, so I browsed a couple of 2nd hand shops in Nago, bought a watch from one of them (as I’d been unable to charge my phone since my arrival) and caught the bus back to Naha.

On a whim I decided to get off the bus at ‘The American Village’ which is not far from the US military base, just to see what it was all about. It turned out to be American restaurants, a mall, cinema, amusement arcades and shops. I saw more Japanese people than Americans there to be honest and I’m told that it’s a good area for shopping, if that’s your thing.

Back in Naha I relaxed and had a few beers at the the hostel. Plus I managed to solve my phone charging problem (I’d ended up buying a disposable camera and a watch in the meantime), so it was a good end to the day.

Links

*Cape Hedo – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Hedo

**Hiji Waterfall – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiji_Falls

***The Yanbaru – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_rail

****Life expectancy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_diet

Okinawa Day 2 -Nago City

“Inoo” – The Okinawan name for the shallow, turquoise looking, band of water (1-3 metres deep) along the coast.

Happy timeDay 2 started with me being unable to find an ATM (cash machine) that would accept my card, it wouldn’t even fit in some machines, which made me wonder if Japansese bank cards are smaller. Anyway,  I’d reserved a ferry to one of the islands but couldn’t find one (an ATM) on time. The chances are that it would’ve been cancelled anyway (the ferry), due to it being another windy day.

So when I eventually found an ATM I decided to find the bus terminal and escape the city. However, what I actually thought was the bus terminal was actually ‘bus parking’ and what I thought was a building site was actually the bus terminal. It was all a bit confusing but after much wandering around I figured it out. Sadly, low phone battery meant that I was unable to take a snap of a swan restaurant, which I found down one the of the back streets near the building site.

I met a Canadian guy (who I’m going to refer to as Bill) at the bus stop. Bill has been working as an elementary school teacher in Korea for 10 years (the same job as me) and, when I asked him where he was from, he said “Canada”, in a tone which contained an element of surprise and seemed to say “How could you not know that?” or “You didn’t think I was American, did you?” I had actually assumed that he was American, due to the fact he was wearing a baseball cap and a baseball hoodie, and I couldn’t tell from his accent, but I didn’t share that with him. Bill had visited Okinawa before and told me that he loved the place. He was travelling to Chatan town, where he was going to be staying at a beach resort close to both the US military base and the American village. We had a nice chat anyway and Bill got off at his stop after about an hour whilst I continued on to Nago city.

Upon arriving in Nago I had lunch at a busy restaurant across from the bus station. There I was faced with another vending machine situation, where you have to order your food and pay for it via a vending machine. Of course it’s all in Japanese so my system, on the handful occasions I’ve been faced with this sitation, is, Step 1 – Look for the nearest Japanese person. In this instance he was standing behind me because (I like to think) he was anticipating me needing assistance. Step 2 – Point to a picture of what you want. On this occasion there were pictures on the wall (as opposed to the menu). The man/woman will then show you which button to press on the machine. Step 3 – Insert your money, get your ticket and give it to the waiter/waitress. I should note that at first I did try and read the Japanese name of the dish and then tried to read it on the machine, but this is very difficult if you know no Japanese at all. Anyway lunch was delicious, fried eggs and pork with a bowl of rice and some soup. They do love their pork in Okinawa. I noticed that a few customers appeared to have ordered something which contained snout, which I’m glad I avoided.

After lunch I found a quiet spot of beach, enjoyed a beer by the sea and began to decide my plan of action. The options being a) carry on travelling further north b) stay in Nago and visit “Orion happy park” (the Orion beer brewery) or c) visit (via bus) “Pineapple land” which boasts a pineapple winery and where you get driven around in little pineapple shaped cars. So I opted for c, as I was intrigued by the pineapple wine.

The Ocean Expo Park

My attempts to visit Pineapple land proved fruitless (pun intended) due to the buses announcement system being drowned out by the sound of the engine, plus I didn’t see it out of the window. So I was on the bus for about an hour and ended up at the Ocean expo park, which is the biggest and most popular tourist spot on the island. I hadn’t really wanted to visit there, mainly as they have a dolphin show (a seaworld type thing), but I decided that the aquarium would probably be worth a visit. I was also interested due to Japan’s relationship with whales and dolphins.

The aquarium was good, lots of coral, sharks and rays and it was very informative. I saw all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, Japanese bigeyes, Pristigenys bigeyes, Splitfin flashlight fish and Spiny lobsters, to name but a few. I also learnt of the existence of the Megamouth shark and that the Whale shark is the largest fish in the world. Another interesting display was one of a model hand and foot, which showed what would happen if you touched or stood on certain types of shells (you’d get stung by a poisonous creature hidden inside), which seemed to be saying, don’t go anywhere near the sea. This ties in with a theory I read once about Japan having a “fear of nature”, as nature can, and has been, such a destructive and harmful force there. I also learnt that sharks don’t eat much so they’re probably liked, as opposed to whales and dolphins which eat too much and should be…

Back in town I spent hours trying to find a hotel in Nago city. A lady at the first hotel I tried gave me a photocopied map and a highlighted several hotels in the city. I tried them all and ended up having to stay at the one 3km from the bus station! It was pretty good though, with a spa on the roof and breakfast included, so not a bad end to the day.

PS. I discovered that for Pineapple land (http://www.nagopineapplepark.com/english/) I should’ve got off the bus at “Fruit land”, which I somehow missed.fruity

 

 

Okinawa Day 1 – Naha

Naha isn’t the most beautiful of cities due to it being mostly destroyed during WW2. It reminds me of parts of Osaka, a Japanese city on the mainland which I’ve visited on a few occasions, it’s all a bit ‘blocky’and concrete.

It’s a fairly easy city to get around though, either on foot, by bike, or by using the cities monorail, which starts/ends at the airport. 20160119_100112

On first impressions the main attraction seems to be one street, Kokusai Dori Street, which is full of touristy shops selling rubber chickens. There are some foreign restaurants too.

I spent the day wandering around and getting my bearings. I reserved a ferry to another island for tomorrow but the chances are it won’t be running as ferries are cancelled if the waves are too high, and today was one of these days. Fingers crossed anyway.

This may sound obvious but reading Japanese would be a useful skill to have, as I’ve been unable to find some places. Knowing their name in English is all well and good but many businesses only have their name in Japanese. I only found the spa that I was looking for as there was a picture of a whale having a bath on a sign outside. I tried to find two restaurants which were recommended to me by the lady at tourist information, but there were so many restaurants on the streets where they were located, that I ended up just choosing a random bar, which was run by a local bloke and his mum, who cooked me up some local food.

Anyway, the spa! After a day of walking I needed somewhere to rest my achy bones and this was it. The highlight of this place was that it had a steam room, which I enjoyed very much. Onsen (Japanese spas) are very similar to Korean spas (known as Jimjibangs). You take a shower, you relax in a hot bath, try out the sauna etc. whilst surrounded by lots of other people doing the same (men and women have seperate sections). The only difference that I’ve noticed between Japan and Korea as that in Japan tattoos are a definate no-no (I cover mine up with plasters usually) and that Japanese men tend to cover up their private parts with towels when they’re walking around! On some other Okinawan islands they have outdoor Onsen, where the water comes from hot springs, which sound great. Sadly none of those islands were close enough to visit, so I had to cross seeing a volcano and visiting an outdoor hot spring off the list for this trip.

Back to the bar and the food I had was delicious, a fried mix of tofu, pork, egg, string 20160118_185104carrots and a a green fruit called goya, which I thought looked like a cacti the first time I saw it. I read that Okinawans like healthy, balanced meals and this was definately that. The goya is very bitter and it did leave a bit of an aftertaste, but it wasn’t unpleasant. This small bar was a great find, the local beer, Orion, is very drinkable too. It’s notable that bars and coffee shops are still places where you can smoke in Japan and smoking seems to be very popular, with cigarette vending machines on many streets. Thankfully this bar wasn’t too busy so it didn’t get too smoky. The first dish I tried was so good that I couldn’t help but order more food and I was also given some fried seaweed with prawns as service (free) which was nice of them. The second dish I ordered turned out to be belly pork (as I can’t read Japanese I was just pointing at pictures on the menu) which was served with something that looked and tasted like swede and was also very delicious!

Busan I Park 0 Gwangju FC 1

Busan I Parks relegation from the K-League Classic division has been confirmed, after they lost 1-0 at home to relegation rivals, Gwangju FC, yesterday, at the Busan Asiad Stadium.

Seung-Min Song’s 42nd minute goal decided a scrappy encounter in which Busan rarely looked threatening and didn’t muster a single shot on target.

This was a must-win game for Busan, if they wanted to stay in the division, but their opponents, 12 points above them in the table prior to the game, wanted it more, pressing their opponents from the off and looking much more threatening.

Busan now face the prospect of joining their local rivals, Gyeongnam FC (who were relegated from the K-League Classic last season) in the K-League Challenge division, next season.

However, there are still four games to go this season so maybe Busan can give their fans something to smile about. Though judging by yesterdays performance that seems unlikely.

Georgia Diary IV

Rather than being called “Georgia Diary’ this post should really be called ‘Cha Cha Diary’ after some of my experiences over the past week, and in case you’re wondering cha cha has nothing to do with dancing, well, at least as far as I can remember it doesn’t!

Cha Cha is a homemade spirit frequently drunk in Georgia. Basically it’s Georgian moonshine and this week I had the pleasure of learning how the stuff is made. When I awoke at 10.30am (that’s 7.30 GMT in case anyone thinks I’m lazy) I was invited round to one of the neighbours houses to learn the cha cha process. When I arrived at the house I was immediately inroduced to various people and given cha cha, beer and food. The next 2 hours were spent this way and in between I was shown various parts of the process.

Basically it’s made from grapes that have been fermenting in warm water and sugar for 12 days and apples that have been doing the same. The fermented fruit is mixed together in a large pot with a gas burner underneath it. A lid is placed on the pot with a georgian food known as ‘Ghome’ (made from cornflower and water) is used to make a seal. The fumes from this process are piped through a cold water tank and produce a clear liquid, which is cha cha. However the first batch is not drunk, it is distilled for a second time to make the finished product.

Now this is as much as I remember as between 2pm and 7pm I have no memory of what happened. I woke up in my bed at 7pm and the last thing I remember was sitting in  the garden chatting around 2pm! I’m not a fan of blackouts i.e. having absolutely no memory of a period of time but after speaking to other ex pats this is not an uncommon experience in Georgia!

So from now on i’ll think i’ll be more cautious with the cha cha! Especially as when,a few days later I was eating my lunch whilst next to me one of the neighbours, who had been drinking cha cha for 7 days in a row, was lying on the sofa with a drip in his arm, telling me that he had been in hospital the night before and that he now can’t drink cha cha anymore!

After speaking to the family I have since discovered  that I went to bed at 3pm that day so my blackout was technically only one hour with the other four me being asleep. How I got home and into bed is still a mystery and one that will probably never be solved but such is life,well life in Georgia at least.

Georgia Diary III

During our training week in Tbilisi we were introduced to the concept of what was known as, if I remember rightly, ‘polyphonic time’. They were basically attempting to explain to us that time is viewed differently in Georgia and that this is somthing we would have to adjust to. I have no idea if what I’ve just said makes any sense so i’ll give an example.

Yesterday I phoned a friend who lives in the same city and we arranged to meet up in the afternoon around 3.30-4pm. Around 2.30pm I informed my host mother that I was going to the city, I was then offered food, and by the time I had finished eating it was 3.15, which gave me just enough time to let the food settle before I went to catch the bus. However 5 minutes later the host father came home with a big bottle of beer saying ’10 minutes’ and he promptly put the beer in the fridge to cool. Being the polite Englishman that I am I therefore decided that I could have one small beer before I left and still be just about on time. But the next minute my plate was taken away and replaced with a fresh one and more food was brought to the table! I explained to the host mother that I was full and had arranged to meet my friend at 4pm but all this caused was the beer to be quickly removed from the fridge, 2 pints to be poured and me being told to eat! eat! and drink! drink! So in the space of 30 minutes I ended up eating again and having to down 2 pints of gassy lager which is no mean feat! After this I made my excuses, went and caught the bus and ended only being 20 minutes late which wasn’t too bad after all that.

Other volunteers and expats I have met in Georgia use the term GMT (Georgian Maybe Time) to describe this phemonema and it does take some getting used to, especially coming from a culture where people are generally on time. I’ve yet to start work here but I’m intrigued as to whether staff and pupils will turn up at school on time or whether say, for example, a 9am start time is a guideline.

There are other examples too, I have been told that a bus journey was 10 minutes but it turned out to to be 45 and that we’ll be leaving in 5 minutes and half an hour later I’m still waiting. A friend of mine calls it ‘polychronic timing’ and he may have a point but it just takes a bit of getting used too. And when you think about it’s much more relaxing this way, a slower pace of life which requires no rushing, I think I could get used to it, in time.

Georgia Diary II

Yesterday my host family told me that we were were going to visit Anaklia, a local seaside city. I presumed that we would jump in the car, go there have a look around, maybe have a swim then come back. However they clearly had other plans which I was not aware of and it turned it this was to be my first Georgian ‘Supra’, which is basically just an excuse to celebrate and eat and drink lots.

The Lada was loaded up with booze and food, I never imagined that you could fit 6 people in a Lada! But it is possible and not as uncomfortable as I had imagined (although I had had a few beers in the afternoon which may of helped!) On the way we made a few stops, picking up a melon the size of a boulder and other food and drink items. The roads aren’t great but the journey was thankfully short and we only had to dodge 2 or 3 cows along the way!

We arrived at Lazika, a short distance from Anaklia and only about 2km from the border with Abkhazia, one of the Russian ‘occupied’ areas of Georgia, it was strange to think that such a short distance away there were Russian troops on the border. We ate a house owned by a friend of my host fathers, who has a house and a bar next to the beach. Of course we swam first and worked up our appetites!

When it came to the food it was fantastic, the highlight being barbequed pork. The pork had been caught recently on a hunting trip and they were the biggest pork chops I’ve ever seen! The meat was chopped up and had been marinating in onions, garlic and bay leaves among other things, all day. After it had been skewered it was cooked over a wood fire then mixed back in the onions etc. afterwards. It was bloody fantastic! As was the fresh salad, bread, cheese and homemade tomatoe/chilli sauce that had been made to go with it.

And then there was the cha cha, which is homemade vodka. I’d had something similar in Romania last year but this stuff really did make my eyes water! I’ve no idea how strong it was but I didn’t go blind so all is well! A bottle of cha cha was finished off between 3 of us along with the food and some beer. I’m told that volunteers who live in the countryside drink or get offered cha cha all the time so I’m kind of glad I live in a city, where my liver shouldn’t get too damaged!

After the meal we had another swim in the sea before driving to Anaklia for an evening stroll. Anaklia is a new resort with the main hotel on the sea front, The Golden Fleece, costing $100 a night but I imagine there are rooms that cost more than that. There’s a lot of investment from abroad going into the city so I’m told and it’s still in the early stages of development. There’s a big new modern bridge, hotels and resturants but the place wasnt’ exactly heaving. I was not a big  fan to be honest as it’s just another playground for the rich in a country where many people have nothing but that’s the way of the world I guess. I was also remember dislking the metal trees! But they were just sculptures and the boulevard was lined with palm tress, which I hope were real.

I don’t recall the journey home as I was so worn out that I fell asleep in the back of the Lada. All in all it was a fun afternoon/evening though and am looking forward to many more of the coming months.

Chgiro aba!

Georgia Diary I

As of tomorrow I will have been in Georgia for 2 weeks and to be honest it feels like I’ve been here for months, and that’s not a bad thing. The Georgian peoples wonderful hospitality has made me feel so welcome that even what may seem like major issues, such as the language barrier and cultural differences, have not mattered one iota.
So where to begin? Well I suppose the beginning would be a good starting point and that point was our arrival in Tbilisi last weekend. 15 native English speaking volunteers (and some Americans) from the UK, Australia, South Africa where shut up in a hotel for a week to prepare themselves for the coming 6-12 months. The days were spent learning the Georgian language and the alphabet, having power point presentations on various cultural things (basically horror stories to prepare us for worst case scenarios), talks on health insurance (dull), teaching methodology (dull) banking (coma inducing dull) etc., etc.

We were also given a midnight curfew and asked/told not to drink alcohol throughout the duration of the training (this rule may have been bent slightly but to be honest I can’t quite recall). It was a fun week anyway, getting to know each other, but nothing can quite prepare you for when you move in with your Georgian host families and have to live, eat, converse with them on a daily basis. Which is where I’m at now, in the city of Zugdidi, which is located in the Samegrelo region of Georgia. I arrived here on Saturday and the week has been up and down. I’m accompanied everywhere by the families 17 year old son which has been helpful but I’m hoping to be able to go out on my own at some point as I’m a big boy now. I joke but with the language barrier/cultural differences simple things like this can become difficult to explain! The mum and dad are lovely, mum cooks great food and dad works all day every day. Everything is done for me in a nutshell, I’ve managed to put the kettle on twice so far this week but haven’t yet been able to make myself a coffee, I think there’s some sort of sixth sense thing going on! They’re lovely people and have made me feel right at home anyway and it should make the next sixth months a lot of fun as my Georgian, and their English improves.
It’s also good that there are other volunteers in the city and surrounding areas so Zugdidi is the place where we can all meet up for a few beers, which is pretty much all there is to do. Strangely they put all the guys in one region and all the girls in the other, we were told that our families were selected for us at random but that seems to be a bit of a strange coincidence. Are we all supposed to end up with Georgian wives/husbands? I’ve already met one American and one Geordie who do. Anyway I digress and, of course, I shouldn’t question the Ministry!
This weekend I’m off to Tbilisi on the night train to see a bit of the city during the day as we didn’t get a chance to during training, except for a trip to a supermarket (like a big Tesco but sold guns!), to some shops and also a little bit of sightseeing.  So it promises to be fun, with the exception of the sleeper train which had no beds left so chances are I’ll be stuck in one of those four or six seat cabins where everyone faces each other, trying to sleep in the heat with no leg room for 8-9 hours! Last time I did that I felt like I was going mad if I remember rightly as there was an old guy with a live chicken in a bucket and no room whatsoever, lets just hope I don’t experience more of the same tonight!
Here ends my first Georgia diary!
Chgiro Aba!

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