Thursday, July 15, 2004

This is the way the blog ends,

This is the way the blog ends,

This is the way the blog ends . . .

Mary Neal writes: I'm posting from Washington, D.C., where we are attending the Fulbright orientation. We have been brought back to talk about our experiences to the outgoing Fulbright scholars and fellows. It's one of those amazing things where you can be exactly where you were a year ago, and you can see what has changed. It was a year ago that I met Elizabeth, Camrin, and Bill; who could have known how close we would all get to be?

The outgoing Fulbrighters look so excited to be going. I'm both envious and relieved. Yeah, they're going to have an amazing time, but I'm glad to be settled back in. I think Clif is just envious.

It's also an unexpected benefit that so many things are wrapped up neatly. So neatly that I can now say goodbye to this blog on a positive, but final, note.

Here is what has changed.

. . . not with a bang, but a wedding!

Shortly after returning from Abastumani, Elizabeth and Lado were married at the official registry office on Bariatashvili St. I wish them a wonderful life together. They will be living in the U.S.

The young couple whose wedding we attended shortly after our arrival in Tbilisi are recently the proud parents of a lovely baby boy. I have seen pictures, and he is--of course--gorgeous. He has his father's soulful Georgian eyes and his mother's delicate features. He is adored by everyone.

In August, Bill is getting married to his intrepid girlfriend, Jenny, who came to Tbilisi for Christmas. I with them, too, a wonderful life together.

Clif goes back to work next month, although it has really already started back up, what with planning classes, orienting grad students, etc.

Wilson grew up so much as a result of this trip. It all happened upon reaching Kennedy airport. After having been pretty much a pill for the six months in Georgia, he attained a level of reasonableness heretofore unattained once we got home. I am thankful.

I think James got the prize for "Weirdest Christmas break" last year at Reed. He had a very good freshman year.

As for me, remember that list back in August of last year? Here's how it all turned out.

I worry:
that I forgot to arrange transfer of one of the utilities.

The propane account needed to be started over afresh, but they’re a very agreeable company. The mobile phone company continued to bill for the closed account, and the bookkeeper who paid our bills continued to pay them. This was a disaster. It took months for them to refund me the money, and I still didn’t get it all. I just gave up. (Can you hear me now, you %^#%*???) Everything else was fine.

that I still haven't finalized arrangements for the pets. Clif suggests burlap bag.
The lovely tenants offered to keep the cats. The dog was well looked-after at the home of another rescued greyhound.

that the car needs the oil changed before we park it for 5 months. Also it makes a funny whistling noise.
Never did change the oil until we got back, and it still makes the whistling noise, but I ignore it.

that I meant to sell the car anyway, but didn't get around to it.
Well, this was true. I didn’t sell it.

that the car will lose thousands in value while parked.
This is true, too, so now I am stuck with it.

that I will forget to fix the leaky faucet before I go.
Yep. The tenants called the plumber.

that I will forget to plant the rosebush that has been sitting so patiently in its pot all summer.
Dead as a doornail. Still in the pot.

that the plane will crash.

that I will miss my connection and be stuck in Vienna for three days until the next AIRZENA flight to Tbilisi.

that James will miss his connection in New York in December and won't be able to come due to completely nonrefundable ticket.
He made it with no problem.

that Georgian drivers are notoriously bad; we'll be killed in a car crash.
We were lucky.

that, worse, only some of us will be killed.
Very lucky. Plus, several people we know were carjacked while we were there.

that the tenants will somehow cause a nonsolvable problem in the house.
Nope. They were lovely. They found a gorgeous Dutch colonial.

that the house will somehow cause a nonsolvable problem for the nice tenants.
They coped.

that the tenants will have a friend over, who will trip and fall; we'll be sued.
This did not happen to us, but it did happen to friends.

that James will be arrested in Portland and will be too embarrassed to call his aunt.
He was not arrested. He did nothing for which he could have been arrested, I’m sure. He went to their house for Thanksgiving and they all enjoyed each other’s company.

that he will languish for months due to irresponsible, foreign-based parenting.
He was fine.

that asthma and anaphylaxis are words we will have to hear.
We were lucky here, too. The air quality stank, but Wilson stayed healthy.

BUT I DON'T WORRY ABOUT HEPATITIS B! I have been immunized. Only after the immunizations were well underway did I find out that it is transmitted the same way HIV is. Now I can have sex with IV drug-using Caucasians. Or, alternatively, I can abuse IV drugs with promiscuous Caucasians.
Didn’t do either naughty thing.

that every editor in New York will forget me completely. "Who??" they will say in February when I come home broke and desperate for work.
True. Still broke and desperate for work. Does anyone want to offer me a book contract? I haven't had time to shop it around, what with trying to put my regular work back together.

that I will be mugged in Vake Park.
Only one of us was mugged, and it was really more like “shaken down.” After being repeatedly warned to come home way before dark, Wilson stayed out a little too late one evening. He was fine, though.

that I will have to do my food shopping in open-air markets where no prices are posted.
True. And I was completely taken advantage of.

that I will have to buy meat that does not come wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray.
I didn’t buy meat at all. Not at all.

that I will be unable to communicate in this impossible language. Good day is “deelahmshveedohbeesah."
Nobody says that anyway. They say, “Gamarjoba.” I learned some Georgian, not much, but some. Most people spoke Russian. Some spoke English. My friends were good to me and helped out.

that I won't be able to read the signs. The alphabet is, well, unique. Not Latin, not Cyrillic. You gotta see it to believe it.
I did learn the alphabet, well enough to read signs and maps.

that Clif will hire a translator that hates me.
Our translator, Anna, was wonderful! Helpful, bubbly, and sweet. She loves Wilson. “Focus, Squishy!” she said, as she tried to teach him Arabic. He did learn some.

that Clif will hire a driver that hates me.
I liked some of the drivers quite a bit. Some not at all. I don’t know how they felt about me, though. I was female and sat in the back seat, a nonperson. Kind of a relief, actually.

that Clif will hire a housekeeper that hates me.
Well, you heard that story. Tyrannical and four-foot-eight.

that I will hate the driver.
See above.

that I will hate the translator.
Anna was a gem.

that I will hate the housekeeper. (But won't it be nice having staff!)
Here’s how it REALLY turned out. Maka came the day before we left and brought a framed photograph she had taken of the sunset at Kobuleti on the Black Sea. It came with a very carefully written (in English) note that said how much she liked us. It was really touching, and of course I feel like a worm. I have the picture prominently placed in my office at home.

that I will be kidnapped by Chechens.

that, worse, Clif will be kidnapped by Chechens, and I will have to explain to everyone why we decided NOT to buy kidnap insurance.
Nope. The whole Chechen thing was a complete non-issue.

that there won't be heat or hot water.
True, but not as bad as it had been for years.

that I will miss all the reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not to mention Angel.
We bought all the DVD’s that had been released and huddled around the 12-inch laptop screen watching them. That was actually really fun. But while I wasn't looking, Angel was cancelled. :(

that I will run out of books to read.
The embassy had a great lending library of junky paperbacks.

that homeschooling will be a worse disaster than I could imagine, and what I can imagine is pretty bad.
This was indeed a disaster. The tutors we had were great, but Wilson wouldn’t meet them even a quarter of the way.

that I will somehow make a faux-pas and cause an international incident.
In fact, I think the embassy staff liked me a lot. They threw us a party, and thanked me for everything I did for the university and local authors.

that I will drink too much at a supra and puke.
Women don’t have to drink much at all. In fact, they don’t have to attend a supra. We went to a birthday party where the birthday girl got to come out of the kitchen once to be toasted, and it was her party!

that I have bought and packed ALL the wrong clothes.
My clothes were great. Black.

that my suitcases will get stolen, and it turns out I had all the right clothes.

that all the people at the embassy will turn out to be Mr. Hydes now that they've lulled us into complacency with their Dr. Jekyll act, all welcoming and helpful and stuff.
They were fabulous.

that we will run out of money.

It’s incredibly cheap in Georgia.

that we will leave all the computers and cameras somewhere by accident and never see them again.
Only the mobile phone, and that was lost to a pickpocket in the crowd crush during Misha's inauguration. Small price to pay, I guess. But we lost everyone's phone number.

that I will somehow fail to Take Complete and Total Advantage of Every Aspect of this Big Adventure, and I will be seen universally as a Loser and Whiner.
I didn’t really Take Advantage, but it turned out well anyway. But really, who DOES take complete and total advantage of every aspect of a big adventure??

that now that I have come clean about all these anxieties, Clif will despise me.
He was indeed a little taken aback, but he’s a patient and loving person. He doesn’t despise me.

Thank you everyone. It's been fun.

And in Georgia, get ready to meet John, Justin, and Camrin (again).

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