Sarah sent a nice email to some of you. I asked if I could just add it to the blog since she covered so much territory. She is doing well as you will be able to tell.
Hey, sorry to mass mail, but I am thinking of you. I currently am with MIles at Prospero's, a coffee house-bookstore hang out of ex pats and Americans. We are in chairs by a fireplace ,which is lit, on a drizzly, forties grey day. It is on Rustavelli, the main street with fashionable stores, street sellers with boquets of seasonal flowers to include large nosegays of hundreds of tiny hot pink cyclamens, daffodils, calas, tulips, and more. There are flower and veggie-fruit sellers all over. Up in our neighborhood there are several per block. Some have eggs or cheese. All have bananas, cabbage, potatoes, onions, wonderful green and red peppers, apples a bit the worse for time, oranges and satsumas.
Miles is here to meet with a grad student to help her set up her dissertation for a PHD in Political Science. She has her masters from the Sorbonne, speaks fluid French and English, works for the UN in Human Rights, and is beautiful,doe eyed, dark and slender. So many of the students Miles is working with are so interesting and highly achieving.
Miles gave a talk about academic rights of faculty in the American University at the Am Studies meeting at Tbilisi Univ. last Friday. People came from various institutions and were engaged. I was still in jet lag, as I arrived Wednesday. A handsome woman with blond hair and a white suit was in front of me engaged in it all and asking questions. It ends up, we find out, she was Yulia Shakasvilli (sp?), the mother of the President of Georgia. Another woman was from the Caucuses University. She came to me, and asked me to come to work with some of her graduate and undergraduate students in Translation!! Gee, Folks, I am doing this the 14th. Imagine!
After the lecture we were invited to the apartment of the Professor who organized this all, and has been working with MIles, even if he is teaching at Ilia State. She also lives two hours from here with her husband on lots of rural land with vineyards, orchards, and old family homes and cabins. We are invited out there soon. That should be quite nice.
We got to the apartment which is her mother's. It was straight out of early twentieth century Paris! And, since the mother who was a young 78 did not speak English, we spoke French which she taught for years. The whole evening was unforgettable. To think I almost did not go, because it was Friday night. Ha! Live and learn.
They had prepared a variety of vegetable salads that were delicious and unique to Georgia: cabbage and other veggies, two kind of beet, rice and carrot and delicious roasted potatoes. There also was some very salty cheese from their place. They are very observant Eastern Orthodox, fasting for Lent. So, they were vegetarian at this time, and do not eat sweets. But we had to try the home made , home grown apricot, strawberry plum(YES!) and rose petal (DOUBLE YES!) preserves with little dishes and spoons with our coffee. Now fasting for Lent does not include fasting from wine! We drank white and red from their own vineyards. The red was deep, full of fruit, and terrific. The white was a bit resinous and reminded me of some French ones.
After dinner both women sat at the upright piano which was a tad out of tune to play with skill and soul melodies of Georgia for us. It was so enchanting, and we just smiled and smiled as we stood by them.
Now, you Woolie Mamas, we thought of you as the mother got out her sweaters, vests and skirts her daughter asked her to show. Incredible! They were intricate of linen and softest wool. She knits elegant and casual things for herself and daughter. We both told them about our Woolie Mamas.
This weekend Miles strolled me through streets behind the parliament area. They wind with rutted walkways beneath iron balconies and roofs that are rusting, Eastern European architecture that is in a state of decay, and fading colors that all has it's charactar, charm and stain of the Soviet years. Street vendors abound. We bought some pansies we have now potted at our apartment.
The day before we found the old Synagogue which is a little ways from there in an area that some international organization has been sponsoring renovations. Well, whoever the old geezers in their black newsboy caps with missing teeth who hung out and followed us in were, I do not know. Miles Georgian let him know they wanted to know where we were from as I was kissing the mezzuzah as I entered. Miles said, "America", and they scowled and almost spat. Dy! Enough! We were looking for the Rabbi Miles met on Purim who said we can get matzah fom Israel from him, but this must not be where he is, as he was welcoming. I will not go back to this place.
We also went to the Embassy last week for a Fulbright briefing. The American Embassy is far out, a concrete compound which resembles a prison, and we had to be scanned in the guardhouse to enter, badged with an ID, and escorted at all times. The other Fulbrights are very interesting and fun. The chiefs of staff were most informative. The mission of the State Department in Georgia is to educate about America and democracy and freedom. They believe in what they are doing, and seem knowledgeable and helpful. What else they do, I do not know. That is from a jaded American woman .
Okay, the conference is winding down, and I have rambled too long.
Hold down the fort, and if there is news I should know, send it. Hello to Sarah, Aaron, Sean, Ina, Jesse Rose, Brendan(sp?) Liam and Jema from me.