Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mundanity a la Caucasus

Here's the thing about living in a baffling new city with an intimidating language. Right, so my Sunday consisted of the following accomplishments:

1) Procure cell phone
2) Activate cell phone
3) Work out at gym
4) Have dinner

Bit of a yawner of a day, huh? Not so! Sunday was a coup, a triumph, a crucible from which I emerged bloodied but victorious! To illustrate, shall we with boring and painstaking detail, walk through item #1? Oh, let's!

For comparative purposes, item #1 in America would be accomplished by the following: go to Cingular store; get phone; go home.

In my circumstances, I had to start by asking where can procure a phone for a reasonable price. I got wind of this market near a stadium, which market I could not locate on my map. So I practiced my Russian phrases over and over and unleashed them on a cab driver:

"I heard there is a market, near the stadium?"
"Da, da!" he grunts and lurches the car onward, suicidally careening down the wrong side of the street.
"And there, one may purchase a mobile telephone?"
"Da, da, one may!"
Well, huzzah, this is all going swimmingly! I'm not fazed by the random, unannounced major street closures that send our driver into a tizzy of slamming meaty palm on cringing dash.

I arrive at said market, and sure enough, many a shop sells phones. Unfortunately, all shops are flush with Georgians crowding the lone vendor, holding up models and shouting questions in Georgian. Don't much relish the spectre of elbowing my way to the front and then stopping commerce and traffic by announcing my intentions in remedial, schoolgirl Russian.

So new plan. Find vendor with no customers, and quickly buy cheapest model available. Hilariously for your intrepid correspondent, this turns out to be a cute little number undoubtedly smuggled from Dubai, as evidenced by the Arabic noodling all over the keypd and the recent news story of illegal Dubai shipments held up at the border.

Feeling cocksure and fancy free, I decide to return home by Tbilisi metro: my first attempt. It's a mere $.15 so quite the steal for the bargain traveler. But inside, I quickly ascertain two key pieces of information:
1) This station is a transfer point servicing multiple lines.
2) There is nary a letter of our Latin alphabet, nor our familiar Cyrillic. Only spaghetti noodle Georgian.

"Well, hell's bells! Where the deuce am I?" I think, morphing into my own personal vision of a 19th century English gentleman. Shall I follow the noodly path to Spaghetti Bolognese or Pasta Primavera? I ask a young woman who looks at me terrified and scurries away. Hmph. I guess on a train. I guess incorrectly. Finally I hazard asking another passenger, who, glory be, is heading towards my very stop and will allow me to trail her like an incompetent G-man. Success!

Such have beeen my days thus far; filled with pantomime and funny looks and general ass-making of self. May have located flash apartment but am deep in negotiating hardball with owners. Have read two books by British authors and chameleon-style, completely adopted annoying fey British dialect. Have not yet referred to apartment as "flat" but catch self saying "lift" constantly. Gastrointestinal integrity trivially breached but generally holding solid.

I have no illusions that this is a monumental let-down of post after a week of silence. I should bloody well have been kidnapped by Chechen rebels by now, I know, I know. All in good time.


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