Friday, January 27, 2006


I can't smell Tbilisi anymore.

A blessing, you might say. It's a stinky place, but that's not what I'm talking about. There's a hot, sandy smell to the city and when I landed here last August and I inhaled, I smelled it strongly and I remembered at once that smell from when I had been here the very first time a year before.

You know how smells are.

At my parent's house in Texas, I keep in my old dresser drawer an empty spray bottle of cheap grocery store perfume that I bought when I was 14 because even now, when I sniff it, I feel exactly what it was like to be so in love with Kevin Moore from summer camp that I thought I would die.

So this Tbilisi smell was full of good memories and for the first week, when I was still walking the streets nervously and still troubled by the staring old men ruling over their plot of sidewalk, I'd smell that scent every morning and it made me both excited and calm.

But I just realized, today, that I can't remember the last time I could smell it and I know that the only way to get it back is to leave first.

I've started taking pictures, of all things, of myself sitting in a chair.

I'm just past the halfway point of my time here, and losing my head a little bit about memories. Not the big memories, the train to Baku, the trips here or there. I'm afraid about the ones that I don't notice when I'm having them. What it feels like to just sit here. And so I take a picture of it, and it doesn't look like anything special, but I think that when I'm back home in DC I'll see something important there and it will be like having the smell again.

I'm trying to notice all my memories while I'm having them, and I don't mind telling you, it's a little tiring.

Last week, I was down in Javakheti, that remote region of Georgia where the ethnic Armenians live. We bought 50 kilos of potatoes for $5 and a sack of some kind of meat, and then loaded enough wood into the stove in the office until it was red hot and cooked our meat and potatoes on the flat iron top of it. We wanted eggs, but didn't know that you can't get them in the store, you must buy them from somebody who has chickens, in the market. In the evenings we took turns racing out into the freezing cold for more firewood, drinking wine and chacha, throwing things into the stove to see what would happen.

And then, I swear to God, without even thinking of the incongruity of it, the time-warping lopsided absurdity of the act, I'd swivel in my chair and check my e-mail.

I try not to reminisce about things as they happen, but I'm so terrified of forgetting. It's been some kind of a time here, I can tell you.


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