The Tbilisi Menace

The first day of school is always the toughest. You know how, when you first got into high school, you had that nervous feeling that everything is going to go wrong somehow? I wasn’t even at school before it happened in Georgia.

My first class of the day was Calculus 2. It’s a fantastic way to start your school day, let alone your morning. Thankfully, I have rediscovered the healing powers of caffeine since my arrival. Some of the Americans are also in the class, so we decided to all leave together. Now normally, we would have used Taxify, which is pretty much the Georgian Uber, and gotten there without a problem. But we decided to call a taxi from the street. That was our first mistake.

Our second mistake was being American. The five of us got into the taxi and showed the driver the address to the library near where our class was located. He looked at it and nodded, so we thought he knew what he was doing. And so we drove a couple miles in the other direction, stopped at the museum and he says we are here, or at least I presumed. Obviously it wasn’t the spot, but since we don’t know the language, we thanked him and gave him the money.

This is where things took a turn for the worse.

Our last mistake was not negotiating before getting in the taxi. We all gave him about 4 lari, which is a typical fare around the city. He starts to say it’s not enough so we just think, alright, we don’t want trouble, let’s give him one more. And that’s when he drops this; he wanted 20 lari. So we say no, give him the 5 and walk out. He starts to follow us, yelling at us, and everyone around us starts to stare at us. I felt a mixture of anger, embarrassment and defenselessness. Anything I say in English wouldn’t matter, and I can’t understand him. The only thing I understood was that he was clearly scamming us.

We eventually gave him 10 lari before he gave up. Then we called a Taxify and finally get to class 30 minutes late. Thankfully, I haven’t had a bad experience with taxi drivers since then. But that’s mostly because I avoid them and take the bus everywhere.

Besides that lovely individual, things have been going relatively well. School here is much different here than it is back home. The tests are a lot harder, especially for courses like math and – surprisingly – history. Doing a 125 question test for history about which leader ruled an empire during a specific time is not OK. Needless to say, I got wrecked on that test, but a C+ is better than I expected so I suppose I’m not too shocked.

Aside from school, my group and I have traveled to some pretty cool places, such as Abastumani and Vardzia.

Abastumani would have been my favorite place. It was a little remote village high up in the mountains. It was so far away from everything and elevated that the night sky would look gorgeous. Except that it was cloudy the day we went. Though most disappointing, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the trip. I got to go on a mini hike and got some cool pictures.

As for Vardzia, it was a city in a mountain. Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds. If you’ve ever played Minecraft and tried to dig into a mountain to make a house, than you know what I’m talking about. There was a lot of COOL history there, a place for citizens or troops to hide when enemies were passing in the valleys nearby. There was a bell tower over there with no bell because apparently when the Turks invaded, they took a bell with them.

 

So far Georgia has treated me well, except for the weather. It’s rainy, cloudy and cold all the time. Not very optimal for someone who wants to see some stars every now and then. Over the past two weeks, there might have been two nights where you would have a 1-2 hour window. Yeah, not going to happen.

Inside the city, I’ve been to some interesting places. I’ve been to a couple hookah bars since I’ve been here. The food is always pretty good, with the hookah being hookah. In other words decent. I’ve also been to the couple parks that they have. While they do look scenic, something I’ve noticed around the city is that there isn’t too much grass. I would love to be able to find a big open grass field to just sit on and do homework.

On the bright side, I’m a master of the transportation system now, so I do everything in my power to avoid another taxi driver. Plus, it’s like 25 cents every time you get on a bus. I’ll be able to stay out of the cold in December, and when I can’t, maybe that will change my mind about walking to bus stops and waiting instead of just calling a taxi.

Just kidding, I’d freeze to death before I’d call another taxi.


Gonzalo Tucker is an astronomy major. He is studying at SDSU Georgia in Tbilisi for Fall Semester 2016.

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