So far so good.  Arrived at the airport at around 4 am Saturday morning, and was met by a friendly but bleary-eyed young man who drove me to my guesthouse.  The picture to the left is from the gate leading out into the street; the stairs lead up to Ginora’s dwellings; the door on the left leads to two guest rooms, one of which is the one I’m staying in now.  The room itself is simple but comfortable.  More rooms off to the right.  A number of cats scamper about, including three of the smallest kittens I’ve ever seen, like small grey, downy tennis balls.  Ginora is a short, stout, jovial woman of perhaps 70, with lively eyes and a girlish grin.  With her smattering of English we get along pretty well.  She generally hangs out at her little command post at the top of the stairs, just behind the grape vines on the top-right of the picture, where there’s a tv, a small sofa, a table to one side with her cigarettes (she’s always smoking), her glass of Borjomi mineral water, and a diminutive iron ashtray in the shape of an old boot.  I’ve sat with her briefly each morning before heading out into town for a short chat, which has been interesting: lots of stories of life in turbulent Georgia over the past decades.

Ginora’s place from the outside.  The neighbourhood is generally rather run down; a number of buildings in various states of dilapidation, either because they’re falling apart or because no one ever finished building them.  The sidewalks, as just about everywhere in town, are cracked and uneven and full of pot-holes, occasionally obstructed by a vast pile of sand or building materials or a decrepit old Lada–there’s one nearby that looks like it hasn’t been moved in decades: all four tires flat, the outside covered in the grime of ages of neglect and the changing seasons, and the inside decaying into a sort of artificial natural environment.  That indeed is the impression one gets from it: it’s just an oddly-shaped bit of the urban environment, an urban equivalent to those interesting monoliths of stone carved by the wind in Arizona and Australia.  One sees them around quite a lot, particularly in the districts further from the centre of the old town.  The second picture was taken from the same place, looking down the street to the left, with Nika’s place behind me; across the street; and down to the right.

I’ll be spending the first week getting my bearings, meeting a few people, and finding an apartment.  Onward!


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