Gudauri, Again

Lunch break at the cafe at the top of the first lift

Lunch break at the cafe at the top of the first lift

About two weeks ago I went with Jeff, his friend Nata (pictured here), Khatuna and Ben to Gudauri on a blazingly beautiful day.  Jeff is a friendly Irishman who set up a company here in Georgia related to mining (I think he drills the initial exploratory holes which geologists then analyze to see if it’s worth mining there), and when he’s not living close to the sites somewhere in southern Georgia near Armenia he stays in Tbilisi.  Nata is a doctor, and speaks excellent English, and both amused and horrified us by stories of working in Georgian hospitals.  She told one ghastly story of a frantic middle-aged woman bringing in her elderly mother who had just broken her hip; they didn’t have any insurance (which is apparently quite common here), nor any money with which to pay for the surgery and costly hospital stay, so Nata regretfully had to send them home with a fistful of pain-killers.  Another acquaintance, from Lithuania, contracted hepatitis and decided to stay here instead of going back home for treatment.  Apparently the

Khatuna's first time skiing

Khatuna's first time skiing

hospital where she stayed for about a week had neither food for the patients nor–hard to believe, but this is what Ben, who went to visit her a few times, subsequently told me–nor running water.  Reminds me of what people told me before I got here and was asking about what to do/where to go if I got seriously ill: don’t get sick.

Khatuna was a bit apprehensive about skiing; it was to be her first time, and she was a bit worried that she’d break a leg or something.  But she managed very well, and had a great time.  We first walked up the gentle slope by the entrance to the lift (of solid Austrian construction) about a hundred meters or so, where I tried to teach her to snow-plow, slow down, turn and stop, with modest success.  After about an hour of this we went up the first lift, and she intrepidly pointed her skis down the slope.  She hadn’t quite got the snow-plow down, and would zoom off in a random

On the lift

On the lift

direction, shrieking as she accelerated and finally collapsed somewhere.  Eventually she mastered a technique for stopping if she couldn’t slow down or come to a halt: slowly lean back in a sitting position and then tilt to one side to the ground.  When we got back to the bottom she was radiant with smiles and eager to go up again.  On the steepest parts I’d ski with her, my skis outside hers while holding on to her waist.  We only crashed once in this way, a tangle of skis and poles and arms and legs.

Meanwhile Ben went off on his own, and Jeff and Nata went at their own pace.  It was Ben’s second time skiing, and he was feeling more confident.  At around 1 we all met up for lunch at one of the restaurants at the top of the first lift, where it was sunny and warm.  We shared a plate piled high with mtsvadi (grilled skewered chunks of pork), bread, fries, and lobio (a sort of bean stew), and chatted in the sunshine.  One can already tell from the picture above that I got pretty badly

Lunch

Khatuna & Ben at lunch

sunburned, particularly on my forehead and cheeks.  Later that evening it felt like I had my face close to an open fire, and I had to relieve the heat by pressing a cold wet towel to my face.  A day or two later it began to peel, and I’m hoping I won’t burn again this summer…

By the end of the day (the lifts closed at 5) Khatuna’d managed to do her snow-plow more effectively, frequently being able to turn more or less intentionally, though she still often resorted to the rump-first falling method of stopping.

The hawk & Khatuna

The hawk & Khatuna

Apres-ski

Apres-ski

Nata & Jeff

Nata & Jeff

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