Saturday, July 06, 2013

6 July: The Russian Bathhouse

6 May 2013

The only thing keeping me away as I sit here trying to write this post are the dogs barking to each other throughout the neighborhood.  It is only 12:51am (only!) but it has been a BUSY day.  It has also been my last full day in Tbilisi.  I leave tomorrow afternoon.

Our final lecture this morning was on Public Management.  Nino Dolidze of GIPA spoke to us on the basic models of public management management and the history of public management in Georgia.  Her lecture was interesting, particularly the portion dedicated to the development and evolution of public management in Georgia.  I particularly noted the following: 1) All three of Georgia's presidents (since its inception as a modern state) were initially popular BUT lost public support after sometime in service.  Nino rhetorically asked "Why don't Georgians elect the right leaders?  Are they irrational?"  2) Sakaashvili is famousfor slimming down the public sector through various reforms (particularly in the educational and law enforcement sectors).

What I really want to write quickly about, however, was my trip to the Russian baths in Old Tbilisi.  Kristin, Melissa and I ventured down into the depths of the bathhouse and were bossed about in Russian by large women with whom you don't want to argue.  And with whom I could not argue anyway since I know about 20 words total in both Russian and Georgian.  I was scrubbed, washed, and soaked.  I can't say it was my most enjoyable public bath experience but it was definitely a Nastya/Jamila/Malaika/Megumi-worthy experience.  I suppose I had better explain why it was not my favorite bath experience.  My companions wanted a private room so I missed out on the common room experience which, I have found, can be very fun.  Mind you, the "private room" was far from fancy; it was, in fact, quite dingy, dungeon-like, and even a bit dirty--a circumstance which also dropped the rating off the experience.  The private room may have been necessary, however, because we could not seem to figure out if was mixed gender or not. If so, I'd have had a problem since I had no bathing suit. So--it was what it was.  I've been multiple times to public baths in the Middle East and Japan and those experiences were somehow less stressful, more cultural, and overall physically and emotionally satisfying.

However--an adventure!  As always.  We also enjoyed glorious polyphonic singing in the the 6th century Anchiskhati Church (finally got inside on my third visit), crossed the river on the "Peace Bridge," went to the new cathedral built by Ivanishivili, and eventually ended up at a fancy restaurant with gorgeous views for our final dinner.  Delicious!  Crazy too-loud musical entertainment to which we danced and a few performances of traditional Georgian dancing.  We made merry and made many toasts (I toasted to the "A" we will all get in the course :-) ).  A fabulous end to an immensely enjoyable two weeks! This will be my last post.  Tomorrow morning, after spending time with Thea and Liza, I hope to find a congregation of my church that is supposedly located in Tbilisi.  Wish me luck.  Kristin and I fly to Istanbul in the early evening and will spend the night and the next morning enjoying more of Istanbul.  Monday afternoon, right before the beginning of Ramadan, we will fly home (whew!  How terrible to be in Istanbul but unable to eat the delicious food! :-) ).

Off to bed!  Excited to see my darling husband and babies soon.  I also want to acknowledge dear Marliss (and all those who helped her) for her care of my girls during my absence.  Farewell, Tbilisi! Until we meet again.

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