I was never one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but last year, when it became trendy to come up with a WOTY (Word of the Year), I came up with two words that I wanted to inspire change in my life. The first was to be more tolerant. As most of you know, we’ve been in the Republic of Georgia for some time, now, with the exception of some side trips, last year, to Latvia, Poland, and Bosnia. What I’ve had to learn to be tolerant about, when staying in all these countries, is the differences in the regard for personal space. Unlike some of us from the US and other western cultures, people in these countries are not bothered by strangers getting very close to them on the streets, sidewalks, or in the shops. They apparently don’t think anything of it. Here in Georgia, they seem to share everything. They’ll park in your driveway and let their cows graze on your front lawn. The neighbor children have walked into our apartment, without knocking, to say, “Hello”, and city workers have walked in, without knocking, to check out our new gym equipment. The way I’ve learned to be tolerant of all this is to realize that the people are not acting out of malice, or with bad intentions. The behaviors are just part of their culture, just as modesty, and the need for personal space, are part of ours.
My second WOTY, for 2019, was to be more adventurous. When I came up with that word, I was picturing myself white water rafting or kayaking. these activities didn’t happen. The closest we got to a physical adventure, was when we went hiking and horseback riding, at the National Park, in Lagodekhi, Georgia, late last summer. We did experience a different kind of adventure, this past year, when we bought an apartment, here in Chiatura, Georgia. Coming up in this post, I’ll be telling you more about the move to Chiatura, the apartment we bought, and the renovation process.
First, I want to tell you about my intention for 2020, which is to become more authentic. That means I want to be as honest and forthright, as I can, about our lifestyle, and the places that we travel to. Not every place is picture-perfect, but sometimes, it’s imperfections, are what make it interesting. Why did I wait until the year that I’m turning 60, to become more authentic? Because I’m finally able to do that, after recovering from the grief, that I experienced, when I found out from my younger sister, a few years ago, that my mother had disowned me.
It was May of 2015, and we were staying in Dazio, Italy when my sister came to visit. We were in her rental car, on the way to Verona, when she told me that my mom had disowned me. According to her, my older sisters had talked her into it. I was devastated, and after my sister had returned to her home in Naples, I called my mom to ask her about it. I was humiliated in front of my daughter and husband when my mom pretended not to know who I was on that Skype call. Then she said that she couldn’t remember why she’d done it.
I called my mom several times after that initial phone call. she remained hostile towards me and adamant about her decision. The last time that I talked with her, in July 2016, we were in Scotland and my oldest sister, who is the executor of my mom’s will, was visiting her. She got on the phone and claimed that my mom had disowned me for things that I did when I was 20 years old.
All I ever wanted was for my mom to tell me why she had disowned me. What I realize now, is there was no reason, and that’s why she couldn’t tell me. she hasn’t changed. I just couldn’t see who she really was before. I never felt loved as a kid and had very little self-worth. My dad was in the military and was rarely home. That left the raising of their 6 children up to my mom. Her method of discipline was to beat my sister, who was 3 years older and to criticize and ridicule me. I became withdrawn, suffered from anxiety and developed an eating disorder. My younger sister, who I mentioned earlier, as far as I know, didn’t experience any abuse. The older ones were grown and on their own, when I was old enough to remember all this, so I can’t speak for what they went through.
When I first heard that my mom disowned me, I blamed myself, like a victim of domestic violence often does. I felt guilty and thought that I must have done something to deserve it. Recently, I had my own “Aha” moment when I was watching an old episode of Oprah and she was interviewing Jane Fonda. Jane was talking about her own childhood and describing how her own parents were not there to support her in the way that she needed. Jane’s own mother had been sexually abused, and when Jane was 12, she committed suicide. Jane goes on to say that her parents did the best they could, and she forgives them, but it’s up to all of us to be better. So that’s what I’m going to do. I forgive my mom, and I will be a better mom, and grandmom than she was.
What does becoming more authentic mean to me? I can finally feel good about myself and show the world who I truly am, without fear of judgment or criticism.
The Move to Chiatura
We were going to move to Chiatura in February, after our trip to the Netherlands, but we were anxious to start the renovations on the apartment that we had bought there, back in October. We gave up our apartment in Tbilisi and moved into an apartment in Chiatura, on the 19th of November. We debated about trying to move into our own apartment, right away, and renovate it while we were living there, but given our experiences of living in construction sites while renovating 2 homes in Florida, and one in Maine, we decided not to put ourselves through that.
Our first week, here in Chiatura, was spent adjusting to living in a new city and setting up a daily routine. When we lived in Tbilisi, we worked out regularly at Snap Fitness Center, and when we moved to Chiatura, we wanted to include fitness in our daily activities, as well. After investigating and being disappointed with a fitness center we found near Chiatura, we decided to go to a shop in Tbilisi and buy our own equipment. We picked out a crossover machine, that gives us both a full-body workout, and a treadmill for me since I love to run and have been doing so for years. The equipment was delivered and set up, at our new residence, the very next day. Now, we begin each day with a fitness routine before starting work on the apartment.
Chiatura has plenty of pharmacies and market stands, selling fresh fruits and vegetables, but is lacking in the larger grocery stores that sell meats. We’ve had to make a couple of trips, by bus, back to Tbilisi, to stock up on meats. We take a taxi back, with our groceries, which hasn’t always worked out too well. On one of our trips back, it was snowing on the mountain, that we had to pass over to get to Chiatura. Our driver got stuck behind a truck and wasn’t able to climb the steep grade of the mountain, because he didn’t have snow tires on his vehicle. He called his friend, who had a jeep, to take us the rest of the way to Chiatura. The normal 2 1/2 hour ride from Tbilisi to Chiatura, took us 5 hours that night. Recently, we met a woman named Nino, who is a translator, and who speaks perfect English. she told us where we could buy fresh meats in Chiatura, from the local farmers. she agreed to go with us one day, to help us recognize what we’re buying, and to help us talk to the vendors.
One of the other challenges to living in Chiatura, right now, is the water situation. The city water is turned off every morning at 11:00 am and doesn’t go back on until 6:00 pm. It is shut down at 11:00 pm and goes back on at 7:00 am, the next morning. Many people in Chiatura have a backup water tank in their homes, so they have water 24 hours a day. Our hosts for this apartment do not have a backup tank. We sometimes feel stressed trying to shower, wash clothes, and do dishes, during the hours that the water is on. According to our friend Nino, the water situation should be resolved by the spring of this year, and water will be available for everyone, 24 hours a day.
Our hosts also have a hot water tank, in this apartment, that shorts out, sometimes, and the hot water will go off while we’re trying to shower. Even though when we first moved here it was the only apartment available to rent, the good news is, another new apartment has become available, and we’ll be able to move in there, after our trip to the Netherlands, in February.
The work on our apartment, here in Chiatura, began with demolition. We hired a local man named Dito, to help us with some of these jobs. We met him through our friend Jimmy, who speaks English and owns the hardware store in town. What we’ve had Dito do so far on our apartment, has been to remove all the old bookcases and books from the foyer, remove metal bars on the outside of the windows, install new windows in the foyer, and remove and block up the old apartment entrance, where the new bathroom will be located. We’ve hired our young, 17-year-old neighbors, Daniel and Gaga, to help Dito load up his truck with the materials that are being torn out. Daniel, also speaks pretty good English and helps translate our instructions to Dito.
Following the demolition process, Tim and I have been working steadily, almost every day, since December, roughing up rooms, in preparation for the next phase of the renovation, which will be, running plumbing, electric and gas lines, before we begin to skim coat the walls. Tim has been sanding windows and shutters, and I’ve been knocking out old kitchen tiles and stripping wallpaper. It may seem like the work would be tedious, but I get a lot of satisfaction from it, while I dream about what the apartment is going to look like when it’s all done.
Our neighbors in Chiatura have been very welcoming, and sometimes they’ll cheer, “America”, when they see us on the street. As a typical gesture of friendship, in Georgia, some have been stopping by with homemade wine, bread, and sauces. We, in turn, have been giving them furniture from the apartment that we can’t use. Tim and I have agreed, that when the apartment is complete, hopefully, sometime this summer, we’re going to host a big block party and invite all our new neighbors.
Take a look at the video below, for a tour of our apartment and see how the renovations are coming along. I’ll keep you updated on our progress.