Today is Easter in Georgia, we are a week behind the rest of you in the west as we follow the Orthodox Calendar, or rather I should say that the Georgians follow the Orthodox calendar (as with Christmas), and as an ex-pat, I get the pleasure of celebrating both, thus prolonging the holiday spirit. That makes two weeks of Easter for me, and about a month for Christmas and New Year, not bad at all!
Was greeted by my two neighbours this morning as I took Isla for a walk, one complaining about the stray cat asleep on my balcony, and the other greeting me with red eggs, paska cake (think panatone) and grass, and a greeting of ‘qriste agsdgaa’ (Christ is risen’). The same greeting could be heard from everyone on the street today, and I’m hoping that means it’ll be a quieter day with no drummers drumming, no children blowing whistles (why would anyone buy a toy whistle for their child? I mean, it can hardly end well, they play with it, and grown ups tell them off for playing with it when the noise becomes irritating!), and maybe no shouts of people walking the streets selling what sounds just like ‘cat’s wee’. Which isn’t anything to do with cats at all, its a fruit, called a sea berry I think. But whatever they sell, it always sounds like ‘cat’s wee’, because every word seems to end in an ‘i’, even apples which are pronounced more like ‘vashley’ but not spelt that way at all. Since every question has intonation at the end, it means that each word has two syllables, the first goes deep, the second has high intonation at the end. Hence why everything sounds like caatttss-wee to me!
Easter traditions make for a change in breakfast anyway, so that is always a bonus. I’m definitely in the middle of both Georgian and British traditions, definitely the best of both worlds! I have a nice strong cup of tea, with a dash of milk, served with paska, and my first ever attempt at making hot cross buns! Needless to say they look nothing like hot cross buns, but they do taste nice, more like muffins or perhaps rock buns! I was planning on sharing them with the neighbours, but to be honest, I feel it would be very bad to introduce the neighbours to the British Easter traditions in such a shameful way, and will not sell Britain at all, so best that I keep them to myself, and try another attempt, or better still have some English visitors who can either bring proper hot cross buns with them, or can bake a darn sight better than me!
This is what hot cross buns should look like:
I found a really nice looking hot cross bun recipe too, on the BBC food website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hotcrossbuns_397 But, I’m fairly sure that if I had followed the recipe to the letter, my hot cross buns, would have been, well…..more hot cross bun like! There are many reasons why this probably wasn’t so. Firstly, I don’t have a set of scales, I just use a plastic cup and take a guess (can you tell I’m a scientist!). 100grammes is about 1 cup, 400grammes is about 4 cups! Secondly, you are supposed to use ‘strong white flour’, my Georgian only stretches to ‘namtzwaris puri’ which I think means flour, and I don’t read Russian, if I could read Russian then I could go to a more expensive shop where they sell imported flour in bags, but I generally just go to the Georgian corner shops where they sell cheaper flour from a sack. Next, the recipe says that you should use ‘fast-acting yeast’. Just buying basic yeast (written in Russian) in the shop downstairs took me a good 30minutes of playing charades trying to mime baking bread and it rising, and even though I could see it on the shelf and gave clear directions as to it’s location, they decided that because I was a foreigner they wouldn’t understand me on principal, which amused the other customers greatly, and no doubt brought in a lot of extra custom and fun! Meeting foreigners is often something still novel and entertaining when you’ve been stuck in the shop all day with only the same people for entertainment! Actually they are pretty nice girls in the shop and they call me from time to time on my phone and then put random customers on the phone to me who supposedly speak English. Its nice to live in a friendly neighbourhood, even though it does grate on me from time to time when I just want some down time or am in the midst of filling in a grant application and need a clear head to understand the legal jargon or whatever. But the benefits far outweigh any minor niggles and it is one of the reasons why I love living in Georgia so much, especially where I am now. I’d like to become a bit more involved and to give more back at some point, but its hard to juggle the work load as it is right now, without popping into people’s homes for tea and chat, and it means that every time Isla needs to go out for a pee, we have to have conversations with everyone we meet on the way, in the yard, on the street, and in the neighbourhood. Sometimes it is great because it forces me to take a break from work, but annoyingly Isla always decides she wants to go out at the most crucial moments!
Anyway, bit of a weird kind of day today, I’ve forced myself not to do grant applications over the weekend and to try and take a break from project work, but its proving really hard. Instead I’m decorating the little hallway by the toilet, with some really bad paint, that I bought from the market. A little cheaper than the first trip over Christmas, but the quality is nowhere near the same, and its a much more messy and labour intensive job as a result, and the finish is nowhere near as good. So I think I’ll buy the original one next time. Am trying to make do with whatever I have in the house, as I really can’t justify spending money on housey things right now. I have loads of ideas for the balconies (and so have the neighbours who keep giving me instructions, and its not like I’m letting the side down either!), but its all money things, and I’m up for recycling as much as possible, at least until I know where my salary is going to come from, plus its a much better challenge. The number of people who keep telling me, I can pay a guy to come and do everything for just a few hundred lari is getting irksome. I’m sure I could, but I don’t have a few spare lari to fritter away, and actually I quite like doing the place up myself if I can. It will just take time that’s all.
So today is another decorating day, and I’m going to try and make the weekends back into decorating time again as I stopped over the past two months when it was cold. Saturdays are full on with project all day, and Sundays are generally skype days with The Coxless Rowers, but I’d like to put whatever weekend time I have, back to decorating, as it’ll do me good to have a change from fundraising all day, every day.
I’m really sad that I’m not about with The Coxless Rowers right now, and I do feel that I am missing out on a lot of the formal training and team bonding time, and that’s going to be an extra challenge for me when we do meet. Last weekend was their Easter weekend and they went to Cornwall (one of my favourite parts of the world, and somewhere I always wanted to live. Either on Skye, Uist, or in Cornwall, somewhere by the sea!). If it wasn’t for Oceans Project, I’d almost be happy to move to Cornwall, work in Tesco’s, and use the rest of my time to train for the Ocean Row, and to focus on my PhD. But it’s never going to happen realistically as I couldn’t even get the deposit together to rent a place for a start! Plus, I’m settled here, and I love project way too much to move. I’m doing what I love for the first time in my life, I’m completely content, and Project gives me the best balance of everything I love, especially once we get funding. I don’t have spare money right now, and I need to be very careful financially, but I wouldn’t swap that for the world. I’m doing what I love, and if I can make a living from it soon enough, then all the better. I actually need just £800 to see me through the year right now, obviously more would be better, but I can get by on that, especially with better weather now as the bills should drop dramatically now the heating is off completely. I could take on some private English teaching, but I know my heart isn’t in it, and I’d rather hang in there and focus full time on Oceans Project for as long as I can. There are lots of grants available to us, it is just a question of getting as many quality applications in as possible, and then waiting to see the outcome.
So today is a weird day, one of decorating, and skyping with Annabel (Coxless Rowers), and I also have a skype meeting with Actuality Media who are hoping to come to Georgia and film our NGO work for the year, which will be really exciting, and I hope will tie in nicely with my PhD plans too. Which I’ll tell you about another time, but I’m very excited about! It’s a massive project, simple to run, but very expensive, but also very important in many different ways, and completely new and pioneering (as is OPG, our boat for the row, and everything in my life right now!!!). So I should probably get on and do some things now.
Massive thank you to two time Atlantic Ocean rower and Shelter Box volunteer Sally Kettle too (http://www.sallykettle.com/), Sally has put together some great drawings to help me with my training, and you can chat to her about anything you like on our OPG Chat room page: http://www.oceansproject.com/chat.html#/general-chit-chat/
And on a slightly different note, if you have children or work as a teacher, or in an education NGO like ours, you might be interested in signing up for this US based marketing group called MomSelect (http://www.momselect.com/). They basically receive toys and parent or child related items, which they then give you to road test with your kids and to give feedback on, and they also give you packs for in-home parties and things. I can’t vouch for them, but I have signed up on behalf of OPG as it could be a great way for us to test some products, especially toys and things, with our Ambassadors and on any outreach work we do, but if you have kids, or are about to be a new mum, I’m sure there are lots of opportunities out there, not just with these guys, but with others too. So if you come across any similar companies who road test other kinds of products, I’d love to hear from you, or maybe you already have experience with MomSelect. Like I say, we have only signed up, and don’t know whether they will consider send us things here in Georgia, but if they do, then I’ll be sure to update and let you know what we think.
That’s all for now, ‘Happy Easter’ wherever you are, and hope your weekend is as sunny as mine xxx