Restful Days and the 12 Parcels to Tiredness

Today is one of those days where I just have to be, do everything delicately and as I feel ready.  I need to rest and be quiet and be in my own protective bubble.  Over the years I’ve learnt not to push myself when feeling this way, to not pressure or force myself, just to rest up.  Its always a bit backwards on such days, especially when I know I have time pressures and so much to do.  But its best to shut off from that, not think about it, and to lie or sit quietly until it passes.

Importance of Care

The reason for this? A migraine.  And in many ways a self inflicted one.  The result of my wisdom tooth putting pressure on the nerve, causing me ear ache, not taking pain killers as soon as I felt the headache develop, and rushing about all day in the heat, being stressed and holding tension in my shoulders, and not eating or drinking all day, not exercising, and not having a good diet the past few weeks.  Its not about blame, but a reminder of why I need to pay attention to my body and it’s needs and to put that first more often, especially when rowing across the ocean or hiking across the arctic.  I’m learning that my body isn’t as resilient as it once was, and ever since I had Guillain-Barre I’ve become very sensitive to neglecting to look after myself 100%.  When I’m on form, eating a really well balanced diet and exercising I have incredible stamina and energy, but if I change my routine or skip breakfast or eat junk food I end up in trouble these days.  How things have changed from how I was as a teen and could go out clubbing all night and sleep on people’s floors! Though we were pretty poor and had heart problems in the family, so I was brought up on a basic diet that didn’t consist of processed or fast foods and was always low cholesterol and with no added salt or sugar.

The Wisdom of Wisdom Teeth

I hate headaches, because they invariably drag on, make me sick, and mean I can’t sleep, effectively losing two days for each migraine I have.  I really need to get back on top of those things, and I’m looking forward to being able to raise enough money to go to the UK so I can have the surgery to remove my impacted wisdoms.  I’m not one to take medicine as I generally believe that pain is there for a reason, the body’s way of telling you not to do something and to listen to it and change something.  But headaches are different, and having researched migraines when I was a Neuropsychologist and having so many young friends (in their 20s) now recovering from strokes, I’m reminded on a daily basis, how important it is to look after oneself and not to push on regardless.

I was feeling pretty rubbish yesterday, for a few days in fact, combination of things, but the mouth ulcers have been driving me nuts, making me not want to eat, and the heat adding to that and making me feel nauseas.  Not the best start for the day that followed, though thankfully my team mate Brigid was an absolute trooper, met me at Elvis for breakfast/lunch and having her around really reduced the level of crappiness I was feeling and knowing how much energy I would need for the day ahead.

First Parcel

It started off pretty well, especially given how wobbly and weak I was feeling, and I felt a whole lot better after eating together and catching up on Brigid’s news and adventures.  I’d received a slip of paper from a postal worker who came to the house, and it turned out I had a parcel.  I wasn’t expecting anything, and thought it might have been for Brigid, but with a ‘care of’ address or something.  So I took my passport, and with the help of my amazing neighbour, we arranged a taxi that would take us first to the post office (he ended up charging just 50gel for about 9hours of service, so I’ll definitely be using him again, and he also said he will drive to Yerevan and even France! He was far safer that many local drivers too).  We arrived through the Georgian Post door just as the lady was closing it and she told us it was lunchtime and to come back later.  I think she saw the glint in my eye, steam about to come out of my ears, and so just as quickly she reasoned that probably she could let us by.  And two seconds later we had our package, and as a bonus, there was no handling charge for it.  It felt like forever, waiting for the guy to process the electronic slip that needed signing for as we were curious who the parcel was for (me or Brigid) and what one earth it might be.  Who would be sending a parcel to me?? I never get care packages or letters or parcels, its expensive to post here, so who would do such a thing?? The box was turned face down, so all we could do, was to stare over the counter at the square brown box, willing the guy to hurry up with whatever it was he was doing.

As soon as he turned it over, I saw the ‘Taylors of Harrogate’ stamp, and immediately knew what it was.  But it was big for a ‘small sample of tea’.  A few weeks ago I’d been talking to Victoria from Yorkshire Tea about our ocean row and OPG, and though they couldn’t sponsor us financially (because they already support lots of local causes) they told us they could send us tea samples from time to time.  But when she said a ‘small sample’ I was thinking more along the one or two tea bag level, this far exceeded expectation (160 tea bags!).

On Being from Yorkshire

I’m a typical British tea drinker and a tea snob, and my family has been drinking Yorkshire tea forever, probably because my grandfather was a Yorkshire man, from Todmorden along with centuries of his ancestors, now all buried on the same Yorkshire hillside (my granny being a Lancashire girl from Accrington!!!).  How a couple got together from two such counties remains a mystery, since there has been a divide since the 1400s when the two royal houses of Lancaster, Lancashire (where I bought my house) and York in Yorkshire (where my aunt lives), went to war in the 1400s to fight for who would be the next King, known as the ‘war of the roses’.  Probably explains a thing or two about my temperament with a mixture of Yorkshire, Lancashire, McDonald, McEvoy, McAlpine from the Scottish ancestors, and Irish (Dublin, Fermanagh, and Waterford), Sheffield (where the Irish clan moved to), and French Celt on the other side!!  With Funeral Directors on the one side and sailors on the other, though I’m not sure I inherited the ability to use either a saw or embalming fluid.  Most of them it turns out, were Free Masons.

Anyway, parcel collected in record time, no charge, taxi waited, off to the next location: USA2Georgia with our slip from the Revenue Services that gave us tax emption on the parcels and off we went to Sabartalo to collect the parcels.  Wrong! We got there, we picked up three packages from downstairs with no problem at all.  Then we went upstairs to collect the rest which needed customs declaration, though it seems they had been randomly assigned to customs, and we’d already had another parcel delivered to the house.  The main reason for this, being that when we ordered everything, it was sent out randomly in different dispatches so when I came to declare it online, I had no idea what each package was, and because each box had been opened, it meant that what would have been one package, got split up into separate ones, so instead of receiving the laptop and three giftvouchers as one, it came as 4 items, and we ended up having to pay customs on educational gift vouchers that were given to us as part of an educational deal.  Two of them were clear of customs, the third wasn’t! So we paid for something that we hadn’t actually purchased, along with the shipping charge for it. Ouch!!! But, we sat and waited for a while, worrying how much the taxi was going to cost as we’d not expected to be quite so long, and now we were waiting to be served and it looked to be all very complicated.  Eventually we got served and the complications began.

We weren’t on the Revenue Services system as tax exempt.  OK, well maybe it was because the document was only emailed yesterday and they hadn’t updated the system yet??? Nope, it says you’ll get the answer on the 6th of August, you’ll have to wait util then to get your parcels. Lots of cursing amd sighing on our behalf.  A lot of faffing around, people calling each other, and a very helpful customer who also tried to help clarify everything, and lots of calls from USA2Georgia to the customs office to try and clarify things.  No go. So, after an hour or so, back in the taxi, dropped Brigid off at school to teach her mandatores, and I continued on to the Revenue Services, who it seems have now moved into their new office and there were workmen busy doing things around them and their shiny new booths and computers.

The Psychics!

The lady ‘Tamara’ we spoke to on the previous visits, and who had made our application, was away today so that was a shame, as she had been super helpful and very professional on our previous visits. So I found the central desk, waited to be served, and then discovered that I’d have to sit and wait with all the other people for an hour, bearing in mind that they hadn’t yet set up any queuing system, so it was reliant on the lady on the desk, who seemed to be responsible for doing everything, remembering which person was next in line and remembering to call you.  She told me I would be after that ‘gogo’, not actually pointing, and with the cultural annoyance of ‘gogo’ meaning girl and to me ‘girl’ is a child, not a grown woman, unless you want to be patronising.  I didn’t see any girls, but I did see a line of ladies and their husbands, so I was none the wiser, exactly which ‘girl’ was before us.  All I could do, was resort to staring at the ‘girl’ at the desk, and hoping that it wouldn’t end up the same as the ticketing system at Tbilisi City Hall, where we had waited about two hours, only to harrass the people in the office, who discovered that their machine was broken!

Eventually she called me over, bearing in mind that I’d given her no information whatsoever, she didn’t know my name, my company, or anything about me.  She called me to the front of the desk and announced to me that my application had been turned down.  I love the whole sense of privacy and confidentiality in Georgia! Only glad that I wasn’t getting a verdict of genital herpes or something, though I’m pretty sure that would be announced in the same way.  I wasn’t satisfied.  We spent a lot of money on four Revenue Services visits, we had printed every thing they had asked for, got it translated, notarised and paid for all of this ourselves.  What could they mean, turned down? Why? What should we do next? Who had decided this?  How did she even know who we were or what I wanted?  I needed answers in order to move forward, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being fobbed off, especially having not given any of my details and I’d never met this person before.  Sure I’m a foreigner and I stick out, but come on!  She called the lady we spoke to before, who was not here today apparently, which seemed a bit weird.  If she was on holiday, then why were you calling her???? Majorly confused!


She took me up some steps, and along to a booth, to a young girl, who looked terrified, and was plastered in make up and bright lipstick, which was probably as well, given that she looked about 12 years old.  I wasn’t immediately impressed I have to say, especially when greeted with a slumped over girl whining to the reception lady ‘ooowwww, ar minda’ like some stroppy teenager.  Followed by ‘ar vitsi’.  Basically ‘oh, I don’t want to’ and ‘I don’t know’ as in I don’t know anything about my job and I sure as hell don’t want to deal with a foreigner.  Such a shame given that I’d previously been impressed with the revenue services I’d received.  The reception lady, who was equally as young. but a whole lot more professional and was at least making an effort, coaxed her into at least printing off the answer and the reasoning.  It turned out that we had been turned down for tax exemption at customs, and after a lot of persuasion I was able to suss out that it was because we didn’t submit enough documents.  I appreciated that it would be hard for them to translate legislation speak Georgian into legislation speak English, but was appalled that the receptionist was the one trying to do everything, and without any help or even moral support from the girl at the computer, whose job it actually was.  I asked them if they could copy and paste the answer into google translate so that I could at least see for myself what was going on, especially since the document I have said we were cleared and I’d received no other information and they weren’t going to give me a copy of this answer until I literally had to demand it.  Translating it myself, would mean typing each character into google translate for myself, far easier for her to copy and paste from her computer, so I could see what it said and ask any questions I needed to, whilst I was here.  Apparently the other document was to say that we were registered as a charity with the revenue services, but what we had been turned down for was the customs exemption bit.  She refused to google translate for me, and instead continued to check her facebook page, leaning on her left elbow, avoiding all eye contact and sucking in air in a very annoying way.  I know so many young people in Georgia who would love her job and would be so great at it, and even my smallest attempts to speak Georgian were met with attitude.  I was pretty calm and reasonable up until that point, but the girl made me really angry, and so I called up my neighbour to see whether she would have more luck.  Make Up girl could ignore me as a foreigner, but she surely couldn’t ignore an older Georgian?  She didn’t want to, but I thrust my cell phone at her, determined that she should at least make some attempt at being a grown up and doing her job.  My neighbour rarely gets angry, and she was also  livid after her conversation.  I was going to get nowhere here, and the girl was still staring at her facebook page and looking as if she might just burst in to tears at any given moment.  I did telesales once, I was good at it, but I hated it, because I hated selling a product I didn’t believe in, and the whole fickle nature of the job.  If you didn’t make your quota of sales each week you’d lose your job, and you’d easily be pulled up for ‘negging out’, bringing a negative attitude to the office.  It was fast paced, they would play music at us at intervals, to try and hype us up, and they’d sit at the end of the table listening in on your calls and then telling you where you went wrong or why you didn’t get the sale.  You’d get rewards for each sale you made, and it was like selling your soul to the devil.  It was great money, but I hated it and I soon quit, as it was just a job to do before med school started as I could earn five times as much as I would in my Social Services job trying to put families and their teenagers back together again.  I saw on that girl’s face, that soul destroying feeling of being in a job that you hate and wondering whether there is a life out there somewhere or is this it for the rest of your days.  It made me glad to think that, no matter how stressful and frustrating my days are as Director of OPG, at least it is a job that I love and I don’t have superiors to answer to and I don’t have to sit and wonder when I can escape.  But it was also hard to feel sorry for her, with her bad attitude and reluctance to help.  I’ve noticed a lot of this recently, young people in jobs they seem to hate, deluded and tricked that there is life after education and study.  In the shops I visit, in the street, mostly young girls looking sad and unhappy, but not seeming to want to change it.  Maybe its just the heat of summer draining their energy, but I miss that work ethic.  Its a major difference between the British and Georgian cultures.  In Britain, its hard to get a job and there are always people who would jump at the chance of taking your job, so even if you feel shit, you rarely display it, because if you behaved like a lot of the guys in Georgia, you’d be instantly sacked, and if you get the sack, its hard to get a new job, especially as you need a reference from your last employer.  Employers frown upon people who have had too many jobs, regardless of the reason why. And one bad job can render you unemployable for the rest of your career, and everything should be added to your CV and future job applications.


But I had a serious problem now.  I’d left money in the budget to cover tax, but now we had spent half of it on translation and getting documents together, and travelling back and forth to the tax office.  Not to mention that I had postponed my flight to Latvia by a month, with fares increasing from 100euros to closer to 400euros, and this now meant that I could have taken the laptop when it arrived weeks ago, rather than waiting on the tax exemption.  I was concerned at how much the tax would be, and asked if I could borrow a calculator to work it out quickly, because if I didn’t have enough money for the tax, then I had a huge problem.  The items if not paid for, would be given to customs, but then I’d have to put in my report to Lush who gave us the money, that I had spent the money, but that we didn’t have the items because we didn’t have enough money for tax and that they had been kept by customs.  They cannot be sent back from the office to the sender.  The girls were annoyed with me now, they didn’t have a calculator, they didn’t know how to work out tax, didn’t know how much the tax was in Georgia, and wouldn’t use the computer’s calculator.  They were being intentionally difficult and complaining that people were waiting.  Tough luck! I’d waited an hour to be served, I’ve spent four days at your offices and you kept me waiting over a week for an answer that you can’t explain to me, or help me with, and you are purposely being difficult for no reason at all, you’ve time to play on your facebook, and if you just gave me the calculator instead of arguing about it then we could have sorted all this by now!  Now I was angry.  And I realised it was pretty pointless dealing with this idiotic girl who had no interest in anything other than her facebook page.

To-ing and Fro-ing

So off I went, back to USA2Georgia.  I showed them the document, and they translated it for me, and tried to think of different ways to help.  I couldn’t take the parcel, because they were for OPG, not for me personally, how could we get this all to work.  We spent ages and they were incredibly patient and helpful.  The office was a little less busy than before, and I think they could see how frustrated I was.  I needed to go back to Revenue Services, get my personal fiscal number, and a letter from them to explain that the items were for my project.  No that wouldn’t work, we’d have to try something else.  Back I went in the taxi to the revenue services.  Saw the same lady at the desk, sat and waited, and eventually got taken up the stairs to another booth, to a pregnant lady, and one who was calmer, more interested, spoke a little English, and also made efforts to try and sort things out.  I also had the number for the very nice lady at USA2Georgia who could talk to them and tell them exactly what I needed, if they started to be difficult.  I was worried now, because if I took the parcels under my own name and not as OPG, would I be breaking the law and how would it be financially when we either appeal the decision, or present our tax and accounts come April next year, when hopefully we should get the money back.  Doing it as myself could potentially create a problem and could get me in trouble.  This lady was fairly helpful, and soon enough I had what I needed.  Back I went to Sabartalo to the warehouse where my parcels had been sat for quite a few weeks now.  There was so much paperwork to do, all of which was made more complicated by the way things had been dispatched, as tax had to be paid per shipment rather than per items, plus there was tax on the transportation and on the free gift vouchers since according to Georgian law they are worth money.  Apparently the same, even it it had been a ‘spend $50 and get a free pen’ type voucher.  We were there for hours, and they even stayed behind three hours more after they closed, just so they could help me out, and we even had some giggles, and I was pleasantly surprised with how lovely they were and how incredibly helpful.  We talked about OPG and the row, and I left feeling as if I’d made two new friends, which was very unexpected.  I got freaked out at one point, as they explained that the only way you could make payment to the customs people, was by going to Rustaveli 24 hour bank and making a cash payment into the customs account.  OMG, another journey, to Rustaveli and then back for the parcels, sheessh!  But it was fine, apparently you can take the parcels but you have 30days in which to make the payment, bearing in mind that all the documents throughout the day were written in Georgian, and for those of you who don’t know what Georgian looks like it is like this: ჰდუჰდჰჰდჰჰოჰეოდგყგყგბცკრლეოტეყრყყ so not only, do I have to translate the Georgian letters into symbols I am familiar with, but I also need to know what the words themselves mean, plus all the legal terminology, so it creates a lot of extra annoyance, plus every conversation anyone has with other people, and on the phone, is in Georgian, so you have to work doubly hard to try and understand what is being said, what is the problem, and what can be done to resolve it, or what paper is needed, And in Georgia, there is a tendency for several people to talk at exactly the same time, and for people not to pay attention or listen, or at least appear to be not listening, which when combined with British politeness and manners, is quite irksome and against all the things I’ve been taught to do or not to do!

Sick of the Tax

I’m stressing now, because our tax amounts to some 900gel, which we would have had, if I hadn’t paid out for translations and notary services, and now I have to use my own money to make up the difference, which will really screw up our accounts and the report that we have to send to Lush who gave us the funds.  I’ve also forked out my own money for taxis and days lost, with the result that I don’t know whether I can go to Latvia now, and if I do, I might be putting myself in financially jeopardy longer term.  Its a huge lesson to learn, but has still saved us on buying any other way.  Its something that has to be sorted out, especially because we are looking for donations in kind for OPG and the ocean row, and applying for around 4million euros.  The food alone for the ocean row is worth over £21,000 and there is no way we can be paying tax on that kind of stuff, so we need to get it sorted asap.  On the plus side, we have 30days to make the customs payment, and I hope that I can find out what was the problem, and what can be done about it to resolve the issue.  Because we gave absolutely every document possible, and everything that they asked for.  Alternatively, I hope that we can claim it back in April.  Its not a big big deal, we can work around it, and it isn’t the end of the world, but its a massive frustration and extra stress and seems very unfair right now.  Even to just know the reasoning behind the decision would be a help, especially for applying in the future. And why tell us we had it, and then say we haven’t.  The technical side I can deal with, but being confronted by stroppy teenagers is not acceptable at all.  That really aggravated me, was totally unnecessary and is the kind of reason why Georgia gets a bad name.  If you want to attract foreigners to work and invest money in Georgia then you have to step up on the customer services.  They have so many good staff, yet they are let down by people like that who would be better off staying at home than being the face of the Revenue Services, and I really wonder how on earth she got that job, or why others are carrying her workload. If she is out of her depth and really doesn’t know anything, then why the hell hasn’t someone trained her and why has she been thrown in at the deep end.  Staring at your computer screen in tears helps no one, least of all the person themself.  Get the girl a mentor, teach her something, get her making tea for god’s sake, but please don’t put her in a job where she has no clue at all.  Give her a calculator at least, tell her about the rate of tax in Georgia, because I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to ask her, and even I know what the tax level is.  Teach her about work ethic, about not playing on facebook when there is a customer, teach her to give eye contact, to sit up straight.  Put her in the USA2Georgia office for a while, that will sort her out.  There she will learn super customer service, how to use initiative, how to be friendly and professional, and how to get the job done, that gives you this thing called job satisfaction, which means you go home happy and fulfilled.  Just place her there, for even one day so she can learn something, because clearly she learnt nothing at school.

Loveliest People in the World

I’m super, super thankful and very gobsmacked at just how amazing USA2Georgia were, and were throughout my dealings with them.  I was a bit frustrated at some of the website being in English and some in Georgian, but if I sent them an email they replied promptly and with a proper answer, or they directed me to where I could find the information if they didn’t have it themselves.  They told me what to do to make future purchases easy and to contact them before hand so they could help and make sure declarations and tracking numbers match.  They helped me in my dealings with the tax office, used their initiative, gave me a drink when they realised I’d been running about all day, they helped me carry the parcels, stayed three hours later than they should have, and looked at every single option, and making sure they did everything properly and legally.  They were far superior to any company I think I have ever met, in any country.  They understood that if I was frustrated it wasn’t personal, that it was the situation and they helped to manage that frustration.  They understood and they listened.


I left with all of my packages, and though the battle is not over yet, since I still have to tackle the tax, it is a little nearer to the end.  By the time I got home, did a lot of chores and things, I was exhausted.  I’m feeling crappy today, palpitations and headache and shaky from my migraine last night.  I’m not ready to tackle anything big today, I need to rest up.

Cosy and Restful

I’m snuggled up with Isla and Street Cat, who seems to respond to the name ‘Isla’ too and follows the dog everywhere, and I need to just sit quietly today.  I can’t think properly and I can’t do any mental of physical work right now.  It’ll pass soon enough, its just my body’s way of asking for a time out.  I’m ready to be in Latvia now, I need to be there, eating and resting and recharging as I work on the book.  Today is a day to just be, and to make a list of jobs that need to be done, so that when I’m ready, I can tackle them again.  But its all a good lesson and practice and though its a bit crappy, its just a normal part of life, you have to deal with it and move on.  And I’m lucky that I have the luxury of being able to do that, and now I have my Yorkshire Tea too, to be drunk and to melt away all my body’s aches and pains and to warm up every corner of my being.  Great things really do come in little packages.



About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
This entry was posted in Britishness, Four Birds a Boating/rOwPG, Georgian Life, Health and Fitness, Latvia Life, Ocean Rowing, Oceans Project and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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