Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Circadian Rhythms and the Meeting of the Continents.

We were moving easterly, on the old European trade route (the one that Marco Polo and his uncles traveled to reach the far east of Persia, India and China) heading toward the border with Azerbaidzhan and Russia when I finally clicked into the right time zone. Ten hours eastward is one big flippin' leap for the internal clock to make. I had faked it pretty well the day before, with only a few hours of sleep after our middle-of-the-night arrival and a short nap in late afternoon. But finally, I was consolidated all in one place – the Kekheti Region of the Republic of Georgia – and one racing vehicle -- a substantial sport utility vehicle being driven by a crazy Georgian driver.

The moment I opened my eyes and made the transition coincided with our driver's particularly aggressive “bully pass” as he barreled up behind a smaller, slower-moving (translation, more sanely-paced) car, riding his bumper until the car edged, just slightly, to the right. Pulling to the middle of the road straddling the line, we began to pass, while meeting an oncoming truck that edged (barely) to his right. I swear, the door handles of all three cars mingled metals! I closed my eyes again and prayed; repeatedly, during that trip, as it turned out. Now that I am a veteran of the Georgian roads, I can tell you – most of them drive like our driver. (Which, coincidentally is exactly how they drive in Russia too!)

Lest you think that my blog sounds like a fiction story, I must confess that I've taken a vacation. Of weeks, countries, and continents. The adventure spanned two and a half continents, at least. I say “at least” because the Republic of Georgia sits on the Black Sea at the juncture of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Armenia, to its south claim to be in Europe. Turkey, to its southwest claims middle eastern heritage. Azerbaidzhan professes Asian influence but won't commit and Russia, to the northeast is, well – Russia! Thus the half-of-something thing.

The weeks were hectic leading up to the adventure to visit Nic and Sora, there due to his Fulbright in Tbilisi, Georgia. We knew they would take care of us there. It was for the rest of the adventure we needed the extra flight reservations and train passes and hotel reservations and car rentals and international driver's licenses and road maps and Euro exchange. We trekked through five airports to reach Tbilisi, arriving in the middle of the night to an airport packed with people. That is, we arrived, our checked bags did not. They could not keep up with a travel itinerary through four countries and five airlines (three of them contracted to the two major carriers) in the space of 28 hours.

So our adventure began with the clothes on our backs and a son, grinning ear-to-ear, allowed into the baggage claim/customs area to help us fill out (in Russian) the lost-bag forms for our bags. In the process he spotted his bags, lost when he returned from his Washington DC meetings the week prior, resting five feet from my toes – one of them our daughter's distinctive, Cherry Creek High School swim team bag!

First I clicked into the timezone, then accepted that the international data and voice setup for my Blackberry were not going to cooperate. Other than an hour or so that week, I was cut off from world news, social networks, blogs, email and other time-consuming 21st century lifelines. It was me, my digital camera and my notebook capturing this experience. The brownouts so often experienced in Georgia on steaming summer days further made us appreciate when there was electricity at all. Nic had been right. Yes, we had lived overseas in Germany, and yes, when we lived there it was still, in many ways, an “occupied country.” But it had not been, even then, the adventure that they are having.

So, once again, my note books are full, I am determined to conquer my photo phobia to get some visuals up on my blog(or FaceBook)from the trip, and this is the first of many blogs about the adventures we have had!