Okay, so now that I’ve gotten the ranting out of my system (see below), I can share some pictures of my walk around Batumi last Sunday afternoon to buy groceries, to have lunch with my Peace Corps colleagues Tom and Suzanne, and just to enjoy the afternoon. I’ve mentioned before that I shop in several places for different things, so first a picture of the local upscale “supermarket” called, oddly, Goodwill. Inside it’s a bit larger than your average 7/11, but it carries a lot of high-end and imported goods, many from Germany, that I haven’t found anywhere else, for those days I need gastrometric pampering:
Most Georgians, of course, do not cross this particular threshold of capitalism. More likely, they do their dry goods and dairy shopping at the multiple tiny little magazini that dot the city. Sized about 12 feet square, these commercial marvels are filled chock-a-block with everything you can imagine and sometimes more, open early, open late. This is a good example of one – not the one I use, but similar enough and more importantly, conveniently located on my walk that day:
But if you want to get a sense of the real Batumi shopping experience, the picture below shows the kind of place where I would venture to say most of the people in town get their non-perishables. There is a major street – Chavchavadze Street — which is covered with little shops like the one below, but I am hesitent to take pictures of things here which are so obviously unlovely. I could catch this particular one without making anyone, myself included, uncomfortable, and so I did:
So, with a little bit from here and a little bit from there, I keep myself supplied. There is also a huge amazing central market that I’ve just been to just once – the kind you find in a lot of European cities with mounds of produce and multiple stalls of fish and chicken and cheese and walnuts and the like, but it’s *so* obvious that we’re/I’m the foreigner and, more honestly, I’m really queasy around things like seeing folks put their grubby paws on the fly-covered meat and glimpsing the back of decapitated pig’s heads and walking over sleeping gypsies on the staircase that I usually give it a pass.
This area where I was walking in Batumi that day was the heart of the Turkish neighborhood, and below is what was obviously a traditional Turkish bath, similar to those all over the Ottoman Empire from its heyday. I can’t tell if there are efforts to either restore it or finish tearing it down, but this is clearly an interesting part of the city’s history and it would be a shame to lose it to the march of modernity:
Turning just 180 degrees, one sees one of the lovely streetscapes that keeps me walking about this itty bitty city:
Nearby is one of the new/old juxtapositions that have sprouted around town since now-outgoing President Mikheil “Misha” Saakashvili started taking an active interest a few years back. On the left, a new tower connected to a small hotel and French cafe (The “Piazza”), and on the right you see the side of a traditional Ajarian Orthodox Church:
I have mentioned before my experience of “chronesia” here in Georgia, the sense of living in multiple time zones. Happily, thank to my walk that day I now have bona fide confirmation that this is, in fact, exactly what is happening to me:
Ba-da-BOOM! Fortunately, I have met a few people here who keep me firmly and confidently anchored in the present day. Among them is an intrepid Peace Corps couple, Tom and Suzanne, who live with a host family in a nearby village and take regular Georgian lessons, both of which put my cultural chops to shame. Here they are at our favorite Ukrainian restaurant:
If they can do it, I can do it, and they’re here for a total of two years. Wow.