Trip Start Aug 20, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Georgia  ,
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

          Well, it's always fun to be struck down by sickness when you have to pay for a bed every night, regardless of what you do. :( I caught a cold so I've just been huddled in my hostel bed drinking tea and counting my disapearing lari (money). Sigh. Last week I went to Mestia, in the Svaneti region (northwest Georgia, near the Abkhazia region but not too close....) The region was gorgeous and covered with towers. The villages in this area have been there for centuries, and are still dotted with the stone towers that every household used to have (convenient to hole up in when you've pissed the neighbors off). The houses there still seem to be largely made of the local rock- I don't know whether this is a result of the village's inaccessibility, the ancient-ness of the houses, or simply good sense (maybe a mix of all three?). To get there I took the train to Zugdide (the city whose population has almost doubled from the number of refugees who ended up there from Abkhazia) and then a marshrutka to Mestia. Six long, carsick filled hours. The ride toKazbegi wasn't as bad- the roads were stable. This ride I almost lost my cookies a few too many times. Especially when the curvy road and fast driving was mixed with heights. I'm not normally one to be afraid of heights, but when I found myself looking down into the swirling river far far below and realizing there couldn't be more than an inch between the marshrutka's tires and the edge of the road (in other words, I couldn't even see the side of the road when I looked down from my window) I almost lost it. The two other travelers I had met on the bus to ride up to Mestia just scoffed at my whimpering. The were on the other side of the bus, and blissfully unaware of the edge of the road. I didn't feel comforted seeing all the memorials to unfortunate drivers on the side of the road, hanging off the cliffsides. These had been notably absent on the drive up to Kazbegi.

          While in Mestia we ran into a Red Cross caravan that is based in Zugdidi. When the war with South Ossetia started, the remaining Georgians in Abkhazia and its border regions fled, ending up in the homes of sometimes just acquaintances. In Mestia there were 55 internally-displaced persons. So the Red Cross/Red Crescent was there trying to give them enough supplies to make it through the winter. Because the place is so isolated, people are usually pretty self-sufficient and prepare well for the winter when the roads become largely inaccessible. But when suddenly more people are tossed into the household after the summer preparation is over, then the families have to struggle to make ends meet. So the Red Cross was trying to help at least ease winter worries with blankets, flour, and so on. Most people come and pick up these items on their own after the organization has checked to make sure there are refugees living in the households, but they make deliveries to some of the more remote villages even farther up from Mestia.
         Anyways, tomorrow I think I'm off to Armenia! I'll update again when I get a chance.
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