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It's a strange world, being an English language writer on ЖЖ. Some of you may wonder how an American made her way to the Russian blogosphere. It all started in April 2012 when my Ukrainian friend sent me a link to one of Ilya Varlamov's (varlamov.ru) African stories. Immediately I was captivated. A sea of intelligent and prolific thinkers/travelers all writing in the same place. I became hooked, reading many of the top bloggers daily for intellectual pursuit but also to study Russian words.

Then I became friends with another popular Russian blogger, made my way to Russia, and wrote a story that received a lot of attention when he translated it into Russian on his blog. Now I have a wonderful audience, consisting entirely of Russian speaking subscribers. I still don't know how some people make their way to my journal but I'm very grateful for your readership, insight and comments. Sometimes I question whether I should continue writing on
ЖЖ, or move to another platform where I'll reach a larger English speaking audience. However, I think there's some value in having an American woman writing here, in a creative space that is dominated mostly by male bloggers.

This post will now remain at the top as an open forum. I try to maintain an active dialogue with readers and you can write what you wish in these comments. Tell me something interesting about yourself, how you discovered my blog, ask questions about America, travel or any other topic. And, most importantly, let me know the types of stories in which you're interested. People appear most fascinated with my thoughts and impressions on Russia, but unfortunately I don't have the time or financial resources to spend an extended period exploring other parts of the country. I'll be certain to return in the near future, maybe early winter. My favorite season! Until then, I'll try to keep you entertained with stories about other topics and places.

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I've started to paint a nice picture of Georgia in my first few posts, but this doesn't mean everything is so rosy there. The country is no different from others, with both good and bad sides. The difference is that as a foreigner I notice many problematic things which Georgians may consider "normal", when in fact they're confusing, and even incomprehensible, for a foreign tourist.

You can look at this cover photo and perhaps it stirs some type of nostalgia for those who grew up in Soviet times. :) These old LADAs are everywhere on the roads in Georgia, and I'm always amazed at how many people are stuffed inside them. Often the small cars are weighed down with heavy loads attached to the roof, barely moving down the road. I wondered several times if some of these people ever made it to their destination point. Many of the old cars are in bad shape, and probably shouldn't even be on the road. However, as far as I can tell, there is no type of inspection requirement for machines, no emissions testing - nothing to control the quality or safety of the cars on the roads in Georgia. And this leads to #1 on the list for "bad Georgia"....Read more...Collapse )

Snapshot from Georgian village

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This is one of my favorite photos from the road trip in Georgia, taken in motion from a car window while passing. However, it's very symbolic of life throughout the country. Outside of Tbilisi, Batumi and a few other larger cities, Georgia is one big rural village, immediately transporting you to a different time and place. For all its beauty, the country is very poor, employment opportunities are limited, and people are tied to a simple existence without a lot of luxuries to which most of us are accustomed. This is part of the country's beauty and fascination, at least for me - an American coming from a middle class, stable environment. A woman who has had plenty of opportunities to achieve almost anything she wanted in life. Nothing has been handed to me, for everything I worked quite hard -  getting various degrees and a high education, fighting for positions at work, numerous other things...

I tried to find some statistics about average wages, but they are inconsistent. Figures released in 2015 show that women in Georgia earned an average salary of 697.3 GEL ($270), while a male earns 1,126.8 ($440). So, we can see that men earn substantially more there, regardless of business sector. The average pension is about $75. There is free health care, but nothing is really "free", and more favorable care can be arranged by getting private insurance costing from $10 - $50/month. With such poor wages, this seems almost impossible for most citizens. Georgians pay a flat tax on salaries and fees - 20%. If annual income exceeds 40,000 GEL ($15,600), the State will require additional taxes which are determined by the value of real estate owned by the family. At least, this is according to current information available here. Due to the fertile nature of Georgian soil, food is quite cheap - fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are all produced locally. With meat is another issue - sometimes expensive, and not the best quality, unless you like fatty dishes.

I can't really say how living in Georgia is different than life in Russia. In some ways, the systems are the same and village life in each nation mirrors the other based on my experience of traveling in remote parts of both nations. Cultures certainly differ in their openness, friendliness and tolerance for diversity. Georgians by nature are quite animated, friendly and talkative; Russians more cold in appearance, and less animated as a whole. But people are just people....:)

What do you think? Could you live in such a village? This is something I continually ask myself... and the answer remains inconclusive.





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At various points in life I was chasing something, and there is one common thread to all the pursuits. Adventure, curiosity or wonder have always been tied to the chase - whether it was an intriguing man I was trying to figure out, some exotic location I was trying to make my way to, or some natural landscape I wanted to experience in person rather than simply admire from my computer screen.

In Georgia, I was able to chase clouds - yes, I love them! At many points during the journey they were hanging so low it felt like I could reach out and touch them with my fingers. One such place was along the Georgian Military Highway, which connects Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia. It is also the site of the only official border crossing into Russia, at least this is my understanding. The border used to be restricted to CIS citizens only, but is now open to all. If you're looking for a day trip from Tbilisi, this is my recommendation, and let's see why.Read more...Collapse )

Landscapes and love

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I often view natural landscapes as lovers of sorts. In such places, nostalgia sometimes arises, and it's easy to equate tides, vistas, and any terrain of nature to a past lover if you only open your mind and imagination. From the curves of the wheat blowing in the open fields, the delicate petals of flowers, to the strong and towering stature of forest trees and vast moutain ranges.

I suppose some people just past by such scenes and think, or feel, absolutely nothing. However, each time I'm in a natural landscape, my mind begins to wander, romantic visions arise and I'm carried off to some magical mental state, if only for a brief period of time. It is here that I momentarily believe in the notion of fairy tales. Of all the landscapes, I dislike the ocean and sea most. Violent, unsteady and often aggressive. The great unknown, the depths and darkness of which remain a mystery to most humans, incapable of ever being wholly experienced or felt. The behaviors of the tide, waves and rhythm often resemble a cocky, aggressive, alpha male. For the sea rushes to kiss the shore day after day, no matter how many times it's pushed away. An overall machismo type of behavior that I despise in men, and I guess natural landscapes also. For those who somehow find peace, comfort and happiness in the open waters, these photos are for you, taken during a trip to San Diego, California last summer.Read more...Collapse )
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We can say that cultures and cuisines vary around the world, but there's a common thread - most humans eat and sleep on a daily basis. If you're lucky enough, on some days you also get the chance to sing, dance, or engage in something uplifting for the soul. In Georgia, there is a huge culture of food, filled with many tasty, aromatic and flavorful dishes. The best part of all of this - it is so cheap! :)

Throughout the journey, I spent most evenings on the road at homestays, which are sometimes the only option in mountain regions. The cost for all of the rooms was a standard $50/per night, and this included hearty breakfasts and dinners. This cover photo is from the start of the road expedition, and this house was my favorite from the journey. Wonderful table filled with all kinds of homemade Georgian foods to fill the belly at the end of a very long and strenuous day of driving. I grew to crave this delicious yogurt soup, and ordered it frequently during the trip because the more traditional soup - "kharcho" - was too spicy! In general, Georgians like to stuff everything with decadent fillings - peppers, eggplant, potatoes filled with nuts, curry paste, spices - lots of other things buried in the pockets.

Today Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, where we gather around the table for huge feasts and fellowship, so it seems like a good time to begin the reports from Georgia and speak a bit about the food and lodging options. Let's go...Read more...Collapse )

Just me and a tree

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I often seek refuge under trees in times of deep confusion or when in a reflective mood. I can't articulate why I find them so powerful and spiritual, but it is so. Deep roots here, with fortress walls behind it. Mighty, mighty place in the mountainous country of Georgia.

Where there is a tree, there is hope. Something stirring in the soul, as leaves dance with the breeze, sometimes drifting onward to a new place at the mercy of the winds. Sometimes being stubborn, clinging to the branch on which they have always existed. Nature's rattle, immediately calming. Under trees some of my dreams have been born, romances ignited and poems imagined. Yes, where there is a tree, there is hope...at least for me.

My Georgia...

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Imagine a place where the mundane patterns of normal life disappear, and you're transported into a fairy tale of sorts. This is my Georgia, the way I'll remember this magical little corner of the globe. A fairy tale for a brief moment in time, yet I don't believe such lands of enchantment exist in reality. Life is a constant ebb and flow. We are always swimming along, and against, various streams and tides in life. For me personally, it's sometimes confusing to know which route to take.

Georgia - it was full of wonder and discovery on many levels - from stunning mountains to the ancient, narrow pathways of Old Tbilisi, fortresses glowing atop hills in the night sky, and of course Georgians themselves. I think all those readers who wrote about these "wild" people have never stepped foot in this country. I love so many things about this place, and of course some things made me uneasy and caused culture shock.

I can't find the proper words to describe my time there, but I'm now back in the USA and have returned to monotonous and boring office life. Mostly I want to thank all the native Georgians who took such good care of me during my visit, and all the friendly and helpful strangers I encountered along the way. When the words come to me, I will write them here and tell more about my journey. We covered North, South, East and West, having some real exotic and off-road adventures along the way. I didn't carry my big camera, and all photos were taken with the new iPhone 7. Somehow I just wanted to focus on the experience, and not worry about getting the best shots. Simply existing in, and absorbing, each moment.

It has been my longest absence from the blog since I began writing on LJ. I hope some of you are still here, and that you're doing well - staying warm with the arrival of winter. Cheers from the USA! :)

Readers in Georgia?

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It's very amusing to hear impressions and stereotypes about Georgia from my Russian readers. Unfortunately, I don't think I have many native Georgians reading this blog. I will be there in two weeks, and will spend several days in Tbilisi at the beginning and end of the journey. Please send me a message if you are there, and have time to meet for coffee or a quick chat.

In the meantime, I can't fully grasp current relations between Georgia and Russia, despite having read a lot of articles on this topic recently.  The most common stereotypes about Georgians repeated to me by Russian readers:

(1) Georgians are very, very lazy - especially Georgian men;
(2) most mafia in Soviet times were Georgians - yes, constant warnings about the Georgian mafia! :));
(3) they are hot-blooded Southerners, loud, animated; and
(4) continual comments about the wild men of the Caucasus'!


In fact, I think there is quite a long history of Russian females being attracted and drawn to men from the Caucasus, though I don't know the precise reasons why. The most amusing comment in my recent post about celibacy came when a reader wrote - "Думаешь горячие кавказские парни ее разморозят?" Well, I am not a piece of meat that needs to be dethawed! :))  Anyone who immediately attempts to do so will likely fail, and it does not matter if he is from the Caucasus or right here in Washington, DC.

The route is already planned, and I'll journey through the country with a native Georgian, spending most of my time in village areas. I think outside of a few larger cities, the whole country is a big village! :) If you have suggestions on places to visit, things to see, please write in comments. Thanks and pleasant week to all!

Food and lodging in Canada - Banff, Alberta

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My big expedition to Georgia is only a few weeks away, but I was craving a mountain adventure last month and hopped on a plane back to Montana, then onward via car to Alberta, Canada. This is one of the most beautiful places I've seen in all my travels, and the majority of my time was spent in Banff National Park. In this region, you are surrounded by majestic landscapes, pristine turquoise waters and cool forest breezes. I'll write about the natural landscapes in a separate post, but today I want to speak about portion sizes in Canadian restaurants and lodging in Banff.

America is known as the land of gluttony on many levels, and this includes our food. Yes, our portions are huge but I think in Banff they were even larger! I could not believe it actually, the huge piles of food thrown on plates at all restaurants. I traveled with my young cousin who is a hockey player and consumes excessive calories at each setting. Here is his breakfast one morning - something known as "cowboy grits." Grits are a type of crushed cornmeal, not sure if they are popular in Russia, but I do not like the texture or taste. This breakfast costs around 9 Canadian dollars.Read more...Collapse )

"Ours, the best!" - about Russian women

It's very strange for a foreigner to see this statement repeated over and over again in the Russian blogosphere. It's like some type of brainwashing or programming in the minds of men and women there - that "ours" are simply the best, most beautiful! Almost all of my friends are men, many from different countries, and I have not heard any other male make such a proclamation that "Italian women are the best!", "American women are the best!", "German women are the best!"...nope, only Russians say this.

I see another post today on this topic, but there is never a discussion of WHY. In all my travels there, I didn't notice any high ratio of beauties in comparison to other countries in which I've traveled. Of course, "beauty" - it's such a subjective term that it seems almost pointless to discuss the theme with the masses. But I really wonder - why are Russian women "the best"? For what reasons...enlighten me. :)

Нью-Йорк, 9/11

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Today is the same as most recent years on LJ. Some Russian speaking blogger publishes a post about the 9/11 attacks, and everyone jumps in the comments to discuss conspiracy theories or the evil U.S. government, paying absolutely no attention to all the selfless rescue workers, fire fighters and ordinary citizens who sacrificed their lives to save others on that day. It is really what I, as an American, remember most about 9/11. On this point, I read a very disgusting comment by one person - "Я испытала очень смешанные чувства, когда прочитала, как четверо пожарных погибли, спасая по лестнице ожиревшую неходячую гражданку. По мне так не стОило это их жизней."

Last year, I wrote a post about my recollections of this moment in American history, and I publish it again below for those who have not yet read. I don't know how I would have responded if I was on the scene that day. Would I have been selfless enough to sacrifice my life to save another? I don't know, but like to think so...

Originally posted by peacetraveler22 at Нью-Йорк, 9/11

On this day, there's always a very somber mood in the USA. Absolutely everyone from my generation remembers where they were when they first heard the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Life in the USA was never the same again, even to this day. On the news this morning, I was reminded of how many years have passed - 14. It seems almost unimaginable that there's now a whole generation of kids who have no memories from that day. They were not even born, or were only small toddlers when the graphic images of the towers collapsing appeared on TV screens. Some of my readers who are in their early 20's probably only have vague recollections of this historic event also. But for others, including myself, there's no escaping these images or the fateful tragedies of so many lives that day.Read more...Collapse )

1500 days without sex...

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We live in a hyper-sexual world. There's no way to escape provocative images in media, news, television, film. We've become so saturated with provocation that many have become desensitized to it, and I believe this trend has caused a serious problem with human relations and the ability to experience pure intimacy with another. Such primal connections between a man and woman are necessary for survival on multiple levels, and the entire human race depends on them to a large extent. I'm not speaking only in the context of procreation, but also in the context of pure and positive emotions, energies and life forces free from superficial ties, as these things can rarely sustain relationships long term, or ensure that societies remain cohesive and progressive.

I've watched curiously over the years as my friends play online dating games, spinning like hamsters in a wheel at a frantic pace, moving from one partner to the next. Yet they go absolutely nowhere, stuck in the same cage of loneliness year after year. What does all of this dating and fucking get you in the end? For me, absolutely nothing but exhaustion, frustration and frayed nerves. So, I gave up on these games long ago, and have been in a celibate state for prolonged periods during various phases of life. Today I'll share some insight into the positive and negative aspects of this choice, which very few understand.Read more...Collapse )
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It seems people have lost the ability to think. This is especially true here in the USA, where you will find signs like this everywhere. Even as a lawyer they annoy me, although I understand the purpose is to protect businesses from liability in the event of accidents. In most cases, the signs simply state dangers that should be obvious to someone with even a modicum of common sense. Like - "HAZARD: DO NOT STAND AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF." I saw such a warning in San Diego, California.

Recently, I went to a lovely sunflower farm by my house and before I even entered the serene landscape, I was greeted with all these rules and regulations. I rarely notice such signs during my travels in other countries, but a reader from Moscow recently sent me this photo...Read more...Collapse )

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Greetings from the USA! I'm reminded that today is the four year anniversary of my blog. On 27 August 2012, I published my very first story about my love for flight. There are a lot of words, emotions and thoughts. This is the only way I know how to write - in an expressive sense. I understand it's annoying to some, but I'm not the type of person who can ever accept the answer "just because" to any question posed, and I don't like people who can't articulate why they feel or believe a certain way. "Just because" - it's never an acceptable response in any situation, not even love in my view.

We must think about our choices in life, and understand why we are taking certain actions. This is not always easy or comfortable. It takes effort, self-reflection, and other scary sensations that most people fear, or are too lazy to battle. It's always simpler, after all, to just go with the flow. We are all a work in progress, constantly evolving, at least I believe this to be the case if you are truly living, and not merely existing.

I wish to thank all the readers who have stuck by me for four years. Many have come and gone, some of you I have had the pleasure of meeting in person, however most I know only virtually. Yet there is some sense of connection and recognition after sharing thoughts, views and opinions with you all these years.

I'm sorry I haven't written recently, there has been no motivation. I just returned from a wonderful adventure in Alberta, Canada and Montana, and in about a month will finally embark on my big expedition to the country of Georgia.

I wish you all a pleasant weekend! And thanks again for your support, loyalty, humor and always challenging me - on multiple levels! :)

Originally posted by peacetraveler22 at Gravelly Point Park Arlington, Virginia
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Since childhood I've been fascinated by airplanes. Not in a mechanical or engineering sense, but for the possibility of exploration and human observation. To me airplanes represent freedom, innovation and emotion. On any given flight every human emotion is present. People anxious and excited to see loved ones, meet an important client, close a business deal or arrive at some exotic locale. Conversely, there are sad people leaving family or loved ones, tired business travelers and rude, grouchy people. If you look closely it is sometimes easy to see into which category a particular passenger falls.
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