So, I have been rather spectacularly sick this past week. Horrible timing, as it overlapped with our program’s trip out to Batumi and the last week in Tbilisi. Somehow, I am always ill the last week of July, which is somewhat impressive considering it is neither flu nor cold season. Luckily, the worst of it hit when I returned to Tbilisi, rather than in transit to and from Batumi.
Still, I wasn’t doing so great on the train ride Sunday evening back to Tbilisi. Five hours, small seats, no food or drink provided or available for purchase. I spent the first hour mostly asleep and slowly (read quickly) working my way through the tissues I had in my bag. I was, however, worsening despite the cold medicine I had taken earlier. I couldn’t breathe through my nose, which was bright red by this point, I was coughing, and I was out of tissues. And, I had four more hours of sitting in the same place.
At this point, the Georgian woman sitting next to me starts fishing through her purse, pulling out two packets of medicinal lemon tea. She explains that it tastes pretty bad, but it would help me feel better in the long run. Unfortunately, the train staff said they were unable to provide hot water for tea, so unless I felt like eating the packet of lemon powder, I was out of luck. Cue the Georgian woman getting up from her seat, marching to the back of the train, and getting in an argument with the train staff about their ability to provide hot water.
Despite their supposed inability to heat water, she somehow managed to argue her way into getting me a water bottle full of hot water. She then proceeded to make me the tea, feed me, and generally be absolutely sweet the whole train ride. She even gave me some extra tea packets to take home. She did not need to do any of this – I was just a person on the train with a fairly severe cold, an occurrence I am positive is semi-frequent. In the US, I have traveled while sick, and this has mostly resulted in glares (as if I was sick on purpose) or people generally keeping their distance (to prevent themselves from getting sick). I have never had a stranger take such an active interest in my health, especially not on public transportation.
Before coming to Georgia, we heard a lot about Georgian hospitality – particularly when it came of our host families. My host mom has been amazing, and has been foisting liter bottles of Borjomi mineral water on me daily since she found out I was sick. But, I still wasn’t expecting this to extend to strangers with no connection to me whatsoever. It was incredibly sweet and helpful for someone who doesn’t even know my name to be willing to argue and bully her way into taking care of me.
By: Courtney Kayser
Term: Summer 2018