I wear a Timex digital watch when I travel instead of my Apple Watch. This is a simple digital watch where the numbers are made from segments of a bisected square. As I was traveling through the Caucasus Mountains this was the only way I knew what time it was. I really only needed to know that time for breakfast and dinner in our guest house, but I like to know what time it is. Even in the middle of the night. On one particular night I was unable to read my watch. I couldn’t see the numbers. I could only see the negative space between them.
Our Georgian guide was talking to a local villager that he knew, as we hiked through the rural village in the mountains. The guide turned to us and said that the man has elf children. We were taken aback and tried to understand what he meant. I asked if he meant dwarf children. It turns out that he was using the German number for 11. The man has 11 children and they are all of normal size.
You get used to things a certain way, but when you travel even the most common things are different. I could never imagine a roll of toilet paper without a tube in it, until I went to the Republic of the Georgia. The Russian-produced toilet paper was brown paper, like paper towels and it was rolled around itself. Because they don’t have tubes, most bathrooms don’t have toilet paper holders. And since the bathroom itself is entirely the shower, if the toilet paper were hanging on the wall, it would be soaked every day.
I never realized that shower curtains were a cultural thing, but I’ve not seen a single shower curtain since I’ve been in the Republic of Georgia. The guesthouses that we’ve stayed in have several kinds of showers. The first is a very small enclosure, often triangular, with a hand-held shower head. This enclosure has room for your feet. If you wore clown shoes in the shower – something that might be good for a laugh – you would not fit. There is no shower curtain to keep the water in, but there is often a drain in the middle of the floor, outside the enclosure. The second kind of shower has no enclosure. The hand-held shower head is attached to the wall – or in one case, the sink faucet – and there is a drain in the floor. You just shower in the middle of the bathroom. And the floor is always wet.
One of the guests in our guesthouse in Georgia asked for milk for her coffee and she was told it would take 10 minutes. In my world, that would involved running around the corner to the store. In this case it meant getting it from a cow.
Our Georgian guide described the parts of the trail under the trees where we rest as shadow instead of shade. Let’s fine some shadow to stop for lunch.
When traveling in Europe, it is easy to find people who speak English. In Germany it is very easy. In Georgia much less so. Shopkeepers identify your nationality, and therefore your language, by looking at you. They confirm it with a greeting. With me it is always hello. Fellow hikers on the trail in Georgia –
who are never American – also greet our American group with hello.
In Munich, along the Marienplatz, are swarms of future brides and their friends. They have matching t-shirts and look like a street team. But instead of giving out free samples, they sell shots of alcohol and other items that tourists crave. These sales help fund the bachelorette party. Capitalism is alive and well in Europe’s strongest economy.
As I’m heading off for another adventure, I’m wearing a shirt from a past adventure. I had conversations about it with my Uber driver, the cashier at the airport snack shop and one of the flight attendants. The woman at the snack shop asked if I post pictures of my travels on Facebook. I said more likely Instagram. She asked for my profile so she could follow me. I wrote it down for her.
A tree whose giant leaves float gently in the wind. A great blue heron soaring overhead. An alligator sunning itself in the grass. A canyon carved by ice and water hundreds of thousands of years ago.