Chapter 17: In which I get over conferenced and under showered.
Mea culpa, mea culpa. My sincere apologies to those who read this blog for my long absence. I can honestly report that my lack of blogging owes to a series of events both fortunate and unfortunate that begin at the beginning of April this year. For the sake of both catching you up and keeping this as brief as possible, I will begin where all good stories should begin: at the beginning.
At the beginning of April a conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria for Fulbright researchers working in various countries in eastern Europe. The conference was a great chance to meet fellow researchers, check out Bulgaria and escape from Georgia for a few days. I unfortunately lost most of the pictures from my Rebel due to a massive computer failure…more on that later. Anyway, here is one of the only good pictures from the weekend I still have. This is me with the United Buddy Bear from Georgia. Check out the others here (http://www.buddy-baer.com/united-buddy-bears/united-buddy-bears-show/united-buddy-bears-show.html).
I returned from Bulgaria to Georgia early in the morning on April 11th and couldn’t sleep. So I got online to check Facebook and putz around Google News for a awhile. I noted on Facebook that there was going to be a talk later that day by Prof. Michael Vickers, formerly of the Ashmolean Museum. I had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Vickers last fall at the conference in honor of Otar and I decided to go to the talk. It was scheduled for 3pm that day at the National Museum. I went to bed around 4am hoping I would get enough sleep.
Alas, I did not. On the positive side, I was up in plenty of time to arrive at the talk. It lasted until 4:30ish and afterward I approached Prof. Vickers to say hello. We talked briefly and I asked him why he was in Georgia. He said he was there to moderate a conference of Georgian and Oxford students to be held in Vardzia which was to begin the next day. Surprised that I did not know about it, he suggested I email Prof. Vakhtang Licheli. I raced home and sent an email.
Now, I have made it clear before that timely responses to email in Georgia should not be expected. I was not hopeful I would hear from Prof. Licheli in time, but checked my email one more time at 11pm before I went to bed. To my surprise he had responded. To my further surprise we would be leaving the next morning at 8am for 3 days in Vardzia. I quickly packed a bag and went to bed.
The next morning we met at TSU and I immediately noticed that I had packed for the wrong trip. Everyone was in camping mode and my bag was packed for “impress the crowd” mode. Moreover, everyone was talking about all the snow in Vardzia and how cold the cave would be…..cave, you ask? Yes, the first day of the conference was held in one of the caves of Vardzia. Behold:
It was decided that the cave was a bit too cold to hold the entirety of the proceedings, so we moved one of the houses situated below Vardzia. The conference was a blast and it gave me the opportunity to meet the next generation of Georgian archaeologists. Though it was cold and we did not have adequate supplies of hot water (or in my case any at all), the conference was a great success. I was even lucky enough to be asked to present my work which is always nice. All in all I must say that based on the level of professionalism shown by the Georgian students, the future of Georgian archaeology looks very bright indeed.
After the conference, I returned to Tbilisi where I had four days to pack before I moved to Vani to begin my field work. During a part of these four days, I had the pleasure of hosting two Oxford students as they explored the city. It was nice to have company and it really is true that you see things with new eyes when acting as a tour guide. That being said, with guests I had an even more truncated schedule and found myself becoming a bit frantic as I prepared to move west. But as always, it all worked out and on April 20th I boarded a bus and headed to Vani.
For the sake of brevity, I will leave the story here and return to it in my next post. Ryan will return in “All Systems Down.”