The Great Fan Hunt of 2015
Hey Chase, Your American is Showing
This is not a flattering story. The Great Fan Hunt of 2015 was the strongest reminder yet that I am back living in Georgia. So here it goes:
When I moved back to Georgia this summer I didn’t quite know what to expect, even though I had spent two years here as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Tbilisi was always a vacation for me; a place where I would run away and spend all my money in one long weekend on a clean bed, with a cheeseburger, and take huge trips to the snack and foreign beer isle at the Carrefour (a French grocery store and the land of plenty). Before I left for Tbilisi this time around, people asked me why I would come back. I just said, “Expat life in Georgia and Peace Corps life are two totally different things.” But the fact is, establishing an abode in any new town is going to be shit difficult, unless you you have an army of moving men, a realtor, daddy’s money, (and the camera crew of “My Super Sweet Sixteen”) in tow.
Let the story begin:
My office was kind enough to let me use their guesthouse for a couple weeks while I looked for a place to live. It had AC, plenty of living space, and BBC World on the TV. I was a 45 second commute from my office and life was pretty good. Soon, I found an apartment I liked. A two-room, newly renovated place, that was just a five minute walk from work, all for $1000 less than my crappy studio in DC (yes… $1000 less per month). I signed the lease, paid my deposit, and skipped home to pack my things and take them over.
The day I moved it was 95 degrees. Now let me explain something. 95 degrees here is not 95 degrees in the US (for the most part). You can leave the heat in the US. If your house doesn’t have AC, you still probably have an escape. Maybe you go sit in a Starbucks or something. You have a way out. Here you do not.
My apartment does not have air conditioning. It is also positioned in the perfect place for epic storytelling once I become a grandfather. My walk to work is literally uphill both ways.
So I hauled my luggage there in three trips. Sweat was coming off my nose in a steady stream. Locals were starring at me as if there was some sort of hidden camera shoot of a Lady Gaga video going on right before their eyes.
That’s how strange this scene looked to them. Honestly, how often do you see an American dragging five bags of luggage, dripping sweat, and muttering all those words your English teacher never taught you? When I got inside my apartment, I sat down to relax and the sweat unloaded. A creeping realization hit me: Dude, you are back in Georgia and can’t escape the heat again, I opened the windows to get some fresh air and keep things cool(ish) and in came a swarm of insects as if I was the Pharaoh Ramesses himself, subject to another round of plagues. My 40+ bug bites now have me convinced that the Book of Exodus might not be exaggerated.
Anyway, I needed a fan…
What do you do when you need a fan? You go to the store and buy one. Simple… Heh… not for a goober of a foreigner in a country they think they know, especially a stubborn one like me whose hubris has not totally worn off from two straight years living in the land of plenty.
Once I stopped sweating, I decided to skip down to the mini Wal-Mart-like store and simply buy a fan…Nothing…
No problem, I decided to walk down to Freedom Square. The street is lined with shops. Certainly I will find one, I told myself. I saw: clothing, cameras, computers, cigarettes, little trinkets for giddy tourists, and wine (lots of wine) but still…
I headed home for the night and slept through the plague-infested hellfire that was my apartment. My American-ness was increasingly showing itself. All my neighbors were going about normal life. Meanwhile I was sweating enough to water a garden. The next day at work I spent more time nursing my bug bites than I did typing on my computer. My hubris levels were at 0% and I decided go to my Georgian colleagues next door for help — what I should have done from day-one. They pointed me in a new direction. After work I left determined.I walked 10+ blocks to the “fancy” neighborhood. I had street food, found a water filter, looked around a book shop, and the fan???
Guess where I slept again? Yes… plague-infested hellfire. On my walk home that night, my Georgian friend texted me with a picture of fans in a shop window one neighborhood over. I was now convinced that I was the first-world Sisyphus and every single day for the rest of the summer, I would spend my evenings after work helplessly roaming the streets trying to buy a fan. The next night I don’t even bother to look for one. I went back to my plague-infested hellfire with my head held high and watched none other than, Guardians of the Galaxy. For those who have seen the movie: It was my distraction and I was its turd blossom (watch it… it will make sense).
A couple days later was the 4th of July. On this day no American fails when it comes to the hunt. I would not be speding my 4th, watching college boys beat the commies, and Mel Gibson found our whole friggin country, while sitting in a pool of my own sweat.
Today had to be the day that air finally started to move in my apartment. I knew there is one place in Tbilisi I could find a fan, but a place I was too scared to go to before: the train station (yes… really). From the outside, this building looks like some Orwellian dream of the Ministry of Love, but inside are flat-screen TVs and more fans than I could choose from. I put on comfortable clothes that could handle some sweat and got on the metro. It was packed with people. Everyone was sweaty, and smelly and I was certainly no exception. In the train station there were no less than four immaculate housewares stores, all clawing over one another for business. I went straight for a robust Russian fan which also happened to be on clearance.
The hunt was almost over
I took the fan up to the counter to see a very stressed out teller. She was dealing with a group of stressed-out customers around her, all screaming about their warranty cards while definitely not forming a proper queue. After waiting a brief 30 minutes at the front of the line, she told me that I need my passport… to buy a fan.
I didn’t have my passport.
I look her in the eye will all the stress of my last week built up in my expression — I may as well had assumed all the stress shared by my new-found Georgian brethren with their warranty cards. Chariots of Fire played through my mind, and I said (translated literally) in bad Georgian:
I not have with me passport, but you… will.. take… American driver card
The poor girl looked more confused than she had ever been in her retail career and asked for my passport number, knowing full well it wasn’t going to be on my driver’s license. I pointed arbitrarily at the card. It didn’t matter what number I hit. It might have been my birthday for all I know. She asked if I was sure, but the only thing I was sure of was that I was walking out of this store with my fan. The warranty was pointless because if this fan didn’t work, I would be throwing it out the window and offering myself up as a human sacrifice for the greatest feast for Tbilisi bugs in history. I simply told her that all the information was correct, and took my fan for the sweaty ride home.
I assembled the beautiful piece of machinery over a celebratory beer that afternoon, Independence Day pride swelled in my homesick American heart. Six pieces were missing, and the instructions were wrong, but the damn thing still worked. I have since slept like a baby, all attacking bugs blown away with this beautiful Russian fan’s (relative) hurricane-force wind. Life is now good once more.
And that will forever be: The Great Fan Hunt of 2015.