“My house is a balanced ecosystem,” I explained to my two newest couchsurfers, in-between bouts against a large tarantula like spider, using a blue nalgene water bottle as my weapon of choice.  They were two girls, traveling from Turkey through the Caucasus and back to Turkey.  While on the road, they had explained the hospitality of Caucasian men (in their instance, primarily Armenian men) and how they were near constantly being followed, honked at and groped.  They fled from there quickly back to Georgia, where, I explained, they might just have the same reaction from men here (as I’ve heard many a tale of gropings and the like about here).  It seems that the pattern among Caucasian men is that if you see a foreign woman, you can grope her and either nothing negative will happen to you or she’ll go home and sleep with you.  As sexual assault laws aren’t really premium in these parts, police aren’t likely to care about a local complaining about being subject to indecency, so they especially won’t care about foreign women complaining about this.  So men are free to grab as much as they want.  At least local women have a support system of family and friends, where Western women don’t.  In addition, Western women are saddled with the reputation hard earned by television, that they all are, in fact, loose and ready for a go with any asking stranger. 

But this blog isn’t about women’s rights.  It’s about the ecosystem in my house.  “You see,” I continued explaining to them, putting aside the gut-smeared bottle and joining them at the table.  “There are two spiders in the toilet room.  I leave them there since they’re not really a bother and they eat the mosquitoes.  The same goes with any spiders lurking around in the washroom.  As long as they don’t go near the sink or the bathtub, then they’re good to stay put.  And when I do the dishes, I’ve got a place to put the scraps.  Right on the window sill.  The ants and birds will readily eat that up.  If I don’t leave it on the window sill, then the ants will go all over the house looking for food.”  All this is true.  I’ve learned that it’s better to simply live in harmony with the insects that have cursed this house than to be at war with them.  Peace is always better than war.  I’ve learned that the hard way, during the Great Mouse Apocalypse of 2010.  Granted, if mice ever threaten my sovereignty by pooping on my counters again, then I will again take up arms against them.  One must have limits to peace and measures for war.  Now if we were talking about bears instead of mice, I certainly wouldn't start a war over a little poop.  I'd rather not get my hand bitten off.

That exchange undoubtedly left a strange impression upon them.  “But if you want a spider killed while you shower or anything, then let me know and I’ll kill it.  Just let me know before the shower.”  Dang, two years in Georgia have turned me into some sort of bug-schizo.  Before long, I’ll be rocking my head back and forth like a Vegan gone psychotic, constantly worrying about stepping on ants and aphids, possibly killing some distant ancestor. 

So to get our minds off all these matters of boob grabbing and spiders, we hitched some rides on to Dmanisi.  Dmanisi is a nice set of ruins, complete with fortress, church and small museum (it’s on my list of must see sites in Georgia, though it never graces the pages of tour companies or guide books alike).  The last guys to give us rides decided to go out of their way a little to deliver us to the foot of the ruins.  We all went up to the church together and lit some candles.  Then I continued to show the couchsurfers some more of the ruins.  The two Georgians called us down from the castle.  “We have to go,” one said.  “But we got you some presents.”  They then gave each of us two icons, one of Jesus and one of Mary, and a wooden necklace cross.  The girls were beside themselves, “That was sooo nice!” one said.  Indeed, it’s one of the many pleasures of Georgia, that when you do run into decent people, they go above and beyond to give you a piece of their land and genuine hospitality.  When you live here though, you take that all for granted and tend to jade it over, as us Peace Corps volunteers are often wont to do, since we’re also constantly exposed to the opposite, uglier face of living in the country.

We went to the museum, where you could see where it was that the two “first Europeans”, first examples of homo-erectus to be found in what could possibly be considered Europe, were found.  There was also a short video about the history of the site, with clips in Georgian, Russian and English, depending on which period was being covered.  Most of the clips included drinking wine, making it truly a Georgian-style archeological dig. 

We got back to my house, where I peered into the washroom sink to see what happened to the tarantula.  Ants had gathered around, carrying separated pieces of spider back to their layer.  

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.