Customs part Deux

Get ready to feel frustrated reading this!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday – I was heading off to customs / cargo terminal for the 2nd day in a row to hopefully, fingers crossed, pick up my boxes that had been sent from Australia via a Door to Airport service. I’ve picked up things from customs in other countries before so was expecting it to be an easy enough task…

Day 2, Tuesday: My lovely friend picked me up, this time bringing her iPad with books and magazines loaded on it in preparation… Thank goodness Bubba was home with the babysitter today!

Arrived at Lasare Cargo terminal at 10.45, as had been informed to come back to the specific office (Customs Clearance office on Lvl2) anytime after 10am to collect my paperwork. Weeelll it must’ve been coffee or smoko time, as there was not a soul in the office. A lady & man were chatting outside the office and just glanced at us as we looked around for someone, then stood in the office waiting. Then they walked inside and sat down and ignored us! Then another girl came in and sat at her desk and ignored us as well, so I asked her about my documents, which she then got up and found buried in a pile of folders. Ok! Step 1, Done… off to the Customs offices! I glanced at the few papers and there was a detailed list of our belongings on it (all in Georgian but my Janome sewing machine was listed in English so that clued me in) – and they had ‘valued’ everything somehow as well…

At Customs, I took a number and it thankfully was a lot quieter than the day before – was at the same operator (as the previous day) within a few minutes.  She then proceeded to open an excel spreadsheet and copy the list of items (and values) into excel…. then working between 3 different spreadsheets, had to find a specific code for each item on the list and enter that in as a new column. Obviously all in Georgian so I watched with fascination, but guessed a few… ie: “metalicus carco” – was guessing that was Bubba’s metal ride on car he got for his birthday…
Anyway… so this took quite a while. After she found all the different codes for every item in our baggage, then moved onto the Customs system and had to enter all our details and all the codes in to this system (along with the values for each item). This was with a few breaks to go out the back and ask a few questions, talk on the phone, check facebook .. etc etc.
Finallyyyyy this was all done (after 1.5hrs), she printed out documents, I signed a few things, then was directed to go to the little bank teller, pay him the customs charges (which included 300 GEL just for their service fee!?), wait 10 minutes while he inputted that data into his bank computer…. sign 4 sets of the same paperwork (3 of my signatures on each page?)…. then back again to the customs lady’s desk.
Back at the customs desk she then entered something (I’m guessing) to say I’d paid the charges, gave me documents to release my boxes, and DONE with customs after almost 2 hours.

So happy as larry, (and soooo over it…) off we trotted to the Cargo building again. Gave in my paperwork to the Incoming Cargo desk,  then had to go to their cash desk to pay the Lasare Cargo charges (as they’d stored my cargo for 2 days – which I did know about in advance!) then back to the Incoming Cargo desk to give the stamped (PAID!) paper, and after this, she told me to go to the dock with car so we could FINALLY pick up our boxes!
So easiest part of the day was getting boxes loaded into the car (all ripped and taped back up from their very thorough search!) and driving off home.

Honestly. What an experience. I recommend a door to door service or sending someone who you don’t like very much to go pick up your cargo from Tbilisi Customs.

But….. now we have our nespresso machine, I have my sewing machines and Bubba has all his toys! He won’t let his toy mower out of his sight 🙂

Safe driving in Tbilisi

Anyone who has actually been to Tbilisi will laugh at the title of this post – Safe driving in Tbilisi is definitely the exception not the rule here!

We don’t have a car here at the moment, so we are relegated to catching Taxis if we need to go somewhere. In saying this, we have found a couple of regular Taxi drivers who we have on call. One speaks English well but has a old car with no seatbelts in the backseat, another has his English speaking son on speed-dial to communicate with us! I also have a couple of lovely friends who very bravely drive here – apparently if you just expect everyone else to drive badly and expect to get a few beeps here and there it’s quite easy (and helps to have a bigger car than other drivers!)

We often get taxi’s with Bubba, so he sits on our lap in the backseat, or on the seat next to me while I hold on to him. This is quite normal here even in private cars. You will more often than not see young kids standing in the back seat of the car, or looking out the back window while their parents weave in and out of traffic. Seatbelts also seem to be a very casual thing here for backseat passengers.

Today, Bubba and I were out walking, and a car drove past us – I had to do a double take, as the man driving had his young son sitting on his lap, both of them holding the steering wheel whilst driving. Wow. Hadn’t seen that before in a moving vehicle!

Many drivers also consider a red light to be a suggestion rather than a road rule. The green light turns from solid, flashes for a few seconds, then turns to the orange light, then the red light. So although drivers get more than ample notice that there is a red light coming, they seem to use that opportunity to speed up and race through the orange or red light. So, if ever crossing the road, you really need to triple check that all cars are slowing to stop at the lights – and when walking across a 3 or 4 lane road, you also need to continually check that the far lanes have stopped as you are walking across – ( or haven’t started to go again before you have crossed the whole way across!) I am particularly cautious if I have Bub in the pram in front of me!!!

Then, if the cars at the lights haven’t started to go again by the time the green light comes on (ie. if someone is waiting for pedestrians to cross the road), he will be beeped / honked at by almost every car in the line behind him. Everyone is in a rush here while driving – but never on time anywhere – Georgian’s are not known for their punctuality!!

Don’t even get me started about Zebra crossings!!! I don’t know what their intention is here, but cars definately do not think they are a suggestion to slow down and give way to pedestrians!

There was a recent article about how Georgia will need to improve their driving standards (dramatically) if /when they sign an EU Association Agreement – read it HERE.  They have a long way to go, but hopefully in the next few years, driving standards will improve and pedestrians will stop being a target every time they cross the road!

Oh… there is so many examples I could give you of bad driving in Tbilisi, and what people consider a totally acceptable street park here would give you a laugh! But I’ll leave it at that for now and go put the baby to bed. 🙂

 

Tbilisi

It was a dreary day on Sunday but we went out for some sightseeing, taking the aerial cable car (gondola) from the left bank of the river up to the Narikala fortress. Bubba loved going in the gondola, and it is so easy and cheap – can just tap your metrocard and its 1 Lari per person per journey (ie 2 Lari if you go up and back). The ride is over so quickly though!! You also have the option of walking up and down the hill, but we didn’t really feel like carrying bubba up and down a load of stairs since we didn’t take the Manduca carrier with us.

We then wandered around the Chardeni area in the Old Town, which is rife with bars, eateries and little tourist shops. This area will come alive in the summer, with the restaurants starting to uncover & set out their al-fresco areas! I’m planning on taking all my visitors here to wander the streets.

A few (not very good) pics of some of the areas – I STILL haven’t charged my camera so I’m making do with my iPhone.

A gypsy life

One thing  you can’t help but notice when walking or driving around Tbilisi, is the amount of people begging for money on the streets. Many of these are elderly or disabled people, who just sit quietly with a hand out or little cup nearby for you to drop a few coins in – and from what I’ve learned, many of the older women are widows with no children to support them, and have no other way to earn money.

Then there are the gypsies, of whom you will see the women and children on the streets, and they have a much more confronting approach to begging for money. According to some taxi drivers, some of the gypsies are from Armenia, and they come to Georgia because the Georgians are more generous. (**I don’t know if this is true, just what the taxi drivers say!!!***) For example, our taxi driver – who on a good day may earn 100 – 150 Lari (working from 9am til 10pm or midnight, living 45mins from Tbilisi and having to buy fuel as well) will keep “gypsy money” in his door pocket so that he can easily roll down the window and give a gypsy begging from car to car a few coins. When I was thinking about writing this, I had a quick google about gypsies in Tbilisi, and found a few articles  – one here which noted that because many gypsies didn’t have citizenship or any sort of identification papers (including birth certificates), they weren’t able to get any state funding here in Tbilisi, including health care, and the children aren’t able to attend school.

Therefore, they beg on the street. And it can be very confronting if you haven’t seen it before – for example, there is always the same lady in front of the Goodwill supermarket in Vake, sitting down cradling her baby daughter,  sometimes pushing the baby in your face, pleading for money. Then there is the small girl (probably around 4 years old) that lies on a blanket in the middle of the sidewalk on Rustaveli- usually asleep at any time of the day- but during the cold snap when it was minus 6 degrees during the day, she lay there with her eyes open, with a blank stare on her face.  There are often little kids running after you yelling and begging – one little girl was following me the other day, saying something over and over again to me, then started trying to grab my shopping bag while I had Bubba in the baby carrier – lucky she didn’t understand English although I’m sure she has heard worse swear words in her life.

Today, as usual, I had a few encounters with gypsys. One girl stood waiting as I got some money out of an ATM, then started at it, asking for money – I just said “ara (no)” a few times, and on my way. Walked past the little 4 year old sleeping on the ground, then Bubba and I had a lovely walk up Rustaveli and back (lovely as he was in the pram today…). Bubba was getting a bit wriggly and we still had a good half hour walk home, so as I passed a lady selling popcorn I got a small bag for 10 Tetri (less than 10c!!). And let me tell you… trying to grab popcorn out of the drink-cup section on his pram tray & shoving it in his mouth kept him entertained the whole walk home! Winner!

When we reached Rustaveli Metro station, I noticed a little girl sitting on a blanket, with a bowl next to her for money. She couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. Seriously, she did not look anywhere as old as my little nephew and he’s just turned 3. I also do not know any 2 or 3 year olds that will just sit on a blanket for hours on end and not run off and play somewhere. Her mum needs to come teach that trick to my child. Seriously. What do they put in these kid’s water bottles? In any case, she was so dirty and I felt so sorry for her being put in that situation by her parents or siblings, that I gave her the half a bag of popcorn that I still had.

And let me tell you – the look on her face MADE MY DAY.  The popcorn was just for her… and when I looked back a few seconds later, she was scoffing it down, and kicking her legs around like it was the best thing in the world. She couldn’t care less about money, but I knew that popcorn would make her day 🙂

Sorry no photos lately, my camera is dead and I keep forgetting to get the adaptor out of husband’s bag so I can charge it up (also really need it to straighten my hair, it’s so horrible…). City is so beautiful at the moment so I’ll have to take a few pics and post stat!!

x

The elusive highchair

When moving to a place such as Tbilisi, it really makes you cherish things that you take for granted in Australia.

When wandering down to your local cafe in Australia, you really just take for granted, and assume (usually rightly so) that they will have a highchair or two ready for you. Definately at shopping centres and any of the suburban cafes/restaurants. Possibly not in a busy mid-city cafe, or a fancy-pants restaurant (but really, if I’ve got a baby old enough to be in a high chair, even this clingy mama would be leaving my baby at home for that occasion…).

Finding a highchair in a cafe over here is like searching for a hidden treasure. At the music class we attend on a Friday, I sat around with the other ex-pat mums and had a discussion on which few cafes & restaurants in town were owners of such a treasure. I actually went to a cafe the other day on the sole basis that I saw a highchair through the window whilst walking past. It could have served me a weak, lukewarm disgusting coffee and it would have tasted like a million dollars because my never-stops-moving toddler sat still – IN THE ONE PLACE – and ate his bread roll QUIETLY. AHHHH-MAZZZINNNNGGG! This was the FIRST time that this has happened (in a cafe..) since we have been in Tbilisi.

Usually what happens at a coffee shop: Me trying to get toddler to sit still on chair, then chasing said toddler around cafe, attempting to stop him from going behind the counter, gulping down my Americano coffee while he spills croissant and milk everywhere. It’s not relaxing. At all. It’s just a coffee fix. And the croissant or bread roll is the bribe to try and get him to sit still long enough for me to drink coffee.

Funny story.. A few weeks ago, I told my husband I was exhausted as I don’t get a single chance during the day to just relax. He says to me – ‘but didn’t you go for coffee today? That’s relaxing.’ He got a massive death stare, ‘THAT? That is not relaxing, that was getting coffee’.  So last Saturday, Dadda and Bubba went out for their usual Saturday morning boys time,  and I went for a walk by myself. I met up with them a bit later, and I asked how their morning was. They had been to Entree cafe, and my husband said to me with this horrified look: ‘I didn’t even get a chance to finish my coffee!’. I just smiled and said ‘So not so relaxing then is it?’.

I digress…

We also went out to dinner on Saturday night – I called two restaurants that I had been informed had highchairs. Number 1 (Thai place) didn’t have one (and realistically, the bubba wouldn’t have eaten any thai food…).Number 2… Winner! Success! “Special chair for Baby” booked (and really hoping it was a highchair..), we were on our way! Such a lovely peaceful meal – the place Pomodorissimo is on Chavchavadze Ave and serves Italian food. It also has a non-smoking area, which is not standard over here, and had a TV with Animal Planet channel on. What could be more perfect to entertain an Animal-loving toddler! We had THE most peaceful and lovely meal out, (ie. that I didn’t have to cook). I didn’t even care that all Bubba ate was french fries, juice and ice-cream, while we had Risotto, grilled vegies, Pizza and beer. It was a special night out!

So things are looking up, highchair wise. Funny thing about the cafe I previously mentioned, and the restaurant we went to – they are next door to each other, and the restaurant actually just borrows the highchair at night time.. Seriously, they need an IKEA or Aldi here, thats all the cafes in Aus use!! 🙂

EDIT: SERIOUSLY!! ???? One week on, the cafe I mentioned is now under construction and I have no idea when or if it will open again. Urgghhhh hunt back on.