Three months in Georgia, Part 2

Employment and other fundraising activities

The main reason for staying in Tbilisi for such a long time was connected with the curious incident in Sevastopol, Crimea. In case somebody is still wondering, what really happened in Sevastopol, here is a very short recap – two of our bicycles got stolen by ruthless criminals (you can find out more by watching this or reading this). So we found ourselves in Tbilisi wondering what to do next, because we had to find a way out of this mess or we will have to turn back home. This time we did not have any illusions, that this problem will solve itself and we understood from the very start that it all depends solely on us.


In Georgia they love food and even measure economical indicators with khachapuri

First steps in Georgian show business

It was an ordinary evening, we were doing ordinary things while sitting at an ordinary laptop, and we stumbled upon a very extraordinary proposal to participate in a music video shoot for a Georgian rapper BERA. The proposal promised 50 GEL (~25 EUR) for every participant and all he/she had to do was to pretend to be a New Yorker. Of course we did not hesitate because after all who does not want to be famous in Georgia and earn some money while doing it. In the end we got more than we were looking for – not only we earned some pocket money, but also we got to know people who turned our life in Tbilisi upside down.


Christmas/New Year in Tbilisi

Now few words about the process of shooting a music video in Georgia. The most interesting and annoying thing was to be a part of Georgian movie making. Things that happened on set sometimes left an impression that the director and his crew had understood only on the set that it is not enough with fancy cameras and equipment to make a decent video. As a result of this constant confusion, the actors and the statists were driven from one place to another just to repeat the same shot for countless times. Maybe the most annoying thing about all that was attitude of film crew towards the unimportant statists like myself. It was promised that the filming will end no later than at 23.00, but without any apologies we were informed that we will have to be on the set for additional 5 hours. I am just complaining and of course it was not so bad, especially when they organized a small dinner with sausages, bread and ketchup.


On the set during the shooting of the music video for BERAs song “Ticket to the movies”

The mood changed dramatically when Nick the Nigerian proposed to grab something to drink from a nearby shop. No one complained about the Georgian work ethics anymore and we finally got to enjoy the process. We have to say a very big thanks to Tata (BTW she had a very good face) who was responsible for casting and thanks to her this was not our only appearance in the world of Georgian rap music. The second video shoot was much more complicated than the first one – we had to do a lot more than just stand or walk around the street and change our clothes so pretending to be a completely different New Yorker. The second shooting was being held at the fanciest club/bar in Tbilisi (Buda Bar) and the actors had to play dancing guests at one of the Gatsby’s parties. The completion for the best spot on the set was won by Ivars, who managed to seduce the choreographer with his stylish dance moves. The second shooting was not only twice as complicated as the first one and tiring, but also twice as profitable.


Tbilisi international superstars AKA “BERAs fellowship”

Couple of words about the prince of Georgian show business – Bera Ivanashvili. During the second music video shoot we had the honour the meet him in person and chat with him about his life in music/fashion and movie industry. BERA provided us with a short insight in the world of show business particularly in Los Angeles and New York and recalled his encounters with Rhianna and Justin Bieber. Georgian Dream (as some people call him) after hearing our story about the bicycle theft in Crimea, claimed that if he would have been there, he definitely would have gotten the bicycles back from the thugs. The highlight of the evening/night/morning was definitely BERAs personal surprise shout-out to Ivars in his 27th birthday. Unfortunately not everything what BERA says turns out to be true – he promised that music videos will be published in the following weeks, but even after couple of months they are still unavailable. When the time will come and the videos will be available, we will definitely publish them somewhere on our page.


Bera Ivanashvili

Tea selling business and fundraising activities

While staying with the Nigerian Nick, a revolutionary idea came to our minds – why can’t we join the countless Tbilisi street merchants and try our luck in this business. Really, why not?! So it was decided to find a suitable spot in the centre of the city and to sell to passers-by a cup of hot tea or some other beverage. Actually the decision to sell tea was quite logical because we already had everything that was necessary for this start-up business.


Off to sell tea with a story

We did not wait for long and did not try to plan every aspect of the venture, all we did was write our story on big sheets of cardboard and we were practically ready to go. We chose a square next to the Rustaveli metro station as the perfect spot for our operation and eventually it turned out that the conditions were perfect – day was one of the coldest during that winter and thus the demand for a hot beverage was noticeable. Of course we did not plant to make any substantial money while selling tea and the real reason for this performance was mainly to make a short video “TEA WITH A STORY” for our crowdfunding page.


After the last drop of tea has been sold

We managed to do just that and the video is ready for public viewing, so is the crowdfunding page in For Latvians it has always been hard to accept any crowdfunding initiative if it is not directly connected with charity – people usually see these funding efforts as organised by lazy, worthless kids who don’t want to look for a job. It is up to you to decide if were are worthless or lazy and whether our campaign is of any interest to you. We are not demanding anything and were are not putting our hands into your pocket, and we do understand that our fundraising camping is by no means priority, as there are countless people who need your help and have deserved it more than we do. Our crowdfunding campaign is addressed to those readers and followers who believe that the things we are doing are worth something and maybe even to somebody who we have motivated to do something he/she has never done before.


Our story in a nutshell

HOW MANY ROADS story-telling evening

From all the activities we did in Tbilisi (except the employment) the most successful and profitable was the story-telling event we organised. Around 50 people attended the event, most of whom were our friends and acquaintances in Tbilisi. At first our performance was kind of stiff, because none of us had done something like this before. It seemed kind of weird to tell about our adventures to people who probably have also experienced events as interesting as ours. Fortunately, during our presentation we managed to get rid of the stress and anxiety and in the end it all worked out quite well. The hardest part was when we had to ask for donations, because it is one thing to create a crowdfunding page, but completely another when you have to ask people in person to support your dream. When we managed to open our sad-looking charity box, we were surprised to find in there more than 200 GEL (~100 EUR).


Story-telling evening at the Europe House in Tbilisi, Georgia

Hunting for employment possibilities

Of course we did not expect that we will be able to raise the required sum of money by just selling tea and telling stories. It was evident from the very beginning that we will have to find a more substantial source of income. The biggest drawback was that neither of us had mastered Georgian language and we had to hope that Russian and English would suffice. We updated/created our CVs and started to skim through job advertisements and write application letters.


I was the first one to find something tangible, because the opportunity literally presented itself in a form of lovely lady whose name was Ieva Jurgalane. It turned out that Katrina from Explore Outdoor is by no means the only Latvian woman in Tbilisi. Ieva has been living in Tbilisi already for quite a while and even managed to marry a Georgian. Ieva was working in an organization “Georgian Institute of Directors” which aimed to enhance the corporate governance practises in Georgian private sector. She offered me to join the project and after meeting with the director of the organization, I decided to have a try. It was agreed that I will get paid 400 GEL monthly for part-time employment. But in Georgia not everything happens as planned. First problems started when they did not pay the salary on time and did not even bother to apologise or explain the reason behind the delay. The picture turned very dark when I managed to find out that most of the staff had not received their salaries for couple of months. I was quite fortunate and eventually I received almost everything that was promised (part of the salary was paid from Ieva’s personal funds) and I was more than happy to say goodbye to the Georgian Institute.


Staff of Georgian Institute of Directors


Laura, thanks to the experience gained while working in Scotland, already had the most useful skillset for looking for a job while travelling, so she found a very good option very fast – a position in a hotel that had planned to open in the following months. I think that Laura had the most serious job among all of us. Almost every day she came back from work way after the usual working hours and she often had to work also during the weekends. The main responsibilities included ordering alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, preparing cocktail menu, instructing the staff and countless other tasks. In the end Laura’s professional attitude was duly rewarded – she received more than was promised and acquired friendships which after all cannot be bought with money. And last but not least, she had the best view to the city as the hotel was situated on the slope of the hill.


Laura behind the counter at the silent opening


Ivars was fortunate to find a place on the opposite side of the bar counter at one of the most popular places in Tbilisi – multinational bar Warszawa. Ivars was a very good bartender and only after couple of evenings, he managed to gain trust and friendship of the regular customers. Thanks to his hipster beard and his ability to keep calm, he was just the perfect addition to bar’s staff. Even before Ivars’ employment, Warszawa had become our second home and after Ivars arrival even more so. It would be hard to recall a single week when we didn’t visit this famous bar – there we would meet friends and friends of friends which we haven’t seen for ages. For all these reasons, we chose Warszawa as the place where to say our last goodbye.


Ivars in Warszawa

Hunt for bicycles

The hunt for the bicycles was the main reason why our stay in Tbilisi lasted for three months. We considered couple of possible options – should we buy the bicycle and everything else in Georgia; should we buy in Georgia just the frame and order everything else from Latvia or elsewhere; or should we sell the third bike and hitchhike all the way to New Zealand. After some discussions, we decided to look for used bikes in Georgia and order spare parts from Latvia. After numerous hours of worthless search throughout the Georgian internet sites, we finally managed to find two decent bicycles for a very good price. The bicycle we choose for Laura was ridiculously cheap – 300 GEL, so was the bike we found for me – 400 GEL. But this does not mean that Georgia is the best country where to look for your touring bike, we consider ourselves very lucky and there is no guarantee that anybody else will find something decent.


Visiting the Embassy of Latvia

After finding the bicycles, all we had to do was to get the parts needed to make the bicycles suitable for touring. And again we have to say huge thanks to the biggest outdoor shop in Latvia and our friend – Gandrs. Gandrs was the one who believed in our goal when almost no one else did, even before we set out from Riga. And this time wasn’t different – Gandrs offered us 40% discount for all the stuff we needed and in addition organised the shipping from Riga to Tbilisi. When the shipment finally arrived, it turned out that Georgian IRS has prepared a little surprise for us – irrespective that we had paid VAT already in Latvia, they decided to charge us also Georgian VAT. Fortunately we had to pay the tax in one month’s time and we were free to take our stuff without paying. To tell you the truth, we are still saving every penny to be able to pay off the debt to Georgian government and probably Ivars has become the most wanted person in Georgia. All is well that ends well, we managed to prepare the bikes for departure and even with the tax debt and 4 overstayed days (we stayed in Georgia for 94 days, instead of officially acceptable 90 days) we managed to leave the country. The officials at the border just smiled, whished us a bon voyage and complimented Ivars about his beautiful eyes.


After leaving Georgia

Saying farewell to friends and Georgia

The time we spent in Georgia had been more than enough for the bonds of friendship among the members of “BERAs fellowship” and some other individuals to become stronger than we expected. Somehow we had managed to find real friends and it seemed that saying goodbye will be much harder than dealing with incident in Sevastopol. When we left Riga, I was quite confident that people I will meet on the road will be nothing more than just acquaintances, who will disappear from my mind as soon as I will leave them. Complete nonsense – when we said the last goodbye it was as hard as if I had known them all my life. But what can you do – our roads lead different directions for the time being and maybe there will come a time when we will walk side by side.


Checking out Laura’s workplace

More than two months have already passed after we departed from Tbilisi and the most memorable things about the time spent there are the times we spent with all these crazy people.  The Americans (Michael, Eric and Lee) – ready or not, we will come and we are going to find you wherever you will be hiding. We have unfinished business to take care of, and you know what I am talking about. Nick from Nigeria – stop being lazy and start doing more and everything is going to be just wonderful! We will meet in Nigeria or in Hollywood, you choose! Ieva – I hope you have finally said farewell to the Georgian Institute of Directors and if not I am going to find you! Katrina from Explore Outdoor – I bet you know that everything is going to be alright with you, because you have enough power and energy to last three lifetimes. Mariam and Keti – stop making so many selfies and you will find life much more enjoyable. Ladies from Latvia (Dārta, Justīne and Sabīne) – lets meet somewhere among the Egyptian Pyramids. Chemtai and Anton – we hope that you will forgive us about the total mess we managed to create at your apartment, and thanks for the hospitality.


Our last night in Warszawa


Eric’s farewell dinner

When everything has been said and the last shot of Georgian chacha has been finished, we departed from Tbilisi. We entered Georgia on 23 November 2014 and left Tbilisi on 23 February 2015. When leaving you feel kind of confused – on one hand it is sad to leave friends behind, but on the other hand it is very exciting to be back on the road. Can you be happy and sad at the same time? Maybe you can.

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