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I recently had my first son. It’s been a real rollercoaster of sanity, I’ll tell you what, and the verdict is out whether it’s a good experience. I mean, is he going to end up with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, or is he going to be volunteering at a homeless shelter in Swaziland? I guess that’s the real determinant of what kind of experience it is.

Of course, everyone expects you to say it’s an amazing thing. We’re all convinced parenting is peak adulting. But is it, really? It’s just a thing. I don’t think every couple really needs to involve themselves in it. Especially if they have their own hobbies they’re satisfied with. Once you have a baby, kiss your hobbies goodbye. Or at least you’re going to put them on break for a year or two. You need to understand this and accept it. “Life is pain, other people’s lives are even more of a pain,” to misquote the Buddha.

“Life is pain, other people’s lives are even more of a pain.” – the Buddha (close enough)

I was thinking, “Not me, I can juggle everything, I’m a master of organization.” Nope. I’m a master of being exhausted.

So, here are my general thoughts on being a new father, or rather on babies and poop. Next week, my thoughts on being a foreign father specifically in Georgia.

1. The first three months: “Bundle of Joy” is a lie!

This is our first child. And during the entire first three months, I kept wondering, “How the hell do people have two children? Like, why?!” Most fathers-to-be ask other fathers what their experience is like being a dad. Of course, they say it’s wonderful. But I think there’s some buyer’s remorse in those statements of fake awe and lovingkindness.

If you’re a soon-to-be-dad reading this, this is what to expect: Three months of no sleep. Doesn’t even matter if somehow you’ve conned your poor wife into all the nightly diaper changes. You’re not going to sleep. You might as well contribute. If this is your first baby, it’s also possible your wife is going to need assistance on those diaper changes anyway, so man up. It's gonna be a lot of crying, sighing, and peeing. Usually at you.

baby feeding
Feeding for men starts at about 4 months, unless you do formula

If have to have a sleep schedule, get flexible real fast. I get that you probably have a 9-5 job (I had a 7-8 hour work day myself), but your wife doesn’t want to hear it. She’s been feeding and soothing this roaring baby all day long and is looking forward to that moment when you come home and she can hand off that hell-fiend to you. I believe Snoop Dogg had a song about that, “Drop it like it’s hot”. It was definitely about babies.

Developmentally, mostly the creature has learned to be angry and scared. The thing just spent 9 months in a cozy little bubble where nothing ever was really wrong (that it knew of) and it just got to float around blowing bubbles and playing snake. And then BOOM! suddenly it’s got to come out and face this world of light, pain, and suffering! And such a big world it is! So yeah, I’d be pissed too, I can’t say I blame the little bugger.

Sitting at the family farm the other day, I watched a cow give birth. The calf was almost immediately walking. Humans? We’re useless sacks of stem cells until about age 1. We’re not really accountable as a human being until we’re walking or at least crawling. So that complete uselessness of being an external embryo, must also be pretty dang frustrating.

2. The second three months: Okay, maybe not entirely a lie

The baby has learned to laugh. He giggles, smiles, finally lets me know I'm doing something right. It’s not all just angry cries now. He’s sleeping more. He squeezes my finger. Plays peekaboo. Poop is becoming a little more regular and normal. We did have some fecal tales to tell on that, but I'll reserve that for next week, as it's more country-appropriate.

Okay, I’m starting to get this “little bundle of joy” thing. He really does seem happy and glad I’m around and he’s alive. He’s starting not to regret having come out of that cozy beanbag of amniotic fluids.

Baby and piano
Playing piano for the dude

He learns to roll over. That’s hilarious. Once he figures this out, that’s all he does. About 500 times a day. Really working on those core muscles, good for him! That’s a lot more exercise than my sleepless ass has been getting.

Then he learns to get on his fours. He wants to crawl. He’s determined! So he gets on his fours and swings back and forth, 500 reps a day. But he hasn’t stopped rolling over either. It’s now impossible to leave him alone on the changing table (not that we were ever doing that, ahem – shut it, you’ve done it too).

He gets super frustrated with not being able to crawl right away. He growls, cries, screams. “Augh, I will do this!” he seems to say. It’s cute though. I get it. We’ve all been there.

Vato's first crawl

Once he’s mastered crawling, he quickly starts looking to the next thing: standing! But he’s still crawling and rolling around and also taking up alpinism on daddy’s face.

3. The third three months: Yes, it is!

The teeth start coming in. Then the crying returns. Angry about everything. Throw it on the ground! Here’s a toy. Ground! Food. Ground! Hot baby girl? Ground! This dude cares for nothing except throwing things on the ground and crying and biting on things.

And he gets too tired to sleep. What the hell is that man? But apparently sleeping is a learned thing. Again, back to animals, momma cow doesn’t have to give baby calf any lessons on sleeping. How did humans make it this far?

However, despite all this anger and disappointment at being born, he’s figured out how to stand on his own by doing pull ups. Again, more exercise than dad. At first this meant he was doing hundreds of squats, up-down-up-down-up-down. This guy is a dream for any personal trainers out there.

Now he wants to walk, and he’s back to his frustration. “How come I can’t walk yet?”

“Dude, you’re just 8 months, relax.”

Baby and coffee
Coffee obsession begins early in this bloodline

“How come you won’t let me drink coffee?”

“Dude, you’re just 8 months, relax.”

"How come you won’t let me touch the power outlets?" – every baby ever

“How come you won’t let me play on your cell phone and slobber all over it? How come I can’t crawl across all that broken glass over there? How come you won’t let me touch the power outlets? How come I can’t put that knife in my mouth? Can’t I just stay in my poopy diaper forever, why do you have to change me? Actually, poopy diapers suck, but why do you have to change me?”

Of course, he’s not actually asking these things, just shooting looks of accusation and crying non-stop.

Crying baby
Get used to these moments

Things start to get easier though. He's able to be managed by one person now. Which means my wife can go off and get her eyebrows done and I can go take my accordion to the bar with my friends.

Baths are fun too, he loves baths. And mirrors. And selfies. He’s a man of his times.

And poop just teleports. I kid you not. The boy is perfectly happy at one moment, and then you pick him up, revealing a giant, swarthy turd underneath him, though there’s no sign of leakage from his diaper. It’s a mystery.

It's not all mystery poops though.

Baby and roses
The roses are out and the baby is happy

This is also the time when he is starting to recognize me. When I enter the room, he brightens up and gets happy. He reaches for me even when he’s in his mother’s arms. When others try to grab him, he cries. It’s like he truly knows how awesome I am and how much everyone else sucks.

That’s when, I guess, a baby really begins to break into a man’s heart.

This pandemic has taught me many things. One is that you should always have a back supply of toilet paper. The other is that it’s pretty much a requirement to have a car in Tbilisi if you’ve got a kid or don’t live in the town center. With the mass transit shut down, there was really no option to move. There’s no park around where I live for miles – though there is a large greenspace that’s walled off and full of random car parts and shards of glass is right next door.

We were basically stuck in our apartment and this concrete jungle for three months, with no escape. The weather wasn’t so bad yet, but having to walk your baby in a circle around a beton behemoth is no pie in the sky, believe you me.

Buying a car became a necessity, if just to transport the little monster to somewhere a little more interesting.

Buying a car in Tbilisi seemed like a big task at first, but it was really much simpler than one might think.

Hyundai elantra GT
the car we ended up with

Keep in mind

Georgia does not produce cars or car parts. That means EVERYTHING is imported. If you’re expecting a good deal on cars, stop looking now. And if you already know your way around international shipping, your best deal then is to just buy a car from Germany or the US yourself or online and ship it over.

It also means that you should try to stick to what’s common on the roads. The rarer the vehicle, the harder it will be to get parts, especially as most parts are generally just stripped from other cars.

So yes, whereas a LOT of things are cheaper in Georgia, especially when it comes to the cost of living in general, cars are not, especially after shipping and import taxes are considered, and then whatever repair and middle man fees that people here tack on.

1. How to find a car

Though there are a lot of cars just sitting in lots with signs on them, investigating those will likely lead to excruciating prices and weird histories. You have basically three serious options:

  • Ask around: Could be helpful, but this of course how much you trust who you’re talking to and how much you trust who they’re talking to. The reason for that in my next point.

  • Use a dealership: Very expensive. Remember that a dealership is already selling cars at a premium cost, and when you have to add import fees and taxes, this often becomes double that premium.

  • Look online: There are a lot of online markets. This is how we went about finding our car. You can of course look at Facebook, but it’s better if you go to where Georgians are looking and use a bit of Google translate (though the pages do have minimal English language versions, so don’t be too scared). Just like anywhere else, beware of scams and people trying to cheat. Follow the adage: Trust but verify. Three commonly used sites (we found my car on the first):

  • MyAuto


  • AutoPapa

2. Buyer beware

Georgians make a big business of car import and re-export. They find cars that have been totaled in the States or Europe and ship them here. They then make repairs, double the price, and either sell it here or sell it to people in Central Asia.

This means the car could have been in a huge, horrific wreck and been completely rebuilt, or a small fender bender, or a flood, or who knows.

That means you ALWAYS want to ask for a VIN if it’s not listed in the advert. If the car was imported from the States or Europe, then this can be a helpful number. First look it up via Google. You’ll see lots of nasty pictures, but they’re not always the pictures of the same car, so you’ll have to click on the images and make sure the VIN matches. A lot of VIN websites will make thumbnails of OTHER nasty looking cars, and then want you to subscribe before you can see if it’s the car you’re looking at. Keep that in mind too.

The best free VIN site I could find was Vehicle History. They only do a limited amount of history checks per day though. And of course there’s also Carvin, which is Georgia’s version of Carfax.

Things you want to look for are damage reports and to make sure the odometer matches or is close enough. The data from either page should also show you how well-maintained the car was by previous owners.

3. Drive trains

If the car looks suspiciously cheap, it could be imported from England, India, Japan, Australia, or another country that has right wheel drive trains (because they drive on the left side of the road in those countries and they have very limited options for resale and export). These cars are still legal to buy and sell and drive in Georgia, but there’s a new slate of laws lined up that will soon make them illegal step-by-step.

So now what a lot of Georgians are doing is buying those cars and switching the drive train themselves. This is fine if it’s done by an expert mechanic, but you have to have trust in that mechanic…

Toyota Vitz
after checking the VIN, we found this Vitz had changed the drive train

4. Catalytic converters

I’ve learned that you should always ask about these. There’s apparently a bizarre market for used catalytic converters, and it’s very common for cars to be stripped of these for some extra cash. I can only imagine there’s a collector with a fetish for them, and his house’s interior walls are lined from corner to corner.

Recently they’ve passed a law that in the next few years, cars will be required to have one. A new one can be up to a grand, but you can always buy a used one off another person’s car…

But yeah, check this from the phone. Don’t waste your time going to look at a car only later to find out this is missing.

5. Trust but verify

You’ve found a car you love from the looks of it. It’s got a clean history. It has a catalytic converter. Now what?

Don’t just buy it believing that the guy is telling the truth. It’s best to meet the seller at either the main Tegeta Motors or a dealership, and then pay about 60 lari for an inspection. You should also take a Georgian translator along with you if you don’t know Georgian or Russian. They’ll run down a list of all the things wrong or weird about the car. Now with this info, you’re ready to make an informed decision on buying.

6. Import taxes

If you look at MyAuto, you’ll see an option that says “Customs”. You then have the choice of “customs cleared” and “Before customs” (განბაჟებული/ganbajhebuli and განუბაჟებელი/ganubajhebeli, respectively). If it’s been customs cleared, then you have no real idea how long it’s been in Georgia and subject to the harsh Georgian reality. If it hasn’t, that means it’s arrived here at least within three months.

The fee for customs is determined by a whole array of arcane factors, and you’ll see this price being all over the place. You can figure it out for yourself here, though people in general accurately report it.

Upon import, an owner who plans on keeping the car here receives a red license plate and has three months to register the car. When the three months is up, you start collecting a bunch of fees. You also have to pay a rental on this red license plate, so it’s best to go through this process as quickly as possible (though the “rental” is just like one lari a day).

7. Transferring the title and paying the taxes

It’s an easy process. The registration office is in Rustavi (there is no office for this in Tbilisi, Rustavi is the de facto Georgian Capital of Cars) at this place.

You’ll walk in with the seller, and you’ll first stop to pay the license transfer fees and customs. Then you’ll go to another desk to transfer the registration and pick out a license plate (if importing).

If you’re swapping plates, be sure to have brought your red plates from the car with you to turn in. They’ll give you the new plates here.

After this, you will exit the building, go across the parking lot on the left, up some stairs, and stand outside some windows. Then they’ll give you the registration card and you’re done!

Happy driving.

Hyundai Elantra Tbilisi
now we're ready with the baby

If buying a car is too much for you, considering also rentals. I know this guy, Temo, who rents out some great 4X4s that are great for the mountains through his Family Cars Georgia company. Check him out! #tbilisi #car

I can’t speak for the Church here, but for the most part it looks like they took their precautions. Not many people attended mass, and they did appear to actually be wiping the spoons (with at least a cloth, not sure if there was alcohol on that cloth). I was at home watching it on live feed. Which saddens me a little bit, as it is my favorite holiday in Georgia and at Church.

Orthodox Easter is celebrated at a different date than Western (Roman) Easter. I’ve mentioned the Christmas date controversy before – a pope had fixed the calendar and the Orthodox refused to fix it because pope. But after they realized ole Papa Gregory was right and that Christmas was, in fact, drifting off into the summer, they fixed their liturgical calendar and now the Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th (which is December 25 of the old calendar).

Trinity (Sameba) Cathedral at night

Easter on the other hand, is a bit different. By definition, Easter should be on the Jewish Passover, since the Last Supper was the Passover meal. The Orthodox have stayed true to this. The Catholics however, being clever with their calendars and all, invented some strange formulation that has to do with the square roots of the distance between Mars and Venus at the equinox of Alpha Centauri. Or something like that, It’s always a bit confusing. Sometimes these dates line up, other times not, but all that to say Easter is not determined by the regular Christian calendars, hence the dates making a bit of a temporal dance across the years.

Easter in a Georgian village

My favorite thing is to have Easter in a village. I’ll tell you a bit about that for normal years.

Normally, festivities would begin on Good Friday (not really sure the proper Orthodox term). Religious people are fasting during this time and don’t break fast until Saturday night after church. So if you’re not a girl, then you’ve probably started feasting and drinking and partying by this time, especially in Samegrelo, the big region in the West.

a village house

I’m often confused by this. Because I’ll ask, “When do we eat?”

“It is a time of fasting, Saint,” they reply.

“Yeah, but I see some guys outside barbecuing pork and drinking beer,” I say.

“It is a time of fasting,” they reply.

Preparations under way - technically not Easter, but no real difference

And then before I know it, there’s about twenty people over getting drunk. Heck if I know what Georgian fasting is, except that it involves "fasting cake" and "fasting ice cream" – it never makes clear sense to me.

Now, technically, you should hold off until after the midnight mass on Saturday night. Most people break down though, especially those who live in Tbilisi or elsewhere and haven’t seen their childhood friends in forever. Those guys are already 6 days into a 4-day bender.

The church is not far from my family’s house. We walk down at about thirty minutes till. Then there’s a lot of standing around. People chatting, getting reacquainted with people they haven’t seen in years or days or hours. Then finally some commotion, something like a church service begins. At this point I’m usually pretty toasted, so I’m hazy on the details. But some beautiful singing starts up. And then people start pulling out candles and soon I’ve got hot wax dripping all over my hands and shoes.

The Holy Fire has arrived. Here’s the big event.

The Holy Fire

Every year for Easter, the Orthodox have a big meetup in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they disappear into the chapel above the Empty Tomb. They emerge from the chapel with the fire. They light the flames of everybody present – representatives of different churches from around the world. Those representatives then take the Fire and go back to their home country, where it’s then distributed to each individual parish across the land. What a beautiful tradition! You are literally sharing in the same flame as people around the world. Now that is a Communion if ever there was one.

Holy Fire in hand, we shuffle out of the church. The nice churchy church that stands now was built recently. There is an older one on the other side of the center of the village. It was a house converted into a church used during the Soviet Union. So everyone takes their bit of Fire and walks in procession down to the old church, walks around it, eats some sunflower seeds, has a chat, some songs are sung, back to the first church, and then more singing. At this point, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning, we go home. Others stay as late as 5 or 6 even.

Next to Sioni, Tbilisi Old Town

It’s not over!

Now random neighbors start to arrive through the remainder of the night. In fact, they’ve been doing so while we’re gone at church, so every family has to leave some grandfolks or someone behind at the house during mass to host any guests that might pop in.

When you can’t stay awake anymore, you pass out.

Easter Day

Wake up. Easter’s here! The real feasting and drinking begins. If the pig hasn’t been killed yet, it’s killed now, along with a variety of other animals. You will wake to a slaughter. Fresh wine barrels are tapped, the food is set, neighbors start streaming in. Alternatively, we also disappear to other neighbors’ houses to eat their food and make a bit of a culinary round robin around the village. Last one to keep their sobriety loses.

Mornings in the village

Another game: They die hard-boiled eggs red for Easter, rather than getting too crafty with the colors. In the ancient days, once everyone converted to Christianity, they claimed that the eggs they had been dying for whatever pagan goddess all along actually represented the blood of Christ. True story. And because of that, they pock each other’s eggs upon arrival. Old Georgian tricksters will have made special wooden eggs, and they go around town defeating all the children, laughing as they leave behind a trail of broken eggshells and tears.

Sometime during the day, there's a visit to the graveyards of the different family members. Wine is brought. They pour one glass of wine and place it for the deceased. Everyone there drinks one. People visit the graves of friends as well. Repeat. In Eastern Georgia, they often have full feasts at the cemetery as well.

That’s the normal times. These aren’t normal times.

Now we sit in the apartment. Instead of Communion wine, I’m drinking some cheap scotch.

C’est la vie.


People made much ado about the Church going on with Easeter. But Carrefour, the grocery store around the corner, leaves me in much more existential terror.

People are lined up to the street. “Socially distancing” while in line. But with lots of people and still, indoor air… does the virus care that much? You have to wait about 30 minutes to get into the store, and then the store is overcrowded. It’s complete nutso inside. People bumping each other, attendants stocking, kids playing rugby. A mess.

Not the end of the line

And an unnecessary one. The state instituted a curfew. Why? They want people in shops for only certain hours. That means that everyone must crowd in at once, rather than spreading the distribution across the day. I say open the shops for 24 hours, so that people can thin out. Don’t come all at once! Come when people aren’t coming. That makes sense, not the mess that they’re enforcing now.

Whatever. When I saw the line to the street, I immediately called the wife. “Can you do without bread?”

“I’ll try making some.”

She made some. And it was good.

Happy Easter folks.

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