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I am Changamiré, a Jazz/R&B singer in Washington, DC, USA. This story is about my performance at the 8th Annual Georgian International Festival of the Arts (GIFT), the weekend of June 11, 2004, in the warm and charming city of Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia. I have always wanted to perform abroad, and Tbilisi was the perfect city to first partake of such an endeavor.
Clifton Brockington, my pianist, and I were scheduled to leave DC on Tuesday, June 8. On June 3, I called the travel agent to confirm that my tickets had been mailed to me. I was told that the flight from Paris to Tbilisi had been cancelled and that they had been desperately searching for an alternate route for us. The new proposed route was scheduled to arrive in Tbilisi at 1:00 AM, six hours after famous Georgian actress and GIFT Director Keti Dolidze was to meet us at the Tbilisi airport. I paced back and forth while the agent was on the phone, trying to talk this new problem away while thinking of all the people I needed to get this new information to. I accepted the new itinerary and had the agent express the tickets to me, and notified Georgia and Russia about the change.
One of my sponsors, L.A. Executive Services, provided car transportation to and from the airport for Clifton and I. When Clifton arrived to my house, music was blasting and relatives and I were merry and bustling about. The airport car soon arrived, and I became nervous: I was going on a long trip to perform abroad, and was leaving my husband, Lincoln. We have not separated for any length of time since our marriage a year and a half ago.
Clifton took his luggage and got in the car. Everyone was rushing me out of the house, but I managed to stay behind with Lincoln. I was sad and scared to leave him and was holding back tears. He tried to make me smile or laugh, and then he kissed me. We left the house and I joined Clifton in the back seat of the car. I watched Lincoln chat with and shake the driver's hand. Afterwards, he shook Clifton's hand, thanked him, and closed the car door. Then we drove off.
Layovers and Airports with Jet Lag
Our itinerary was from DC to Paris to Prague to Tbilisi. There was a 7-hour layover in Paris, and our transfer happened to be in an unusually horrendous wing of the De Gaulle airport at 6:00 AM Paris time. We walked the short airport wing for a few minutes and grabbed some McDonald's. Half sleepwalking, I thought Clifton wanted to kill me and regretted his decision to come on the trip. But he found a chair in a corner and got some sleep. One of us had to stay awake so that we wouldn't miss the flight to Prague, so I did.
The airport in Prague was immaculate. We had gotten more sleep on the flight there, so we were energetic and excited about exploring the airport and its beautiful views. We bought Prague tee shirts, postcards, and handicrafts, but the crystal was too expensive to buy during this trip. We really enjoyed Prague's airport. Our layover was too short there.
At about 2:00 AM local time, our airplane descended into Tbilisi, Georgia. I asked Clifton, who was sitting at the window, what he could see. He said there wasn't a lit cityscape, only single lights scattered scarcely about. The plane pulled towards a bus outside of the terminal, and we exited into the chilly night air.
Waiting at the gate was Keti Dolidze. Big smiles when we saw each other. Keti's presence is so dominant that it seemed as if everyone in the small airport, including customs, bowed to it. She had an entourage of assistants (who all looked like they could kill me for arriving at such an hour). But Keti directed us through the visa process and we left for the hotel.
Tbilisi roads from the airport to the Marriott were long and dark with few if any traffic lights. Along the entire way, beside the road, were lighted tent-like convenience stores open for business. Had there been lots of people roaming about, I would have thought it was 2:00 AM in New York City. Even our driver made us wonder about this as he swerved and swayed at seemingly high speed, avoiding potholes and passing other cars. At one point, Clifton and I looked at each other at the same time, wondering if we were going to have an accident.