Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Foreign Tongues and Kindred Spirits

I mentioned in my first entry that my experience in Tbilisi has been vastly different from that depicted by other bloggers. I don't live with a host family, nor do I have a built-in network of colleagues or co-volunteers. I do my job with a laptop and a wireless connection, and live alone in the heart of the Old Town. This can be enormously liberating; I have space and silence. I can drink tea on my porch at sunset, or sleep until noon, and never become prickly through lack of privacy.* But it also means that I'm starting my life in Tbilisi completely ex nihilo; finding friends, for me, is less an easily organic process than another item on my morning shopping  list: (To pick up - Milk, coriander, kindred spirits).

This hasn't been an issue up to now - I lived with my mother whenever I returned to Tbilisi. But with her return to New York, I find myself in the all-too-familiar position of building up a new life for myself. I don't want to socialize exclusively with expats; I attended a few embassy-related functions, but in the end foreign in the American diaspora as I do in the heart of the bazaar (that I might want to leave the posh boulevards of Vake for cobblestones, or learn Georgian to communicate with "locals," was roundly treated as ridiculous. When I mentioned I was a writer, I was immediately asked "who for?" as if my identity could not exist without reference to an American paradigm of prestige and systematization)

Nor is my (functional but basic) Georgian good enough to allow me to just "meet" people - a fact brought home to me when I eagerly clicked hundreds of blog profiles of interesting-looking people based in Tbilisi, just to find their entries locked away by language. This puts rather a damper in my dream of being adopted by:

a) an elderly, eccentric violinist, with trembling hands and novels in his head, who keeps parrots
b) A radical group of bohemian artists, who shout their visions from the top of the Narikala Fortress. OR
c) The brilliant soprano I saw performing La Traviata at the Georgian National Music Centre last September.

I recognize that there's something dangerous in letting my ideals run away with me. There's something predatory about chasing after potential novel-characters, as if Tbilisi was just an Orientalist fantasy for my amusement, but if I didn't want to encounter the Other, why travel at all? I want foreign-ness, the strange, bizarre encounters, alleyways, spices - and I recognize that what I want is shaped by the imperialist narratives of dead Englishmen. Edward Said would be disappointed in me.**

The question is, then - how do I get beyond my own expectations and desires -get out of myself, really- and meet people, make new friends, both Georgian and expat? I've made a few connections through the Internet, and met a few lovely people on the last visit I hope to see more of. I want kindred spirits, and I want them to be what I've always wanted, and I want them to be nothing like I've imagined. I suppose I want to find the very thing I can't find by searching.

(Now, if you're reading this, and you're an elderly, eccentric, parrot-keeping violinist capable of communicating in French, English, Italian, German, or any dead/Biblical/antique language, by all means do contact me! And if you see a tiny girl with enormous blonde hair hunched over a novel manuscript at Near Opera, tell her a story. She'd love to hear it.)

*I, to the astonishment of the Italian side of my social network, find little as terrifying as enforced, inescapable social contact. Blame it on being a home-schooled only child of a single mother.
**But I promise to make it up to him with my next planned post!


Invisible said...

How to get connections - easy, there a bunch of Georgian blogger gals of your age who can speak at least basic English. I'm sure you can find common interests.

Or you can enroll in some kind of activity which require regular meetings - like photography or Georgian dance courses, you name it.

Just get one local friend and others will follow.

Tamuna said...

hi, I amnt "an elderly, eccentric, parrot-keeping violinist capable of communicating in French, English, Italian, German, or any dead/Biblical/antique language,", though I like your language,it's way different from what I find in other foreign blogs writing about Georgia... :)

Fleur Flaneur said...

Thank you, Tamuna! That was the hope I had when I started this blog: to do something a bit different.

Are you from Tbilisi too?

Tamuna said...

yes I live in Tbilisi,but I am out to Rome/Brussels for couple of days. Keep writing,I like your style :)