Because I cannot exist anywhere without immediately wishing I were somewhere else, I've spent the past few weeks reading a variety of Tbilisi- and Georgia-based blogs, primarily from TLG volunteers, and dreaming about the alleyways of Abanotubani. I've found other blogs amusing, enlightening, but above all things surprising, in part because my experience in Georgia seems so very different from the experience of other bloggers - in. And so I feel compelled, because I'd secretly like to be the love child of Patrick Leigh Fermor and Isabella Burton (although Sir Richard would do nicely), to add my own voice to the cacophony of stories I've been killing time with lately.
A bit about me, then - I live in Tbilisi, except when I don't. I'm American, except when I'm not. I'm a freelance and ghost-writer, except when asked about my student visa. (I have two names, too, but that's a story for another blog post). For approximately half the year, I study Byzantine theology at Oxford, focusing on the philosophy of language in the Cappaddocian Fathers, on a student visa stamped in an American passport that - among other things - allows me to avoid paying for American health insurance. I brush must off of magisterial tomes and sometimes I even read them. I like nineteenth-century French literature, chocolate tea, classical music, and cobblestones. I wear scarves.
For the other half of the year, I go adventuring - basing myself in a messy, art-nouveau-styled Artists' Den in Tbilisi - scribbling for my supper and the price of train tickets. I work as a ghostwriter of romance novels, a travel writer, a video game storyline advisor, a script analyst for a film development company: whatever pays for a) the bills and b) my tuition. I also work on the Great Franco-Italian-American Novel. Sometimes I even get published.
I grew up in Paris, Rome, and New York City. My father is Italian; my mother American. I moved to Tbilisi with my mother, who had a Diplomatic-Related Job, fell in love with Orientalist fantasies of the Caucasus, and decided to stay once she returned. I'm not affiliated with TLG, the Fulbright, the Peace Corps, or any governmental organization - which is at once isolating and liberating.
My experience of Tbilisi is art nouveau street-corners late at night, toddling alleycats on the ruined staircases of Betelmi, baklava in unmarked Iranian tea rooms, saying the word "caravanserai" aloud in a whisper, finding fin de siecle postcards from Karlsbad at the Dry Bridge market, the monarchist on Rkinis Riga who cooed at the pigeons in the Meidan cage, and informed me that he was a relative of "Konigen Erzbeth" - producing a worn, decades-old newspaper clipping of Prince Charles as evidence.
Once, I was staring down icons in the Anchiskhati Church, and a young man entered through the side door. He pressed his lips to the stone in prayer, and when he kissed the stone he stared at me, and I thought it would make a good beginning for a novel.
So here it is.