Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Home, at last

I've been nesting over the past week or two, clinging to moments of quiet between enormous piles of revision-work, paid-work-to-fund-my-currently-unfunded-postgrad-work, more funding applications, bazroba-visits (30 lari for an enormous chocolate cake, seven or eight different spices, and about 5 kilos of fruit and vegetables), and a few sunlit moments with a book and Uzbek pilaf at a sidewalk cafe.

Home sweet...
I've managed to make a home here. I love this apartment - its bright-painted walls, the guitar hanging from the study wall, the lilies in the living room vase. I knew when I moved here that I wanted more than a flat, and this apartment is a repository of beautiful things - things that had previously been living in storage in my grandmother's apartment, under my mother's bed, at my boyfriend's house, in the basement of Oriel College: at last I'm able to gather up this fragmented collection of memory.

For the first time I can remember, I'm not divided - not sprawling my stuff over continents. Everything that was beautiful or important to me at some point in my life is here, making up this chaotic, colorful whole - from the bedspread I had when I was thirteen and living in Paris (Indian, orange, now living on the guest bed), to the one I bought while living in Rome a year later (emerald, fraying, now covering my study chair), to the Venetian masks I made eight years ago (hanging in my bedroom), to the black-and-white photographs in my bathroom (from a Parisian coffee table book entitled "Girls") to the stuffed llama I bought in Piazza Navona shisha pipe once used in a Pirandello play I directed at Oxford. I have the boxes my mother made for me out of antique Bible pages for Christmas, and the Thai box my grandmother couldn't take with her when she moved.

I still gasp when I see Old Tbilisi from across the river, and think I live there. I still smile every time I catch a glimpse of the fortress at night. I eat a (second) dinner at my land-family's and drink tea until midnight. Soon my friend Kam (of blog fame) will be moving in next door, and then we'll transform our shared private terrace into a summer wonderland of flowers and deck-chairs!

I get a bit tetchy when people here (often expats) complain about Georgia - that it's a "backwater," "barbaric," what-have-you, that its nicer bits are filled with nouveaux riches and its less-nice bits are Soviet terrors. I saw Robert Strurua's The Tempest at the Rustaveli Theatre, and in terms of technical skill the actors/direction easily outclassed anything I've seen in England (and the Decameron came second, in recent memory, only to Al Pacino's Merchant of Venice in New York). The food here - both Georgian and haute-European - is phenomenal. There's so much here - especially in Old Tbilisi - that's affordable or free (just walk around), and I hate to think that so much of the public/expat discourse about Tbilisi is what it "needs," what it "lacks," what needs to change. Of course there are serious issues here, as in any country, but there's something dreadfully imperialist about demanding that a developing country fit the paradigm of uniformly "poor/miserable/depressed" - as if the idea that there are plenty of Georgians who don't need "saving" somehow threatens the "first-world-ness" of the expats in question. (Though most of my expat friends here are lovely and non-imperialist!)

When it's sunny out (rare these days), I sit outdoors on Erekle St, at Cafe Kala or the Grand Cafe. The four cats (the imperious albino, who enjoys rolling around on colorful carpets just to be contrary, the sweet gray one, the energetic ginger, and the enigmatic other-ginger), that haunt the area have come to know me: they mew at me and I feed them bits of chicken liver, and from time to time they jump in my lap. The artist across the street (long white ponytail, wifebeater) sells his paintings and plays Edith Piaf and jazz on his stereo.

I'm home.


pasumonok said...

Hey, welcome!!!
Please, please see battle of stalingrad in the puppet theatre! it is beautiful and has english subtitles!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey! Great post! I'm surprised people think that Georgian culture is "barbaric"? I am Georgian and probably biased but I don't see how country that accepted Christianity in 3rd century, has built some of the most beautiful churches in the world, has one of the only 14 alphabets in the world, has great poets and artists is 'barbaric'??? After all it is one of the oldest civilizations on earth. But anyway, I really enjoy reading your blog :)

Anonymous said...

And also, sorry for this many comments but I have read some of those blogs and I know exactly what you're referring to. I get a sense that they have never really traveled much outside of United States or Western Europe, or they would notice that Georgia shares many cultural similarities with many of the Mediterranean countries. Especially this one Pseudo Intellectual blogger(I won't say the name :) who seems to have prenentions of understanding feminist/socio politic/gender politics but seems to have very little/shallow knowledge of it all.

Nino said...

Hey! If you're interested in Georgin history and culture, you might find this interesting. It's a documentary film about Georgia by Otar Ioseliani. It gives a quick (hmm 3 hour) overview of Georgian history and culture starting from ancient Georgia to Soveit occupation and Current War in Abkhazia.

Here's part I.


Nino said...


Alexander said...

Well, I'm glad you feel at home. As for "Imperialists" as soon as they start their ramblings on Georgia just tell them: "Honey do you know that 10.000 Russian and Chechen troops are standing in just 40km from you?"



Thats not a lie btw. So, I think we are still doing fine considering the extraordinary problems. Haha