Tag Archives: Georgia

Mikheil Antadze – Goodbye Soso!

Mikheil Antadze, a young, aspiring director is today’s guest of the blog. Here is a short story by him.

Two years after the Georgian-Russian war, I was staying in Gori, hired by a local newspaper to take pictures of the ongoing rebuilding effort. My employer arranged for me to stay with a distant relative of his, Uncle Vano. (Actually, Uncle Vano was nobody’s Uncle, but insisted that everybody, including me, must address him this way.) He gave me a bed under a massive portrait of Stalin, Gori’s most famous son. After this, we rarely interacted, except for breakfast, when he would go into loud, mad rants about the government, conspiracies and the low market demand for crops he never even collected from his farm. I had to, of course, agree or he would go into a rant about how the youth of today has no respect for the older generation.

You can imagine how surprised I was when one night, he burst into my room only in his underwear, yelling “They’re taking away Uncle Soso!”

I sprang up, and asked him “What is the matter, Uncle Vano?”

“They’re taking away Uncle Soso, you fool! Grab your camera and follow me”

I had no idea who Uncle Soso was, or what was Vano talking about, and at this time of night couldn’t care less, but could not risk missing a photo opportunity.

I got up, put on my shirt, and followed him through the halls of the massive apartment building. He went on, energetically limping in front of me, crying out the same phrase over and over. “They’re taking away Uncle Soso! They’re taking away Uncle Soso!” Some neighbors got out. One old woman got in his way and hissed “Serves him right, that monster. The shame of our town, the shame” Vano pushed her out of the way, saying “Silent, woman! Woe is me, woe is me!” and continued to lead the way. At this point I realized something serious was happening. I put my hand affectionately on his shoulder and slowly asked him: “What is going on, Uncle Vano? Who is taking away Uncle Soso?”

“The government is, the secret police is, they came in cars at night and now they’re taking him away, away!” We got to a window in the western end of the hallway, and he pointed his finger out. I saw a squad of police cars surrounding the statue of Joseph “Soso” Stalin. I tried to take a picture, but all that would come out would be a window reflecting Vano and me on one side, and police siren lights on the other.

“Does this window open, Uncle Vano?”

“Uncle Soso” said Uncle Vano.

“Uncle Soso” echoed the hallway.

I helped myself with the window and adjusted the exposure settings, but suddenly I heard Vano Shriek. I turned back and saw him grab his heart and turn pale. He fell down, and I grabbed his hand to check his pulse. It was beating faster and faster. Behind me I heard a loud bang. They ripped out Stalin’s statue out of the ground. Vano opened his eyes for the last time. A tear rolled down his cheeks and got stuck in his moustache. I got up and called for help.

A week later I would come into the room where I once slept. A coffin replaced the bed. Stalin’s picture was taken down, now replaced by a portrait of Uncle Vano.

 

 


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Traveler’s log: Camp weekend trip to Birtvisi

Irakli inspects tall rock face. Concluding it is relatively safe, he slides his foot into a crevice on the cliff wall and reaches for a DSC01422protruding rock. One false move could mean a plunge of several hundred meters. Prior to his next moves, Irakli notes his path with the help of a walkie-talkie. His friends observe from a distance. Most of the expedition team members are inexperienced and for some it is their first time camping in Georgia’s southeastern hills.

The expedition unfolded when a friend of mine extended an invitation for two days of camping in a place called Algeti. With a strong interest in camping but lack of experience, I agreed instantly. Come Saturday afternoon nine of us filled two cars for the 60 kilometer drive southeast of Tbilisi to Algeti. After unloading the car we embarked on an uphill 40-minute hike before finally reaching the campsite in Birtvisi.

I can tell you from experience, forty-minutes of uphill hiking is easier said than done. Many of us had never been camping. Stopping to catch our breath was a frequent occasion However, the effort of getting to the Birtvisi location was worth the struggle. The site is a picturesque flat surface surrounded by cliffs and caves of about 300 square meters.

Together with a dozen other campers who had already pitched tents, we prepared for our first night in Birtvisi. Darkness was approaching quickly so we had to promptly pitch our tents, gather wood and prepare a fire and food for dinner. The next few hours were spent relaxing around the fire grilling meat and toasting drinks late into the night. We retired to our tents when someone remembered we had a long day of uphill hiking to a tower in the nearby mountains.

Begrudgingly we woke early the next morning, pushing aside our thoughts of staying at the campsite instead of continuing with our scheduled hike. With our sights set on adventure we began following the narrow paths winding around cliffs. It took a lot of effort to follow the path, but the most difficult task began about halfway to the tower when it hit a near 90-degree angle and a fear of heights quickly kicked in.

Once the fear took hold of me I started to joke: “Why do we create problems for ourselves by leaving a civilized city for a place like this?”

A friend responded philosophically, musing, “Humans are the only mammals who go into the mountains for pleasure.”

“What about goats?” another friend asked.

“Goats do it to breed,” he replied.

I tried to laugh, but after scaling two-thirds of the cliff all I could think about was how getting down would be far more difficult than going up. Pleasure was the last thing on my mind.

Finally reaching the peak, we took a well deserved rest and admired the view.

“So this is it?! We needed to go up so long just to see this tiny tower?” my friend Nodar asked.

The reactions to the view were mixed, but we agreed that descending would be much scarier than ascending. We paused frequently as we crawled down the mountain’s edge.

After a long struggle we finally returned to camp, ate dinner and slowly started to gather our things. The evening was quickly approaching and we needed to get to Algeti by dawn.

As we approached Algeti, we were pleased with our camping adventure. Our muscles ached, but our curiosity was satisfied and our desire for the next expedition shined across our faces.

Published for Georgia Today, September 4, 2009 issue

Glasgow’s Knowledge of Georgia

Picture 047When people learn I am from Georgia, they have different reactions, as the people I meet are quite eclectic; however the most common reaction is “Georgia, Russia?” or “Georgia, U.S.A? (In case I am successful at squeezing a convincing American accent out of me). Despite these and some other reactions from people, I decided to check what random people know and think about my homeland. In order to meet and ask people I have never met before, I decided to go out to the central streets of Glasgow and approach random strangers.

My first respondent is a taxi driver, he is 59 and his name is Ian. He has never been out of Great Britain; however despite this fact he seems to possess some knowledge about the country.

“I’ve never been abroad in my life, I just stay in Britain and the only time I heard about Georgia was from news, when there was fighting between Georgia and Russia.”

News of political nature is not the only source of information for Ian, as he remembers and describes Scotland’s defeat by the Georgian national football team in 2007, as a bitter experience. When asked about Georgians Ian seems to be pleased by the fact that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks English, saying: “Your leader speaks English, which is very unusual as usually leaders in most countries don’t.”

 My next interviewee’s name is Eric, 41; he sells newspapers on the streets of Glasgow. Similar to Ian, his knowledge of Georgia is partly linked to football as he says that Scotland played against Georgia several times during the world cup qualifications.

Eric’s general knowledge about Georgia seems to be proper and does not fall into any of two categories mentioned in the beginning of the article, as he tells me that Georgia used to be a part of the Soviet Union, but now is an independent state.

Having spoken to people of older generation, I am now trying to find younger opinions. Soon I noticed a blonde girl sitting and reading a book on a bench, probably in her early thirties, I decide to approach her. She replies to my request to speak with her briefly by asking what the topic is about, “Georgia” – I tell her. “Georgia? What is it?” – She questions and refuses to give me an interview.

 After I experienced a failure I continue my walk in the streets of Glasgow. Unlike the previous girl another young lady, 18, whose name is Emma, studying music in college is eager to comment on the request. Emma says she has heard of Georgia, but really can’t say where exactly it is.

 “Georgia in US, is not it? Or it is somewhere else as well? Sorry I am not very good at geography,” she says.

My next interviewee is Luke, 22, a traveler from Australia visiting Glasgow. He says he has heard of Georgia, as a country either from the news or the movies.

“It is in eastern Europe, probably next to Slovenia,” he says.

Having interviewed five persons in the street I think it’s time to call it quits and plan to return home. On my way I enter a computer shop for personal reasons, while choosing and browsing around some gadgets a seller approaches me and asks if I need some assistance. Then he asks me where I am from, I answer and ask him the same question: China he says. I am unable to fight my temptation to ask him one of the questions from my interview, so I address him: “Do you know where it is?” He thinks for a while and then admits that he does not.

In total, 6 people were interviewed, 2 posses general knowledge about Georgia, 2 have heard of it, while 2 have no idea what it is and where it is, that is the result of my curiosity to know what random people in Glasgow know and understand about my homeland. Sadly, they also don’t know they are missing out on great food, great wine and great people… But they still have time to learn.

 

The article was published as a free lance work for “Georgia Today,” June 12, 2009 issue.

Krishna Community in Georgia

The video provided here was shot and directed during my studies in GIPA (Georgian Institute of Public Affairs), in 2007 as a course work.  There were four of us working for the project: Elina Shakhnazarova, Teona Kevlishvili, Temo Kiguradze and me, David Lobzhanidze.  Teona did reporting job, Elina coordinating, Temo editing, while I worked with camera.  The total shooting took approximately one week, we were running tough with deadlines, that’s why one may see noticable mistakes in English script, however we decided not to change it and left it in the shape  it was presented in class.  The video, tells a story of Krishna community in Georgia, for further information watch the video on the following link.

http://springator.ifolder.ru/10099330

Glasgow, Barbeques and missing the weather in Georgia

It is rainy and gloomy Monday in Glasgow, just an ordinary day for the city, apart from the fact that it is Bank holiday. Lasha Urushadze, 23 a full time student at Langside College in Glasgow is free from his studies, and stands with his mates outside of a student dormitory, waiting for Marilena Ireland, his English teacher, to give him a lift to a Barbeque party. Not the sort of holiday a Georgian student would expect when in his homeland.

When asked about differences between education in Glasgow and Tbilisi, Lasha says that it is difficult to make comparisons, as it is quite different, furthermore he studies in College here, while in Georgia he was a student of the State University.

“Today at the Barbeque party, and in general, I noticed that the interaction between lecturer and student is different than in Georgia, it is much more interactive and somehow free from psychological barriers. You attend classes and have regular interaction with your teacher, however even out of class your teachers are more neutral and somehow helpful, assisting you in getting acquainted with the culture and the country. You are free from the idea that teacher is someone unreachable, and this kind of simple relationship is really good,” Lasha says.

A Barbeque party is one of those events that are organized by the teachers of the college regularly, when being free from studies. Here you can find students, their lecturers and even their family members cooking food and enjoying conversations with each other. The culture is very eclectic and here one may discover the representatives of different ethnicities, such as Italian, Maltese, Spanish, Russian, Indian, and Iranian and Columbian, however the event unites them and makes them forget about cultural and ethnic differences.

“It is not difficult to get in touch with those from other countries, despite the fact that they are born and come from different origins, they are approximately the same age, in many cases they have different values, but still you can find a lot of things in common. I think that most of all what interests us about each other are the cultural, interesting and curious things about our countries,” Lasha explained.

Marilena, one of Lashas teachers, who has never met a Georgian student before, in describing him says the following: “He is what I would call a good student, he is interested, he participates very keenly, he usually has contributions to make to the class which they enjoy sharing, as a person I don’t really know him, I would be very hesitant to make a judgment, but obviously from what I know he is a very pleasant person and I know he has been introduced to other persons who have taken to him, and if all Georgian students are like him, it is fine by me, send them over.”

Not all of the people in Scotland who have met Lasha see Georgia as an independent state, and often get confused, which forces him to offer explanations.

“I got used to the fact that when I say that I am from Georgia, the next question that follows is, “That’s Russia, is not it?” Also, some tell me that it is Russian that we speak in Georgia. Then I have to explain to them the difference, that we have different alphabet, language, culture and so on. I think the reason for the misunderstanding is that more information comes out from Russia, than from Georgia, and they know it much more than Georgia. But later when they get to know that it is different they express interest in the history and nature, and all of those things which may interest foreigners.”

When explaining and telling people about Georgia, Lasha must have been successful; as his teacher, Liz Morrison views his behavior and interactions as a positive experience:

“It is giving me very positive experience of Georgian people, if they all are as friendly, polite, interested and attentive to others, then I would like to meet some more,” she said.

Massimo Dessanai, is Italian, Lasha’s college mate, with whom Lasha hangs out.

“He is a very friendly person, he is an easy person in all companies. He is especially good when we go out watching football matches. The first time I talked to him, we talked about Italian club Inter Milan, it is nice to meet someone with whom you may have a chat about common interests,” Massimo said.

It is the fourth month that Lasha is in Glasgow, he is good at studies, has fun occasionally and overall enjoys his time in Scotland, however, it is not always that simple for him, the feeling of nostalgia is often present.

“When I was coming here I did not think that I would have missed Georgia so much, but now I realize that it is not just missing Georgia as a country, but you do miss it as family, as the beginning of your memories, in Georgia you are seen as a part of that society, while abroad you have to prove some things, and if you don’t look after yourself nobody will. This may apply to Georgia as well, however, there is a love of relatives and this love is what I miss. I would also say that I miss the weather very much.”

Picture 161

The article was published as a free lance work for “Georgia Today,” May 8, 2009 issue.