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Monday, December 27, 2010

Queer Theory

Last Friday I attended a discussion on the queer theory, in DRCAA (DRCCA?DDRCA? This name contains way too many letters).

I learned that the queer theory claims that norms, categorization, even the term LGBT are sources of discrimination. “We’re normal too”—is really validating the existence of an accepted norm and a desire to be a part of it, when in reality, there is no “normal sexuality”.

As I sat there, I've noticed was how different it felt to be in the LGBT community in Tbilisi. I sensed something unusual (queer?) in the air, dare I say conspiracy? Secret? Boldness? Thrill?

I remember, back in the States, my friend took me to a birthday party of her “gay husband”. Somehow, being the only girl among three dozens of gay men was more relaxing than being in DRCAA. I don’t mean to say that I was nervous or scared or something ridiculous like that. I was more…emotional? Exited? Unsettled? This shows how the whole social setting affects the way we perceive people, society and ourselves.

I took notes during the lecture, I was going to write more about the theory, but no, if anyone is interested, Internet is full of the relevant info. Personally, I believe that it is fundamentally right, but like any theory that sprang as an opposition to an established order, it falls into extremes. However, I took home something more important then the theory…

Conspiracy? Maybe. Boldness and thrill…admiration and respect. Because have you, my dear reader, ever had to oppose the whole world, when everyone screamed that you are, in your essence, in your core, either sick, perverted or dysfunctional? The last time I’ve experienced such admiration was during the disability awareness project, when I saw people fighting for basic rights, denying pity.

What can say? Do I have a right to say anything? I am white, I am straight, I am well-educated, I am girl ( well, at least I can complain about gender issues J), I went to a private school, I had a very accepting family, I love my husband. No matter what I say or write, no matter my empathy, no matter my indignation, I can never ache the pain of the people assembled at DRCAA that night. Boldness, in the air? You bet!

I am a disgustingly lucky, privileged SOB (Daughter Of B?). Nevertheless, I refuse to live in the country of hate, in the country of injustice, in the country of Pharisees and false prophets!

And if you think that all this hate is bypassing you because you happened to fit in—beware of the day you fall out of favor.

I don’t know what to do, how to help, how to be there for anyone who needs me (does anyone need me?). Everything is way too complicated in Tbilisi. But I refuse to live in this filth, in this hypocrisy, in this "don’t ask, don’t tell, if you tell, we will beat" you environment.

We all deserve better.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Georgian Liberal?

There is a kind of dualism in Tbilisi, the sense of you’re either with us or against us...

It has been increasingly hard to find my place. I’ve been searching for my group and I haven’t found it. I feel like a teenager again. You know, confused, trying to figure basic morals.

The more time passes, the more I understand what I’m against. Collectively, no one is against everything that I’m against. I guess we all have to compromise different things with the different groups of people.

I don’t know, parties, drinking, pot, singing, swearing, that’s fine, I like that deviant attitude. But, after a while, you realize that it is kinda fake. All things are kinda fake, so that’s not a tragedy. However, being pretty flexible, one still has some inner core morals, otherwise, it would be impossible to navigate the world. So what should I do, when the so-called liberal society clashes with that core?

My first problem is that I do believe in God. Lately, I found that if I say it aloud, many “friends” look at me exactly as traditional Georgian guys look at me when I say that I have no problem with gays. I guess acceptance is the problem on both sides; it is just that it happened that my view coincides with one of them.

The second thing is that I see childish, teenage rebellion, which is too late for anyone who is not 15. I see lies and cheating (I am not against free sex. I am not against open relationships. But I am against dishonesty), displaying intimate info on Skype and that kinda stuff. All this shit makes me feel mature and damn it, I hate to feel mature when I am only 25! I want to feel younger, not older, smarter and preachyer! I find myself in a position of a know-it-all, giving advices and shaming people.

There’s stuff in my new life that I don’t want my old friends to know. But, after I’ve met so many new people last year, I realize that despite our differences (some got married, some are employed, some are home, some are conservative, some are environmentalist..), that is the group of people that I feel most comfortable in. I might keep some of my ideas to myself, but whenever I am with them, I feel safe.

Thus, I don’t know. Maybe there is no my place in this country of change. Maybe my only place is my home. Maybe I need to accept everyone as they are: sexist, racist, cheating, orthodox, atheist, fun, boring, intelligent, snobby…

Dochanashvili wrote: “we all have our city, sometimes we just don’t know about it”.

I can’t find my city.

pics: a cozy lamp art I saw in Kiev this fall.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our Trip to Istanbul Part 2

If you go to Istanbul for less than a week, expect to run around like chicken with no head. This post is about stuff to see in this city.

The Stuff Featured on History Channel. God! The carpet store with an underground cistern was right by our hotel! The hippodrome that the History Channel dude explored! The giant aqueduct! We saw the underground water reservoir! With a head of medusa at the base of the column!!! Ah, the Cities of the Underworld and the thrill of diving under the concrete to discover layers upon layers of history!

The Touristy Stuff. Visiting Istanbul and not seeing Hagia Sophia is going to get you on a “you suck” list for the rest of your life. The enormous historical value of this Byzantine monument needs a bigger document than my blog, so let me just say that, “famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture”[1] .It was built by 360 A.D. It has a monetary value too: entry fee was the most we’ve paid for any museum—20 Liras.

Facing the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque. As in every mosque, you are supposed to take your shoes off before entering (picture me struggling to take off my thigh high boots and wondering about the structural integrity of my socks—a.k.a. holes). It impressed me so much, every tile done in a unique way, people actually praying, the sense of presence... Avoid butting in during the prayer times.

The Palaces. Topkapi and Dolmabahçe. Make sure you pay additional fee and see the harem. Topkapi is where the Turkish rulers used to live before the 19th century and Dolmabahçe is more of a we-are-trying-to-be-European-over-the-top-baroque. Dolmabahçe palace has a beautiful garden and we were lucky to have the most amazing guide ever! He concluded the tour in the impressive ballroom, with the world's largest, Bohemian crystal, 4.5 ton chandelier. As we stood there, speechless, he said: “I just got married last month and I asked if there is any chance of me having a ceremony here. They told me, you can’t, because you’re not a sultan”. He was so serious when he said it too!

The Stuff in Bosporus. So, you navigate best you can past the people who try to sell you 50 Lira Bosporus tours, approach the last ferry on the dock and take a 10 Lira tour. You look around and you realize, wow, you could spend 3 days just walking and observing the streets that you see from the ferry. Including churches, mosques, city walls, castles and houses!

The Stuff We Discovered. Pier Lotti hill. So, this writer dude comes to Istanbul and decides to settle away from the city, on a hill with the view of the Golden Horn and the Constantinople. Of course, that hill is part of Istanbul now, and there’s a cute café with Turkish tea and spectacular view!

The Fancy Stuff. Finally, the Taksim Square and İstiklal Caddesi, the “Shardeni” street of Istanbul. Place to get Turkish coffee, wet burger, chain department stores, the cutest little cinemas (we saw Harry Potter there) and a crowd of tourists. Very busy during night—kinda cool, since the old city dies out after sunset. Looks like lot of other walking streets in other big cities, but with a Turkish flavor. Pretty hip!

Final Note: try to see more than one place; for example, don’t spend all of your time in the old city, and the Bosporus tour is a must!

pics: Giga took wonderful postcardish pics! Here you see: the view from the Bosporus Tour, Me by the Blue Mosque entrance, Hagia Sophia at night.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our Trip to Istanbul--Part 1

What can I say about Istanbul? Three words come to mind: breathtaking, historical and expensive.

Visiting Istanbul has been my dream since I saw “The Cities of the Underworld” on the History Channel. Unlike many other places, people and stuff in general, my high expectations were fully met and even exceed. This includes transportation, food and accommodation, the topic of this post.

Transportation. Let’s start from the beginning—the Sabiha Gokcen Airport. It is a newly built thing, lot further than the Ataturk Airport, but comfortable and nice-looking. Discount airlines land there. It took us two hours to get from the airport on the Asian side to our hotel, but it was fine, because when else would we travel through that part of Istanbul? To get to the historical city, we took a bus, a ferry (crossing Bosporus from Asia to Europe) and a 20 minute walk. We could’ve taken a tram from the ferry, but the overwhelming presence of the city at 8 a.m. made us jump up and down, despite the luggage.

Transportation in Istanbul includes ferries across Bosporus, trams, buses and a subway. There is no subway in the historic part—I guess it makes sense, given that there are Byzantium antiques lying everywhere you dig. Mostly, we walked around, cause when you’re in Istanbul for 7 days, you don’t want to spend time looking at it from the tram window.

Accommodation. I was afraid that our hotel room would look different than its ad picture—happens all the time. However, it was exactly the same. We requested a room with a balcony that overlooked the courtyard, but got something lot better—a courtyard itself! And, there was an option of having a room with the view of the Marmara Sea, for additional 10 Euros, but we decided to save the money and were right: all of the balconies were facing the sea, including our first floor, so we saw it perfectly. I guess the more expensive room was on the highest floor and had a better perspective, but I bet it did not have A SWING AND A LITTLE GARDEN!

You can get any kind of accommodations you want—from a 10Euro hostel to a 160 overlooking-the-sea suite. Breakfast is included. Receptionists everywhere are extra sweet and speak around 4 languages. Breakfasts are usually same everyday, but ours included so much stuff that we could eat different food for a week—and even the shittiest breakfast offers 5 varieties of olives and cheeses, which is like amazing!

Food. Foodwise, we went to Istanbul prepared. We watched my favorite TV chef’s Antony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” in Istanbul and marked the places and the food we wanted to eat. Among them were: a whole lamb cooked in a stone pit, a delicious, calorie-packed wet burger and a lamb wrap with an unbelievable lavash.

Food in the historic part of the city (which is where you’ll end up being anyway) is 10 times more expensive then where the normal people live, so we just skipped lunch or dinner and ate once a day (well, after having like 5 courses for breakfast) and munched on bread, fruit and cheese we bought in the discount supermarket.

The hotel provided two bottles of water and that was wonderful, because you can’t drink tap water and there are no drinking fountains. For water, try discount supermarket, because its prices triple (literally) in the touristy places.

And as an endnote: almost every restaurant and hotel has a rooftop terrace. It is absolutely the best idea ever, so please don’t visit Istanbul in the winter, you’ll miss the terrace experience!

pics: the rooftop terrace in our hotel (can you see the sea?), the Bambi Cafe (poor Bambi, do they serve venison?), and I am passed by a historic tram (modern ones cruise the rest of the city).

Friday, December 3, 2010

The 50s in Georgia

My stepfather once told me: “I understand why you want to go back to Georgia. It is like 50s in the states”. Now, he meant the good stuff about the 50s: family values, small grocery stores, neighbors being friends, sense of community.

As Giga and I got obsessed with the AMC’s series Mad Men, we both realized how true that is. It is the 50’s here, not only with all the good, but the crappy stuff too. For some reason, it makes me very glad that before the 70s, American people behaved much like Georgians do today: smoked all day, drank at work, objectified women, fired homosexuals from work, threw garbage in the park, had pretty housewives and promiscuous husbands. I was glad because: 1. aha, they had flaws too! 2. If they could change, we can change.

There is one thing in the 50s (or at least in Mad Men) that is unquestionably better than it is today: style! This is why Giga and me decided to have a 50s theme for our second wedding…wait what?!

As you know (or not), Georgian weddings have three parts: a church ceremony, a legal ceremony and a restaurant. 3 years ago, we didn’t have time, nor did we feel compelled to perform a legal ceremony and sign a marriage license. We just did the church thing, where Giga almost set the priest on fire and my maid of honor fainted in the middle of the bible-reading. Oh, and the drinking-eating-Georgian dances-drinking-eating-Georgian dances thing.

Now that we are thinking of producing little Gigas and Pasumonoks (this is where you go awwwwwwwwwwwwww), we decided to put our names on that paper.

We already had the restaurant and all that Georgian wedding festivity, so we came up with an inexpensive, American wedding: lots of flowers and no food. We even used paper plates!!! We did have alcohol though. Wine—not Georgian! As mentioned, for the first time in Georgia (to my knowledge), we also had a theme and kudos to my girlfriends, most of them showed up with 50s hair and dresses.

You can compare the pics from our first (real) wedding to this thing. Changes are apparent. That is the same man by my side, though.

And you know what? If we are half a century behind, we should at least have fun with it! Down with Justin Beiber, I want Marilyn Monroe!

P.S. and get this, we also had a second honeymoon! This time something exiting, not Borjomi, that we did the first time. Wait for the Istanbul in the next post.