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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Roadside Georgia

Georgia for me is a big chunk of land divided by a highway. There’s stuff right of the highway and there’s stuff left of the highway. The road itself starts in Tbilisi and either ends in Batumi (the long version) or in Kakheti (the short version). My mental map of Georgia is this thin strip of land on both sides of the road, bordered by the mountains. I’ve been living in a two-dimensional Georgia.
Despite the fact that I have traveled all over Georgia – tents, nice hotels, bad hotels, cities, villages, valleys- despite the fact that Svaneti  is the only region I have not yet visited, despite the fact that for the last 4 years I always chose positions that include working in the regions - I am still a tourist in my own country.
Really, what is Georgia for me? Batumi in the summer and Gudauri in the winter? Nice hiking area?
These people I see from the cars, these people I train, I sit down for therapy, why do they wear different clothes, what do they all day? How do they live? What do they do for fun?
Do you know what is the first place that I absolutely have to visit, even if I have nothing to buy? Smart supermarkets. Thank god there is one in Akhaltsikhe, in Gori, in Gonio. Smart supermarket is where I find shelter, ATMs, tea, clean bathrooms. Where I know things.
My comfort zone has extended to Kutaisi now. I can walk around the center alone without getting lost and mostly understanding the situation.
I spend so much time, so much time with people who discuss Game of Thrones, Benedict Cumberbatch, the latest event at the Mtkvari club, did-you-see-that-video-of-a-kitty-on-9-gag, and I start believing that this is what Georgia is, that everyone around me watches kitty videos, that everyone misses Breaking Bad, that everyone has a FB account. I am not surprised that some people don’t know English, but it doesn’t sound right to me. I don’t mean perfect English, I mean not understanding computer commands or “Friends” dialogue. I realize how incredibly snobby I sound.
And I actually do go out there. I actually spend so much work and vacation time outside Tbilisi. Yet, I don’t let the country in. I leave, I lock up my thoughts and beliefs; I don’t try to fit in – I try not to annoy. The only thing that I identify with is the nature. Those mountains on both sides of the road. I feel like they are mine. Mountains and the Smart supermarkets.
How did it happen that I am a tourist in my own country? It had something to do with refusal to watch TV.  Something to do with declaring that I am better than all this. That I am "way too educated" and "way too liberal". And as we took the new shortcut around Kutaisi  last week, I felt like my point of reference – the road – shifted. I caught myself thinking: I don’t even know how long we need to ride to the horizon until we reach the border of Georgia. Is it 2 hours, 3 hours? What’s out there? Azerbaijan, Russia? But then of course the shortcut ended and we went back to familiar highway, this road I’ve been riding several times a month now. Western Georgia-coffee at Zestaponi-Rikoti twists and turns-Nazuki-Khashuri roundabout-Gori Smart-abandoned Berta building-Jvari-Digomi-home.
…I wish I had a village, I wish I was not born and raised here, I wish I could connect, I could remember,
how must it feel to wake up on the 2nd floor, under 4-sided roof, walk to the balcony rail, shiver and hurry downstairs for breakfast.

Cause I don’t know.

P.S. Pic I took in Kakheti last year.


  1. Dear Pasumonok (I can't find your name anywhere),

    My name is Nina, I'm a journalism student form The Netherlands and about to visit Tbilisi in a month to write about the gap between old and new sexual perceptions for young Georgians. I would really like to get in touch with you about your blog and the play that you performed in last year. I don't know a different way to contact you, so I hope this message gets delivered propperly. You can answer me via my website or email
    Hoping to hear from you!
    Kind regards,