Ben Sweeney’s Weblog

Got a Fulbright, living in Georgia for a year.

Some more on Tbilisi, part 2

with 5 comments

So, back to regularly scheduled programming. I’ve been up to a lot of studying lately – lectures/conferences, research, as well as recently started Georgian lessons. However, I still have a backlog of stuff that might be interesting, starting where I left off a bit ago.

Anyways, as I mentioned before I was walking with Stefano around the old castle on the mountain top and we met some locals. They managed to get my number from Stefano and so I invited them to my upcoming party. They said they were busy in the evening, so I set up a date with Ana, the Georgian girl, earlier in the day.

I don’t remember if I talked about my dating experiences for my month in Russia, but they were pretty surreal. During one, the girl’s boyfriend showed up outside the café – he was unhappy to see me, and she was unhappy to see him. The other story also ended up with the girl probably having a boyfriend as well as some interesting details too complicated for here.

This date was not an exception. The girl interested in me, and well vice versa, showed up with her friend Shoko as a chaperone of sorts. This was awkward mostly because Shoko only knows Georgian, while Ana and I were talking in Russian. We walked along Rustaveli, the main street here, Shoko and Ana arm in arm, while I chatted with Ana. We sat on a bench eventually, and I figured out why they couldn’t come to my party – they are not allowed out after dark. I also think that Ana doesn’t have a cellphone, and had to communicate with me with Shoko’s (using some of the most incomprehensible quasi-Russian sms language I have ever encountered). Also, they are 19, not young ‘tweens, for whom I could see a curfew being applicable.

We talked about society and gender roles in Georgia, something which I had already heard about. Society, while opening up, is still very traditional with sex before marriage strictly forbidden for girls, but permissible for most men, most of whom have some kind of encounter with a prostitute while still in their teens. Also brought up was the paradigm that Russian girls are sluts, with the idea that a Russian would be ashamed if they were still a virgin at 30, whereas a Georgian girl would be proud of that fact.

In all, it was quite pleasant, but I didn’t see much of a future with girls who couldn’t hang out after dark, whether or not they planned to be virgins until marriage. I’ve been getting more text messages from Ana, she told me that if I ever have a party during the day, she would be able to come (with Shoko of course).

I left them to go prepare for my party (which Stefano beat to writing a blog post on – http://ourmanintbilisi.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/ben-ians-housewarming/ ). Knowing Georgians, I decided to pick up some food beforehand, so I got a few bags of chips, some bread and dip, as well as some candy. My friends and friends of my roommates started arriving – the first 4 or so people here were all Georgians, and we hung out in the kitchen and had some beer and nibbled on the snacks. When they heard more people were coming, they conversed in Georgian and went and got their coats. They came back with bags of food – mostly sausages, and more bread.

More Georgians showed up, about half of them had more food contributions – candies, cakes, a huge jug of wine, beer. I already had chacha in my freezer, so I brought that out too. We moved the kitchen table and all the chairs we could find into the dining/living room until we could barely squish everyone in. Then we started feasting and toasting. I was simply amazed how my plan for a simple party with music and dancing and chatting had turned into a full blown supra.

Ian, my roommate eventually showed up after a long day working his two jobs and joined in, and other people kept trickling in. Shaman showed up (I’ll explain about him in the next post I think), and so did the guy we started calling Warmongler, as well as one of Georgia’s top rock stars actually. Warmongler is this defense contractor working in Georgia, and in our crowd of NGO workers and people who value peace, he became disparagingly known as someone who would profit off the blood of the innocent. So, first, Warmonger, then with the “l” added – a touch of Swedish linguistics apparently. Anyways, it was a bit of a shock to see Warmongler – after running into him I had thought we wouldn’t run into him again, and I don’t know how he heard about our party. He did have some interesting talks with Shaman though, who told him about this 700 year old woman his mother knows. Warmongler listened to all of this with a straight face and asked Shaman how old he thought he was. Shaman said that, oh, you must be much younger, perhaps only 300 years old.

The party went very nicely, the Georgians mixed with the expats well, there were Georgian dancing lessons, and one of my friends got an accidental call from me with me teaching someone how to sing along to a Clash song, the phone accidentally dialing from my pocket.

People stayed quite late, most left by 5, but a few stuck around, including Shaman who fell asleep on my couch, and Tano, a DJ who I talked to until he left at 7 in the morning. At this point I went to bed, exhausted and glad that everyone had finally left, but still pleased with how well the party had gone.

At 10 in the morning, my house phone starts to ring, and I pick it up. Its my landlord, and I groggily say “Hello Rezo.”

Rezo says “Good morning Ben, I heard you had a great party,” which is a strange thing to hear from a landlord.

“Yeah, it was ok, thanks, we weren’t too loud, were we?”

“Oh, no, but the neighbours still told me about it. Someone vomited off your balcony onto their stoop. Go clean it up.”

So I throw on some clothes and get my mop and bucket and go clean up the sick in the courtyard. The lady, whose stoop it was vomited on was quite pissed – she has kids (who she does not want to expose to debauchery) and no time to clean up other people’s vomit. Another neighbor was there, and helped too actually, so we got it cleaned up pretty quickly. I went home and had a beer, then took a bit of a nap before going and meeting Stefano for a coffee. We then decided to go to the Dry Bridge Market, to see if Stefano could pick up an expresso maker. Long story short, we met a (probably alcoholic) Georgian who glued on to us (as Georgians are wont to do), followed us around talking to us about Italian Neo-Realist films, and eventually found us a tiny antique espresso maker that some guy was trying to charge 50 dollars for. Too much, and we finally managed to escape from the Georgian guy.

I went home and then went for khinkali with Ian. I think this was the week in which I had khinkali 5 or 6 times – they really are incredible. Following this we went and met some expats at a beer garden, and then picked up some more beer and snacks and headed to Stefano’s place. At this point, I don’t know how we had the energy, I think it was meant to be a quite evening, but when you make plans like that in Georgia, they are almost always sure to go wrong as a Georgian will come along and do a cannonball in your pool of tranquility. In this case, there was a pounding at the door about halfway through our glasses of beer.

In comes Stefano’s neighbor, a smallish guy, bursting with energy. He sat at the head of the table and led us in toasts and told us about him. He reached the peak of his career at 24 or so as the vice minister of Sanitation and health for Georgia, and now at 28, he is trying to form a political party, but didn’t really have any political goals. While he was incredibly charming at first, it seems like he really just wants power, but it is unclear what he is going to do with it which sounds like a very dangerous situation.

Anyways, he goes around the table and does toasts to each of us, giving us Georgian nicknames. Stefano becomes Stefo, and we drank to Stefo. I finished my whole glass of beer, and the neighbor, called Meskho, gave me an indication of approval – that was the right thing to do, it means that I really respect my friend Stefo. Then came my nickname. I’ve been called Beni a lot here, the –i just puts the name in the normative case, but Meskho decided on Beno. At this point, Stefo weighs in, a little grumpy with his nickname, and puts forward Bepo. So we toast to Bepo, and again I think I manage to drink all or most of my glass. Meanwhile Stefo sipped his beer, although Meskho urged him to show me the same respect I showed him. He wasn’t going to, so I stepped in. I took Stefo’s glass and downed it. Meskho almost flipped out.

“What!?! How can you do that? Only I do that. I am here, you can’t be me too! Wow.” He was incredibly pleased at my honor, well, at my restoring Stefo’s honor by finishing his glass. Apparently it was amazingly Georgian.

We continued drinking until Meskho would leave at 4, and then headed home. I had to get up early to let in Mats, the Swedish journalist who was moving in to live with us for a bit and then went to bed.

I got up later, and headed out with Mats for more khinkali, but decided to stop at Ian’s office first. We walk in mid-Supra – they have a table full of grapes and khinkali and chacha. Apparently one of Ian’s co-workers had come back from her cottage with bunches of grapes and a little chacha, and the guys in the office took it upon themselves to turn this into a whole banquet. We joined in the feast. What a country this is.

Written by bensweeney

November 11, 2008 at 7:15 am

Posted in Suprajacking, update

5 Responses

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  1. […] Sweeney’s Weblog continues to experience life as a Fulbright Scholar in Georgia and keeps readers updated on the loca… in the capital, Tbilisi. Yesterday was the turn of dating girls with curfews and cleaning up after […]

  2. The curfew thing exists in Armenia too although you’d be surprised up until what age. I’ve known 28-year olds with curfews, for example. However, while the societal expectations from local culture is true here as well, for some it just means everything happens before midnight. Moreover, it’s not always simply about culture. It’s also often about gossiping neighbors. Anyways, looking forward to reading more of your blog. Enjoy Tbilisi.

    Onnik Krikorian

    November 12, 2008 at 9:41 am

  3. If you’re interested, here’s something on the same subject of virginity and sexual attitudes in Armenia. Ironically, while a minor part of youth are opening up a little (although even progressive males remain over-protective of their sisters and usually control their girlfriends), sometimes it seems as though society is becoming more traditional than I remember it a few years back.

    Sex in Armenia: Innocence and Ignorance

    Onnik Krikorian

    November 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

  4. gamarjoba,
    I had such a fun reading your post. Very realistic! what a country this is, one could hardly find better ending than this😉
    good luck there

    best regards
    Diana

    Diana

    November 12, 2008 at 11:31 am

  5. Hey🙂 Its a bit late to reply but i just found your blog…you made me miss home😦 thanks

    ekagvatua

    July 27, 2009 at 10:27 pm


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