Ben Sweeney’s Weblog

Got a Fulbright, living in Georgia for a year.

Quick Update

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Hey, so sorry I haven’t been updating as much lately – I’ve been incredibly busy, and I really should get it all out just so that I can keep track of it, and you can see what I’ve been up to. Here is a quick (and probably incomplete) update of my life from the past bit.

I have a new job – I am working at Transparency International. Essentially I am doing the same research, but for them focusing on pensioners who are Internally Displaced persons. They aren’t paying me, but I get to use their resources, which so far have been contacts for interviews, the internet, and lots of tea from the kitchen. Hopefully they will publish the report I’m going to write and my research will feed into larger projects. I am doing interviews with local and international NGOs, as well as with elderly IDPs themselves, and researching aid projects. Eventually I’ll start talking to ministries and aid donors. The plan is to better target aid to needy, vulnerable people, and hopefully I’ll have good relationships with the people I interview so they can read and implement the report I’ll produce.  It feels really great to be so busy, and possibly have an impact on something that I’m really interested in.

As part of my job I will be heading out to Zugdidi in western Georgia where most of the IDPs from the first conflict live. I’ll be going to a round table of local and international NGOs and then heading out to IDP collective centers to interview the elderly. I really should be preparing myself to be incredibly mentally traumatized (by their living conditions), but I haven’t really that much.

The first part of this trip will be going to Batumi on the Black Sea and then popping across into Turkey to renew my Georgian visa. After Zugdidi, there was a chance that I could be going to Gali, across the border in Abkhazia, although that looks unlikely. I’ve heard a lot of crazy stories about going there, involving gangster border guards, kidnapping, torture, and ransom. I don’t scare easily for traveling, but those stories among others made me not want to go there, although it would be an incredibly interesting trip – many IDPs have returned to Gali, but their situation is tenuous, with the Abkhaz government (perhaps forcibly) distributing passports.

Next up for new stuff is that I am taking driving lessons. I didn’t learn to drive in either Canada or America, but while here, I decided why not? Lessons are quite cheap, and if I can drive here (with potholed roads and crazy drivers), I’ll be able to drive anywhere, although I might get tickets. My first lesson was 45 minutes driving around a big parking lot to get a hang of how to use the clutch etc. (I’m learning on a stick shift), and then we just headed out into crazy traffic. Each lesson since has just been driving around the city. My Georgian isn’t good enough yet, so the lessons are in Russian. Getting a license is quite cheap, so I’ll do that eventually, maybe a car if I’m here for a while.

My plans for Christmas and New Years are to stay in and around Tbilisi. A friend is heading out to pick a few hundred kilos of ripe persimmons which he is going to turn into fruit vodka, so I’ll try to get a bottle of that. I also have thousands of pages of interesting reading to catch up on, and I’ll try to get out and learn to ski in the mountains near here.


Written by bensweeney

December 3, 2008 at 9:51 am

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