Saturday, November 07, 2009

Tbilisi, home for now

Am spending the month of November in Tbilisi, teaching international relations at GIPA (the Georgia Institute for Public Affairs).

My students are interesting, funny, smart. I really like them.

The odd thing is that I still don’t know quite what to make of Tbilisi, although I have been here many times and long ago was smitten by its charms. But I have to admit that in May when I was here covering the opposition rallies for Security Watch, I wasn’t all that sure any longer. Tbilisi, for some reason, was getting on my nerves. No doubt, this was due in part to the political tension in town.

I’ve been here for ten days now and I still don’t feel grounded and haven’t a clue as to how to approach Tbilisi, or on what level to integrate it. Perhaps I’m obsessing about it a bit much. But I keep thinking of Tbilisi as colorful chaos, and the chaos part can be problematic when you’re loaded down with groceries and your laptop and several books from class and wondering why the hell the #31 bus hasn’t shown up in 50 minutes as your back is throbbing in pain. The #55? Two of them. No, three. But you’d rather take the 31, which runs right by your apartment, which is down the street from the EU Monitoring Mission and across from the Japanese embassy in a weirdly under-developed part of Tbilisi.

This afternoon after a night of almost no sleep, I managed to get into town for some grocery shopping, and on the way I did a bit of exploring of Tbilisi’s side streets and alleys.

There is simply no way that I will ever know Tbilisi the way I do Baku, unless I live here for a very long time. But I did discover some incredibly colorful alleyways and an old, abandoned church with an iridescent, blue lapis dome atop a crumbling tower. In a corner, outside, is a stone and concrete bas relief enclosure commemorating – who? 

I have no idea. But the photos are here for you to see, including one of a plaque in Russian that perhaps explains the mystery of the church and the man’s identity.