Walking to work this morning, listening to the now-familiar clatter of the loose cobblestones, it was difficult to believe that just one week ago I was making the same walk, terrified about starting my internship. At the time I was also not entirely sure where the office was located. Fortunately, thanks to the help of some whatever the Georgian equivalent are of babushki, I found the right street and the office. Although I was told to arrive at 10 am, which to me seemed somewhat late, when I arrived there were only two people in the office, both of whom seemed to be at a loss for what to do with me. So I read through some information about the organization, various past publications and project/grant proposals until the rest of the people who work here began trickling in at around 11. This is actually pretty normal here. Also, I learned that Wellesley’s pre-internship orientation gave me seriously unrealistic expectations about the office dress code… jeans and a t-shirt is perfectly acceptable, and I actually feel over-dressed most days.
Since I don’t speak any Georgian, I am not necessarily the most helpful intern, but people here have been pretty nice to me anyway. I forgot my lunch on Thursday, and despite the fact that I didn’t tell anyone about it, two people came and dropped off food at my desk, unsolicited, over the course of the day. (Apparently someone thought I needed to try lobiani, which is a kind of bean-stuffed bread/pastry. The version I got resembled a pig in a blanket, but with beans instead of a hot-dog. It made for a great lunch, actually.
In terms of actual work, I am currently researching the implementation of anti-discrimination laws in various Eastern European countries. (Georgia recently passed its own such law, and I think the organization I’m working at will be somehow involved in its implementation.) It’s interesting work, but also frustrating, because a lot of the information I need is only available in, say, Moldovan, or Lithuanian.
Outside of work, I’ve been doing my best to explore the city and am still adjusting to living here. I navigated the food bazaar by myself yesterday, and was rewarded with a huge pile of fresh produce. Most of my interactions with people here take on the same form: I ask “Do you speak English” and if they don’t, then ask “говорите по-русски?” If they don’t speak English or Russian, then I am out of luck and do my best to communicate with hand gestures, which works well about half the time. I made a bit of a fool of myself at the market yesterday– I was looking for cumin, and the woman selling spices only spoke Georgian, so she found a friend who spoke Russian, but then I realized I had no idea how to say “cumin” in Russian either. Five people speaking a mix of Georgian, Russian, and English later, I had to admit defeat, and apologized profusely before moving on.
On Saturday I took a hike from my apartments up to Mtatsminda Park, and then across the hills over to the Narikala Fortress and the Tbilisi Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful day and I got some spectacular views of the city.
I also passed by the Kartlis Deda (“Mother of Georgia”) giant aluminum statue that helps me find my way home when I’m wandering the city (it’s almost directly above my street.) The statue is holding wine in one hand to greet guests, and a sword in the other to greet enemies, which is perhaps telling about the Georgian national character? Regardless, I can confirm that the statue is large and made of aluminum.
The Botanic Gardens were absolutely stunning– in places it felt as though I’d left the city entirely. I didn’t get a chance to explore the pinetum or the “Plants of Eastern Georgia” section, but I have no doubt I’ll be back. It definitely puts Petersburg’s Botanic Gardens to shame (although I am biased towards gardens that don’t feel cultivated.)
Looking forward to possibly doing some hiking outside of the cities in the following weeks… stay tuned!