One issue here in Georgia about which we were warned during orientation is the stray dog problem. It was really a bewildering sight to see on the first day’s walking tour of Tbilisi: I’ve lived in a far bigger city nearly all of my life and during that time, I only recall seeing a single stray dog.
When I asked why nothing is being done about the stray dog problem, the question was brushed off as a waste of time and resources, “because we have a lot of homeless people in Georgia.” While it’s undeniably true that homelessness is a more pressing issue, solving that problem is really more of a long-term endeavor than rounding up and fixing a bunch of strays.
Hiring a number of unemployed people as dog-catchers could also help allieviate the unemployment problem in Georgia. It creates a bunch of jobs in addition to the actual dog-catchers: vets, humane societies, pet supply markets. Not to mention it gets these poor animals off the hot streets and protects people from maybe being attacked by them.
My posting for at least the next three months was assigned to me a few days ago—I am in the small city of Telavi in the Kakheti region. We are the former capital of the Kingdoms of Kakheti and Kartl-Kakheti, before the rise of Telavi. The town is on a steep slope that offers a breathtaking view of plains, foothills, and mountains when descended on a clear day.
The people are by-and-large poor, though the occasional large house overlooks the market and plains, offering something of an intimidating incentive to the merchants and farmers. I also had occasion to visit a large house seemingly owned by a young pair of Georgians.
By far the most interesting thing I’ve noticed in my three or four days here is the symbolic choice by the residents to avoid the old Soviet tenements in favor of their older, more classically rustic housing.
Nearly two days after arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia, I think I’m finally ready to write this post. My group has swelled to thirteen: seven Americans, two New Zealanders, two Canadians, one Brit, and one South African. So far we’ve undergone a walking tour of some of the more fashionable parts of Tbilisi, had about three hours of Georgian class, and four hours of something called Methodology. We’re all very tired but glad to have the comparative ease of spending time in the nice hotel with loads of wrestlers. No joke—most of the other guests are wrestlers; evidently wrestling is a very popular sport in Georgia and people come from all over the world to compete.
Please take a look at my Picasa album, which shows lots of pictures I took of the city. Most were taken on the walking tour, but just for balance, I also included a few photos of the crumbling post-Soviet sections of the city.
What’s fascinating about these more rundown sections is how much it seems to be under construction—nothing seems to have been written off as ruined. There are developments everywhere and tons of workers at tons of construction sites. I see piles of bricks that look like they’ve endured five years of rain since they’ve been set up, yet they stand next to the sidewalk, ready for a laborer to take them in hand and reside a wall. The country—or at least the city—seems to be in a perpetual state of expansion.
So far the program has been excellent. In addition to a mostly painless flight process—amazingly both my checked bags came out the other side despite great stress about weight restrictions—our group leaders are also both very helpful with showing us nuances about money and social expectations. It’s all a lot of information to take in in only a week—we’re entering into a whole new bureaucracy, after all—and they’ve done a great job of easing us into things.
I believe I will get my location assignment tomorrow, until then I know only that I will be working with Georgian police officers for the summer.