Thursday, December 20, 2007

PART V - Guria Region, In Pictures (Episode II). Or: Please keep a sufficient perimeter around this post.

One of the tenets of project execution that you learn in Peace Corps Boot Camp is "overpromise, underdeliver." This is where you promise things endlessly and then don't deliver on them, and then everyone hates you, but your project is a success anyway because of Evolution or global warming or something. I'm not sure. I'll have to check my notes.

Anyway, because I follow the letter of what I have been taught, I have endlessly promised you the eagerly-anticipated follow-up post of Pictures of Places I Can Walk To In Chokhatauri That Are Within Like 200 Yards Of My Office, so that you might better know Georgia by better knowing the two blocks near where I work, while not actually posting them. But, huzzah! Now I am! And, I am giving you two bonus photo sections, to apologize profusely for holding this treasure trove of visual pleasure from you. Bonus Photo Section 1 is a very exciting photo section entitled, "Presidential Candidate Mikhail Saakashvili comes to Chokhatauri to Deliver What Ends Up Being About a Five Minute Speech." As you have surely forgotten by now, the Georgian Special Election season is heating up, with the election to be held on January 5th, and the campaign is in full swing. By, "in full swing," I mean that Mikhail Saakashvili's campaign is in full swing, and those of the other six candidates are, well, absent. The constitutional mandate that a current president must resign his office before seeking re-election has been pretty convenient for Saakashvili, since he suddenly has all this free time to fill by driving around the country in a huge bus, campaigning, and then airing commercials of these campaign stops on television pretty much every night. I have seen, conservatively, 4,657 Saakashvili ads on television in the last couple weeks, and exactly one (1) for any of the six other candidates. That was an ad two nights ago for Levan Gachechiladze, who is the opposition coalition candidate. But Misha's ads are everywhere, and in Tbilisi, his photo, campaign slogan, and the ballot number of his party ("5" - thanks to Cuttino Alexander's blog for explaining the significance of that number, which I'd been unaware of) are unmissable on billboards and busses. According to this story at Civil Georgia, Saakashvili is the only candidate paying for television advertising; the others are apparently only using the state-mandated free airtime alloted to them. This is interesting with regard to at least one other candidate, business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who is apparently worth billions and is pledging that, if he is elected, he will spend 1.5 billion lari of that personal worth on social services. Perhaps it is just my latent American assumptions leading me to wonder why he is not spending money for advertising. Perhaps the Georgian people are not swayed by all of this Misha advertising. I make no conclusions about this. But he has a campaign song, for God's sake. How can you not be swayed? This song was apparently written by a former Georgian boy band member and is entitled "Misha Magaria," which means, "Misha is cool." A sample of the lyrics:

A new day is starting, the sun is rising
Georgia is being built
We will not spare any effort for the homeland
We don't have a lot of oil, we don't have a lot of territory
But we have a great future ahead

Sometimes the sun shines, sometimes the wind blows
Sometimes we have problems, sometimes we are happy
No matter if the weather's good or bad
Misha is cool!

But I am getting away from my modest photo gallery. What with all the campaigning around the country, I suppose it should have been only modestly surprising that Saakashvili made plans to visit the little mountain town inhabited by yours truly. He was supposed to come on Sunday, but ended up moving his visit to yesterday. The town was......intrigued, is probably the best word I can use without getting in trouble, as was I, in my role as a completely politically neutral representative of the United States Government. Volunteers are not supposed to have anything to do with political rallies of this nature, but Saakashvili's speech ended up being given literally outside my office, which sits on the main "square," so I got some pictures of people gathering from my window, and then I went outside and stood at the very perimeter of the throng for just as long as it took to snap a couple action shots before hastily retreating the 50 feet back to safety. Thus, here, for your enjoyment and edification, a Georgian presidential political speech:

This is Misha's bus arriving, on which you can see all the elements I mentioned: big picture of Misha, the number 5, and (barely visible) his campaign slogan, which is, "Sakartvelo sigharebis gareshe!" meaning, "Georgia without poverty!" Amusing story about this campaign slogan: originally, when I heard it on television, I thought he had said, "Sakartvelo sigaretis gareshe!" which would mean, "Georgia without cigarettes!" I thought he was attempting some sort of healthy living reform. So I turned to my host sister-in-law, and said in a sarcastic tone, "Pretty big goal." She snickered. Then, later, I realized what the word actually was and looked it up, and felt like the biggest dick ever for making a sarcastic joke about poverty. I don't think my host sister-in-law took it poorly at all; she probably assumed I was just "dissing" Misha, which wasn't really doing. But I still feel bad for having THOUGHT it. Back to the photo gallery:

Lotta cops and black SUVs in the former president's entourage.

Two photos of the man himself. Note to Peace Corps staff: I refused to get any closer than this, despite entreaties from my coworkers. Then I scurried back to my office, but not before taking one last photo:

A lot of Mikhail's supporters at this rally seemed too young to vote. But, kids do a lot of things in this country that you wouldn't expect them to. If you're old enough to drive (maybe not legally), order alcohol in a restaurant (maybe not legally), and throw really dangerous firecrackers at each other (probably legally), you're old enough to vote! Who's with me?

Bonus set of photos number two: "Cooling Our Hot Political Tempers in the Snow." Yes, friends, yesterday evening witnessed the second snow dumpage of the season on Chokhatauri, but this time I had my camera with me, which I used when we tramped outside after work to throw snowballs at each other. Well, I didn't throw any snowballs. I hadn't known we were going to be doing this particular activity, so I'd brought my camera instead of my coat. And, I'm not sure I would have participated anyway. I love playing in the snow, but you think twice about it when you don't have central heating or a parka.

This photo was taken as I shrieked, "Not at the camera! NOT AT THE CAMERA!" It is possible everyone thinks I'm a pussy now.

The heavily bundled person on the left is my host sister-in-law, who does not seem to like the snow much.

Aww. How seasonally splendid.

So, then. With your bonus photos out of the way, let's blow through THE THRILLING CONCLUSION (for now, at least) of BETTER KNOW A GEORGIA PART V - PLACES I CAN WALK TO IN CHOKHATAURI FROM MY OFFICE IN LESS THAN TWO MINUTES:

A row of flags in front of the elementary school behind my office. It's a pretty nice looking school, actually. The aforementioned President Saakashvili, to his credit, has put a lot of money into school refurbishment the last few years. Apparently, there have also been some downsides to his education reforms, but I am not a TEFL volunteer so I do not understand them. Just wanted to mention both sides.

The main drag through town (one side of it, anyway; the park runs down the right side of the photo, and there's another row of shops on the road to the other side of it). The first building on the left contains the dentist sign and the hidden restaurant I've mentioned before, and the second, barely visible building contains my office.

The aforementioned park. Usually there are people sitting on those benches or just standing around, not doing anything.

Don't know what this building used to be. It's next to the "bazaar," which people point to and call the bazaar even though it's just a pink building in which, as far as I can tell, almost nothing is sold, and the bazaar in the actual sense of the word is on Saturdays, at the bus station.

Here is the sign for Cafe Harmony, which is the OTHER tiny restaurant-type establishment in Chokhatauri. I include this photo because it says the same thing in both English and Georgian, for your edification. The word on the top left is "Cape," or "cafe," the word on the top right is "bari," or, "bar," and the word in the middle is, "harmonia," or "harmony." I expect you to be able to read this now.

Finally, this is the building that contains your humble blogger's office. My window is the one on the top left. I'm looking out of that window RIGHT NOW. Literally. Isn't it impressive that I'm still typing? I cold go vor days.

Well, I hope this was an informative pictographic adventure. Tomorrow to Ozurgeti for a friend's birthday supra, then the dastardly night train yet again to Tbilisi, where I will be shopping for cheap souvenir trinkets for family Christmas presents (Hi, mom!). Then London on Monday. You might call it LONDAY. LOL.

I will try to get a Christmas-themed post in this weekend, perhaps another photoblog of the surprisingly ubiquitous and classy Tbilisi holiday decorations, but if I do not: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there in Blogdom. Be safe and warm out there. Until next time.


sb said...

merry christmas ath! i hope you have an awesome time with the family :)

miss you!

Melissa Eker said...

If the building you are not sure of is in the middle of town, it was supposed to be something like the bazaar. Unfortunately, it was never finished being built. Imagine a huge Stalin statue in front of it at one point in time, which Chokhataurians happily drank to, pulled down, and drank to his destruction. Is the newer golden Stalin statue next to the theater> Just curious! Hang in there, you are almost finished.