Stalin’s Rope Roads in Chiatura

Even if the cable cars of the Georgian mining town of Chiatura date back to 1954 and the Soviet era, they are still used today and are considered the quickest way to get around. With more 25 cable cars lines named as “Kanatnaya Doroga,” or “rope road,” these Soviet-era aerial tramways connect almost every corner of the town.  Today, while some of the cars have rusted away, 17 of the aging tramways remain in service. We got to have a cool ride up there!

First workshop session at Skra IDP settlement

IMG_3929 We started on a Monday morning the five of us from Tbilisi on our way to Skra IDP settlement just after Gori.  Our team consisted of Alice and I, two EVS-ers,  plus three DRONI local volunteers; Giorgi, Tamara and Irakli. We were all more than motivated to start with our Photography and Creative Writing Workshops which took place at the Youth Center of the Skra IDP settlement during the five following days.

Our workshop is part of Youth Without Borders program and it takes place in three different IDP settlements in Georgia. It focuses on creative writing and photography as tools for self- discovery, expression and sharing with others. The main goal of this workshop is to make the connection between speech and image as means of self- representation and self- expression.

The first session took place at Skra IDP settlement. We had more than 15 participants between 13-19 years old, mostly girls. Most of the teenagers were also living in the settlement itself as we actually did; the five of us stayed for five days in one of the settlement houses experiencing the life of the local people.

IMG_4040The structure of the workshop was divided in five stages. We tried to go deeper into each stage throughout the five days we stayed at Skra. At the first stage of Day 1 we tried to introduce the concepts of creative writing and photography via educational games such as the Literary phone during which children write a story all together by using keywords given. The second focus point of this day was the Inspiring photos session during which children choose a photo and have to link it to their personality and interests. A last wrap up session about more structured info on photography and creative writing was necessary for making the link between informal and formal ways of learning. An open air cinema activity ended the day with fun.

On Day 2 we went more in depth and action by asking children to write a story about a memory by choosing one of the various objects we had on the table and then go out in the settlement fields and make a photo related to their story. Some very impressive results inspired by the photo prezi presentation we had just given before were showed here. Outdoor sport games helped us finish the day with energy and fun.

IMG_3700On Day 3 children were asked to write about an emotion that was randomly given to them without stating what it is; therefore describe it without saying it. Various emotions and interesting definitions were the result of this writing exercise and the photography exercise that followed made it even better. Children went out in the fields and read their stories to each other in couples. Then the person hearing the story had to guess the feeling and make a facial expression representing it for the other person of the pair to make his/her portrait. A last wrap up session of collecting stories and photos and discussing about them followed. Evening activities included the photography exercise of a person with his/her favourite object and the sharing of the story behind it. In many cases the object became part of the group entertainment as most of them were traditional instruments etc.

On Day 4 we had our last creative writing exercise named This I believe in. Children had to write about a value or belief they have and accompany their story with a photo inspiring for them. Family, religion and friendship were some of the main elements included in stories and photos children made varied a lot. For example god was represented by a windy landscape or a holy symbol etc. Our goodbye party took place by the end of this day.

IMG_3720On Day 5 we had an extensive discussion and evaluation of the whole workshop and a last theatrical play named Raising Voices of the kids making their own characters and presenting them on stage in couples. As children had been more than motivated full of positive energy and creativity, it had been great to spend one week at Skra and tomorrow we have the second round of our workshops for five days at Shaumiani IDP settlement. Looking forward to it!


 

A bridge between Georgia and France: The Tbilisi Sea School and Château Des Échelles intercultural exchange project

It started as an idea for intercultural exchange and collaboration based on informal learning. Together with Alice we decided to initiate a youth project between Georgia and France aiming at establishing connections between youth in the fields of culture, learning and social reality of the two countries on the West and East corners of Europe.

This was a five weeks project between the french community centre, Château Des Échelles in Ambérieu-en-Bugey, France and Youth Association DRONI in Tbilisi , Georgia aiming at linking socio-cultural realities between Georgia and France for alternative education purposes.

In the framework of this project, children created videos of self-representation that they were shared with their fellows on the other side, completed parts of a map collage focusing on the two countries’ traditions and cultural life aiming at completing a journey from the one side of the map to the other with small ‘’stops of knowledge’’ in the between.

Children were also photographed and as a follow-up exchanged their photos with their fellows abroad in order to make a collective collage of self-portraits by mixing up characteristics whilst practicing artistic skills. The making of postcards for exchange of thoughts and messages between children as well as the rotating cadavers activity of drawings of figures by multiple children at a time mixing up characteristics and faces as well as origami and comics activities were also in the framework of this project.

All sessions aimed at making the link between the two countries even stronger. On May 1 we all participated in the concluding session of the project on youth exchange between France and Georgia sharing a presentation with the children as a result of their own efforts and successful results. You can find the presentation video here:  http://bit.ly/1lUlrh5

Urban exploration at Manoir DP

Abandoned farmhouse in an amazing condition. Untouched, full of vivid details; pastel colours and vintage antiques. Some incredible compositions and a mysteriously nice atmosphere spread all over its rooms and stairways. Very pleasant feelings related to this exploration, definitely an interesting place to visit. The bedroom and living room were undoubtedly my two favourites.

 

The amazing Nagorno- Karabakh adventure

DSCF10457 people sharing 6 days of adventure! At first we hitchhiked to Yerevan. We entered Armenia through the most remote border point and continued with marshrutka all the way to the capital. We couch-surfed at Reza’s place in Yerevan and partied until morning when the first marshrutka took us all the way to Stepanakert where we issued our Nagorno-Karabakh Visa for the rest of the days. We were suggested to stay at Ashot’s place so we were given the dormitory at the basement where we spent two cold, entertaining nights with vodka and late night planning. We all thought the ghost city of Agdam would be an amazing idea for the next day. And so it was! A massive snow storm covered the debris as soon as we arrived making it almost impossible to explore the abandonments the way we wanted. Big surprises were kept for the following days.

 

The day after we visited Shushi covered with snow with an impressive church in the center of the town. Then we followed the 4km walk to an ancient tree everyone told us about. Burying our footsteps into the fresh snow only with sneakers on, we were more than relieved to finally manage to reach the tree and spend some time exploring its beauty. We booked a local driver and made all our way to Dadivank where we spent the night at a homestay provided by a kind lady. The morning after we visited the monastery of Dadivank and then we drove hoping we will reach the abandoned Sanatorium. Unfortunately, as the driver got lost we ended up in some hot springs barbequing and showering with old local men until the late afternoon when our driver would normally take us back to Stepanakert.

 

This never happened as we ran out of gas on the way and had to sleep over at the lady’s in Dadivank again. We spent one of the coldest nights at the lady’s place after having been helped by a local policeman who drove us back to the village. The morning after our driver was still waiting for someone to purchase gas from when suddenly an old Volga from 1965 stopped and suggested that they take us all the way back to Armenian borders. We accepted and found ourselves together with the two drivers, total 9 people, riding this amazingly dangerous old car sliding on the snowy peaks of the Caucasian mountains. The rest of the way back was by hitchhiking to Georgian borders and then Tbilisi meeting various local drivers on the way eager to share their interesting stories. An amazing adventure that won’t be forgotten soon!

 

More photos on our Nagorno- Karabakh adventure can be found here.

Urban exploration at Fa X

Impressive external architecture with many columns around a square piece of land. Pretty empty on the inside with massive windows and plenty of car debris left behind after the fire. This spot used to be a bus station. Some nice angles and depth of field. It was a pleasurable morning walk around this location, might be going back soon.

Urban exploration at Agdam ghost town

The bombed city of Agdam, once home of 40.00 inhabitants, is currently a ruinous, uninhabited ghost town rotting inside its war relics. As on July 1993, after heavy fighting, Agdam was captured by the forces of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, the entire population was forced to flee eastwards. Later on Armenian forces destroyed the remains of Agdam to prevent its recapture by Azerbaijan. Our morning exploration there was a pleasurable wandering under the cloudy sky accompanied by the fear of unexplored land mines all around the area. All the houses are ruinous, some by shells fired in the war, others looted for their building materials. The only well-preserved building is the Mosque which offers amazing views over the city covered by snow.

 

 

 

Ethnic Azeri Novruz at Marneuli

IMG_2464On Saturday March 22 the Ethnic Azeri inhabitants of the town of Marneuli in Georgia celebrated Novruz which marks the first day of the year in the Persian calendar. Celebrated originally by Iranians as well as other cultural regions influenced by Persians in the past, Novruz is a common tradition of scattered population groups in regions of Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. We were there to check out the celebration but we unfortunately missed the biggest part of the cultural activities which had already started earlier in the morning including traditional cooking, dances and wrestling.

Photo project: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On March 21 people all over the world celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This is a short photo project i worked on with the help and participation of some friends in Tbilisi aiming at encouraging the worldwide fight against racism and promoting tolerance in our communities and lives. Marisa from Poland, Celia from Britain, Richard from Czech Republic, Robin from Wales and Elisabeth from Belgium posed with anti-discrimination messages written on different parts of their bodies calling for equality between people regardless their race, gender, nation or religion. Have a look at the results below!