Georgia, a world on its own

IMG_0471I am in a geopolitical seismic zone. In order to understand the Caucasus region and its people you have to look deeper into its interconnected parts and at the same time use your wide- angle lenses for giving yourself the distance needed for understanding the framework you are in.

After having been in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan before, as a traveller during last summer, this time I decided to come back to Tbilisi and try out culture, people and life in different ways than before. Stepping out of my comfort zone, especially after having lived in the Euro- bubble of Brussels, being back here has been a beautiful challenge.

IMG_0056There is undeniably a cultural shock for most of the Europeans here but I would say that for a mentality to flourish and a mind to get inspired, one cannot compare or judge based on what he already knows but most probably on the basis of what he expects and desires to learn and experience. And this is the reason you have to live in such a place and try out every single aspect of it, dig inside the deepest layers of local life and natives and then draw your own conclusions. You don’t necessarily have to accept but I would say that you owe to yourself to try and understand before coming to an end which shuts down your mind and tightens the spectrum of reality around you.

IMG_0084Among the mountains, the sea and the chaotic, cosmopolitan Tbilisi with its nationalistic and soviet influences, its medieval fortresses and decayed houses in the Old Town, different aspects of national identity are emerging in everyday life and interaction. The big boulevards and neo-classic buildings in other parts of the city align Tbilisi more with Europe than Asia.

Its connection with the rest of the South Caucasus countries, provided by the similar cultural traditions and common conceptions, goes in hand with the progressive step forward to a new way of thinking. Even if mentality has been a big part of the way through, I would support that the substance of future development is the dual nature of this place.

DSC_1287A colossal landmark as well as a powerful barrier, Georgia has been reborn many times in the past . Post- conflict life of Ossetians and Abkhaz, together with the one of ethnic groups of Mingrelians and Svans, characterized by linguistic diversity have formed the self- ruled community life and at the same time collective way of being in Georgia.

I am eager to come in contact and interaction with the Internally Displaced Youth coming from Abkhazian and South Ossetian War of 2008 and share views and understanding on post- conflict way of living. They are not refugees as they did not have to leave their country and move to a new one, but they are Internally Displaced People (IDPs), people who due to the conflict had to leave specific conflict areas of their country and move to new places of the same country for a new life establishment.

DSC_1391A vibrant and diverse crossroad between Europe and Asia, where chaos meets spontaneous creativity and the past negotiates with the future for a better tomorrow, Georgia is a world on its own. Maybe I find my place in it, or I will at least try and make my mind about it during my 9-month stay here!

 

Until then i will be found in bazars around the city, hiding myself behind the dirty, muddy corners of the vegetable leftovers trying to grasp the diffusing smells of uncertainty and desire. Or maybe downtown in some western-ized bars after long supras (traditional dinners) in the  soviet- style basement restaurants. Or maybe among the mountains of the Caucasus up in the north with the fresh brewed air and the rural beauty tickling my sight. Or maybe on a marshrutka on my way to self-discovery between the crossroads of the East. Or maybe downtown somewhere between the beggars and the street sellers, listening to the deep roar of the streets as another encounter of life and adventure!

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EVS on arrival training at Bakuriani

training participants

training participants

From the 16th to the 20th February, we spent five days in the EVS on-arrival training at Bakuriani. The training, organised by SALTO Eastern Europe and Caucasus with the support of the trainers Giorgi  Kakulia and Anna Yeghoian, gathered 23 EVS volunteers from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The main objective of this training was to introduce the volunteers to the culture and local reality of the host countries and provide them with the support and skills needed for improving their EVS experience in the Caucasus.

Bakuriani

Bakuriani

Through a lot of different activities (games, discussions, interviews of local people, presentations of cultural differences/EVS aims/non-formal learning etc.),  volunteers had the opportunity to work  individually and collectively on questions related to their projects, get inspired and exchange ideas.A special focus was given on discussing cultural life differences and personal challenges during the EVS projects. Volunteers also had the opportunity to participate in workshops and therefore improve their communication skills while building a network. Last but not least, the city of Bakuriani, all covered in snow, was not only an opportunity for self- discovery but also a chance to get to know Georgian culture, food and local life!

Public Discussion:Regional Peace and Cooperation for participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey

representatives in the public discussion

representatives in the public discussion

On Tuesday, 11th of February, I attended the public discussion of the Caucasian House on Regional Peace and Cooperation for participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey which took place at Tbilisi State University. Different perspectives springing from different speakers’ points of view brought the Caucasian cultural identity at the core of the discussion. Conclusions around a  promising but yet struggling region with a rich cultural heritage capable of uniting but also dividing can eventually be the base for developing a common agenda not only domestically but also internationally in order to bridge up differences and fill in the gaps of the existent democratic deficit in the region.