Here are some frequently asked questions. Yes, I actually have been asked (variants of) these questions relatively frequently.
Do you like Georgia?
Yes. I genuinely do like Georgia. I am a much happier and healthier person in Georgia than I was in New York.
Why do you say bad things about Georgia?
Georgia is wonderful, but no place is perfect. I started out trying to explain the challenges and difficulties that people would face in Georgia, intending to inform people who were considering coming here. Over time, my intentions evolved and now I also write in hopes that Georgians will read a non-native perspective and take it into account when evaluating social issues in Georgia.
But have you ever considered the reasons *behind* all the things you complain about?
Almost certainly. And reasons can be important, as long as they’re not being presented as a smokescreen to ward off the responsibility to make positive change and progress in the world. I am not interested in casting blame – I am interested in problems that have solutions. This includes how Westerners integrate with Georgia, how Georgians cope with Westerners, and various other nuts and bolts of the great cultural exchange that is TLG. This does not include Georgia’s historical woes, because the past is the past and cannot be “solved.” Yes, I know that Georgia has suffered through a long history of colonization and conquest, has undergone various revolutions, and has lost control of territory that Georgian people feel a great sentimental attachment towards, and I also know a great deal of other things about Georgia and about why Georgians are the way they are, but if Georgians want to realize their aspirations, they have to move forward, not backward.
How can you claim to have an authoritative viewpoint on issues in Georgia when you have only lived here a short time?
I don’t, generally. For one thing, a lot of this blog is deliberately written from the perspective of a person with no knowledge who is making discoveries. It’s about the process, and I try to take the reader through my process in each entry, so that they can see not only what I think but why I came to think it. On the other hand, some facts about Georgia are undeniable, and are well documented all over the internet in case you should care to do some research, and so if I am speaking about a particular topic with what seems like a great degree of certainty that’s probably why.
Why don’t you write more about [some subject I want to read about]?
Generally my answer is that I either don’t have much to say or don’t have enough time to say it. Things that I write about generally take up enough of my attention that I have time to form insights about them, but not so much of my attention that I have no time to put those thoughts on paper.
Should I friend/contact you on facebook?
Yes. I am happy to friend people on facebook who share my interest in Georgia, especially those who are or plan to be in Georgia. Make sure you send some kind of message with the friend request (like “hey I like your blog I am going to join TLG let’s be friends”) so that I know you aren’t a spam account.
Can we meet for coffee?
Yes, but my schedule is tight. Last year I met a lot of people (Georgians, Americans, and others) in person who first encountered me through the internet. Most of them turned out to be really nice, cool, interesting people, so I’m definitely open to meeting more. This year, though, I work three jobs and give private lessons, so it takes me longer to respond to messages and I have less free time to actually meet anyone. Definitely feel free to contact me and we’ll try to set something up, but unfortunately I can’t make guarantees at this point.
How do I join TLG?
Generally you can either apply directly to TLG through tlg.gov.ge or you can go through a recruiting company like Footprints Recruiting or Greenheart Travel. I came through Footprints. The main advantages of going through a recruiting company are that they handle a lot of the correspondence and documentation collection, and they offer a second layer of support on top of the TLG staff. The Footprints Forums have been a really good, reliable, and up-to-date source of information, and when I first arrived in Georgia the volunteers who came through Footprints were much more aware of what to expect than those who came by other means.
I am a single American female in my 20′s. Should I come to Georgia?
Yes. Georgia is a wonderful place full of wonderful experiences. You should get informed about what to expect (long stares and marriage proposals from strangers are not uncommon) and how to handle these types of situations before, during, and after they occur. You should take safety recommendations from people familiar with both cultures seriously. Armed with a little knowledge, you will find Georgia safe and comfortable and one of the friendliest places in the world.
I am a vegetarian. Should I come to Georgia?
Absolutely. Georgia has some of the best vegetarian and vegan food out there.
It’s shocking given how much Georgians profess their love of meat and cheese. However, one thing I didn’t realize before coming here is that religious Georgians follow dietary restrictions on fast days that essentially make them vegan for almost half the year (it’s complicated because there are some fast days where you can eat cheese, others where you can eat fish, and others when you can’t have any animal products whatsoever). In any case most restaurants offer a “fasting menu” which is always available, which consists of vegetarian versions of Georgian dishes, like potato khinkali (large dumplings). Vegetable dishes you won’t find anywhere else include badrijani (eggplant cooked with a walnut paste) and adjapsandali (a mix of vegetables with a distinctly Georgian flavor profile). Georgians also pickle garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and other foods that you wouldn’t expect to find pickled, so that’s interesting. Finally, don’t miss the various varieties of soup, borscht, and stews that are made vegetarian or vegan.
I have a different race/religion/sexuality/gender presentation/other notable identity marker than the typical Georgian. Should I come to Georgia?
Yes. Georgians are very tolerant of difference and hate crimes are incredibly rare.
Georgians are unabashedly curious about some things that Westerners would consider taboo, so if you look at all different from a Georgian you will get stared at (and sometimes strangers will try to touch you, I guess to see if you’re real or something). If this sort of thing disturbs you, think twice about visiting the regions and villages (and Gldani), where it is much more pronounced.
Homosexuality is probably the hardest for Georgians to swallow, and there is very occasionally news about an instance of violence towards gays (as in, once every few years) – but in perspective, there are places in the US that are far worse.
Is it true that you have sold out and stopped writing hard-hitting critiques of Georgia and TLG because TLG put you in a great school and pays you to blog for them?
No way. One of the reasons that my posts are less controversial these days is that I’ve gotten more tactful and because the information that I am presenting about controversial topics is pretty bullet-proof; another is that now that Sex in Georgia is over a year old, it’s no longer really a surprise/scandal that there’s an American writing about sex in Georgia. I’ve stopped criticizing TLG because TLG has stopped screwing up – they’ve admitted their mistakes, learned from them, taken responsibility, and fixed their problems. This is admirable and I wish more organizations operated like that. Every new project has a learning curve, and for TLG, the first year was rocky, but the second year has been better on pretty much every account.
But I do have a conflict of interest, and I admit that TLG has been very good to me, so by all means, don’t trust me – talk to other volunteers and see what they have to say. I think you’ll find I’m not whitewashing things.