Today a few people here let me know that they’ve read or heard about my blog. I mean, I guess I half-expected that to happen, but it’s a little strange. I’ve been keeping an online journal in one or more forms for over a decade, but usually it was just my friends who were reading, and we all shared the same culture with respect to the interplay between the internet and real life. With my fellow teachers, I have no idea what that culture will be and thus how to navigate potential problems. I tend to be an intensely honest and personal blogger, and while I generally do my best not to attach a person’s real name or identifying information to an embarassing or derogatory remark, I do occasionally relate stories that do not place others in the most flattering light, for instance in my last post where I talked about the class in which some people suggested that Americans always smile and never talk about religion.
I’ll just come out and say it – I think that the idea of no-holds-barred blogging or reporting is a good idea. I don’t feel the need to censor my thoughts and reactions to make others comfortable, although I do try to maintain the anonymity of people who are not public figures, just to avoid conflict. But I guess if you’re reading this and you interact with me on a day-to-day basis, you might as well be warned that anything you say in public – so, in a class, or at a presentation or group meeting, for instance – might end up being related and/or analyzed on this blog. And if that bothers you, I recommend that before you speak or act in public, you think about whether you would want what you say or do to be related and repeated and analyzed by people you don’t know. I think that’s good advice in general. We live in an age where the internet has made the world a global village, and anyone can gossip about anyone else.
And of course, living in Georgia, we all have to deal with increased scrutiny from other Georgians. The Georgian media will be around. The TLG staff are watching us closely – mostly to make sure we’re okay, but also because we represent them and thus must behave with a certain level of dignity. And the regular Georgians that we will meet in our cities, towns, and villages will all be curious about us. I have heard that the Georgian host family will want to see everything you’ve brought into their house – including clothes, toiletries, and other sundries – which seems reasonable to me since it is their home, but may shock or offend Americans who are used to their privacy. I have also head that Westerners often attract stares, crowds of followers, and other kinds of heavy scrutiny from Georgians. I have also heard that Georgian villagers gossip a lot, and that in some towns there are people who do nothing but watch other people all day and gossip about them.
So in many ways, growing up in the Livejournal generation, I am already accustomed to this level of scrutiny. I already expect that anything I do among my friends might end up in a picture on the internet, or in a story on someone’s blog. There are certainly some… shall we say, unusual pictures of me floating around the internet, and I think I’ll leave it at that since my parents may be reading this. But I guess I will say this: gossip – both the analog and digital varieties – are my culture, they’re the Georgian culture, and if you come to live in Georgia, they’ll be your culture too. I’m not out to hurt anyone, but for this blog to be accurate to my life here, I need to relate events that occur involving the other people with whom I am living.
And finally, I’ll just say something that’s been repeated in a few of our meetings so far – as foreigners living in Georgia, we represent more than just ourselves. We represent our cities, our countries, our language, and our way of life. So even if there isn’t someone blogging about it, it still pays to think carefully about what you say before you say it, and to ask yourself if what you say reflects the opinion you would want others to have about you and what you represent.