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. I have a demanding job, and a toddler at home, and as you have seen I barely have time to update this blog these days. 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?
Due to the actions of TLG’s administration under the Georgian Dream government, I can no longer recommend that anyone join TLG. Recruiting agencies are no longer willing to stake their reputations on placing teachers in Georgia because of how unreliable the organization has become. If you wish to teach in Georgia, I recommend going through the Peace Corps or another program recognized and supported by the US Embassy (USAID, English Language Teaching Fellows, Fulbright, etc.). Private schools are a reasonable second option, although they vary in terms of reliability, so ask around or drop a comment before you commit to anything.
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 very 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 has unfortunately been an uptick in anti-homosexual rhetoric and violence in the last two years, especially in the aftermath of the annual May 17th demonstrations against homophobia in Tbilisi. It is still possible for LGBTQ folks to enjoy Georgia, but you’ll have to be a little extra careful.