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Misha and Me

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia - No Comments

[Ed. note: This entry was originally posted to International Relief and Development's blog at]

GA-BatumiStreetJason and I finally got a chance to visit the Black Sea last week—we still had to work, but we had the weekend off to enjoy the beachside resort of Batumi. We have been really working like crazy people to help get a plan ready; for the uninitiated, this helps NGOs (and private businesses as well) prepare for the Request for Applications that is published by USAID. Very large sums of money are at stake, and the competition can be fierce. Often a proposal writer has an advantage if she can get agreement that her ideas will be supported by the government in question. READ MORE

World Refugee Day 2009 in Tbilisi

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia - 1 Comment

The Wishing TreeThe United Nations has designated June 20 as “World Refugee Day.” This past Thursday, folks from our office here in Tbilisi attended “Real People, Real Needs,” the official opening of World Refugee Day by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-Georgia. The event took place at Mtasminda Amusement Park (Wish Tree Square), a perfect choice to give just a few (300) of the many displaced children here in Georgia a chance to experience what most American kids take for granted: park rides and treat or two. There was also a bazaar where IDP and refugee families sold handmade clothes, jewelry, handicrafts and home-produced honey. Although there are different ethnicities and national identities involved, one commonality for all of the displaced families is an unquenchable spirit to survive today’s hardships, to sometimes look backward with both deep grief and happy memories, and to always look forward with hope—and skepticism. READ MORE

Lost in Translation

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia - 3 Comments

You know, I can’t read a word of Georgian.

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

There are some fourteen unique alphabets in the world, and Georgian is one of them. Unfortunately, I can’t even make out a single letter of it. You can stick my two favorite words in front of me, gamahrjobat (transliteration, meaning “hello”) and didi modloba (trans: “thank you very much”)—words I repeat frequently as they represent the extent of my Georgian vocabulary—and tell me that it was my street address and I wouldn’t know any better. I am completely illiterate! And it is frustrating to no end!

Struggling with this, I realized that one of my normal coping strategies while traveling abroad is to look for cognates and transliterations whenever possible. In France, for example, I just sounded out the words. In India, the Hindi signs were usually subtitled with English transliterations. Good stuff, real helpful…unfortunately, signs here are subtitled with Russian transliterations. And my Russian is even worse than my Georgian! READ MORE

Two Experiences of Gori

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia - No Comments

This South Ossetia man was displaced by the recent war in the Republic of Georgia. He and his family are now living with his mother-in-law in Gori.

This South Ossetia man was displaced by the recent war in the Republic of Georgia. He and his family are now living with his mother-in-law in Gori.

Our arrival into Georgia happened to coincide with Independence Day here, and the opposition parties planned a day of protests against the incumbent Saakashvili government. While dramatic, these protests, which have been going on for most of the spring, have been relatively peaceful and well organized. Given that the opposition planned an escalation of their ongoing actions for that Tuesday, however, our hosts felt that the best possible thing for us to do was to take the day and spend it as tourists outside of Tbilisi.

Tuesday morning, we were picked up at our flat and whisked off on a whirlwind tour of the historical sites in the communities surrounding Tbilisi, including several ancient Christian churches and the ruins of a town that was carved out of a sandstone cliff. The highlight of the tour READ MORE

Gahmarjoba from Tbilisi!

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia (Tags: ) - No Comments

IRD workes conduct community surves to gauge needs in war-ravaged Georgia.

My impressions of women in Georgia were both surprising and in some ways, contradictory. Strong and proud are two words that come to mind first; fashionable, patriotic and vulnerable are others.  Women and the different kinds of work they do serve as a backbone to the renewal of this beautiful country, and also the vibrant business community of Tbilisi.

During our first full day on the ground, READ MORE