Thursday, June 19, 2008


There is an old adage in foreign policy circles that goes something to the effect of “there aren’t wars between two countries with Mc Donalds’. It seems there are at least 50 Mc Donalds’ in Tbilisi and I’m pretty sure Moscow is stocked with them as well. So, if you’ve been worried about Russian aggression towards Georgia, you can stop. There are just too many Mickey-D’s here for war.

Speaking of things American and war-like, our first dinner in Tbilisi was at the same restaurant George W. Bush ate at when he visited Georgia. There is a picture of him on the wall and a street now named after him. He called the country a “beacon of democracy.” As such, the government here is extremely pro-American and, here’s a fun fact: after the U.S. and the UK, Georgia has by far the most troops in Iraq.

As an aside, I’m not sure how political I can get on this blog. I’m pretty sure what I’ve been speaking of so far is just factual, but if this entry happens to be removed in the next week, we’ll both know why.

Getting back to forbidden politics, if you’re at all interested in the Russian ‘situation,’ apparently much of it stems from the strong U.S.-Georgian relationship. Georgia sits in an extremely desirable geo-political position in light of all the oil coming from the Caspian. Right now all that oil travels through Russia. With improved infrastructure (and no doubt U.S. backing) a large amount of that oil can be re-routed, taking Russia out of the picture entirely. It’s obviously more complicated than my brief explanation, but you can do your own research if you’re really that interested. I’m not even interested enough to delve that deep into it. I subscribe to a different theory. There is a rumor that Putin’s old mistress was married to a Georgian and she broke off the affair with Putin to go back to her husband. This, of course, resulting in a hatred for all things Georgia. Also, secretly, Putin’s mother may have been Georgian. And this shame has led to a dislike of the Georgian people.

I’m choosing to believe the fun theories, because I don’t get a subscription to US Weekly and Putin’s Oedipus complex is the best I can do.

So, as we’ve established, Georgian’s love Americans…and we’re being treated pretty fantastically here…at least now. Apparently the squat toilets and bucket baths come next week. We stayed in an amazing hotel in Tbilisi with lots of hot water, electricity and spotty wireless internet. We’re most definitely living the good life. Now we’re in a ski resort town about three hours outside of Tbilisi in a big lodge-like hotel with amenities like mini-bars (which unfortunately the P.C. does not cover) and Georgian fashion magazines. We’re resorting for three days until we leave to move in with our first host families.

Most of Tbilisi, let alone the outer towns and villages, isn’t living like we are. For a capital city Tbilisi is honestly kind of run down and dirty. It’s a very odd juxtaposition. Like, they have designer stores (most notably to the men’s designer fans) there is a Boss store and a Zegna (and not the Z or the Sport, the good stuff). There’s a D&G and Dior here, people. Yet, there are also children begging in the streets and feral dogs running wild across the street. A few streets over from the nice stores and the opera house there are buildings that have more than likely been bombed. They have all these fantastic statues and monuments surrounded by shanty-ish stores. It’s hard to wrap your head around. Overall, my review, after being in country for less than a week is that you come to Georgia for the scenery, the nature and the hospitality…not cosmopolitan conspicuous consumption.

We’ll see how my opinion on this changes after a month or two of bucket baths.

Oh, and a special note to my mother: thanks for the silent ‘h’ in my name that has confused people all of my life. I have to officially drop it here. One of the letters in the Georgian alphabet is the English equivalent to “gh” it’s a deep guttural guuuuhhh. If I use that letter in Georgian, my name becomes Meguuuhhhani. Ew. No thanks. If I were to just use the regular G letter followed by the regular H letter I would basically confuse everybody I came into contact with. The silent H just isn’t done here, Mom. I can’t believe you didn’t anticipate this being a problem.

So, I’m now Megani. Awesome, I know.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the Begining

Ok, I have no idea how to set up this blog business. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to have some kind of disclaimer noting that the content of this blog does not represent the views of the U.S. government. So, until I figure out how to do that, keep in mind that I do not represent the views of the U.S. government.

So, with that out of the way....

I'm at JFK airport right now. I've been in Philadelphia staging for the past few days. For those of you not down with the Peace Corps lingo, staging is like our pre-pre-pre orientation. We play games and learn about rules. The highlight, however, was being shown around by my dear friend Alicia, who lives in Philly. She was gracious enough to take me to the best cheesesteak stand in the world (or so they claim...I've only experienced the one, so who knows). It was good?

As I mentioned, I'm at JFK right now, waiting for my flight to Istanbul. From Istanbul we ('we' being the 55 other PCV going to Georgia as well) fly to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We're going to stay in Tbilisi for a few days and then leave for another city where we'll spend another few days in pre-pre training. Then we're divided into smaller groups, of five or so, and placed in a village for pre-service training. We'll be at this site for the first three months, before we're placed in our permanent sites, where we'll stay for the remainder of our service.

So, that's really all the big news. I'll work on collecting some good anecdotes, as I'm sure an outline of my travel plans isn't exactly riveting reading. Oh, and keep your fingers crossed that I find a Brooks Brother's outlet in Tbilisi.

The real explanation:

My love of all things waspy: