23 September 2009


The past few days have been rainy.  Our roof has developed a noticeable leak in our kitchen, making us aware of a faint moldy smell above our ceiling, which we had until now excused as just the background smell of the place.  Our landlord assures us that he is on the leak, but I am now not surprised that I wake up in the morning with coughing fits.  When it rains, it pours, I suppose. 

I have titled this post "buckets" not only because it has been rainy, but because I have had a handful of realizations that have left me sopping with the chilly aftermath of discovery.  In a small way, that is. Below are the aforementioned lessons, questions, and frustrations. 

Gypsy children  
It hurts when I see children as young as five toddling car to car on the squealing metro as lights flicker, singing and begging for loose change--alone.  They are not orphans but slaves to their Roma parents.  I refuse to give money because I know it does not go to them but to their managers.  Filthy children with raggedy clothes who are school-age, must want something, and are denied the first and basic step of elementary education. 

I have come close to striking one of them on the street as they address me with an informal "you" (considered rude to an elder) in Russian (sometimes) and block my path, cornering me with some of their friends.  I wonder where this hatred of mine comes from.  I am not scared of being cornered by three small children; I am scared of their children and what a continuation of this means.  Or is this freedom that they teach to their children?  Independence?  Perhaps they enjoy the pain on my face when they hold up a filthy baby and an empty hand?  Walking on by is a difficult but necessary thing to do.  When I go out in the future I will try to take small portions of fruits and candies along to give instead--I am more comfortable feeding a child than quenching its parents' thirst. 

Plural "you" 
On a lighter note, "Y'all" is a word which has long made me cringe with images of naive, lumbering Texans in Colorado tourist towns.  Though I have spent considerable time abroad, I have never been of such a strong opinion that English needs a plural-form "you."  While "y'all" still makes me tense-up, perhaps this is a natural and needed development in English.

Blast.  Why couldn't it have been a word with the letter "Z." Z-words are so lovely.  Or maybe "Q".  "J"?  We have so few words with such pretty letters and sounds.  Oh well, I suppose we have to give the Texans more than the Alamo, ... y'all. 

Traffic laws and a few antitheses thereof 
I have begun to fear vehicles here more than any other place.  There are the ubiquitous things one expects in a capital city--signal lights, traffic circles, and police waving drivers on--but all this seems like a waste of resources.  Signal lights seem to be for decoration, traffic circles look more like creaky erector sets, and the police have to do something for exercise as they stand in the middle of streets and yell at drivers.

Sidewalks provide no refuge for walkers, as parking is often achieved by plopping the vehicle halfway on the street and halfway on the sidewalk.  Extra points for running over pedestrians in the process.  This secretive point system encourages drivers of more nimble vehicles to go for bonus levels by pulling up right behind bipedal travelers beside busy streets and leaning on the horn so as to 1) make deaf or 2) scare to death.  Both options are not optimal because in the first instance the rash, offending pedestrian cannot hear the subsequent cursing of the driver and in the second, dead pedestrians do not yield desirable parking for low-clearance vehicles. 

President Misha has done well, I hear, eliminating corruption in the police system and increasing the force to suitable levels (there are police posted at all times at the tops and bottoms of all metro stations and nearly every major intersection).  Imagine if this police force were to suddenly and uniformly enforce a few choice traffic laws.  I would choose only three goals at first to ensure the system were not overloaded: enforcing red lights, prohibiting aiming for young mothers and their offspring, and liberating the sidewalks for pedestrians. 

It ain't so bad, y'all
For all my griping here, Georgia has still been the smoothest post-Soviet country I have visited.  Russian language works OK, no visas are needed for Americans, and I am finding that a great deal of people are interested in my research. While my research plan did not include looking at teachers' pay, it may improve the system to pay teachers more then 180 Ge Lari / mo (aprox. US$90 / mo).  Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it could probably snag a few teachers and make sure that they have something to eat. 

More to come...buckets to come. 

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to the traffic issues San Jose Costa Rica is the same except there are no cops. I still have the urge to run across the street as fast as I can and look behind me expecting someone to make a right turn into me. It sounds like things are going okay for you and I am grateful for that.


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