29 November 2010

According to culture shock scholars, we are now in a period of "mental isolation", or "hostility". Either way you slice it, we are frustrated. We like the country and a lot of things about it, but find ourselves complaining or frustrated a little too often for any one's good. Compound this with many weeks of failed attempts to do research trips at schools in the regions, the necessary introspection of graduate applications, planning for an uncertain future, and overall lack of employment...we're generally a mess. We are trying to hold things together, start projects, plan things, go to banya, and find the little bits of comfort that can improve a bad day. Our moods swing from ok, enjoying the company of friends, to intense anger at another car that is seemingly trying to make us part of the pavement. It's probably a good thing that our internet is spotty, otherwise we might hole up in the apartment and only come out to buy food and TP.

Sometimes good comes from being critical--Nic had a meeting with the director of the University where we spend most of our days in the library, and made outlined problems with the school and the behavior of students. All of his comments were contstructive, and the director was very receptive. Slowly, things are changing in terms of copier usage and noise levels. It's not rapid change, but it's a start. More often than now, however, our comments are not well received. We are presenting our research this Wednesday at a Works in Progress session, and are worried that what we have to say about the education sector will be difficult to digest or accept, and we anticipate some complaints from our audience. 

According to some of the graphs and literature, the way out of this isolation is humor, so here goes:  
Medical Advice in Georgia. 

Recently talking with someone here doing dissertation research, I found out more about medical advice. He had to complete a physical here in Tbilisi and went to the top clinic that we are recommended to use. At the end, the doctor told him that he was overweight, and that he should do 2 things:
1. Drink fewer than 28 drinks per week
2. Under no circumstances eat Georgian food

This is funny for two reasons. According to Wikipedia, in the US and Canada, 14 units is the recommended maximum. Sure, it's higher in the UK at 21 units of alcohol, but that's half a pint! And if weight is really the issue, he should probably have fewer than this! Maybe 28 is the smallest number Georgian doctors reasonably think they can ask men to limit themselves to.

Second, how is this guy going to avoid Georgian food as he is living here for the next 3 years?! Is he going to subsist on the expensive German imported cookies from the grocery store? How could you survive in this country without Georgian food? Why is 28 drinks the maximum they thought would be reasonable to ask, but not eating Georgian food seems equally reasonable? I laughed for quite a while about this one while we were eating a large Georgian meal that had been set before us, but without any alcohol.

My next humorous account is from last semester. One of my female students came into class complaining of leg/ankle problems. She was a particularly stubborn and inquisitive student, who would often argue with me about English grammar, unwilling to back down. She explained that she had been standing too long at church, a possible cause of injury, as they stand for the entire 2-3 hour service, if they choose to attend the whole thing. It was the next part that confused me: she explained that this particular injury occurred because she was wearing flat shoes, and as a result, her doctor advised her to stop wearing flat shoes (and only wear heels).
Now, I know that it is common for people to have foot or leg pain when they wear different types of shoes, if you usually wear heels and suddenly switch to flats, it will hurt for a while. However, my student claimed that flat shoes are bad for your feet/legs and that every woman should wear heels! I am highly opposed to this, and began offering a number of alternative explanations, but she would hear none of them. Instead, she demonstrated (as her doctor had done) with her wrist the apparent strain on the ankle from a flat shoe versus a heel. 
Your foot in heels
Your foot in flat shoes. "Doesn't this look more painful for the leg?"
The only problem is, the wrist is nothing like the ankle and the hand is nothing like the foot! We argued like this for a while until I finally gave up so that we could get to the topics we needed to cover in class that day. I have since been appalled to think that doctors are actually telling all of their female clients to only wear heels, and I have become even more convinced that I will wear primarily flat shoes for the rest of my life. If I had a nickel (or 5 tetri) for all of the bunions I saw on the metro this summer (when it was sandal season) I wouldn't have to worry about finding work in this country.
A diagram my singing coach always showed us about wearing heels.
It will be good to get home, and we are certainly looking forward to it. 

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