It’s great to have a “better half”

Whenever I’ve arrived in a new place, meeting people and making friends has been a priority, and Tbilisi is no exception. Fortunately, we’ve had great luck so far. When we arrived at the airport and needed a place to stay, Tiko Tsomaia kindly offered her home to us. Not only did she “force” us to sleep in her bed, and use her Internet connections, but she also provided meals and a very warm welcome. She also introduced us to her mother, Manana, an English teacher, who kindly spent many hours talking with us about anything and everything. We also had the pleasure of talking with 3 of Tiko’s children. Another early connection, in addition to people associated with CSJMM, is Sandra Baretto, who lives above us with her husband and baby. One of the reasons we selected our apartment is that Sandro and her husband are from Latin America, and Susanna instantly knew that we’d get along super well. Susanna quickly makes friends with everyone, but if it’s a Latina, then the connection is even faster and stronger.

Sandra is the treasurer for the International Women’s Association (IWA) in Tbilisi, and she invited Susanna to the organization’s monthly meeting on Wednesday. Susanna went and was able to meet about 80 women who come from numerous countries. The IWA is very active. It has a book club, that Susanna joined. In October they will read the autobiography of Georgia’s First Lady, who will join the book discussion meetings. The IWA will also put on a play—Snow White—and Susanna will audition for a role. The organization also has a cooking group, sewing group, French discussion group, Russian-speaking group, and many others.

One of IWA’s products is a book called Tbileasy, which has the same sound as Tbilisi, but substitutes “easy” for “isi.” The book is full of information useful to newcomers such as banking, cars and driving, public transport, health, vets and pets, shopping, children activities and clothes, sightseeing, and so on.

By the way, I’m blogging from a park near our apartment because we cannot yet receive the Internet at home. This park offers free Wi-fi. In the mornings, about a dozen mothers and grandmothers bring their children to enjoy the playground equipment. In the evenings, teenagers and 20-somethings hangout. Throughout the day, Susanna and I check our email messages and we speak English and Portuguese loudly into the computer (Skype) to keep in touch with friends.

We also took care of some mundane matters. For example, I bathed! The water supply had been off and on, and there had been no hot water. Since I’m “allergic” to bathing in cold water, I simply wore my hat and changed clothes each day.

Due to the kindness of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management, who lent us one of the school’s drivers, Sergo Akopov, we made a trip to the supermarket and to a store for kitchen and bath items. Between the two stores we found everything we needed and more, except for one item–sheets. I mean, soft sheets. Not 300-count Egyptian cotton, just untextured relatively soft sheets that are large enough to tuck under a mattress. Susanna had said we should take sheets, but I had argued that we didn’t know which size bed we’d have and that surely we could buy sheets in Tbilisi. For anyone keeping score, it is now Susanna right 443, 978 times; Keith right 3 times. I think I’m falling further behind.

This park near our apartment has free Wi-Fi; copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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