Tbilisi streets

We now live near Sioni Cathedral.

We now live near Sioni Cathedral.

We can see Sameba Church in the distance (photo by Susanna Melo).

We can see Sameba Church in the distance (photo by Susanna Melo).

We live near this street (photo by Susanna Melo)

We used to lve near this street (photo by Susanna Melo)







Street dogs_sm

Grapes over balcony_sm



US ambassador to Georgia speaks to GIPA

Ambassador Richard NorlandUS Ambassador Richard Norland talked about international affairs affecting Georgians and addressed questions from GIPA students and faculty members on Monday, July 17, 2013. He began his talk by expressing his sympathy for the 7 Georgian soldiers who had recently been killed in Afghanistan and he discouraged any thoughts of Georgia withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Ambassador Norland then carefully discussed Georgia’s desire to become a member of NATO. Although Georgia’s participation with NATO troops has been greatly appreciated, and although it gives Georgian troops valuable experience, there is no quid pro quo; in other words, just because Georgian sends the largest contingent of troops of any country outside NATO does not mean that it will be able to join NATO. Georgia must continue to meet all of the technical requirements and then the NATO countries will vote on admission.Ambassador Norland also addressed the controversial videotape, seemingly produced by Taliban fighters, who declare  jihad on Georgia. Do not take such videos on face value, warned Norland. Moreover, it appears that the tape was uploaded in Georgia, so it may not have been produced by Al Qaeda. In terms of recent US press coverage of Georgia, Norland condemned the New York Times story about poorly behaving Georgian troops in Afghanistan; it was a one-sided story and sloppy reporting, he said. Norland also condemned a Washington Post editorial that democracy is at risk in Georgia.

I asked one question: What is the state of journalism in Georgia? Ambassador Norland seemed reluctant to answer the question, although he vaguely said either that it is less partisan or that there are more points-of-view in the market.

Freedom Square

Susanna Melo and I are back in Tbilisi. We live in a nice flat on Leselidze Street  near Freedom Square. What a wonderful location! Freedom Square

Public Service Hall, Tbilisi

Susanna and I are back in Tbilisi after spending a year in Columbia, SC. There’s been a lot of new construction. One eye-grabbing building is the Public Service Hall. It is a -1-stop location of all kinds of social services. I asked a friend and she said it was amazingly efficient. She needed some help with her son’s Georgian passport and she was in and out in 10 minutes. The inside is very large and can serve many people at once. The design is completely open, which may make for noise problems, but it is interesting–lots of different organic shaped sections. See here: http://psh.gov.ge/?lang_id=ENG and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Service_HallBridge to Public Services building_sm

Public Services building_inside_sm

We like to stay with different families in Adishi

In our fall, winter, and spring visits to Adishi, we did not stay with families with young children, but on our summer visit, we stayed with Gunter Avaliani and his wife Zaira, their two daughters: Ia and Jameki, and three grandchildren (from left): Lika and Giorgi Mamulashvili as well as Levani Avaliani. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.


Zaira Avaliani prepares a meal for us on her wood-burning stove. We enjoyed kachapuri, fried potatotes, fresh tomatoes, a cheese-grits dish, and several other Svan dishes during our visit. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.


Several Adishi children played together outside Gunter Avalianai’s home. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.


Two brave men rescue Susanna from a fast river

Gabo Kaldani carries Levani on his back across a fast-flowing river in Adishi, while Elizabeth Kaldani prepares to help him during the final steps. A group of 9 crossed the glacier-fed river in order to picnic by a beautiful, small, green lake, but on our return, we chose a different crossing, which proved to be dangerous. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.


I was the first person to attempt to cross the fast-flowing river and I made it half-way to the other shore. Then I waited on a tiny rock “island” because I couldn’t find a good place to cross the remaining distance. Susanna joined me at the half-way point. I asked Susanna to hold my camera while I tried to cross, but she preferred to attempt to cross the river first. With a big walking stick to hold onto, she thought she could make it, but the current caught both her and the stick, knocking her into the freezing water. Then the current tumbled her downstream. Fortunately, Gabo Kaldani and Shota Kiparoidze ran to her aid. They seemed to fly on top of the water! Quickly they brought her to shore. Unfortunately, Susanna’s body was severely bruised, including one huge bruise on each calf. We were afraid that a blood vessel might pop and cause massive bleeding. Fortunately, we continuously poured frigid water on her bruises, which kept the swelling under control. Unfortunately, Susanna lost one sandal. Fortunately, on the way to the river, Susanna had helped clean up the environment by picking some non-biodegradeable foam. She used the foam and a plastic bag to create a shoe so she could walk the 4 kilometers home. In the photo, Susanna is drying her dress, while walking with her custom-made “sandal.” Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.


Susanna poses with her heroes. On the left is Shota Kiparoidze, who recently married “our Georgian daughter” Nana Mghebrishvili. On her right is Gabo Kaldani and a horse he borrowed so that Susanna could ride back to Adishi. After rescuing Susanna from the river, Gabo jogged 4 kilometers, retrieved a horse from a pasture, and rode back to Susanna, who had already walked half way to Adishi. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012






Adishi-Jandara community celebrates the birth of its sons

In early August, Adishi has a festival to celebrate the births of male children who were born the previous year, and people pray for the birth of sons in the upcoming year. As in the nearby village of Kala, which celebrates the more famous Kvirikoba festival, the Adishi festival involves sacrificing sheep to the old Svani goddess of fertility, Kviria. This year, more than 150 people walked or rode their horses about 3 kilometers to a small church in the hills, where about 50 sheep were sacrificed. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

In addition to taking sheep to the church, people also carried home-made wine, vodka and bread. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Mukhran, one of the Adishi leaders, brought an icon of St. George to the fertility festival. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Inside the Adishi church, village leaders passed a candle over each sheep, then walked the sheep in a circle, and prayed. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

For about five hours, men from Adishi and Jandara (where many former Adishi residents have been resettled), prayed over offerings such as wine, vodka, bread, sheep, roasted mutton, and money. Tarzan Kaldani (left) and Emzar Kaldani (right) make the sign of the cross as the offerings are being made. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

After their sheep had been blessed inside the Adishi church, men butchered them in the surrounding field. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Men hung chunks of skinned sheep from a rail until the meat could be boiled in one of the two huge cauldrons. Then families and friends enjoyed the meat as they gathered in small groups on the hillside for a picnic. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.


While waiting for the mutton to cook, a group of younger men gathered to watch each other attempt to lift a 150-kilogram stone above their shoulders and then let the stone fall behind their backs. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.


Towards the end of the festival, people swarmed around Emzar Kaldani to give him 5 – 10 GEL notes and names of people they wanted to be blessed. Behind Emzar, colorful flags fly from tall poles. Parents who gave birth to a son the previous year created these flags and decorated them with their sons’ names. In 2012, about 15 sons were born in the Adishi-Jandara community. Copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Tamarisi Art Gallery displays Edisher Baramidze’s paintings

Susanna Melo and Tamara Tsintsadze in Tamarisi Art Gallery; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Tamara Tsintsadze; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Story by Susanna Schisler Melo

I started up a conversation with Tamara Tsintsadze at an IWA (International Women’s Association) coffee morning when I thought I had overheard her say that she was a Latin American Studies specialist and had been to a conference in Rio. The latter was correct, but she is an African-American Studies specialist—and the only one in Georgia!

Tamara is well traveled and has many interests. You could say she is a woman who wears many hats. She is president of a couple of organizations (Rotary; Society of Georgia-China Friendship) and Director of the School of Languages and Humanities as well as the “Tamarisi” Art Gallery.

Since Keith and I enjoy learning about Georgian artists and their work, we decided to pay a visit to Tamara’s gallery in Saburtalo. She was kind and gracious as she talked to us about how she started her gallery and her various collections of art.

We were quite surprised when we walked into her well-lit, well-designed, spacious room with paintings covering all wall surfaces. Most of the displayed paintings are by the deceased artist Edisher (Botso) Baramidze, whom Tamara began collecting 15 years ago. She now owns approximately 250 of his paintings.

The story behind Edisher is bittersweet. He would have been my age had he not died 6 years ago. His bohemian lifestyle cut his life short. He came from a creative family, but according to an article I read, the family members were so involved in their own work and careers that Edisher was neglected. As a schoolboy, Edisher got involved with music; he put together bands and experimented with a variety of music trends. It was only later in his life that he began painting.

Keith and I enjoyed looking at Edisher’s various painting styles. Many of his works use mixed media such as “paint, stone, brick, clay, sawdust, human hair, woolen threads, seeds and other things.” The photo below shows a portrait of a man whose hair is actually the human hair that belonged to his daughter after she got a haircut!

If you would like to see Edisher’s paintings, please contact: Tamara Tsintsadze at Tamriko@gmail.com.

Edisher (Botso) Baramidze’s painting incorporates his daughter’s hair; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Narikala Fortress at night

Narikala Fortress overlooks Old Tbilisi near the baths and you notice it at night more than during the daytime because of the lights. Although the original fortress dates from the 4th century, it was destroyed, and these remaining fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Some of Susanna’s sculptures

Dona Maria and Senhor Jose

Dona Maria and Senhor Jose

“My Gift to Keith” and “The Etruscan Dreamer”

“My Garden”

Teapot set