Resourceful women

By Susanna Melo

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Men working for NGOs, embassies, and other such organizations in Georgia enter into an already-made network of support. Women, on the other hand, must start from scratch. Through the International Women’s Association (IWA), we have met many wives of expats who have had to reinvent themselves in their new homeland. For example, Sandra Baretto, our Paraguayan neighbor, is an economist. Because she has not been able to find a job in her field, she has just started her own business. From her home, she sells beautifully handmade lace items from Paraguay. “Nanduti” lace, which in the Guarani Indian language means “spider web,” is woven into a web-like shape.  Another type of lace is the Encaje Ju, famous in the Paraguayan towns of Yataity, Carapegua and Altos.  Patterns for this lace include flowers, birds, plants and geometric designs. Many items such as clothes, bedspreads, runners, and tablecloths are graced by this delicate handiwork, which can be seen in the photos.

Another resourceful female friend has learned the art of making and selling her own jewelry.  One started a pre-school.  Another is opening a cocktail lounge. Others are using their time to learn new skills such as belly dancing, ceramics, or learning additional languages. Starting from a blank slate takes courage and it is an admirable quality!

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

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.