The old and the new

imageI leave Tbilisi tomorrow morning for Zestaponi and my education immersion experience. I’ll be back in a week for some reflection in the Capitol, but as of this moment I’m feeling a bit sad. Sure, I’ve bonded with Amanda, Jarod, Eka, Josh, Mark, and others, so leaving them causes some sadness-we are a great group of people to explore with! But there’s something else eating at me and during our slow walk back from dinner along Rustavelli, I tried to put a name to it, but could not.

Then I Skyped with Mr. Henry’s class and a student there (I couldn’t quite see who it was) said something to the effect, “When we heard you were going to Georgia, we thought it would be so different and poor but it doesn’t seem that way-so what is so different about it?”

The answer I provided was sterile, analytical, and reflexively left brained. So much so I am uncertain what I said. I am sure, though, I left the student wanting. But the truth of the matter is, it was a wise and thought provoking question for which I had no satisfying answer. What, indeed, makes Tbilisi different?

Am I in Asia or Europe? Am I in the former Soviet Union, or the Republic of Georgia? Is Georgia old or is it new? Does its past define it, or will its future?

It seems Georgia does not know…or does it? I believe it does, but it does not relinquish its secrets freely. I am in the middle of something I cannot put my finger on. As if I am somewhere completely foreign, yet totally familiar. Imminent change hangs in the air like  fog rolling off the surrounding hills, yet old men still play Backgammon in the square, kiss on the cheek, and sign the cross 3 times in front of ancient cathedrals. Russia is menacingly taps upon its door, yet people speak Russian when in the presence of foreigners. It’s as if Georgia and it’s citizens are a Zen Koan, with the answer freely accessible to anyone so long as one can “see”. So long as one can see…

The real answer to the question of what makes Tbilisi different is that I do not know. But given time, I feel Tbilisi can teach me to see.

And time here is what I do not have…

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