Månadens profil

I mars ombads jag av svenska ambassaden i Tbilisi att bli ‘månadens profil’ och berätta lite om mig själv och varför jag bor (bodde) i Georgien. Följande stycke publicerades på ambassadens hemsida:

Min fascination för Kaukasus väcktes omkring millenieskiftet då jag studerade ryska i Moskva och läste 1800-talsromaner som utspelade sig i denna exotiska, bergiga region. Samtidigt beskrev nyhetsrapporteringen diverse oroligheter från regionen varpå jag höll mig på försiktigt avstånd. Det skulle dröja drygt ett decennium innan jag satte mina fötter på Georgisk mark för första gången i september 2011. Fem veckor tidigare hade jag fått besked om att jag hade fått jobb som monitor för EUs civila observatörsmission med placering i Gori, ett par stenkast från utbrytarrepubliken Sydossetien.

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Som monitor mötte jag en verklighet som är långt främmande från det jag är van vid: Nerbrunna hus, brutna elkablar och övergivna åkrar, för att inte tala om säkerhetsaktörer och deras posteringar på vardera sida om den administrativa gränsen. Vapen och taggtråd känns inte som rätt väg framåt för världsfreden, men sådan är tyvärr verkligheten där. Vid ett tillfälle, då vi patrullerade längs den ”gränsen” till Sydossetien stötte jag på ryska gränsvakter. Med sina automatvapen omringade de oss en kort stund i väntan på besked från högre rang, men samtidigt skedde ett vänligt meningsutbyte mellan oss och till och med ett par enkla skämt. Dessa unga män är också kött och blod och har skickats hit för att förtjäna sitt levebröd. En synnerligen märklig verklighet att komma till…

Djupast intryck ger den lokala befolkningen. Jag berörs när de berättar om sina livsöden och när deras blick vittnar om färska minnen om våld. Samtidigt imponeras jag av hur vänliga, givmilda och öppna många är.Trots att de har förlorat mycket och upplevt skräcken på nära håll har många nära till skratt; de bjuder gärna in på mat och under skördesäsong prackar de på en en hel korg (!) med äpplen hem. Ja, deras livsglädje och generositet inspirerar mig!

Efter nio månader fick jag en tjänst på missionens huvudkontor i Tbilisi där jag nu jobbar som Reporting Officer. Även om Tbilisi erbjuder mer vardagslyx så saknar jag ibland enkelheten i Gori; att strosa ner till marknaden och småprata med min ‘ost-tant’ och ‘granatäppel-gubbe’ och inte minst att spela boll med kidsen i grannskapet. Men jag fortsätter att upptäcka Georgien. Med sin vackra natur, rika traditioner och varma människor har Georgien verkligen mycket att bjuda på. Jag lockas särskilt till bergen där jag åker skidor, vandrar, cyklar och småpratar med lokala ortsbor.

Jag är otroligt glad för möjligheten att vidga mina vyer genom mötet med Georgien. Fascinationen är starkare än någonsin.

http://www.swedenabroad.com/sv-SE/Ambassader/Tbilisi/Aktuellt/Nyheter/Manadens-profil–berattelse-fran-en-svensk-i-Georgien-sys1/

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Shatili

Amazing weekend excursion to Shatili with my best friends here in Georgia. To get there you need a 4×4 – the road was quite decent for most of the journey, although steep below made my passenger behind me a bit tense from time to time. We stopped overnight in Korsha before reaching the 2700 m pass.

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Mutso village. Exemplifying the Caucasus, located on top of a steep hill, it must have been nearly impossible for invaders to intrude. Don’t think it was a coincidence they chose this location, as opposed to the riverbed in the valley below..

Shatili is located in a very remote and isolated area, with roads closed off for 9 months of the year. If I remember correctly, the wintertime population is around 30-50 people. Shatili is located in the K

hevshureti region with a population which identifies itself as Khevshurs. There are currently only about 1500-2000 Khevshurs, a large portion of which live in Tbilisi or Kakheti. A local resident showed us his privately build ethnological museum and explained that some were still dressed in medieval-looking body-armours and swords until about 1960 (!). Very intriguing place.

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Shatili – inhabited since the7th century. The houses on the pictures were abandoned about one or two generations ago, when the Soviet regime funded modern housing nearby. What an amazing place! Chechnya in the background

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Tusheti

Last summer I had an amazing solo weekend to the remote Tusheti region in the northeast, bordering to Dagestan (Russia). First up through the 2927m Koja pass and then down winding roads on the other side. These roads open at the end of June and close in September-October, nevertheless, a couple of handful of people live there all year round in deep isolation.

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I shouted of exitement as the thick fog cleared before my eyes to disclose this breathaking view

 

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Workers clearing the road treating me to lunch both on the way up and down

The views are absolutely breathtaking. Travelling on my own I made sure to stop and talk to people I passed on the way. Good, honest, beautiful people!

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12 hours on horseback to reach his summer residence in Tusheti

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Dartlo – In this small village only one man stays the winter together with his cows and chickens (!) One generation ago the population was bigger, and the Soviet regime provided schooling for the ca five kids

To get there you’ll need a 4×4 – in Telavi you can find people to take you. It’s easy to find homestays once you get there.

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Tabatskuri

Soon my time in Georgia is coming to an end. I had never been here before but truely took this beautiful country and its people to my heart. Wow, what a beautiful place! I want to share some of the highlights I have had the privilige to experience.

Heading up on a plateau beyond the Bakuriani skiresort, you’ll eventually reach Tabatskuri – probably the most beautiful location I visited in Georgia. There is no public transportation there, and the main road is blocked throughout most of the winter. My connection there called me in June this year to inform me that the road was open. Some 2900m above sea level, the clouds are hovering just above you in this tranquil picturesque place, populated mainly by ethnic Azeris.

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Tabatskuri lake, 2000m above sea level

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No rush, time for a chat with the local men. They said they’d be there when I come back. I printed this picture for them, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to deliver it (yet)

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This is a jewel. No one I met has talked about this place, the guidebooks hardly mention it.. Leaving Tabatskuri, I travelled some four hours on poor roads without meeting a car, quite an experience

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Supra – the Georgian feast

100_3699The Supra – the Georgian feast – is at the heart of Georgian culture. Georgians will find any reason to set up a Supra. For instance, when I found my first appartment here and when I had bought a car, my Georgian friends were quick to let me know that it’s time to celebrate.

As a country with a long tradition of wine-making, wine is clearly at the core of the Supra. Thus, when I invited my friends to celebrate, it was an honour for one of them to bring his homemade wine for all of us to share.pirosmani-georgian-table

The Tamada is the toastmaster. Unlike in Sweden were the toastmaster coordinates the various speaches, the Tamada holds virtually all of the toasts. First we toast to the God, followed by toast to our parents, to those who live on in our hearts but who no longer walks on earth (the deceased)*, to love, to peace, to sweet memories, to our children, to women etcetera. Tamada will not merely toast to this or that, but rather elaborate on the topic to explain the deeper meaning and relevance of it. After a few rounds, Tamada may request Alaverdi, which means asking someone to further elaborate on the same topic, telling the company what the topic means to him or her. Another important role is the designated wine-filler who makes sure everyone’s glasses are always full..100_3714

My friends in Gori were very strict on everyone fully emptying their glass for each toast. Emptying the glass fully is a gesture to show that you full-heartedly atribute whatever we are toasting for. Not emptying the glass would be disgraceful and insulting. While many foreigners seems to think the various toasts are non-sence drinking games, I find that they have a very deep meaning – a great way of regularly paying tribute and gratitude to those who walked before us, and wishing the best to those who will come, and reminicing sweet memories in life and so on. To me it’s a great way to connect with gratitude and not to take things forgranted; a spiritual ritual integrated into everyday life. While I really appreciate the Supra-tradition and took the art of toasting to my heart, the non-compromising drinking rules soon led to me turning down invitations.

Supra in the restaurant always turned into a wild party. All of a sudden the lights would go off and the live music begin and Everyone would enter the dancefloor: men dancing – rather intimately – to the right, and the women to the left. After a few songs, the lights 100_3725would go on again and everyone returns to the tables and to continue eating and drinking and toasting. After a few hours of feasting people from other tables start inviting you to theirs (and of course, toasting, emptying your beaker..) turning the whole place into one big party with an excellent uplifting atmosphere, I witnessed the testosterone-filled Caucasian confrontational temperament at close distance at two or three occassions.

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Best midsummer ever

Dear cousins, aunt and uncle visiting20130621_202740

Georgian cuisine and homemade Saperavi wine in my favourite local restaurant, swallowed down to toasts in true Georgian tradition

Vodka, swallowed down along with traditional Swedish songs

Continuous laughter. Loud laughter.

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Fun and deep conversation

Midnight ice cream in the park

Late night drinks to the tunes of a live band. Even cousin Pelle sang a tune with the band (!)solo bananasplit midsummer

 

Need I say more? Far better than last year’s midsummer, which I celebrated on my own in Tbilisi, accompanied only by a bananasplit.

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Technology in frozen conflict

In my work I monitor the conflict between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Georgia claim that South Ossetia is occupied by Russia. Russia and South Ossetian de facto authorities claim that South Ossetia is an independent state.

Interestingly, when I approached the boundary line the other day a message popped up in my phone: “Welcome to Russia!”

20130620_132312Obviously the network technicalities aren’t fully aligned with the political retorics. No further comments.

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