I am in Telavi, in the Kakheti region. Why Kakheti? Why go east of the capital and not west? I included in my choice, the importance of this region in the history of the country and a little in ours. It represents the past and future economy of the country. Wine is here to stay.
It is an area that was not part of the Ottoman Empire. For me, it is an important information to understand that the attitude will be different. Hospitality is an important aspect left by the empire. Washing the feet of your guest, might still be somewhere in the memory brain. For me, it has been the most exhausting hospitality.
Here, in Khaketi, the guest is appreciated but he is not completely king, I am told. If you say no to a dish, you will not be offered that dish a second time. This is an east-west difference, which suits me very well. I am not too good at the long hours at the table, where we eat too much. I need to move and my body prefers to eat less and more often.
When Marco Polo went to China, the tradition at the time wanted him to be received by the government. We know that in Georgia, the visitor is king. I believe that with the amount of tourists added every year, this is likely to change. The definition of hospitality that suits me best would be:
Hospitality is openness to :
– strange ideas,
– opinions never heard,
– foreign traditions,
– meeting the unknown, and
– facts often overlooked.
The origin of wine and the word wine – ghvino
I’m in the country where archaeologists have proof that wine was produced here for the first time in history. From the word ghvino would come the word wine. Wine, symbol of time and meals with family and friends. When you have them in your garden, it can help the dream of a relaxed humanity. When, in addition, under subtropical and temperate temperatures, nature has offered you its beauty in the form of a snow-capped mountain range, a sea, rivers and gardens where fruits and vegetables abound, you are truly blessed. Life hasn’t left you with the message that “hard work” should be on the agenda.
Relaxed people, serving relaxed people!
In addition, the tourists who visit this garden in all seasons, are wonderful. They come to relax, not to work. Serving them is therefore not a difficult job and it suits Georgians well. Perhaps for lack of vocabulary, some people say that they are lazy. When they express themselves better it is more the desire to live gently.
All this would be perfect if the rich did not get richer and the poor poorer as a result of this windfall of visitors. If at least a large middle class could get out from it. It is growing, I am told. Yes, we are transforming rooms and long live Airbnb. Everyone finds a way to improve their lot a bit. Public benches are numerous and so are the people sitting. Opportunities are not passing by and are still to be created.
Importing everything does not inspire entrepreneurship
Here, the future is still very young. It still needs to prove itself and its energy seems to feel chilly facing the high hopes it holds. The money stays in government, where those who know how to rise to the posts of high officials become wealthy. I find here, as in India, and so many other countries, the dream of becoming a civil servant. May it be monotonous life, but may it assure my old age! If in your network, you are talking very passionately about entrepreneurship, here the government prefers to import than to build and encourage its people to create. So discourse about conscious entrepreneurship and leadership will take some time. Two centuries under Russian and Soviet domination leaves traces. Corruption? We dare not say the word.
Indifference to its people? Heads move to show they agree. From this apathy comes doubt if ever hope tries to inhabit you. How difficult it is to promote courage when there is no political will and interest.
The most serious is the indifference to an aging population which is left to its own devices with 200 lari (leg) per month (90 $ cdn). We add, “fortunately, old people alone are rare because there is always a family to take care of them.” And there again, silence speaks. This dumbness admits that sometimes the family is not always the ideal place to receive the best support. The families too, are poor and lucky if they have $ 300 cdn per month to live with. They are not going to offer glasses, teeth and feet. We grow old dressed in black, in silence, which is a language in itself, learned throughout tumultuous history. Are they tolerant or resilient? Maybe both. People here are kind, they like to get together with friends and families, have a drink and toast to peace, to friendship, and life. Outside in the street, they are not smiling, history of conflicts and invasion, too heavy a tradition, strong conservative ideas that crush freedom and lightness. To whom can I smile and open my heart?
It’s an election year, we expect promises and gifts, but skepticism lights up faces at the hope that things will change. Power works for power.
We have nothing
I was told “We have nothing, We only have tourism.” Is that because there is no oil, no gas, no diamonds?
Since I arrived in this beautiful and tiny abundant garden, full of potential, I have this sentence in mind and it never leaves me. “We have nothing.”
There must be leaders without visions here too. By a first look at the city, I tell myself, if the country has nothing some people have buildings. There is so much to learn from other countries that are inventing at such high speed, I wonder if it is possible to have nothing.
By a first look at the city, I tell myself, if the country has nothing some people have buildings and they seem to want more. Because of the lack of development outside the capital, there is a fast exodus to the city center. I see the cars piling up on the streets and the scenario of pollution that will happen soon in the closed valley where Tbilisi is situated. How can you not act to avoid that? There will also be a certain amount of smokers that will clog hospitals. Cancer does not seem to be at the top of the list of concerns.
I feel safe but I learn that it was not the case six years ago. The end of the Soviet regime was very difficult and the street was not the place to wear jewelry and fine clothes. An iron fist went through, prisons have overflowed and some things have changed. I have visited the Soviet Union as it was falling. I am curious to learn more about that period just after independance.
I’ve been here for 23 days already. It’s slow and my budget is worried. For my research, I will first look for a family outside the capital. The urban family later. “We are very private here.” It will not be easy.
A month on the road is the time it takes for the mind to be fully in the present moment. I am now from here.