Good Ol' St. George atop a large pedestal.
Tbilisi was a great way to start my vacation. Luckily an Azeri helped me find a good taxi driver who was able to take me right to the hostel where John and Charlie were waiting. The first day and night were relaxed, we went to the Peace Corps Georgia offices and met some of the people who work there. We were able to talk to some of the Georgian volunteers as well and learned a lot about the country.
There are a lot of things that we as Azerbaijani volunteers identify as problems in Azeri culture. We see things such as extreme conservatism, irrational spy paranoia and distrust of foreigners, arranged marriages, corrupt police officers and government officials, media censorship and control and extreme nationalism all throughout Azerbaijan. I guess that I errantly assumed that these problems stemmed from a combination of traditional layman Islamic practices (ie, from the people, not sanctified by Islamic leaders), and the conservative Russian culture of the time when they were part of the U.
S.S.R. Talking to the PCVs in Georgia gave us a real sense that it isn’t only Azerbaijan that has these types of problems, but that Georgia had these same problems as well. Georgia is a Christian nation, and this somehow gave me comfort that Azerbaijan is not the only country that acts like this.
Charlie was, for one moment, interested in getting a $exshange.
I do need to say that Georgia does seem a bit more liberal than AZ. I saw news coverage and permission granted for major protests in Tbilisi, something that would never happen in Baku. Also, the police in Tbilisi are amazingly friendly and accommodating, though I do not know how the police act in the regions.
After that, we met with some of the older volunteers who were traveling in Tbilisi as well in a western style restaurant in what looked like a restaurant district close to their old city. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time for the traditional Georgian food that I had always heard of that day, but there was time for traditional Georgian drinking, which John, Charlie and I did in the park.
One of the greatest things about Tbilisi is that it is perfectly acceptable to drink in public. For some reason I love doing that.