Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On The Georgian Home Front

Over the past few days I've started to reflect on my experience here so far, and I've started to question if I can really live in Georgia for 9 and half months. I've definitely started to come down from my honeymoon phase where everything is exciting and new, and I'm realizing that no matter where you live in the world, some sort of routine will form. 

Living in a small apartment with five other Georgians can be quite overwhelming at times. I've tried to find my own space, but there is just very little of that here, plain and simple. There are days when I just want to curl up in bed and read a book, but I can't because my little brother is playing his drums in one room and Bebia is telling me to come have tea with her in another room and the only room left is the toilet. I've been living in my family's dining room the past month. So when I close the doors at night or I'm getting changed in the morning there is always the possibility of someone walking in (its happened twice already..hence I get dressed in the bathroom a lot more now). 

I never thought personal space was something I so desperately needed but I guess its a natural feeling. I also tend to compare my experience with the other three girls in Samtredia. All three of them live in the guest bedrooms of their families homes with nice king size beds and (gasp) closets! I do have to say though there are definitely perks to living in the apartment like wireless Internet. So for the lack of a bed, I can facebook and email whenever I want. 

I have to say that my family is extremely kind and has gone above and beyond anything I ever imagined a host family would do. Just yesterday, my mom bought me a sweater and a pair of socks because she had picked up a shirt for Nino. And today, I got home and Bebia had about 15 tomatoes ready for me to eat. I've never seen a family as close as my Georgian one either. They literally spend so much time in the same little quarters that it just amazes me. 

However, my family tends to fight a lot. I'm still not sure if they are fight ALL the time or it just sounds like it, but literally from the time I wake up at 8am till I go to bed I witness at least five spats of yelling a day. This is quite different than my American family where the arguing is few and far between and when it does occur it is not very often. It seems like everyone is always angry at each other, but I'm starting to think a lot of its a lost in translation thing. There is just no way people fight that much. They just all must raise their voices when they talk? Not sure. 

The final comment I would like to make is about my father. I'm having some daddy issues. I really thought we were headed towards a turning point in our relationship, but from the comment he literally just made to me I'm not so sure. Its really difficult to live with someone that does not try to understand you as a person simply because you can not speak the language. I think he finds it like he is lowering himself to have to speak through his daughter. I try to make small talk like when he drives me to school. I always say thank you and goodbye when he drops me off and he never responds. 

Then tonight we were all talking about me going home for my American sister's wedding. I can tell he is a bit bitter that I'm coming and going whenever I please. I didn't mean for it to happen like that, but he seems to think I'm not happy here. He offered me some apple, and I said I didn't want any, and then he goes, "Do you want America?" I pretended I didn't understand because I didn't know what to say, but I feel really weird living with him at this point. He definitely has issues with me and I wish I could address them, but I can't. Its really frustrating! I can't live with someone that is going to crack jokes at my expense when I already am having my own inner thoughts going on in my head. I already have so many insecurities about being here that my Georgian dad giving me a hard time everyday is not exactly what I need. I wish I could express to him how appreciative I am of him opening his home and family to me, but for now its just not possible. I know if I engaged Nino to tell him things it would not go over well. I guess my biggest motivation to learn Georgian now is to talk to my father so when he cracks jokes about me I can come back at him, which I think ironically he would actually enjoy and be proud of me for.


  1. Tara,

    > I never thought personal space was something I
    > so desperately needed
    I can understand your feelings - in States a child has his/her own separate room. As you've discovered, privacy matter is not quite applicable in Georgia, especially in province. They just simply are not aware of such a concept and would have difficulty to understand it - why would a family member want to hide from other family members? And this kind of behavior is projected on guests too.

    > I'm still not sure if they are fight ALL the
    > time or it just sounds like it

    It sounds like fighting but really it is not - in western Georgia yelling is the way people communicate with each other. ;-) Let me tell you a local anecdote:
    - a guy from Kakheti (where you've being last weekend) comes visit his relatives to western Georgia (particularly in Guria). It is morning time the night after hi arrived, he is resting in his host's yard and suddenly neighbor runs/walks-in, asks something and even before he answers, runs away. Then another neighbor comes with the same behavior, finally host's family members start run around screaming at each other and everybody else.

    So he watches this situation turns to the hosts and asks - 'listen, when someone here goes crazy how do you can figure this out'?

    The last thing - about your host dad. This:

    > I can tell he is a bit bitter that I'm coming
    > and going whenever I please

    is the key of his behavior. I think that you are in a traditional (read - conservative) Georgian family where every family member (including you) have their own place. And as you already know in Georgian family father is figurehead despite the fact that household is run by women.

    I think this is first time he encounters such kind of behavior in his family - when someone comes and leaves without his formal approval and somehow undermines his authority. This puts him in uneasy situation because he simple does not know how to treat you.

    My suggestion would be - try to talk with your host mother and if she can not understand enough English get someone who is fluent in English and Georgian to translate.

    Just ask her that if you have done something not knowing local rules and if such kind of behavior affected them. I do not mean that you should apologize for your behavior - try to find out if something does not 'feel good' for them. You should also share your feelings if you have something to tell - it would help in bonding.

    Please note that it is Georgian thing not telling their guests if something is wrong, even if something is really going wrong. You have to be proactive and ask them.

    I understand that it is totally different then what we are used to here in States but it is not that difficult. ;-)

    Once again, good luck in your great endeavor and please share with us, your readers your experience.

    P.S. One last question/request - I've asked Michelle to answer three questions about her experience in Georgia. Would you mind to do the same one you have free minute. Thanks in advance.

  2. Thanks for all your advice! Things are a bit better with the family at the moment. I appreciate your thoughts on my father especially. I definitely want to have that feelings talk with them. I think it could help!

    I would love to answer your questions!

    Oh and sorry I took so long in responding...I saw your comment on Emily's blog haha