vrijdag 31 januari 2014

the Italians.

The last time I arrived in Tbilisi I was struck by the enormous billboard of George W. Bush waving you a warm welcome along the airport highway called after him. This time my surprise wasn't as gigantic, but Gebrüders Weiss junction was not really something I expected. Because I had chat the whole flight with a Georgian computer scientist who worked for the last ten years in Austria and Portugal, and who was thinking about moving to Brazil, I started to think about this crazy thing called language.

Is language an art you should command as perfectly as possible as a way to express yourself best? Speaking my international English with people from all-over the world this idea faltered. I started to see language more and more as a the means, and not the goal. Different languages are different tools, so to say, for different situations. Also I became aware that my limited experience was daily business for the majority of world population, who switch in between different languages naturally.

My very limited Russian was of way more use then I expected, in both the taxi and in shops. Moreover, Georgia is a very big difference experience for me compared to Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan: I can't read the Georgian alphabet, so even taking a bus becomes a challenge.

Probably also unexpected Russian is still quite important, and if it is not the second language any more, after the ten year Teach English in Georgia-spree of Saakashvili - especially among youngsters, it is certainly still a good third. Armenian and Azeri are also quite important, but these are rather first tongues. But most unexpected of all, and also the title of this entry: Italian turns out to be highly popular among Georgians, and I have no clue why. Is it because of shared Mediteranean passion?

Last year I met Italians, Italian-Slovenians, Italian-speaking Poles, and Italian-speaking Lithuanians. I spoke even Italian with Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Chernihiv, where, of all places, my Italian still seemed to be more useful for communication than my Russian!

No bad feelings, anyway. Not that there is a need for it (not at all!), but at least the Italians bring a nice cuisine with them. I mean, there's Dutch people everywhere as well, I do have to admit, but we can't speak of something even slightly related to 'cuisine' where I come from ..

maandag 27 januari 2014

reverse looking forward.

The six months to come I'll be interning at the Economic Section of the Dutch embassy in Tbilisi, which is covering both Georgia and Armenia. I've been here before, in 2009 - so this country and this city are somewhat familiar, somewhere, to me. 

In 2009 I was a fresh third year on a two-week study trip with the Dutch United Nations Student Association. I kept a journal and I made lots of photos. The journey strengthened my love for  the long belt of countries in between the Russian and Persian worlds. So I bought a better photo camera and in the years to come I travelled to Russia, Iran, the Ukraine and Kygyzstan. Also, Georgia was one of the many reasons to choose a masters in Middle East & Central Asian Security Studies at the University of Saint Andrews, which I finished last year. 

Here's some of my best memories:

to get started.

I'm rather bad at small talk, so I won't. My eyes fit neither an anthropologist, nor a historian, let alone a diplomat - but they can see for sure. This blog is on what I see, what I do, and - most of all - what I think.