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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Power Rationing

Last night I worked late, then left the state chancellery at 11pm. Electricity was out throughout the entire city due to the Sunday bombings, with only scattered lights on in homes and businesses that had generators. There was no moon and it was so dark that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I lit my cell phone and my lighter to see the steps I had to walk down, then realized I'd need to keep them lit in order to even see the uneven asphalt of the sidewalk.

On Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's central street, most lights were out. It was the first time I had seen the Parliament building and opera house not brilliantly lit at night. I decided against walking home and took a cab. The cabbie talked bitterly about president Saakashvili, and when I joked that the problem was really Putin, he shrugged. The ride was only five minutes, but he managed to find out that I worked here, lived here with my "woman" (I don't know how to say "girlfriend" or even "wife"), where I was from, and what languages I spoke and how well.

I asked if he was from Tbilisi--Tbilisi citizens almost universally tell me they are from Tbilisi, which I imagine is sometimes just because they don't think I'll have heard of their home region--and he said no, he was from a part of Georgia near Turkey. "Samstkhe-Javakheti?" I guessed. He lit up, happy that I knew of it. Samstkhe-Javakheti is near the border of Armenia, not Turkey, and this meant he was almost certainly Armenian, though even when I knew he was from he didn't tell me this. (Armenians have lived in Georgia forever, but they are generally disliked by Georgians for reasons I cannot comprehend--every Armenian I have ever met has been kind and generous.) When I opened the car door, he shook my hand and patted me on the back.

This kind of pleasant encounter, made possible in large part by Georgians' (and Armenians') infinite patience for my clumsy Georgian, is why I love living here.

Above: Tbilisi at Night by Dato Kvantaliani

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