In the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, you can still find homes arrayed around large central courtyards set-back from the road. As many as six or seven families share these communal courtyards: coming and going at all hours of day or night… washing hanging, children playing, and the scent of cooking wafting through windows. Everyone’s business is everyone else’s business because everything here is open and transparent. A lot of yelling goes on, and a lot of retaliation.
Three generations of women reside in the house where we’re staying. One of them speaks English. There’s a dog too. His name is Pushkin. We’ve become used to nosing through the womens’ quarters on our way to and from the bathroom. We’ve grottied the courtyard table more than once with watermelon juice. It’s nice to know that when we tire of the cramped conditions inside the house we can step outside for a breather, airing our stained towels on the outside line and waiting under the poplar tree for our Russian and Kazahk visas to mature. We wish Sam would put his shoes out once in awhile!
Tbilisi is a pleasant place to be waylaid. It’s the bottle-neck through which we hope to pass into the wilds of Russia, Kazahkstan and, eventually, China. It’s not a simple or a speedy process but as our Syrian roommate pointed out to us, we’re extremely lucky that if we follow procedure by filling out the relevant forms and providing the stipulated amount of money, we can travel more or less unimpeded through any territory on the planet. The apple forests of the Tien Shan Mountains still feel a long way off, but the breeze is blowing from that direction.
Tonight is election night in Georgia. The red party and the blue party have been broadcasting propaganda for weeks, and today, Georgia will decide. It’s the 7th legislative election since Georgia shed the Soviet yoke in 1991. I wish the people luck in their search for a true, just, and forward-thinking government: someone that will protect the long-term interests of the country, including the preservation of the country’s natural and cultural landscape.
Enlightened governance is something we’re still looking for in Australia, and in the UK too. I am sorry that I feel so uninspired by party politics at the moment. There’s not one country we’ve passed through in the last 8 months where people have not complained to us about government in-fighting, corruption, unmet promises, corporate entanglements and other discouraging manipulations. Seems to me that bottom-up change, ie. localisation of yields and services, is the way forward.
The smell of black grapes on the vines in Tbilisi is irresistible and even faintly narcotic. Hypnotised by pyramid clusters I am reminded of the purple Hubba-Bubba gum that I used to buy as a kid, and the taste of stolen black grapes from my friend’s mother’s grape vine – the only grape vine in Dulong. Before leaving England the last plant we dug into the earth at The Patch was a variety of grape called Black Strawberry. It’s hard to imagine it producing a yield in England’s frigid climate. But one can hope…
“A Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
– Greek proverb –
In the Tbilisi Botanical Garden a beautiful specimen of my old friend, the Cedrus deodara, Himalayan Cedar, can be found. I grew to love these trees six years ago in McLeod Ganj, India. I was surprised to find one here. Sometimes it takes a really big old tree to bring you back to yourself. After sitting under its wide embrace for some minutes I felt able to return to life on the streets below: the old city; the Metro; and Marjainishvili – our local haunt. I felt able to wait, just a little bit longer, for visas and the fulfilled promise of our Caucasian adventure.
To read more about the highs and lows of waiting for visas in Tbilisi, visit Patchworks Permaculture