Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Scenes, Sounds & Smells of Georgia

As i type this i can hear beautiful singing coming from the neighbourhood below my hotel balcony. A handful of voices (mostly male) singing what sounds like a folk melody. At first i wasn't sure if it was Georgian but then i could hear some of the characteristic polyphonic dissonances that are so captivating in the music of this part of the world. The evening is cool and as lovely as spring gets. I've just come in from a walk up to Freedom Square and along Rustaveli Avenue with my human rights colleagues. We crossed one street through an underpass in which a young woman was singing something truly angelic - her soprano voice was true and the melody was something plaintive and bittersweet. She was arm-in-arm with a much older woman who wore dark glasses and who was holding out a cup for change. I could not pass this without giving some money. It is a strange city of contrasts. Much of the russian signage has given way to english and a startling number of young people speak english. I'm told that the commonality of russian can no longer be depended on. This seems a bittersweet thing. We passed the national museum which is advertising a show called "The Russian Occupation 1921-1999" and is illustrated with the faces of sad-looking children. I don't know enough to know how reactionary this might be, but for all the soviet union's imperial rule, i can't believe it was all bad. Nor is any place such as Georgia all innocent (as implied by the images on the museum). After all, Stalin was Georgian. The bells have just rung midnight and it's time for me to rest. A couple of other images before i go: cab drivers smoking while driving their fares; being given sticks of gum as change; driving in from the airport along George Bush Street (oy).

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