Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

the W()RD: in lieu of pictures

I had 30 MB of free internet access from Magti when I first signed up for 3G service months ago. It certainly didn't take me long to blaze through that, and into my phone's credit, at the rate of 1 lari (c. 65 cents US) per MB of download. With careful, frugal use, I can achieve costs of about 2-4 lari per day - no more always-on internet like it was in Tbilisi, at 45 lari per month! The other complication is that the Mono cards by which one updates one's cellphone credit cost 1 lari extra in Svaneti... and some bright entrepreneur has decided to import only the 5-lari version into Ushguli, meaning that those of us who need cellphone credit will pay 20% extra for it. I'm protesting this robbery by getting my Mono cards, the 10- or preferably 20-lari versions, in Mestia. I'll be there next on Monday the 18th, it seems. So all of this is to say, blog updating will be a bit sparse until then, when I can a) get to my bank, b) buy more credit, and c) jump back online.

Until then, here are a few notes, 1000 words being worth a picture:

1) The most popular export to Ushguli from Latin America is... soap. Lots of it, many flavours, all of similar quality. I mean TV soap operas, or serials, as they're locally known. Some members of my host family, including 16-year-old Anzor, Dato & Nanuli's son, are wildly into these deeply meaningful, highly educational, throughly realistic cinematic portrayals of the lives of genuine people. Now that the Imedi ("Hope") TV channel is back after being closed down on Nov. 7 during the riots which briefly gripped Tbilisi, there are more serials than ever on offer. (Imedi, incidentally, is milking those bad times of its closure, damage and subsequent reopening as of last night for all they're worth. This morning a music video appeared, featuring clips from the riots and chaos of Nov. 7 in a sour-and-sugary context. Have the Georgian media made a cynic of me? Not hardly. Imedi knows that a bit of suffering can be whipped up into all SORTS of righteous indignation.) Back to serials... I'm thinking of taking on a new secret identity: serial killer. By which I mean, of course, not the usual meaning of "a person who murders many victims" but, in a play on words, "one who kills soap operas".

2) Cow manure, when it freezes, is by virtue of its organic bonds harder to break than ice and some kinds of rock, all of which are more brittle. Try it with a pickaxe sometime! Dare to compare!

3) This winter in Ushguli will be the season in which weather has the greatest effect of any season in my life, ever, anywhere. Not necessarily a bad thing, merely an observation. I'm not uncomfortable at all, in my 3 pairs of socks and trousers, with up to 7 layers on my upper half, wearing a hat indoors and two outside. I will never have lived through as snow-filled a winter as this one, even in 15 years in Canada.

4) White actually has an infinite variety of shades. Just ask any interior decorator how many names of white paint there ever have been, are and will be. Or ask a foreigner recently moved to Ushguli for a winter in up to 2 or more m of snow.

5) Having one's electricity fail at unspecified intervals is much harder psychologically than knowing when it will fail based on a schedule of power cuts. This feels like a time warp to my early months in Tbilisi 8 years ago: in Ushguli those bad old times are still here.

6) I'm actually loving it here, despite some of the above ranting. Wouldn't leave for the world. (As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, the best critic of something is one who loves it and is frustrated by its faults, not some one who hates it.) Ushguli is always amazing, and in the winter, with much less going on than the frenzy of spring through fall farming and tourism, I'm learning a lot about the village and its people. This is a PRIVELEGE - I don't need convincing of that.

More to come soon...


Nate said...

I'm always shocked there aren't any comments here! I have been enjoying your blog, and I look forward to the day when you'll be able to resume providing more frequent insight into life in a fascinating part of the world we know so little about in the West. Until then, have a great time, and thanks very much for the insight you provide!

-Nate, USA

M.A.P. said...

Merry Christmas Toni!
You'll have quite the white Christmas! Not me, global warming is working its magic here. ha.
Anyway, looking forward to seeing you again in the summer for the big event there.