Monday, November 21, 2011

Georgian Morning News Shows

Growing up in the United States, morning news shows are common place and for most families a part of everyday life. Moreover, people seem to be fiercely loyal to whatever show they watch, whether it is Good Morning America or the Today Show for example. Growing up, my family watched the one on CBS simply because our favorite news station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, WCCO, was a CBS affiliate. We were loyal to WCCO and Mike Fairbourne always forecasted the weather accurately, and we would not waste our time with KARE 11 or channel 5.

Since I moved to host family #3, I’ve been introduced to the curious, yet wacky, world of Georigan morning news shows. I cannot believe it took me over a year in this country to discover this! I found out about the dubbed telenovellas on day one, but not this. With Georgian morning news shows, the first question one must ask is, “Where does one even begin?”

Most of my experience with them comes from the one on Georgia 1 TV (or something like that, it remains unclear what exactly the name of the station is), however, every other station is very similar. I’ve discussed this with my friend, Tom, and there seems to be definite trends throughout the stations, though most of my discussion will be based on Georgia 1.

The Set: One of the first things one notices is the set. I must admit, it is terrible. For those readers in Utah, it looks like they raided they clearance bin at Deseret Industries. (DI is the Utah equivalent of Goodwill or the Salvation Army). Nothing matches, and it is all hastily thrown together. At G1TV there is this hideous yellow, black, and apple green-coloured thing on the wall. Each day I try to decide what it is. I’ve come down to either apples or music notes, but when it is paired with the light grey wall it hangs on, it is especially fetching. The floor is orange and tan checked tiles. I also like the picture of Tbilisi in the fall covered in a fake window pane to give the impression one of looking out at a scenic vista of Old Tbilisi as the river runs by. The picture looks like it was printed on a daisy wheel dot-matrix printer as it is that grainy.

The Hosts: The hosts all seem to be in their mid-20s. Just today I realized that the hosts all seem to look exactly alike so as to be interchangeable, especially the two guys. I have no idea what their names are, but one guy definitely likes sweaters with oddly styled collars. Part of me wants to take this guy shopping to help him buy something that isn’t so awkward. The female hosts dress just like every other Georgian woman, which is a discussion I really do not want to get into. Let’s just say that at my school, I am the least dressed up staff member (apparently Birkenstock clogs do not scream “Stylish!” in Georgia) and that students will tell me how great I look just by adding a necklace. Moreover, I often get condescending looks from women on the street or bus over my apparel. I am not making this up. Actual faces of scorn. However, I felt vindicated recently when a Georgian man said that the shoes women wear here remind him of what a “certain type of woman” would wear in Germany. Or the US, as I added.

The News: This is perhaps the best part of the show. The “news” that is reported simply is, and I am not making this up, read from the newspaper. Some production assistant has gone through and highlighted what the host is supposed to read. Basically it is the title and the first paragraph or two. The highlighting is laughable as well. The highlighter is practically dead, and one would think with the money that was not spent on the set, that an adequate highlighter or two would be in the budget. Apparently not. The fact that the “news” is reported this way is a little unsettling, because by this method the show chooses exactly what is told to viewers and often what is reported is taken out of context. Moreover, most Georgians will just accept what is said as the truth as they won’t go to seek out the full story themselves. The partially reported news then becomes the whole story, and is perpetuated as such. On the station I watch daily there is a segment where one of the reporters talks to a retired Georgian dancer or actor or actress. Considering this is a daily segment, it is amazing that they keep finding new dancers to interview.

Turkish Toilets

For the loyal followers of this blog (all 6 of you), you may remember from last year my struggle with the famous (or infamous) Turkish toilets that pervade life in Georgia. One reader even posted a comment asking if I had overcome that. I can honestly say that “Using Turkish toilets is not a skill set I ever thought I would master after getting an MBA, but I can use them now.”

Turkish toilets, for the unacquainted, are simply holes in the ground but holes covered with a lovely porcelain cover, complete with grooves to help hold your feet in place. A thoughtful gesture to be sure. And that is about it. To use it, well, it shouldn’t take much imagination. One just sort of hovers over the opening and hopes for the best. Some places they flush by themselves, however, often you have to fill a little pitcher with water and pour it down the hole. It is awful.

My first experience with a Turkish toilet where I had no choice but to use it came at a wedding hall. Someone felt that they would be a good addition, and I cried the first time I used it because it was so humiliating and degrading. After that fiasco I wrote in my travel journal that the United States should not give any more funding to Georgia until laws are created that stipulate that newly constructed building cannot have Turkish toilets. Since then I have told my friend that wherever she has her wedding reception, it must, absolutely must, have Western toilets. There is no reason for a wedding hall not to have Western ones.

Slowly I learned some new skills to make it easier. Only once have I had a problem with it. Last spring I was at the university, and desperately needed to go. I knew I couldn’t make it to the Sheraton 1.5 blocks away, so I rushed to the Turkish toilet here. At this time the light was out in the little stall, and in my haste I misjudged where my foot was. Um, yeah. I sort of got my foot wet. I was wearing sandals, but they were Chacos, so they could be easily cleaned. They have been through the Zion Canyon Narrows and Keyhole Canyon. They have had worse on them before.

Last spring I came to the realization that I actually have a favorite Turkish toilet. At no point in my life before this could I have conceived that I would someday have a favorite one. While not my preferred toilet type, there is one I don’t mind using. It is the previously mentioned one at the university. Now there are working lights in the stalls, and about 90% of the time there is also soap, paper towels, and running water. However, the bathroom sink is often commandeered by the lazy office staff in that part of the university to wash out their coffee cups. I need to learn to say in Georgian, “This is a bathroom, not a kitchen. Wash your dishes elsewhere!” The coffee grinds from the thick Turkish coffee these women drink often clogs the sink. It isn’t cool. I am pleased to say that coffee cups from my department are washed in the student cafĂ©.

When I was in Istanbul last month, I must admit that I was rather shocked to find out that Turks have Turkish toilets in their homes. I opened up the door to the second bathroom at the apartment where I was staying to be greeted by one. It made sense, yet at the same time it didn’t. They have Western ones too, but everyone seems to prefer to use the Turkish one. Why continues to perplex me. Where I stayed everyone used the Turkish toilet, so I did as well. The water to the Western one wasn’t even turned on. So sad.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Living Without Water

(Editor's Note: I wrote this last week when I was really upset about not having water at my house. It is not one of my more positive or upbeat posts. Sorry.)

Being in Georgia makes one appreciate a lot of what one would have taken for granted at home. I never thought I would be placed in a position in 2011 where in EUROPE I would have to deal with being without water. I like to try and keep the blog positive, but being without such a basic necessity makes one less than pleasant.

It has now been 31 hours that there has not been water at my house. It conveniently went out mid-shower yesterday morning. I had not even had the chance to rinse the shampoo out of my hair when the water abruptly disappeared. My host mother, Nunu, brought some sketchy water to rinse my hair and face with. At first the lack of water was laughable, but now 31 hours later, it is not a laughing matter in the least. I have a 24 hour time limit on being without water I discovered. I should no even have to be without it for a minute.

Westerner will find the reason for the lack of water appalling: It rained. Often in Batumi, when it rains the culinary water supply gets shut off because the entire system is so bad, archaic, and problematic that runoff can easily mix with it. (Or this is at least what I have been able to put together based on what I have been told.) WTF? Rain? In no developed country would a casual rain result in taking about water from people. It would have to be the type of rain that would bring about catastrophic flooding for that to occur. I repeatedly mention this fact to Georgians. Furthermore, I make sure that my friends here who are immigrating to Canada know that they will always have water and despite living in Calgary will always be warm in their home.

The lack of water seems to concern no one but me, which is disturbing itself. The fact that the people of Batumi accept that they should not have water because of rain is unnerving. In any civilized society, the people would have long ago rebelled to ensure that nothing like that would happen. The people would have demanded it. I keep thinking that the people in New York City at Occupy Wall Street have access to clean water. Hell, I have had access to clean, drinkable water in the middle of nowhere Utah when I have been camping! One can get clean, potable water at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! But in the second most important city in an entire county, I cannot be guaranteed that. Again, WTF?

If I were Georgian, I would demand water all the time before any more of the country's money goes to fund ridiculous and hideous architectural projects. (Frozen Fountain and Ministry of Justice I am thinking in your direction). To be a truly developed country, one needs water and power. (And in 2011, Internet all the time). Water, throughout civilization, has been a basic necessity to the survival of the culture. The Romans would probably laugh if they knew why I was currently without water. Moreover, from what I have heard this problem seems to have begun only since Georgia became independent and the Soviet Union fell. Hmmmm...curious. I have also heard from many people that life was better during the days of the USSR. This is probably one of the reason it was better because then they had water.

However, thinking about it, I am A TAXPAYER in this country. I should have just as much of a say as a citizen as to how the country's funds are used. Earlier this year a project was undertaken in Batumi to fix, as it was my understanding, the water and sewer systems. The project supposedly cost $75 million (funded of course with foreign money, from Germany I believe), and I have actually seen a considerable amount of work being done throughout Batumi allegedly connected to this. Last year the street that I currently live on was torn up for months while work was being done. Consequently, one would have thought that I would have water right now. But wait! That is logical! And this is Georgia. Silly Charlotte! Logic is for Americans!

Ultimately, Georgians have no one to blame but themselves. To let such a problem for on for 20 years while public money is being used to fund things not essential for life is unconscionable. Maybe I should start an Occupy Batumi to ensure that water is always available, regardless of weather, to the citizens of this city.

Thankfully the Sheraton always has water, and I am a Westerner who can pass for someone staying there. I can easily slip in and use the facilities there.