Linda: Setting feet in Tbilisi

After a night in a brand new posh Tbilisi airport, took a train from fake-golden train station to Tbilisi centre in a nonsmoking train with a chain-smoking conductor.

Decided to stay at Dodo's place.
Dodo- 62 years old lady, homestay owner/manager. Witty, helpful, good-humoured, sarcastic, strong, wise, learned English "by doing".
One of her first questions: "Are you married? No? I have some handsome boys staying in the next room, come and look, maybe you like! But listen!- Choose a husband with pockets full of money!"

Stayed in one room with an 75 years old English traveller, who was trekking Great China wall last week and now was enjoying Georgian mountains. "My body is strong and healthy- I have to use it!" I wish I was like him when I am 75. Everyone at Dodo's loved him.

First traditional lazy coffee/tea morning at the courtyard with Flavian and Gabriele- two Swiss guys travelling through Iran-Azerbaijan-Armenia-Gerogia, listened to their eye-witness stories about the unrests in Iran.

Went walking on Rustaveli and Old town. Accidentally found Ministry of Foreign affairs and used the chance to enquire about the location of our embassies, which were marked with care on our barely discernable Tbilisi map.

Walked up Mt. Mtatsminda- the one with a TV tower, that boasts fancy sci-fi style "sending messages to space" illumination at night and a refurbished leisure park with lots of rollercoasters, where Marta got a warning from a security guard for putting her feet into a fountain.

Spent evening in the company of Flavian, Gabriele and two Georgian girls at Bambi street cafe in Old town.
Mariam-emancipated 25 years old girl working for women empowerment NGO. A great teller about gender issues in Gerogia, and the issues are plenty- from bride stealing to family violence to discrimination at workplace. One of the main causes is high unemployment among males. After the collapse of USSR many of them lost their highly respectable jobs and unlike women, who were ready to start small businesses and doing jobs like cooking, baking bread, cleaning, handicrafts etc., they would not accept any low ranking job. This situation creates enormous pressure on women, who are often the only providers for family income and still have to do all housework and take care of children and serve their husbands (as this is a tradition here), who often turn to alcohol, hang around on streets all day in groups playing nards and let their frustration out by being agressive towards their wives and children. Mariam illustrated this by saying that among her peers- university graduates in their mid 20s- almost all females work, while hardly any males are employed.
Mariam had done her theses research on bride kidnapping and surprisingly enough her conclusions were that in the generation of her mother most of the married women were kidnapped by their future husbands and were not given choice to say "no" to the marriage. Although this tradition is diminishing in today' s Georgia, kidnapping still happens albeit more often than not with the consent of the bride. Usually the kidnapped girls are around the age of 16. (A fact that made Marta and me feel safe of being kidnapped as at our age we are way too old for being considered a good match, and most often we are looked at with pity about not being married yet.)
I wondered how does free-minded Mariam deal with the social pressures of this strictly religous (orthodox christian) and patriarchal society- she's also 25, not married, easy going and rebellious feminist, who often receives condemning and outright rude remarks on her behalf. "I have a feminist mother and a support group- my friends," she answered.

Georgian girls went to see Bergman' s movie, while we set out to eat at a local restaurant- as recommended by Dodo and French couple (who also joined)- we the only foreigners entertaining grumpy waitresses by our picky orders of various sorts of khinkalis, badrijanis, kamas, puris and home-made wine on tap in Russian. Got kicked out, when it closed at 21:00.
Continued to Acid bar- most rememberd by its great toilet design and our conversations on physics. Got kicked out when it closed around midnight.
Continued with tea at Dodo's courtyard joined by Niklas from Sweden. Went to bed at 4:00.

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