Georgia, My Home
BLOG by Katie Ruth Davies
I came to Georgia 13 years ago, brought by love to a country I’d never heard of (NOT the USA, nor, I was fast to learn, part of Russia!), and whose language I was to stumble over for many a year.
I moved in with my fiance’s Georgian family, suffered their pains as my future father-in-law succumbed to an illness which none of the numerous doctors of the time could diagnose (it turned out to be a simply cyst, and a big failing of a healthcare system which has since very much improved!), celebrated family weddings, gorged on many delicious feasts while surrounded by lovers of too much wine and chacha, and went through a corrupt and one-sided legal battle with a neighbor over a piece of property which he never legally owned…well, let’s say my time here has seen a lot of ups and downs. But out of it, though the rose-tinted glasses were to slip, I got myself three bright, beautiful half-Georgian children and a happy place in a country I call my homeland: Georgia.
I, like many a foreigner who came for just a few months to explore, have had my heart-strings well and truly grabbed. Georgia is beautiful. Georgia is my home.
Georgia is rich in nature, and is rightly proud of its spring and medicinal waters, mountain resorts and skiing, fish-filled lakes, wild mountain rivers for rafting on, black-sandy and pebble beaches, grassy desert plains, religious and military ruins, and city nightlife. It is also rightly proud of its history of winemaking, cuisine, craftsmanship, and legends (the Golden Fleece being just one of them). There is much to see and do here; something for all tastes and ages. For those wanting it, it can be a simple, green country, offering nature, relaxation and curative spas. For those looking for culture, budget holidays or adventure, Georgia can be that too. Numerous world-renowned musicians, opera singers, ballet stars and scientists were born here (pick a celebrity with a surname ending in “shvili” or “dze” and you’ll likely have a Georgian!), a testament to the depth and variety of the land.
Georgia is not perfect, but few countries are. And it has suffered over the centuries at the hands of its neighbours. But it is still here, still surviving with its sovereignty and identity; still strong. What keeps me here is the beauty of the nature; the warmth of the people; the promise of good things to come as the country develops, grows; as it seeks out its place in the region and the world; carving out a niche for itself in agrotourism, export, and as a regional transport hub.
It’s exciting to live in a country that is ever-changing, reigniting historical strengths and connections in the global context, and forging ahead on its Western path with smart legislative changes that make it easier to start (and do) business, to deal with legal disputes, to claim rights as an employee, woman, or member of a minority community. And it’s devastating when political disputes or a carelessly thrown celebrity comment put a negative spotlight on us in the international arena. But in my 13 years here, living under two governments that were both sure in their desire for progress and a Western direction for the country, I can see the forward motion Westwards, and that gives me the confidence to stay and raise my children here.
So what do I do in Georgia? I started out, as many do abroad, teaching English as a foreign language, having trained in the field a few years prior. I then slipped into editing for various civil bodies and private companies, and was picked out to be the new Editor-in-Chief of the Georgia Today newspaper and website in 2014. Seven years on, and with no small thanks to owner George Sharashidze and the team around us, we have launched a new design newspaper, a new website, and a business round-up magazine called GT Business. An independent news agency, our aim is to bring the latest local and regional news, with a sprinkling of international highlights, to the English-speaking community: to those living here, holidaying here, doing business here, investing here, and those abroad keeping an eye on us with fond memories of their time here.
Like Made in Georgia, in my work at Georgia Today, my aim is to promote awareness of Georgia’s strengths, while being transparent about those areas still needing development, so as to perhaps nudge into action those who have the power to make the needed changes for a better society, region and world.
I also work to promote Georgia in my hobbies- ceramics painting. Last year, I teamed up with Master Potter Givi Tatulashvili, who has a studio in Stalin’s birth-town of Gori, and began decorating his various works- from bowls and vases to cups and wine jugs. I paint on these the works of renowned Georgian artists, such as late primitive artist Niko Pirosmanishvili (Pirosmani), ancient Georgian Tablecloth and church ornamentation, and, more recently, the images pressed into silver by 19th century Tbilisian silversmiths. In this way, with these future souvenirs I’m painting, when the borders once again see tourists queuing up to get in and grab their own unforgettable memories of this amazing country, I hope to be able, in some small part, to do my bit to keep Georgia in their hearts when they leave. Or perhaps they’ll fall in love and choose to stay, just as I did.