Monday, October 5

Trip to Georgia

Last week, I was in Telavi/Georgia at a four- day retreat for an event called Model Caucasus Parliament (MCP). I was there as co- facilitator and gave a short presentation (case study) on the topic of putting online media tools to use when it comes to campaigning. For those who are familiar with Model UN, MCP was something similar, except with less countries- three to be precise and less people as well. 
The idea behind MCP is "to generate interest/knowledge in parliamentary democracy among young people in the region, as well as bringing up generation of capable and dedicated leaders who will shape peaceful and prosperous future for the South Caucasus".  

The theme of this particular event focused on campaign management (there was already one event held, there will be one more event following which there is going to be simulation with some of the best participants of all three of these events). There were several guest speakers who gave presentations on various aspects of campaign management. One of my personal highlights was the speaker who told the story of Obama campaign and how it was planned.  

There was another highlight of the trip, and that was a visit to a village- Karajala- 15 minutes outside of Telavi, populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis. 
A little bit about the village:
According to the locals the population of the village is around 8,000 people (Wikipedia says between 8 and 10,000). All are ethnic Azerbaijanis who have lived there for several generations. They speak in Azerbaijani but with a dialect- they all use Georgian as well, so it is more of a mix. 16- year- old son of the village head says there are maybe 3 or 4 Georgian families. 
The education given at the local school at first (1937) was in Turkish and Azeri but since 1996 it has been in Georgian.  The ex- school principal says the quality of education is weak though things have been changing with Saakashvilli. "Friendship among nations emerged" says the principal and so gradually things got better. 

In general people are happy with the life style in the village. Some of the women even said that it is better than in other surrounding villages. “Economically condition is fine. Telavi has 24 villages, and we are the ones who pay highest taxes because people who live here do trade and have better and more income than others. But it is the infrastructure- roads- that are bad”, says the principal of the school.  He also added that they don’t have constant water, which explains water “pit- stops” on the sides of the road.
“The local municipality is useless. The man who is in charge is a baker from Baku and he doesn’t even know how to write an official letter”, says the principal.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. I thought at best, there would be some nice shots and maybe few interviews. Well, it was more than that. 30 minutes into the visit, a woman, whom we (me and journalist Onnik Krikorian) tried to interview told of a wedding that is taking place just five minutes from where we were standing. 
The front yard of the house was crowded with people- neighbors, relatives who came to help. This was just the preparation; the wedding was to take place later in the evening and that was the only the girl’s wedding (according to Azerbaijani traditions there are two weddings- girl and boy, the boy’s wedding is the actual wedding). It all looked like well- planned team work- men were setting up the tables, while women were busy preparing food and washing the dishes. 300 guests were expected to come. 
Several hours into chatting with locals, we got invited to the wedding itself, which was the ultimate experience. There is a slide show presentation that can be watched at:
Looking back at that day, I catch myself smiling, remembering all the tiny details of those few hours spent at the village and of course, MCP- great initiative and an opportunity to meet great people...


Erik Herron said...

Your slideshow and audio commentary (with Onnik's pictures) is fabulous. It is great collaborative work that gives insight into "real life" in the South Caucasus.

Arzu Geybulla said...

Thank you Erik for your positive comments!

Unknown said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Georgia :) interesting report :)

Gavin said...

Cool :-) I visited that church in Kakheti in 2008.. lovely place