Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Tbilisi

Bless my crusty Beltway soul; I've finally got the heebie-jeebies about moving over yonder. It's not what you think: I'm not especially scared of runaway Chechen rebels or separatist violence or even petty street crime. I live in DC, yo. And while I don't promise not to whine about it, I'm basically fine with spotty electricity and water outages and misogyny spiked with machismo and awful roads and a complete absence of the queuing gene. Look, I'm not immune to life's comforts and my sole survival skill is knowing how to tread water for a long time so I'd last for approximately zero in the wild, but I've bathed without complaint in the brown cholera-prone waters of Dushanbe and stared down the bleak end of unspeakable outhouses, so what we don't have here is Cindy Lou Who about to step into the Terrordome is what we don't have.

A few weeks ago, however, I was speaking with one of the returning grantees from Georgia and he mentioned something that has only now wormed its way through my skull to join cockroaches and shellfish in activating the terror trigger of my brain. Said he: "I think the biggest personality change I had to make in Georgia was learning to speak absolutely sincerely and passionately from the heart, at the drop of a hat. There is no sarcasm in Georgia."


I'd chalked up to language barriers the funny looks I got every time I tried to crack a joke on my last visit to Tbilisi. No sarcasm? My entire system of interpersonal communication: out the window. The caustic bitter foundation for my entire worldview rendered unintelligible. It's just unthinkable. I mean, what happens if you airdrop a hipster into Georgia? Does he just implode? I suppose I made the cardinal sin of mentally equating Georgian humor with Russian humor, which is delightfully wicked and cutting and ironic. But the Georgians apparently are pure and earnest as the blessed promise of a new day. Sorry. Just practicing.

If nothing else, I'm keeping this site up to exercise my sarcasm muscle, and please do call my shit out if I get all, you know, sincere.


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