Saturday, August 21, 2010
I forgot that I promised a picture of stray puppies. So there you are. Now go cry your eyes out, emotional Americans.
Pets and the way Americans treat them in society has always fascinated me, particularly dogs. There's a great Jerry Seinfeld joke about dogs:
Dogs have no money. Isn't that amazing? They're broke their entire lives. But they get through. You know why dogs have no money? No pockets.
That really doesn't have much to do with what I wanted to wax about, but it's funny nonetheless. But stray animals and the lack of awareness or concern towards them seems to be a consistent concern for Americans who travel into developing countries. How can they do that, right? I'll be honest, part of it pops up into my mind (I love me some dogs, I'm looking at you, Anna Belle and Lando), but I'm not about to start a non-profit. There are so many bigger issues, but I'm not going to get up on a soapbox right now. I'll use a common analogy for people who follow sports and don't really think that hard about social justice: Mike Vick went to jail, Dante Stallworth got probation.
But in Georgia, there are stray dogs everywhere. They roam the streets, parking lots, old buildings, the patios of pubs, etc. Some are dangerous, some may even have rabies, but generally they do their own thing. They don't want to bother you, and for the most part, I feel no need to bother them. It is what it is.
Is it my dream to adopt one and bring them back to the states where they can enjoy organic dog food and upscale bakeries? Like any other hipster white person, of course. But sometimes I appreciate the lack of worship that other cultures have towards their pets. Although when I see dead dogs on the side of the road, and even see a dog get run over by a car going 50 km/h only for the driver to stop just to make sure his fender wasn't dented... sometimes I want to call PETA.
I asked Nino about our host families possibly having pets, and she said that most of them will probably have a dog or cat, but that the whole ownership aspect is flimsy. Pets are not allowed in the house, and even in the rare case that they are, no way in the bedroom and don't even dream about letting them on the bed (for someone who enjoys snoozing with a pooch near my feet, this was tough to swallow). But it's their culture and society; I have to respect it. To each their own.
Quick note on Nino (common name for Georgian women); she's awesome. I wish I could sit down with her and find out her entire story, but she's a pretty busy woman. I can't really put into words how hard she works for us (50 strangers who can, at times, be quite unmanageable). But she answers every question we might have, and if she doesn't know the answer, she finds someone who does. She's incredible and has a huge heart with a fantastic sense of humor (loves to make fun of Georgians). The even crazier part, she got her masters degree from Vanderbilt. I thought only douchers in Oliver Peoples spectacles went there?
Anyways, there's heaps more subjects that I'm sure I'll write about in the next ten months, but at least I've tackled one... stray dogs. But there's so many fascinating aspects of Georgian culture: the women, men (and their odd custom of relaxing with their shirt pulled up over their gut; I hope to have a picture soon), driving, supras, gender roles, food, wine, etc... But I feel like I'll have a better perspective on it when I get outside of Kutaisi.
One last thing I can say that few people realize and was quite refreshing to me. Georgians like Americans. How crazy is that? Almost everywhere I've been, foreign perspective on Americans has mostly ranged between indifference to disgust (things have gotten better since Obama was elected; say what you want about his politics, but he's quite popular abroad). Georgians love Americans (and to be fair, almost all of that is due to G.W. Bush); that's what I had heard before I got here, and in the few experiences I've had while here, it's been spot on.
I don't want to build up my expectations too much, but from everything I've heard, I expect a pretty amazing welcome in Banza. I keep thinking of when Vito Corleone returns to Corleone, Sicily in Godfather II. You know... except for the whole knifing of local mafia chieftain Don Ciccio; I'd rather try to avoid those types of interactions.
Hopefully I'll have something more worth while to say tomorrow. Until then...
(PICTURES: The dogs are strays from Tbilisi and Kutaisi, while the sunset was taken in Batumi along the Black Sea Coast)