This blog does not represent the position of the United States government or the Peace Corps as to any matter. All expressions of fact or opinion contained herein are solely those of Mark and Lisa Lebowitz and of no one else.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Concert.....................................

A couple of weeks ago we had a concert in Zugdidi which was sponsored by the American Embassy. It was a concert put on by an American jazz pianist named Dan Tepfer. This kind of stuff doesn't happen often here, and the concert hall (a/k/a the movie theater) was packed. As Peace Corps volunteers, we were contacted in advance and asked if we wanted to invite any particular people from the community to the concert. I'm proud to say that 53 of the approximately 250 to 300 people in attendance were our invitees. I didn't think we knew that many people! Unfortunately, Lisa had to be out of town on the day of the concert, so she didn't get to go, but I did, and it was very interesting experience from a cultural perspective. First of all, as is the case with every scheduled event in Georgia, it didn't start on time. Georgians are notorious for showing up late, and the concert was no exception. I wasn't keeping my eye on the clock, but it was at least an hour after the scheduled time before the concert actually got underway. Just prior to Mr. Tepfer getting started, there was a brief introduction (in Georgian) by someone from the Embassy. Everyone was reminded to turn their cell phones off or to put them into the "discreet" mode so they wouldn't cause a distraction during the concert. However, telling a Georgian to turn off their cell phone is the same as telling another person to sacrifice their first son. Notwithstanding the very emphatic request which was made, cell phones continued to ring (loudly), AND CONVERSATIONS CONTINUED TO ENSUE, all through the concert. Only in Georgia!

The music itself was a bit too avant garde for me, but I am not really a jazz aficionado, so it may have been perfectly fine for someone who knew what it was they were listening to. In any event, toward the end of the concert Mr. Tepfer asked if anyone had any requests, whereupon a portly woman made her way to the stage and, in Georgian, said that she wanted to play a piece of her own! Somewhat befuddled, Mr. Tepfer found his way to a seat and the portly woman began to play. Surprisingly, she was quite good, and at the end of her number she got a loud round of applause from the audience. I didn't get a chance to speak with Mr. Tepfer after the show, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that it was the first time in his career when, upon asking if anyone had a request, it was suggested that he sit down and allow someone else to play!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Three Things: Two Good, One Bad..........................

This is a quick update.

On Friday night at about 9:30, our host father knocked at our door and excitedly asked us to come outside. He had just received a call which alerted him to the fact that the city was about to "power up" the streetlights (quechebis naturebi) which have been in the process of being installed over the past month or so (which is a very short time by Georgian standards) along our street (which is normally pitch black at night). We all went out and waited for just a few minutes before the streetlights began to flicker and then to slowly increase in intensity (sodium vapor?) until the street was brightly illuminated. Of course, everyone else came out of their houses also, and before long there was a veritable street party going on. It's great! They are supposed to stay on all night, and now we don't have to fear falling in open manholes on our way home after dark!

A second good thing happened almost at the same time. All of a sudden we began to notice the presence of large silver dumpsters along many of the streets. I don't know why they are there or who they are for, but we have been using them to dispose of our garbage over the past few days, and it seems like everyone else is too (they are always full). Maybe the availability of these dumpsters will cause people to burn less garbage, which always includes millions of plastic bottles and bags and causes a foul smell for blocks in every direction.

The third thing is a bad thing. Over the weekend, someone broke into my office and stole two computers. My office is on the 4th floor (walkup) of a building that has locks on all of the doors and separate locked metal gates on the entrances to each of the floors. In addition, there are always 2 security guards on duty in the building 24 hours a day. All I can think of is that it was either an inside job or it happened while the guards were napping. The locked front door to our office was broken down and the computers were carried down four floors on the way out. I guess this experience also settles an issue that Lisa and I have had. In the summer here it gets beastly hot, and we have no air conditioning. I like to sleep with the windows (first floor) of our room open to get what little air there is, but our host family told us that we should keep the windows shut. With another summer approaching, Lisa has been saying that we really need to keep the windows shut this summer (easy for her to say when its not so hot at the moment), but I have been resisting (knowing what it's like). In view of the recent experience at my office, I guess I will just have to give in on this one.