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Close to home, half a world away

Statue of Georgian writer Vazha Pshavela with a cloudy sky and flying raven in the background
Vazha Pshavela Statue, Tbilisi, Georgia

Most of my photos of Tbilisi I’ve shared during the past year and a half have been in the historic areas of the city, focusing on those beautiful old buildings and places I’m drawn to. But Tbilisi is like a lot of other cities in the world, layered with different architecture, with neighborhoods that have their own distinct personality. When we first arrived in Georgia, Corie and I moved to Saburtalo, a large section of Tbilisi nestled in a valley. The reason we moved to the neighborhood was simple: an influx of Russians was rapidly changing the rental market, and many apartments were often rented out the same day they were listed. To add to the challenge, we had our two cats, Holmes and Sassy. Following the exercise of patience that apartment searching turned out to be, our agent located an apartment that checked off items on our list; the price was within our budget, and the apartment was set up where Corie and I could write all day without interrupting each other. There were two problems. The landlord wasn’t going to allow cats, and the apartment was about 45 minutes away from all the places we liked to go. We solved the first problem by explaining that Holmes was an elderly cat who just wanted to sleep all day, and Sassy was a lazy cat who just wanted to sleep all day. Neither of them had the energy or desire to destroy the place. With three of our four boxes checked, we moved in. Saburtalo wasn’t as exciting as the other neighborhoods we liked, but public transportation in Tbilisi is very good and very inexpensive. We would make it work. In some ways, Saburtalo feels like a newer part of town with the ongoing construction projects, mostly modern apartment towers. But there’s plenty of surprises too. We found out recently the large grocery store we frequent was built on top of a second-century Roman cemetery. Rest assured, we’ve never run into Latin-speaking ghosts when buying our produce. Even though our neighborhood was different than what we were hoping for, we’ve come to appreciate it. The sidewalks aren’t crowded with the hip and trendy overflowing from the abundance of wine bars, but there’s still enough Tbilisi flavor, with sidewalk produce stands and flower markets, to make us know we’re living in a country much different from the U.S. This week, I took my camera along with me on a walk I take every day. I’ve often told my students that there is potential for photos wherever you are, even in things that are routine. The majority of my walk is along a wide parkway between the east and west lanes of the main boulevard in Saburtalo. The parkway is shaded by mature trees with small playgrounds filled with children and their parents. The neighborhood’s dog owners find it an attractive spot to take their four-legged kids to burn off energy. At dusk, the parkway’s popularity grows, a place where families and friends come together at the end of the day, groups of old men gather to gossip, and elderly women gather to argue about the world today. At the end of the parkway, a prominent statue of Vazha Phsavela, one of Georgia’s beloved writers, stands with its hand outstretched. As I’ve mentioned in a previous newsletter, Phsavela’s writing explores a deep connection with nature, so I think it’s fitting that the statue’s gaze is directed to the sky, the cloud-filled nature high above the city below.

image of a modern building with a cloudy sky in the background
Apartment Building, Tbilisi, Georgia


Mark your calendars!

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I will be giving a live presentation of my images and the stories behind them on Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time at New Mexico Highlands University. If you’re in the Las Vegas, New Mexico area, please join me in the Student Center Room 321. If you’re outside of the Las Vegas area, the talk will be shared on Zoom, the details of which I will share when available.

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