11.01.1997

Georgia on my mind

Another one from the archives: Written circa October'97 after I returned from Belarus --> India --> and then hit the Bible belt.
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The black side of my project experience in the former Soviet Union of Belarus is now clear to me. I suspect, alas, that my professional life may have hit it's peak of excitement a little too early. That is not to say that there are no more challenges or lessons, but wacky adventures in bizarro-land are going to be hard to come by. (I joke, though I recently got an e-mail from my interpreter who says that though he is not willing to immigrate at the age of 45, it may be a wiser option than jail, for it seems that premier Lukashenko has gone off the left edge, being entangled in a skirmish with Yeltsin and the Duma at the same time). The point is that a project in rural Georgia with noveau-yuppified gasping-in-the-wake-of-recent-multiculturalism red-necks leaves little scope for adventure, the high life here refers to golf tournaments. It is a great place for Chandreyee to practice driving, and of course there was the man in the Macon mall who offered me phone numbers of a service that will (for a price) deliver jalebi and alu paratha to my apartment. However, other than being stopped by an MP (that’s military police, not member of any sabha-shabha) for doing 30 miles per hour in a 20 mile zone, and being caught without proper insurance requirements (I had left my rental car agreement in the office and the officer gave me a warning and an order to go back and pick up my papers), life has been slow. Where is the espionage, the cloak and dagger days? When I was severely warned by the Air Force against taking ANY pictures of aircrafts, my heart leapt. I later realized that you could stand immediately outside of the Base fence and take photographs, as many as you want, B&W, color, Kodak Advantix !!! In front of me, a lake drained of water stinks of dead fish, while people scurry to put de-odorifying powder. The resident ducks have all vanished (the lake is called Duck Lake). Some of the site workers have seen diamond back rattlesnakes, one was stung by a bee, I sit and watch cobwebs form on book-shelves.

I persevere to make the most of it. I play tennis (which is a nice change in late October, it’s been a while that I have spent winter in a warm clime). I also went to a REAL country fair. We dined on corn-dogs and elephant ears, washed down with fresh lemonade. We saw cows the size of baby stegosauruses at a milking competition with mechanical “milkers”. A huge barn was full of llamas of every variety, and rabbits had arrived from Angora, Australia and the Himalayas. I lost a suitable amount of money trying to win soft toys and argued with stall owners. On a minor note, I packed in a little excitement at the Ferris wheel, aka the Gentle Giant (I have a weak stomach !). Of course, they did not sell any beer at the fair. As a colleague mentioned “I’m surprised that there wasn’t a big Baptist church set-up in the middle”. On the main street in Warner Robins, the slogan on the Lutheran Church says “I read the last page of the Bible, and it’s all going to turn out fine.”
Amen to that !!

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