So, it has been another action packed day of, urm…..decorating! Painting my new bedroom to be precise, but I have also finished marking the end of term Geography exam papers at last, hoorah! I’ve even had a shower, and having just realised that it is already midnight (but still ‘early’ by Georgian standards), I plan to have a chilled evening watching some DVDs, eating homemade popcorn (a Georgian staple, which you can even buy on the street for a couple of pence), and drinking imported Cadburys Hot Chocolate, coated in marshmallows thanks to a lovely Christmas present from my cousin. Today is also Georgian Christmas and most Orthodox Georgians will be at church the whole night, and then continuing with the fireworks of the past week until Georgian New Year’s Eve which I believe is on the 14th January.
New Year’s Eve (The one at the end of December)
That was a totally crazy one, actually quite scary as there really were fireworks just exploding EVERYWHERE and one of the things yet to hit Georgia is the concept of health and safety. I dread to think how many accidents there are in the country during the firework period, which seems to be most nights at the moment, as well as people who seem to think its fun to throw poppers everywhere, and also to fire guns for apparently no real reason in the street. Unless I have just become a safety conscious old lady, which is also very likely! Or maybe as a result of working in a busy accident and emergency department for way too long?
Anyways, one of the other ‘foreigners’ who teaches at school, just so happened to make a video of the fireworks from his apartment in Tbilisi on New Year’s eve, so now you can enjoy the full spectacle for yourself….enjoy…
and another that I just found on youtube, I’m guessing taken from Turtle Lake. The golden church you can see is Sameba which looks really beautiful from my street, especially when I am on my way to school early in the morning and the sunrises just behind it:
I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous about a house being damaged in all my life, and we certainly took a few firework hits in our little yard. So it was no surprise really, that our 50 year old neighbour died of a heart attack. Although to be fair, I think he had been sick for a while and had just returned back to Georgia from Moscow and died in his chair at home on New Year’s Eve. Street has been fairly hectic since then, lots of men daily gathered in a group outside the house, smoking and looking sombre (more than normal, and in black as normal). Typical Isla though, decides that she really needs to go outside for a wee, and from a whole street, decides to stop RIGHT IN FRONT of said group of sombre looking men, and does the biggest wee I have ever seen. It went on FOREVER! God knows what they were thinking, but maybe it was her way of paying her last respects. Why is it that dog’s can squat so proudly as if they are happy to have such a crowd to perform to when peeing?? Is that all dogs, or just Iggys??? Anyway, once she started there was no stopping her, and I was for once glad that I was a foreigner, although I did walk quickly past them on the way back to avoid their very confused looks!
Death in Georgia is quite an affair though, with gatherings at certain points after the death, and lots of visits and rituals from friends, family, and neighbours. I think the day after the death, then 7 days after, 14 days after, 40 days after, and a year. So we have just had the big march along the street too. Ladies whailing, but still managing to walk along the cobbles in ridiculously high heels, and a little boy at the front leading the procession and carrying a photo of the loved one. A very slow walk, which usually goes to the church, but this time they walked to the end of the street and then into cars to take them to the ceremony. So the street has been a strange mix of New Year celebrations and sombre atmosphere the past week. But the Georgian New Year hasn’t been yet, just the other one.
Anyway, even more randomly, I just came across this footage of the Tbilisi Metro on New Year’s Eve, looks like Rustaveli, but will give you a little insight into life here in Georgia. It is never usually this busy, only on weekends and holidays:
Excitement for the Coming Year
I have to say I am very excited about Oceans Project and 2012 so far, we have so many things happening and if all goes to plan it is going to be an amazing year. Just hope it all goes smoothly! Eartwatch just sent these pictures to us, after we had a big meeting at the Royal Geographical Society in London with Earthwatch, Paul Rose from BBC Oceans, and lots of other folk involved with Oceans Project, sure they won’t mind us sharing them with you:
Well, anyway, decorating and pottering around the house and doing very mundane things which allow you just to switch off for a while, always seem to help me when I am trying to process things or come up with mad hat ideas. And today was no different. I’m still on the line of developing a joint project with a zoo and geography focus, but have been focusing this down a little more.
One of the things that we need as part of our application for the Land Rover bursary is a catchy title. Recent projects have included ‘Glacier in a Greenhouse’, ‘Lattitude’, and more recently ‘Atlantic Rising’. We met with the Atlantic Rising team back in November and were really inspired by the expedition that they undertook, and you can see a little clip of what they did here:
So far, our team are struggling to come up with a good name, and names so far have included ‘Project 64’, ‘Planet 64’, ‘Team Three’, and well, that is about it so far. The idea of 64 was based on the fact that 2012 is Land Rover’s 64th birthday! The title is crucial as it should really sum up what your project is about, make people curious, but also be memorable somehow.
Whilst decorating today, the idea of the Caucasus Geography Programme/Project came to mind, but isn’t massively exciting, although it does kind of say what we are about. So, if you can help us to come up with a catchy team name, that would be ace. We have three team members so far, and space for a fourth member, so are looking for suggestions for the fourth person, dependent on the final focus of the expedition, should we be lucky enough to get funded for it. Or we could just stay as the three of us. All three of us are involved in Oceans Project, one is a School Director from my school, and one is a zoo keeper and conservational biologist. So we have a really good mix of abilities and strengths right now, and we need to make sure that the fourth person is someone who we can all get along well with whilst we are on the road.
Thinking about things further today, in particular, about my geography lessons, I was wondering how we could make the main focus of the project, about the Caucasus, but still linking my Geography lessons with the zoo, but benefitting a range of people.
And I think I have narrowed things a little more. Whilst on the road and during term time, we planned to visit schools, and I think this would be a great opportunity to give a lesson about the geography and wildlife of the Caucasus. But whilst on the journey we try and meet with as many conservational educational programmes at zoos, etc as we can so that we can find out what tools they are using to teach young people. And we can use those to help us to develop our educational projects here long term. Since we have to pick the Land Rover from London, we still go with our original plan to drive to Georgia, but following two of the main rivers which run into the Black Sea, so the Danube and the Dunar. The third main river runs through Russia, so it will be difficult for us to get visas and access between Russian and Georgia unfortunately.
However, we spend less time on the journey to and from Georgia, but more time in the field once we get to Georgia, visiting the Caucasus countries and working with people who are already involved in projects with our animals of interest. Realistically it will be difficult to capture specimens for the zoo, but there is no reason why we cannot try to take photos or video footage of them, or to try and set up camera of video traps to try and add to current data on them. We may even be able to leave the camera traps with those conservationists already working on those projects, thus benefitting them too.
For my geography lessons, I will instead take a topic each week, but base it on animals of the Caucasus rather than the world, so that the young people are learning more about where they live and the species under threat here. Those specimens which they already have at the zoo, we can visit and learn about more, and make videos of in captivity, but they will hopefully raise the plight of those already considered close to extinction in the wild.
If we do things in this way, we are promoting the Caucasus to schools outside of Georgia, but also promoting the Caucasus to those who live here, and adding to the data pool of the biodiversity here. This makes a lot more sense, and will be great to explore more of Georgia, but also the River Danube Delta and the countries whose lives are based around the rivers which run into the Black Sea and affect the nature here. When you start to read about the nature here and it being one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, it is astounding to realise that more than 25% of the flora and fauna here is endemic, and there is also a vast mix of terrain too, as well as the highest settlements in Europe, and many places are still, as yet, unexplored.
Am sure that things will progress further, the more decorating I do, but I would be very interested to hear from others involved in conservation of the Caucasus, and also who work in schools across Europe and would be interested in joining the children from our schools.