|Inga and me on the bus to Tbilisi|
Meeting new people is something that seems to happen to me without my trying -- people just introduce themselves to me and start talking. I must exude some kind of "come talk to me" aura. Most of the time, I am happy for the conversation, and Inga was certainly one of the more positive people I have met here in Georgia. She is a typical Megruli woman -- assertive, ambitious, positive, and friendly. After talking about our basic backgrounds -- hometown, family, job, education -- we started talking about Georgia. She is one of the new, modern women with forward-thinking ambitions and progressive ideas that I have been privileged to live around in living with Tea. She was very frank (one of the Megrelian's favorite words in English) about what she does and doesn't like about Georgian traditions and customs. As with Tea, Inga completely dislikes that girls get married so young -- it is not uncommon for Georgian girls to marry when they are only 16 or 17. Back in the days when family and house-keeping were the only things in a woman's future, that may have been fine; but times are changing. The women in Western Georgia seem to be riding the crest of that wave of change, voicing their pioneering opinions loudly for all to hear. Now higher education and careers are taking precedence over young marriage -- at least the women like this new way of living -- from what Inga and Tea have told me, the men still want to hold to the old ways. Many men are not in favor of some of the changes that are happening -- the "Westernization" of their country.
Isn't this the plot of "Fiddler on the Roof"? Or maybe a living-out of the lyrics of Bob Dylan's song...."the times, they are a'changin'..."
Change. It is something that is happening in a strangely radical way here. The present, fledgling government is spear-heading the changes in education and the economy -- they want to join the European Union -- they want to boost tourism to one of the main industries in Georgia -- they want the country to speak English (my reason for being here) -- they want to be Western in thought and action, philosophy and practice. But at the same time, they need to remain Georgian. That is going to be a delicate balance to strike -- and I think that the combination of the ambitious women's acceptance of these changes with the men's dig-their-heels-in resistance, one of two things will happen: either the balance will be struck, or the women are going to take over and run everything leaving the men in the dust of abandoned, Soviet-era backwardness.
In my limited observations, I foresee the women taking over.
Feminism has come to Georgia.