Monday, May 26, 2008

Tbilisi - Gateway to Georgia

A crucial first step as a short-term observer (STO) during an election observation mission (EOM) - besides learning all the acronyms and abbreviations - is to get oriented to your new surroundings.

This usually isn't too hard when you first arrive. Most of the STOs have flights routed through a common airport in central Europe - this time, Munich - and make up the majority of passengers on the connecting flights into the capitol city of the country we're working in. We're met at our destination by the logistics team of the OSCE, who have buses waiting to take us to our hotels.

View from my window at the Marriott

Saint George - namesake of Georgia - slaying the Dragon

Members of the mission are usually scattered among the largest hotels in the city - in Tbilisi, the Sheraton and the Marriott - plus a few smaller ones, and our first day is dedicated to overcoming the jet-lag. Of course, this gives us a bit of time to socialize with our fellow STOs and do some local sightseeing.

After getting caught up on my sleep, I decided to go to a local open-air market with my roommate - a retired Foreign Service officer named Frank Crump from Virginia. Neither of us speaks Georgian, but Frank picked up Russian somewhere along the way, which helped us get where we were going.

The open-air market in Tbilisi isn't too different from the farmers markets that I've been to in places like Santa Monica, Gig Harbor, and Olympia - full of goods and produce from local vendors, the sights, sounds and smells of which were a great introduction to the way people live in Georgia...





Frank, buying Georgian cheese - which is quite salty

After exploring Tbilisi, we had a series of briefings on the political environment and election procedures that we would be observing, and received our deployment assignments - which will be the subject of my next post...

More to come...


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