Thursday, July 04, 2013

4 July 2013: Happy Independence Day to Egypt?

4 July 2013

Talk about timely.  Probably at the very moment I was speaking to the Egyptians in front of the Catholic church in Tbilisi on Wednesday the coup was in motion.  I only learned about it this morning (Thursday) shortly before leaving on our day trip.  I opened a few articles on my iPad and Kristin and I read up as much on it as possible during our two hour bus ride.  It is interesting to note that some news sources are calling it a coup while others are hesitant to use that word.  Moursy was apparently given a 48 deadline by the military to 1) regain control of the country (BBC) or 2) meet the demands of opposition (CNN).  Slightly different spin.  CNN's coverage seemed more sympathetic to Moursy and the Muslim Brotherhood, depicting the anti-Moursy raids on the Brotherhood in slightly condemning tones.  BBC's spin gave legitimacy to Moursy's ouster.  

Egypt did not/does not have the proper institutions in place necessary for a problem-free democratic political transition.  Surely.  And yet I am saddened that Egyptians have lost their chance to collectively express their displeasure with Moursy and remove him from power democratically.  Could they have done it? Would the Brotherhood have conceded defeat if, indeed, the popular vote was against their candidate?  We will never know.  I am anxious for Egyptians to voluntarily refrain from rioting so that casualties are low and we can start this process once again.  Military transitional rule, campaigns, new elections.  NO repeat (hopefully).

I am intrigued to see these events will influence the outcome of my paper for this class. All those I interviewed expressed the desire to return to Egypt and declared the intention to do so if policies regarding minorities changed.  There  is always the possibility that the right candidate will present him (or her!) self and unite moderate and fundamentalist Muslims in a way that allows for equal rights for Christians.  And yet a coup is not exactly an indicator of a positive change and I expect Georgia's Egyptian diaspora will remain here for the time being IF Georgia will let them.  The folks I met at the church yesterday explained that visas must be renewed annually and that Georgia's once welcoming visa-free regime is tightening.  My new Coptic friends told me that the worry that their visas may not be renewed hangs over them, considering the investment they have made to come and set up businesses here.  Someone within their community may be in a position to assume control over (for example) their little store but still--the lost of time and money to the immigration project would be tragic.

As for the events of my day--today was yet another Independence Day spent abroad.  And what a memorable one it was!  Like our trip to the Caucasus mountains, I was not initially thrilled over the prospect of a vineyard tour and wine tasting.  I am neither a wine drinker nor a wine culture enthusiast and figured I would rather spend by precious time in Georgia in Tbilisi, on the ground, talking with and learning about Georgians.  This is how I felt before we traveled to the Caucuses and I learned for that trip that Georgia has much more to offer than Tbilisi.  Thea's enthusiasm, as well, was infectious. So, after an even earlier than normal run about the Hippodrome, Kristin and I excitedly joined our entire group on a tour bus headed to eastern Georgia and the wine country.

Our first stop was the convent (and monastery?) at at Bodbe.  The church in Bodbe is the traditional burial place of St. Nino, the woman who brought Georgia Christianity.  She reportedly came from present-day Turkey and walked about Georgia in her bare feet, spreading the good news.  Nino is revered in Georgia and seemingly half the women in this country are named for her. 

The grounds and surrounding view from the church were exquisite.  See my pictures on Facebook!  I have never been to Greece of Italy but the many tall Cyprus trees and low stone fences gave the place that old world charm you would expect from those Western European countries.

Naturally, the property has a holy spring!  We descended the mountaintop by a long staircase and found the spring a hive of commercial activity.  Several lari (the Georgian currency) will get you a white tunic and the opportunity to submerge yourself three times in the frigid water.  A few in our group did it, including our professor and trusty translator Katie.  As for me, I was satisfied with drinking from the water, spilling continuously from a spigot separate (!) from the bathing water.  It was cold and delicious.

Our trip to the winery and vineyard in Sighnaghi was magical.  The owner and "mother" of the wine--John--gave us a tour and treated us to the most delicious meal I've had here in Georgia.  The bread: grown from their own home-grown wheat and proofed not with industrial yeast but with fermented wine by-product. The sunflower oil, which was featured in all the dishes: grown and pressed on the premises.  The meal: fried eggplant, roasted rosemary potatoes, wax beans, Lobio (brown beans), Mediterranean salad, veal stew.  The winery building: rustic, picturesque, filled with art, books, rugs, artifacts, and bottles of wine.  We were treated to a performance of polyphonic singing.  This type of singing features four voices in harmony within the parameters of a very specific melodic scale (I couldn't tell you which) and is accompanied by specific instruments and a drum.  Several among the group of singers leapt up and began to dance as well!  Loved it.

Marvelous day!  Long.  We are still on the bus and it is 10:30pm

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