Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How do you know your child is Georgian?

Georgia on My Mind.

I was walking down a side street yesterday in central Lima when I spotted, of all things, a small cardboard display on a table at a shop front for souvenirs, one thing I never would have thought to see anywhere on earth, having looked, actually, in many places for many years. I saw, among other things, a flag patch of the Republic of Georgia. I was laughing. I bought two for a dollar or so. I asked the girl at the shop if she had FYROM, Jugoslavia, which she had never heard of. She knew nothing, unsurprisingly, of Georgia. She was happy, and I was ecstatic. Later in the evening I sewed on patch onto the crown of my new black baseball cap. I pricked myself a few times. Who would think I would find a patch of Georgia in Peru? WOW!

This morning I woke and went to the rooftop to make coffee on a hotplate there, and as I was boiling water I was joined by a Japanese lad who saw my cap and asked if I'm from Georgia. I said no, I'm from America, and then, to my surprise, he said he had been in Georgia last year. We talked about Georgia for an hour while I had coffee in Peru. This is pretty strange, or else I am way out of the loop in the lost decade of being settled down sort of. Ten or so years ago Georgia was a mountainous wilderness few people would venture to from fear, rightly felt, of being killed if not robbed on top of it by bandits. And it was difficult to get visa. But how things must change in this rapidly expanding Modernity. All morning I had Georgia on my mind, and part of the reason I find this so utter amusing is that in packing for this journey around the world, if I should last, I tossed, without thinking, a map of Georgia into my pack where it has settled to the bottom to be useless for a long time. I don't know what I was thinking when I threw it in there. I don't think I could be farther away from Georgia if I tried. And to meet, a matter of hours after having found a patch, a young man who had been there recently was some kind of wonder to me.

I left my hotel and went to buy a few supplied, mangoes and bread and such, and as I was crossing the plaza to the supermarket down the road an old man chatted me up in English. I decided that even though he was a street hustler I needed some time away from speaking Spanish, if only for a few minutes. He told me he has a school for orphans up the north of the country, which he eventually asked me to donate to, and which I politely declined, saying that I am working my way to an orphanage in South Sudan and need all my money to get there. The strange thing is that when he approached my and spoke English he asked if I am from Russia. He then chatted about Georgia, obviously something he picked up as a way to hit on tourists, street hustlers like him and Obama having a sack full of sly come-ones for any occasion. I had at that point spoken to four or five people in the day, and two of then spoke to me about Georgia.

To end this story on a note I think is amusing, I was coming out of the store when I bumped into an English couple in their early 30s, and I said excuse me (con permiso). The guy looked at my cap and whispered to his companion loudly enough for me to hear, "Bloody yanks."

Now, anyone who knows anything knows that I can pass easily for a Georgian. Why? Because my front teeth are gold.

It's an appropriate joke here: How do you know your child is Georgian?

His first tooth is gold.

1 comment:

truepeers said...

It's hard to believe a street hustler in Peru would have much experience with Georgians, but who knows. I think people know that flag for the same reason the Brits dissed you: its evocative symbolism is always already telling a story. Maybe that hat will show you some neat ways how significant Christianity remains for many outside of London/New York. Reminds me of the Flag of Montreal (Georgia: Quebec with a multiculti twist).

There are certain flags that grab attention. The Canadian red maple leaf, for example, is really exciting to the Chinese, for some reason. At this time of year the leaves are turning and carpeting lawns. There are some red maple leaf drop zones near me and it never fails on a sunny autumn day: you walk by and some Chinese family is snapping photos amidst the red, presumably to send home. Unfortunately, when the Canadian foreign minister recently visited with our new Islamist buds in Libya, they were lacking in their ability to reproduce our maple leaf. But they knew they had to try (unless it was some kind of inside the Umma joke).