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[Readings]

Democracy in Batumi

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By Christina Nichol, from Waiting for the Electricity, her debut novel, published last month by Overlook.

Dear Hillary Clinton:

My name is Slims Achmed Makashvili and i am from the little town called Batumi, on the Black Sea. it is the very small town. So to say, it is beautiful and sunny. It is the town for me.

Batumi is the little town that not many people know about. i know because i looked up Batumi on the Internet and there was only one picture of the palm tree. The tourist wrote, “this town looks like chipped paint.” That is because we are under reconstruction. The local dictator is tearing down the old buildings and making many of the lawns in our town because no one can hide behind a lawn with a gun. In addition, the religious leaders are building 12th century spirituality huts. We are progressing civicly and religiously. We even have a bank. It is shiny and modern bank but has no money left in it. New certification requirement in 1998 decreased the number of banks from 200 to 43. i really think we need little help over here in the farmer land.

But now I will explain to You the more important information about how Batumi is the natural port. Port lies at the end of the railroad from Baku and is used mainly for petroleum product. Our town boasts of eight berths which have total capacity of 100,000 tonnes of general cargo, 800,000 tonnes of bulk cargo, and 6 million tonnes of oil and gas product. Facilities include portal cranes and loaders for moving containers onto rail car. As You can see, Batumi offers You and Your country great business opportunity!

Hillary, i’ll try to write to You more about myself, but i’m not as interesting person as You are, obviously, but still i’ll write something. I love animals, especially fish. Once i had the fish which i called billclinton, but unfortunately it had eaten some poisoned thing and that was the end of his life. And what about You? Do You like animals or have You a pet? We’ve a small garden at home, but mostly i love cactus.

i am the maritime lawyer but personally it is the very dull life. The bosses are old communists and the unfortunate circumstance is that the laws of our country can’t change until they all die off.

Now i wish to ask to You very important question: Have You seen the movie Jesus Christ Superstar? Do You know about the theme song in the movie, “Don’t you mind about the future. Think about today instead.” ?!!(!) We have been living that way for very long time now, for 15 centuries maybe, and i don’t think it’s very good advice. We have freed ourselves from Russia, are holding out our hand, and waiting for help up.

Respecting Your way,

Slims Achmed Makashvili

Dear Hillary,

Your version of Democracy and our version are quite different. Our version means if the leader says something we say, “Yes, you are right!”

By the way, I just read that U.S. Troops, GI Joes, are recently deployed in Georgia, fighting against terrorism :-), training Georgian “commandos” 😉 called Special Operation Caspian Guard, and U.S. is spending 64 million dollars for their training. But do you have any idea who they are fighting against? Perhaps a villager to get access to his potato field to bury an oil pipeline? New government says we are approaching new democracy 🙂 but we just have to wait.

I have some good news to report to you though. You will be happy to know that your own local Center for Democracy in Batumi enlarged their office after they evicted some families who were living in the east wing. They now also have purchased a modern air-conditioning unit which will be useful in the summer.

In other news: thousands of pigs died in my village last month. It was probably a conspiracy by the Turkish pork sellers because our scientists say that Georgian pigs have the best quality of meat. It won’t be a good kingkali year because there’s no pork to put in the noodle. But don’t be so sad, Hillary. It’s nothing.

Dear Hillary,

I take it back. I didn’t mean it. I wanted the law but not like this. I didn’t mean the American law.

Everyone is confused. It’s too complicated, not simple anymore. President Saakashvili is tearing down people’s homes. They must live in the yard. The new government is checking everyone’s papers now, to ensure that they are the official owners of their houses, scouring the countryside for people without papers, trying to implement these new American laws. But in some mountains, like Svanetia, the people have lived in their towers for 1,200 years and now they must show their papers, these proofs of purchase? I can understand if it’s in a town. But the President is requiring this even from the hard workers next to my village, the ones who are living near the border with Armenia. Their land is valuable seaside property, you know.

Everything comes from America now, even this Saturday night live show on TV. They show Playboy pictures and sing about the sexy daughter-in-law in the background. It is important to have something sacred inside. Yes? What is going to happen with this capitalism? I worry. Money makes people crazy and they lose the sacred thing inside. We are not like Turkish people who work all the time. We Georgians believe we were put on this earth to relax, to enjoy the Paradise that God gave us, to have good thoughts and good deeds. It is not noble to think one thing, speak another, write another, and do another. So I will stop writing to you now. Remember me. My name is Slims Achmed Makashvili and I am from the 12th century.

p.s. If your country ever experiences the economic problems that we did, and heads toward a collapse, remember that it happens so quickly. Soon the roads become like the garden. But remember this, when you only think about how to put bread on the table there is no more time for metaphysics, no more time for depression. And if that ever happens, don’t worry, be happy! Soon you will have rich Georgian tourists crazy for American nostalgia.


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July 2014