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It’s been a strange few days. The lockdown in Georgia has gotten a lot more serious, and in general, I think people are beginning to understand why it’s happening. And with understanding comes more compliance.

First there was a lady in the village of Marneuli who was diagnosed with covid. She had apparently been quite the busybody, going to the celebrations of the annual Azeri New Year (Marneuli is mostly ethnically Azeri), Novruz Bayram, then running off for the anniversary feast of a deceased friend. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, there was news of a Jehovah’s Witness in Zugdidi who had caught the virus. He refused to tell the government who he had been with (I guess for fear of ratting out his fellow Witnesses). On top of that, like any good JW, he was handing out flyers to who knows how many people, each one of those flyers having been handled by his unwashed hands…

Amidst all this, there was the ongoing controversy with the Church. Though many churches did willingly follow some social distancing measures, for the most part they were crowded and pressed inside the chapels (having to make room for the masses of media cameras and crew didn’t help). The Church also made it clear that they would continue using their single spoon during the Eucharist, saying that the Body of Christ was enough to purify the spoon. Other Orthodox Churches throughout the world have since switched to disposable spoons or said you can bring your own, but the Georgians have been very adamant about not following the recommendations of the health officials that seem to have taken charge of the country. Instead of understanding these recommendations for safety, they’ve tried to turn it into a war against the Church. A strange and bizarre time to take on the victim complex, unless they’re actually and literally wanting to become victims…

The thing is though, it would have been possible to get the health message across without it becoming confrontational. Instantly the media picked up on it, and atheists were at the front bashing organized religion and so on, which immediately made the religious posture into an overzealous defensive stance. There are Orthodox sects that don't even use spoons, so spoons are clearly not necessary. But they could have dropped that point and just highlighted the distancing measures – people can get sick by simply breathing the same air, or coughing next to each other. Many Orthodox faithful have already died in Italy in this regard, no spoon sharing required. This is what prompted the Russian Patriarch Kirill to tell people to stay and pray at home (a day later, the Georgian Patriarch announced the same... curious timing that).

Trinity Church (Sameba), main cathedral of Georgian Orthodoxy

When people deal with each other, they approach others with their own set of givens and understandings, often not trying to understand where the other person is coming from. At this point, it's not about winning an argument, it's about saving lives. We have to step back from our own posturing and confrontation in order to get through to the other side. If it means for an atheist to cease his argument, "Your silly spoons won't help, there is no God, you will die!" then obviously that's not going to help either. A religious person would rather die in their commitment to their faith, than to allow an atheist to win on the grounds of there not being a god. And of course, atheists can't understand that either...

Dealing with an entrenched religious organization and a growing realization that Georgian citizens were not going to be able to keep to social distancing on their own, the government decided to declare a State of Emergency. They set up checkpoints outside the major cities, and made a rule that you can’t be in public with more than three people (including in cars, including the driver). Some areas have even ingeniously thrown in the mask rule, to be followed while in a car, because it will obviously help you in filtering out all the recycled air of the people you live with.

Life during coronatime

The rules are understandably strict. No going out for any reason but grocery shopping and visiting the pharmacy or to work at a set of approved locations. No gatherings of more than three people. Supermarkets can only allow a set number of people in. The supermarket next door only lets in 10 people at a time, and they have a regime of sanitation for each incoming person. Some alcohol squirts, some plastic gloves and so on. The supermarket stays pretty well-stocked for now. Unlike in my American motherland, we have access to toilet paper, foodstuffs, and so on. The first immediate rush was for oats and beans – items with long shelf lives – but those have since been restocked. This indicates to me that Georgians will be around much longer than Americans, dirty asses aside.

Georgians are kind of used to these emergencies though. And they have a culture of stocking up for food for six months anyway, as everyone has their farm-grandma who goes nuts bottling, pickling, and/or jamming all the leftovers of each season. This constant stock of some 6 months means that in times of emergency like this, hoarding really isn't necessary. Always ready!

You better believe these two are stocked up already!

Free time?

Scrolling through Facebook has made me somewhat jealous. I see all these people going on about boredom and free time and getting the time now to hone skills that they didn’t have time for before.

I’m blessed enough to have a job where I work from home, but damn, I kind of want some forced vacation.

Actually, this whole ordeal has made me cancel a lot of downtime plans. First my parents were going to come to visit their newborn grandbaby – they were able to cancel, thank goodness, not because of the generosity of the airlines but because the Georgian government had closed the border, forcing their airline to cancel the flight and give a refund.

Then there was this three-person rule. We were going to go to the village and stay with the wife’s family. I had to wrap up a few ends work-wise, where I needed my PC, then we were going to go. Then bam, new rules and we’re stuck here. Of course, had we a car this wouldn’t have been a problem, but since we were relying on a family member to drive us, that would bring us over the 3 person rule. I’d tell my wife to take our son and go, but then they’ve canceled all mass transit, so I’m not sure how I’d follow. At this point, I’m worrying about not taking out the newborn into some fresh air, all of this fart air in the apartment must be getting to him, I’d think.

As these are the worst of my problems so far, I can't really complain. I mean, I can, but it'd be silly, because then I'd literally be complaining that I have a job and a healthy family. And yet, I'm writing this blog. I know what it is, the whiskey supply is running low... #tbilisi #coronavirus

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