2nd Wave: Etseri, Svaneti


So this is what it feels like, with The Virus gaining ground now.

My set of concentric circles, with “people I don’t know getting infected” on the outside, moving inwards in circles of relationship to “ME getting infected” in the center, now has “people I know, but don’t live with” having been infected. These include people in Georgia and even in my village, as well as people overseas. No family members yet; no-one I know yet who has died from it, either.

I also know people (near and far) who have had The Virus and recovered.

We’re wearing masks when anyone comes into the shop in our house, and requiring them to as well. If they don’t have one, they either have to buy one to enter, or stay outside and order. No exceptions!

Whenever we’re outside, we wear a mask too, as Georgian law requires.

When we go to Zugdidi, 100 km away, to stock up for the shop, I’m aware that, even masked, we are increasing the risk of getting infection each time. So this feels weird.

The recent two weeks of online teaching which we had to have as one of the school staff had The Virus (now recovered) are over. My wife would rather teach classes with some children absent than do the online version, which seems to be universal. Everyone agrees, teachers, pupils, and parents, that online learning is a poor substitute for face to face, though better than nothing if you’re motivated! Even with a reasonably fast internet connection at OUR end, there are frequent dropouts, or some pupils are there only in audio, and the setup is ripe for misuse if they’re lazy or apathetic, which some certainly are.

I try to check worldwide and national infection and death rates online only once a day, in the morning, and not to follow Georgian TV information too much, as it’s depressing. A balance between knowing the facts and letting them weigh you down. These are people, health systems, and economies getting overburdened. This is Georgia now, with more infections overall than Azerbaijan has, whereas some months ago their infection rate was 20 TIMES ours.

I also try to combat false information online, at least for myself. I can’t do very much for others, whoever they are, if they’re determined to believe something they’ve heard, seen, read. There’s some awfully slickly produced lies out there, and some people who are predisposed to drink them in. These times are showing this up more than ever, because it can be life or death.

I remind myself that most people who get infected recover! It’s not an automatic or even likely death sentence! Just… worse for older than younger people, or for those with a pre-existing health issue. Although knowledge is still unfolding, and long-term effects are still unclear in this first year, and I try not to dwell on it.

I do wonder if the occasional stomach aches I sometimes get now are an ulcer forming, due to stress. I look up online how to minimize such a thing by diet. Local health care is stretched too far to ask its help with relatively minor issues.

I also pray, and remind myself that my Christian faith sees my ultimate fate as sealed. I do have some kind of answer for “Why, if there is an infinitely powerful and all-knowing God, is there any suffering in the world/universe at all?”. It works for me. In this I rest, or try to.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

By Tony Hanmer

26 November 2020 19:47