vrijdag 21 september 2012

Gldani Prison Absue

3:30 PM - 21 Sept 2012:

Bacho Akhalaia resigned yesterday as Minister of Interior. Today his arrest is planned in Saburtalo. However, according to student organization Iverielebi, Akhalaia has left the country. They are protesting in Saburtalo holding signs: Wanted Bacho. At the same time new minister of the Penitentiary System and former Ombudsman Giorgi Tugushi has visited Gldani prison with several local press. Footage from TV9 (opposition channel) shows inmates in Gldani prison shutting and opening windows to show their discontent. Some inmates are filmed shouting 'Bidzina Gaumarjos', which translate to 'Bless Bidzina'.

2:30 PM - 20 Sept 2012:

Minister of Interior Bacho Akhalaia resigns. The former Minister of the Penitentiary System when deadly riots took place in 2007, was now as Minister of Interior responsible for the atrocities recorded recently in the prison system. Student protests, the other protest, and a group of Civil Society organizations had called for, among, his resignation. This close ally of Saakashvili seemed to have been under the presidents protection, but the ruling party has realized these steps needed to be taken to not loose complete credibility.

dinsdag 19 juni 2012


“Hollandia? Ah, Sandra, Sandra!” het is 42 graden, de zon staat hoog aan de hemel en de lokale markt bazroba voelt verlaten. Terwijl ik in mijn gebroken Georgisch een halve kilo mandarijnen bestel, wordt in een rap tempo het nieuws verspreidt: er is een Nederlandse bij Mari’s kraampje, en ze kan zelfs een beetje Georgisch! 

Elke Nederlander die in Georgië komt moet het wel mee gemaakt hebben: “Sandra, Sandra!”. Sinds Mikheil Saakashvili aan de macht is gekomen na de rozen revolutie in 2004, heb je als Nederlander een speciaal plekje in de Georgische samenleving. Sandra Roelofs, de vrouw van ‘Misha’ is wel bekend en zeer geliefd onder de Georgische bevolking. Hoewel de populariteit van Misha niet altijd op hetzelfde peil is, Sandra blijft altijd even populair. 

Vandaar de naam van deze blog: ‘Het Zusje van Sandra’. Er is geen andere manier hoe ik in vier woorden beter kan beschrijven hoe het is om als Nederlander in Georgië te verblijven. Hoewel Misha’s tweede termijn ten einde komt, het is zeer waarschijnlijk dat elke Nederlander nog steeds gelinkt zal worden aan Sandra.

De afgelopen vijf jaren heb ik mijn tijd verdeeld in Georgië, Oekraïne, Zweden en de Verenigde Staten. Ik heb me in mijn professionele en academische carrière gericht op de Kaukasus. Op deze blog zal je mijn Kaukasische verhalen terug kunnen lezen. Ik hoop dat ik ‘onze’ Sandra niet teleurstel. 

dinsdag 9 maart 2010

снег | snow | თოვლი | sneeuw | schnee | neige | сніг

The title of this posts gives away the content, namely: snow. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it has been snowing in Ukraine since mid-November, and now, mid-March, it still hasn't stopped.

In the beginning snow is nice, snow is very beautiful and it makes you feel all christmassy inside. After one month (or perhaps earlier) the downsides of snow begin to irritate you: the slipping and falling, the cold, the wet feet, your shoes beginning to fall apart, the constantly necessity of a hat and a scarf. All making you stay inside more and more, canceling dates with friends because the ten minute walk to the metro has gone up to a twenty minute walk.

However, yesterday I made a life-changing decision:

I made peace with the snow.

It is very easy, you just decide there is snow, it will be there, and you can better enjoy it than have it ruining your good mood.

And strangely enough: it has worked ;).

zaterdag 16 januari 2010

Back in Ukraine!

So I just came back to Ukraine from a three week leave in the Netherlands, and honestly, I started to miss Kiev and the Ukrainian culture. The melancholic Slavic atmosphere has something addictive to it, and being back here for less than one day, is already making me realize how much I like it here (that has something to do with my favorite cafe and with the fact people speak Russian here, and I can understand it! The latter sure feels like a new accomplishment, I guess having my mind at rest does benefit my language skills).
For now, I am waiting for a train to go to Donetsk, tomorrow presidential elections are being held, and I will go to Yanukovich' former city, in Eastern Ukraine, which was hit hard by the fall of the Soviet Union and the more recent economic crisis. I am really excited, because it will be my first time in Eastern Ukraine. I will stay with a friend, and I will visit an observation mission; more on this all you will be able to read on http://evolutsia.net on Monday!

donderdag 10 december 2009

I <3 Odessa

Gently snowflakes are falling down on Odessa's boulevards. When I walked out of the train this morning I already felt the incredible atmosphere this city has, however, I did not know how amazingly beautiful Odessa is. The streets, with enormous maple trees on each side, beautiful colorful houses, romantic balconies, make you fall in love instantly. Imagine butterflies in your stomach, a constant smile, and overly excited with every new treasure you find: that is how I feel about Odessa, and I only have been here for a couple of hours so far.
The best way to describe the town is by comparing it to Tbilisi and Batumi: it has the laid-back atmosphere of a seashore town like Batumi, and the architecture of Tbilisi. However, the city plan is incredible simple: you can not get lost. Normally, I am not so font of straight streets and square block city planning, but in this case, the houses are not so tall, and have a lot of decorations and colors, which instantly takes away the abstract 'well-thought-of-straight-roads'. The trees give the town an extra touch, and especially because they must be extremely old, since they are literally enormous.
Another great aspect of Odessa are its sweet little cafes, innovative bars an (I presume) nightclubs, though the latter I haven;t had the pleasure of enjoying yet.
I must admit, I do not think I will like it so much in high season, since I am a person who doesn't like masses of people and overly touristic places (which Odessa is in summer, as I have heard), however, it does not take away the beauty and the atmosphere outside the season. I already decided: I am going to do this more often, just go to Odessa. I will take the saturdaynight train after my saturday class, walk around all sunday, and go back sunday night arriving monday morning in time for my russian course again. Really, this town boosts me with positive energy.

maandag 28 september 2009

Ukrainian doctors might be the most stupid in the world

My hart was pounding and I tried not to cry in the middle of the street; trying to get a taxi, but they were ripping me off, so I decided to walk 20 minutes to the nearest metro. While being on the metro I had to take some tissues, and it might have been the most depressing metro-ride I have have taking. I just had left the poli-clinic where they had done an extra x-ray, after they found a suspicious spot on the roentgen from friday. And there it was again: a strange square spot, but it had move a bit.... They couldn;t tell me what it was, and I needed to make another appointment, but they told me, it could as well be a tumor. I already saw myself flying back to holland.

(as you can see in the picture, there is a square object on a rib on my left chest)

I needed to get back to the clinic later in the afternoon, so I decided to go home and make some phone-calls, asking my parents to call my doctor for some help, calling my health insurance, if I needed to be operated etc. My parents assured me they would arrange everything, and while doing so, I just randomly googled: 'x-ray chest object", and got all these images shown of people swalloing coins etc, but also an explanation on how to prepare before going into an x-ray:
Before the test begins, you will be asked to remove your clothing--usually just from the waist up--and put on a hospital gown. You also will be asked to remove all jewelry and any other objects containing metal (such as eyeglasses and hair pins). This is done because metal can block the image and interfere with the test results.

And when I read 'hairpin'..... I mean, you guys all know how I wear my hear,

and the stupid doctor forget THREE times to ask me to get my hairpin out, nor did all the doctors I have spoken so far did not think it was MY HAIRPIN which is the square object.... sigh. So luckily I don't have any strange object in my body ;)

donderdag 24 september 2009

Kiev, here I am

So I finally arrived in Kiev! Well, this wont be a long post, since I am tired, but most of all just very lazy today. So I arrived a couple of days ago in Kiev and I'll write down some of my first impressions etc.

I am studying russian and ukranian language at kiev economic state university for two semesters and I'll live for one year in a dorm. I was a bit afraid what to expect for 450 euro's rent for one year, but to be honest, the place is great! It's modern, new, clean and most of all, has a nice atmosphere.

Further, my classmates rock! They are all guys (that's a bit unfortunate, though positvely, due to ukranian bureaucracy, I am not allowed to live with a guy - can get that - or a ukranian in my room (?) - which means I have the 2 beds' room for myself for now :) ); my fellow students are from various countries: a chinese with american citizenship since he lived in Atlanta (georgia) for 8 years and studied politcal science undergrate, who still has a very much chinese accent, but is very sweet and looks very american :); a flamish (belgium) from Leuven, young guy, who just graduated in engeneering; a swedish lad, doing bachelors long-distance in programming, in love with the balkans (he knows serbian, I mean, he really does, he studied it in sweden, not kidding); an english economic, graduated in january, who got bored with working, and decided to come here and study russian; a turkish boy, just turned 22, wanting to work in ukraine in the tourist industry, like he did in anatalya, his hometown (he speaks good russian already); a strange indian guy with a ukrainian girlfriend who already lived here one year and is the only one not living in the dorm (he has to travel every day 1 hour to get at uni, while we all live at 1 minute from it); and that's about it: a funny combination, but all very good people i think.

So the dorm is literally ONE minute from our classroom at university, and that's the closest I have ever lived next to work/studies in my entire live. So far, I really enjoy roling out of my bed, into the classes :).

The lessons are really nice btw, our teacher Jelena is a darling and very patient, she also has one philosophy: you are not babies, you study because you want to, I can not force you, it's your responsibility; which makes me really want to work hard and study a lot (I mean, it IS my responsibility, and she is totally right, I want to study, so I should work).

And then Kiev: well, as far as I have been able to walk around the city centre a bit: it is absolutely GORGEOUS! Old trees, while we are entering fall, imaging the colors; old architecture, balconies (it is like Tbilisi, but than think of Tbilisi as a provincial city and Kiev as a World capital).

I hope to see more of Kiev soon, this weekend I'll have time; and I def hope to get some Ukrainian friends. That sure is my next goal, after getting my medical clearance (ukrainian bureaucracy....)