It’s quite possible that my host sister Nini is the most adorable fourteen-year-old in all of Georgia. I never quite know what she is thinking or what is going to come out of her mouth but I’m always entertained by her interesting responses.
Nini is very interested in films and celebrities, so last week while I was tutoring her in English we were reading and discussing a few passages about famous movie stars. She was reading a short paragraph about Elizabeth Taylor and absolutely could not understand what the phrase “she was married eight times” meant. Nini said to me, “In America people can have many husbands?”
I told her that Elizabeth Taylor fell in love with eight different men at eight separate times and was married to each one of them for a little bit. Nini was floored. She could not understand how someone could find eight people to marry. She explained to me that in Georgia, people only have one spouse, maybe two if “something bad happens”. I literally had to draw Nini a timeline of Elizabeth Taylor’s marriages for her to be able to conceptualize the notion of being married eight times.
Once Nini understood she turned to me and said, “We don’t like her okay?”
“Okay,” I obliged, “but who do we like?”
“Mmm,” Nini sat pondering, “Shakira, Marilyn Monroe and Nini Badurashvili”.
During this same lesson, Nini confessed to me how frustrating it is that when people talk about movie stars, they only name American actors or American films. “Always America! Why not Georgia or Italy or France!” I think it upset Nini that while she can name many American musicians, I can barely name one Russian or Georgian musical artist.
She has asked me what people in America say about Georgia and I told her that most people in America don’t know very much at all about her country. You could practically see the sadness in her eyes when I said this. Georgians know so much about the United States, and that feeling seems to be in no way reciprocated.
Plus, it’s heartbreaking to tell a hopeful child that the reason no one knows her favorite Georgian idols has to do with economics and world power. Part of me wants to explain to Nini that because America is a very developed country, many companies have the resources to produce high quality films (or musical albums) with mass appeal and later distribute them all over the world. Plus, 300 million people live in America as opposed to the 4.6 million who live in Georgia. Another part of me just wants to avoid this conversation though and keep the remaining hopefulness in Nini’s eyes.
I tried to get our conversation optimistic by telling Nini that the winner of a popular American reality show about fashion design (Project Runway, season six) was Georgian, and that one of the best actors in ‘Wanted’ (that action film with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman) was Georgian too!
Thankfully, Nini is not full of angst, and instead of getting upset by my lack of knowledge of Georgian entertainers she merely spent two hours filling me in on the hottest Georgian celebrities, Georgian fashion designers and Georgian musical artists.
So you can forget Marc Jacobs and Britney Spears, it’s all about Bichola and Tata Vardanishvili.