Thursday, November 08, 2007

State of Emergency

Finally got back to Georgia this morning; flight was delayed, driver not available, but taxi was promised. No taxi, just some guy with a sheet of paper with my name on it, who then called a taxi. Me not happy. Taxi driver appears, says 'can't lift your case, have a bad back'. Then I tell him my address, he says 'can't go there, place is closed by soldiers'. I tell him let's go and see. While we are moving towards the town I am building up a head of steam over the idea of having to drag my suitcase for two kilometres, steeply uphill, from where I assume the 'front line' is. We get to the actual front line, the taxi driver tries another way round, and we progress smoothly towards my front door. No problem!

This morning I go to work, and have to talk my way around the soldiers blocking the main road that I need to cross. They are not armed. Beside the opera house there is a huge pile of cobblestones from the renovations which are still not finished - if I were them I would have removed them yonks ago. But no-one in power is old enough to remember 1968. My colleague staying in a hotel in the main road tells me that last night there was a strong smell of tear gas in the air, and that the US embassy moved all their citizens from that hotel, and it's busy emailing all its registered citizens. No word from the UK embassy. Yesterday there were (fist) fights in the streets between soldiers and people, and someone has mentioned rubber bullets. The box office of the theatre on the same street is closed; lots of soldiers are lounging under its canopy, as they are protecting the opera house a few steps along. All events are cancelled, I hear. Meetings of more than 4 people or so are illegal, all independent TV channels are shut down. People complain that they cannot get news. People are also very nervous, and find that both the government and the opposition are behaving very badly. Apparently the state of emergency has been applied for the 15 days from earlier this week. Let's see what happens.