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I’m home in New Jersey, folks.  I left Georgia last week.  I haven’t write anything for ages because every time I sat down and typed something out, it looked like it was dribbled by a six-year-old.

I started writing this post many times, in many different ways, and disliked them all.  Or, they just puttered out mid-paragraph and refused to grow any more.  So this time, I decided just to throw the facts down without any primping.

The simplest way to explain it is that I was unhappy (is “unhappy” ever simple though?).  Living in Georgia made me deeply unhappy.

Reason #1:  Gender stuff.

During my first week in Georgia, I was solicited as a prostitute.  I laughed it off.  But after many months of bad interactions with men, I stopped laughing.  And then I stopped smiling.  And then I dyed my hair brown and threw out my make-up.  And stopped going out.  And started crying a lot, and disliking myself, and disliking men, and reading a lot of young adult fiction.

Work was fine, but work alone can’t keep me sane or happy.  And I can’t do my work very well when I’m feeling neither sane nor happy.  So, I decided to leave.

I lived in Georgia for 13 months and, of course, I left with some good memories.  You can browse through my blog posts to see them.  But the bad memories stick out from the rest like the high spikes on a heart monitor line.

Returning to the States has been like waking up from a long, strange dream.  Trying to recall memories of the past year feels very much like reaching back into that dream in the minutes right after waking:  I’m grabbing handfuls of fog.  One memory I am confident of is the feeling of isolation.

But I’ve settled very quickly and comfortably back into American life.  I’m thinking very seriously about antioxidants and omega 3’s, laughing at Woody’s chalkboard drawings on Around the Horn, watching commercials for frozen yogurt body wash (really, what the hell?), and catching up on which of my childhood friends is having the next baby.  I’m sleeping ten hours a night and taking my vitamins and starting to run again.  But my memories and feelings are still jumbled and foggy, like that old dream.

Overall, I’m ok.  No need to call in the white coats.  I am shaken, and sad… but I think my new hair looks pretty cute, so not all is lost.

newly brunette

I will be writing more to catch you up on the long stretches of un-blogged time over the past year, and I’m hoping this will help me sort out my thoughts and memories of Georgia.  If I could submit a request to whomever might be reading this post, I’d ask you to send me some happy thoughts.  Please?

57 comments

  1. I’m really sorry to hear about your experience whilst in Georgia. The country is backwards in so many ways, Culturally they have been always men dominated society from day one. You are super brave woman and your photos of Georgia helped me so much cause I do not picture myself going there any time soon. The fact that you are American isn’t helpful, because women in America live as on another planet, ripping all the consequences that democracy and Christian heritage gives. All the best for the future and God bless! Once I publish my novel that is set in Georgia, I will send you a link :).

  2. Sarah

    Hey Meghan, I am only reading this now… I know, way too late, but still wanted to tell you that you have made the right decision to go back home and to sort things out and to pursue hapiness :-). If you’re having a hard time, please think about all the fun we had in that jeep cruising through the salt flats in Bolivia 🙂 Big kiss!

  3. Danielle

    Hey lady!
    Just wanted to send my warm wishes your way. You survived Georgia and that’s no easy feat. And on top of it all, you’re still approaching this country and it’s people with grace and compassion, which is far more than any of the people commenting seem to be doing. You’re being truthful about issues that need to be addressed. You’re not sayin anything that is untrue nor anything that I or other foreign girls have had to experience during our lives here in Georgia. So thank you for that. Thank you for being a calm and understanding voice in a country that refuses to listen. I really admire you!

      • Joshua Jones

        There are 1,283 Reports of abuse by American Females in the Republic of Georgia filed with the Department of State. As crazy as that number sounds, we actually believe that number to be even higher, because people don’t actually report incidents. There were also 209 cases of ‘Rape’ filed with the Embassy in the year 2010. …. Heck, even the TLG program literally teaches women that there are major issues with abuse among western women ( although they word it so badly that they play it down to be less severe than it actually is ) ….. Megan isn’t even stating an ‘opinion’ …. shes stating an obvious fact, in a very polite way….. Keep this in mind, when you read news about how bad India treats women, they have less case reports of abuse than the Republic of Georgia!

  4. Meghan, your posts are always so honest and always very fair – you tell the truth without ranting or trying to bias people, in doing so your writing is totally ego-less! It’s wonderful. I’m sorry you felt like this, it is very frustrating even to read about. I’ve only experienced this a little bit, in other parts of the world, and understand how confronting (and irritating) it can be. It’s so great that you’ve found so many positives in your experience and it’s brave that you can be open about the crappy aspects of it too. Now that you’re settling back in to a ‘safer’ place ( even if just emotionally), you’ll be able to plan your next adventure to somewhere completely different or rediscover the place you came from, and maybe see it with fresh eyes – the most exciting part of coming home! Sending happy thoughts your way 🙂

    Also – you make a great brunette! I don’t think I’d be quite as fortunate haha.

    Genevieve

  5. I’m so sorry to hear about your sad experience with Georgian guys, Meghan! To be honest I was really surprised about their attitude towards you, well I know there are those kind of guys out there not only in Georgia but also everywhere in the world including US but I’m not sure why you had to hang out with them. I guess if you’ve had the right company with you, you wouldn’t have encountered those kind of issues… And to those who is wondering, Georgia is a safe country for women its just…you need a sense of humor sometimes to survive ))) Well anyways, best of luck Meghan to you and really hope to see you back to Tbilisi someday (peace)

    • Hi Tamar, thank you for the message! I am sure that I will go back to Tbilisi some day (plus I’ve never visited Batumi or Svaneti, so I must go there). I have so many wonderful Georgian friends that I must see again. 🙂

      And I agree with you, there are good guys and bad guys everywhere in the world. What I found was happening in Georgia is every time I opened my mouth and spoke English or Russian, I suddenly became an object of sexual interest for men (young, old, married, unmarried). This was NOT because they thought I was pretty, but because they seemed to have very clear (bad) ideas about Western girls. For example, the last time I went out to a restaurant with an American girlfriend in Georgia, FIVE different middle-aged men came to our table separately, trying to talk to us, giving us drinks, and even trying to follow us out of the restaurant even though we made it clear that we were not interested in them. Is this a dangerous situation? Probably not. But internally, I knew it was only happening because they heard us speaking English and assumed we were “easy girls”, so that made me feel very offended and annoyed.

      But the funny thing is that this only happens when I am with only American/Western girls. If there is a Georgian girl (or of course a guy), men behave themselves better. 🙂 But of course I could not always have a “Georgian chaperon” there to protect me.

      There are many, many parts of the world that are more dangerous and a lot less fun/beautiful/friendly than Georgia. And I do encourage people to visit Georgia all the time! My decision to leave was just a personal decision that I did not want to live there long-term.

  6. Meghan,
    I see your beautiful face every time I open a browser on my phone because I’ve bookmarked your blog. I think it’s healthy to have a real experience with culture rather than surfing by on a wave of foreigners luck. You are an incredibly rich soul and all your experiences account for it. I hope, since this is a late reply to this post, that you have begun your filing process of your feelings about your experience abroad and can find more reasons than not to have gratitude about it all. I’m glad you’re back in the states and able to reboot before your next endeavor! New hair is always a great way to start a new chapter in your journey!

  7. Oh, Meg, I did wonder if everything was okay when you hadn’t blogged a while. I’m so sorry that you went through this experience. Not knowing anything really about Georgia, I’d never have guessed the country was like this. How horrible. 😦 It makes me so sad to hear of how sad and shaken and affected you were.

    But, on the other hand, I’m so happy everything’s getting better for you in the states. Surround yourself with amazing people and remind yourself that you’re incredible. 😀 I know things will only be more positive from here on out.

  8. Natia

    Sounds real sad but having personal problems in a specific country does not mean that the country is 100% bad and every woman there is unhappy..

    • I agree Natia, and I never said that Georgia is bad or all its women are unhappy. It’s a beautiful country full of rich traditions and history. However, I think it is a hard place for foreign women to relocate to.

      For the past year, I’ve posted only positive things about Georgia, and I hid the bad experiences, because I thought that I was the crazy one. But after so many repeated bad encounters, and so many other foreign women echoing my frustration, I began to see that maybe it’s not my fault. And when I talk about bad encounters, I’m talking about small things like half my taxi drivers asking for my phone number when they hear me speaking Russian or English, to big things like being harassed and followed out of bars by men when they realize I’m foreign. And constant pressure to know why I am not married at the age of 27, why I am not trying to get married, and that I really need to be serious and get married or people will start to think I’m a “bad girl”. This is why I stopped going out and interacting with people.

      There are many wonderful things about Georgia. But it’s attitude toward gender roles is not one of them, in my opinion. I would encourage you to try to imagine Georgia from my perspective: a young, single, blonde, foreign woman, living alone. And what do Georgian men think about unmarried foreign women traveling alone?…

      • Again, I’m really sorry if you felt that I said anything offensive about Georgia, Natia. That wasn’t my intention. I’m just talking about my personal experiences and why I moved home to America. I’m sure I will visit Georgia again in the future, because there are a lot of things there that I will miss. 🙂

      • Natia

        Well.. Next time u visit please contact me and we ll chase away all the Bad Geo guys together.. 🙂 🙂 really sorry to hear u had bad experiences.. Questions bout marriage is very natural to Georgians, almost like “how are you”.. I usually don’t take it serious and make some jokes.. :)) I believe Georgia is fun if u hang out with the right people ..:) Best of luck to you for all your future trips!

  9. Meghan, I’m so sad to hear how you were feeling when you left Georgia! I never would have guessed from the stories you told of life there, but that’s the gift of a true writer to their reader – conceal or expose the truth at your discretion. I’m happy to hear that returning home has been a tonic for your distress. Sometimes that’s all we need, a little dose of a familiar and loving environment to get us back on our feet and re-ignite our passion for the world. Take your time, don’t let anyone hurry you, and do the things that make you feel good again. I’ve recently been through a situation where I felt like the true me was being forced into a box, a situation in which I was under a lot of pressure to move to a country where I imagine I would have felt very much like you did in Georgia for similar cultural reasons, and I simply couldn’t let it happen. I removed myself from the situation completely, jumped back into my normal life with full gusto, and not only do I feel like I’ve reclaimed MYSELF and MY LIFE, but I’m holding onto it tighter than ever now! I hope planning a trip to Ireland gives your spirits a lift Xxx

  10. Hello, Cheerio

    You’ve got this. You do. And when you’re ready to talk, we’ll all be here waiting, ready to listen. Also, your hair looks lovely.

  11. Oh Meghan – I am so sad to hear how your time in Georgia fared. You know I so love Georgia. To know that you experienced anything less than beautiful (albeit crazy) makes my heart hurt for you and for those left behind that adore you. My love affair started with Georgia in December 1995 post civil war and I have loved seeing the transition, spirit of women in many ways… of course much is the same-same underneath. I’m just glad you knew it was not the right place for you and made the change for your health and well being. You are loved, admired and respected…. I can’t help but also think, very missed too.

  12. Consider the happy thoughts being sent your way now.

    I’m sorry about Georgia. I’ve been there (well, not Georgia, but you know what I mean), and I’m glad you’ve removed yourself from that situation and are working your way toward YOU again.

    Oh, and I LOVE Woody on Around the Horn.

    Hugs!

  13. Even as a male, the gender issues really get to me here too, so I can’t even imagine how bad it can be for women. And I wish I knew it was so bad for you, we should have hung out more! Not everyone here is all so bad, but unfortunately, most of the men are. But there are plenty of good ones, they’re just needles in the haystack. I think I have more Georgian female friends than male ones myself, and maybe that’s the best way to go.

  14. all of us search for true happiness but sadly fail miserably most of the time! I know you’ve heard this a lot of times but try Him up above pray like you never prayed before just you and Him! God bless you!

  15. Hi Meghan,

    First off, welcome back! Getting back to what it comfortable and secure will certainly help ease the unsettling feelings. I can say the past year for me personally has been a wild and crazy and scary ride but I have gone back to the things that were comfortable for me. As simple as that sounds, it has made life easier to deal with and the memories of bad things that have happened don’t hurt as much. Actually, new opportunities (personally and professionally) have opened up for me. This time last year I was miserable and scared but now I am happy and hopeful. I’m volunteering more and I’ve decided to write more on my blog. By no means are things perfect but life is good, damn near great! So with that, I want to pass some positive energy your way. Love the new hair! Keep that beautiful smile glowing and always love yourself!

    Good vibes!

    Ronnie III

  16. This was a brave post and I appreciated it so. I am sorry the last year was so hard but my only wisdom to share is sometimes the lessons follow the hard times. Give yourself recovery time, not too long but enough. The happiest thought I can share is spring is coming to the US and perhaps as cheesy as this sounds the earth and you can and will bloom again. Welcome home.

  17. Hi Megan,
    It might not seem like it until a long time afterwards, but the tough times are always worth it in the end. And thanks to your information about the dire situation of women in Georgia, there may be a change for the better as more people become aware and the women there become more empowered by outside support. So hold your head high and feel proud of what you have done!

  18. I always enjoyed your blog posts and am pleased you’re back on-line, albeit with a sorry tale. But: there’s no place like home, and I can see from the comments on your post, that you have plenty of friends and supporters in the US. Sometimes things just don’t work out for whatever reason, and we have to accept that. Rest up and one day when you’re back to your normal bright self, another adventure will come along. And, PS: love the hair!

  19. Hi Meghan. Actually I’ve been wondering why you haven’t blogged for such a long time. I’m so sorry for what you experienced in Georgia. Living in such a foreign land is never easy, I can imagine, and all the difference in cultures and mindset might be so overwhelming. However I’m glad that you’re back home now, surrounded with things you’re familiar with, and most importantly…feel safe with. Try to go to Southeast Asia the next time you travel. It’s probably one of the easiest regions on earth to travel with some of the friendliest people on the planet (according to many surveys that is). For now just run, sleep, eat, laugh, watch TV, do everything until you’re bored and the wanderlust tickles you again. 🙂

    Take care, Meghan!

  20. aridecruz

    It’s 3:20am and I just opened my emailed at work and read your post. You are an inspiration darling. I recall that special New Year’s Eve party at Paola’s apartment. We were all so different and yet so happy and full of life ready to take the new year on. Keep smiling even when the world around seems like is in chaos, because ur smile brings hope to smallest corners of the univers. 🙂

  21. Mike

    Meg, your post made me cry. I visited you in Georgia and knew how unhappy you were. You are and absolutely incredible, wonderful, generous, beautiful young woman and represent the very best of what America is all about. You sacrificed yourself to live in a foreign land. And not for personal gain. You did this because you want to make the world a better place. And you will. Georgia is not the center of the world. Your family and true friends love you in a way that others will never know. I am so proud to know you.

  22. Anil Kumar Upadhyaya

    Hai Meghan,
    I like your white coat photo and your face is full of gleaming aura and have a divine grace.You can make your close heart friend from India.I send you one comment just now for you and you follow and I can also suggest you some Indian ayurveda medicine to take them for good healing.You earlier told me to attach with your micro finance project towards India what happen to them? Pls tell about this.
    Pls send me mail to my email: au03976@gmail.com
    with thanks
    Anil Kumar Upadhyaya
    freelance journalist
    India.

  23. Anil Kumar Upadhyaya

    Hai,I am Anil Kumar from India working as freelance journalist in India.I am sending you some good thoughts.I suggest you can learn yoga from me and aura healing also which will give you true peace in life and mind.Sometime you come to India can go with you can teach you yoga meditation and aura healing for your peace of life and mind.I can be your Indian guru for teaching you aura healing and yoga meditation.Pls make me your friend and send me mail also to my and can chat also so I can give you some lessons via skype also.I like your profile and sorry for your Georgia life.Pls send me email so I can give you some lessons via skype.
    My skype id: anilupadhyaya8

    with thanks
    Anil Kumar Upadhyaya
    freelance journalist
    India
    email: au03976@gmail.com

  24. Welcome back! And get lots of rest and vitamins.
    The nadir of my life was two years in Philadelphia. I did survive it, but I was so glad to have left and come to sunny South Carolina. Nonetheless, those two years in Philly have fueled so much of my fiction that people might think I’m a total depressive. Writing it out is a path to healing and a bittersweet fruit of pain.

  25. Chrissy

    Hi Meghan! I’m so glad you’re home, although I’m sorry about the reasons that brought you back. Now that you’re here I’m definitely going to have to start up the champagne brunches again! Feel free to stop by anytime you’re in the mood for a glass of wine!

  26. ck

    Dear Meghan, thank you for opening your heart to us. Your post really touched me. Your last lines made me nearly sob. I have been there, not in Georgia, and in different circumstances, but I know the feeling. You did the right thing to come home. And as Sarah says, you do emerge stronger. (you look great, by the way!) I’m sure being at home, sleeping, running, catching up with old friends, being around new life, taking your Omega 3s and stuff (not just seriously ‘thinking’ about them 😉 you will recover and heal very soon. If I may offer a suggestion: try to let Georgia be where it is: behind you.
    And try and live just for the day, here and now, taking care of yourself, enjoying the company of your close ones, doing the stuff that makes you feel good. And big yourself up, for having ‘sticked it out’ so long! Reward yourself now. There is nothing to gain by pondering on the past 13 months. Later, when you feel strong again, maybe then you may go back and dig out memories ..
    Do you do yoga?

    From the Radiance Sutras:

    Consider all the pain and all the pleasure
    You have ever experienced
    As waves on a very deep ocean which you are.

    From the depths, witness those waves,
    Rolling along so bravely, always changing,
    Beautiful in their self-sustaining power.

    Marvel that once, you identified with
    Only the surface of this ocean.

    Now embrace waves, depths, undersea mountains,
    Out to the farthest shore.

    `love and light to you

  27. Su

    Its good to hear from you Meghan. Im sorry to hear that you had such a difficult time in Georgia but your decision to return home sounds like it was the best thing for you to do. Its never an easy decision to stay or to return home. I k now, Im there too! I look forward to reading a little more of your experience and how your are doing back home Take care.

  28. Thanks for posting it. I, too, have had a hard time discussing places I’ve been where I was unhappy. It feels like people are expecting you to have a blast and you don’t want to disappoint them with reality. And for me, too, gender stuff has been a HUGE contributing factor to unhappiness in certain parts of the world. I would walk around feeling tremendously defensive and projecting negative energy as if that would shield me from the kissing noises to shouts of “I’m going to rape you!” It is exhausting and depressing to be constantly on guard and to be yelled at and degraded.

    I say thanks for posting, though, because I think it is important to be honest and to bring some awareness about.

    Best wishes to you! I’m sure you’ll find another adventure soon enough! Take care.

  29. Living abroad anywhere is a hard transition to make. Georgia sounds especially difficult. Good for you for having the courage to tell the truth about your experience there and not sugar-coating anything. Your hair looks really pretty!-Amanda

  30. Hi Megan,

    I’m sorry your experience in Georgia did not go as you expected. I really enjoyed your posts and pictures though (and so did everybody else I gather!). However, just by reading your posts, I knew I could never live in Georgia either! Visiting for a few weeks would be fine, but I think I would have been just as unhappy. You can’t single-handedly change societal norms that have existed in a country for who knows how long but if anything it was definitely a very cultural (if not completely positive) experience. Good to know you are doing better–your happiness always comes first!

  31. Meghan,
    It is good to see another post from you. I caught myself wondering from time to time what you were up to over there.
    I’m sorry to hear that not all was well. I know you had high hopes for the Georgia experience, and I wish it had lived up to them. However, and at the risk of spouting cliche, I hope that this doesn’t cause your soul-shine to dim at all, and that you still delight in the world and its variety as you did before. As one inspired by your determination to encounter the new and the foreign, I wish you the best.
    Here’s all the happy thoughts I’ve got today, right at you! :0)

    P.S. (Self-promotion alert!): I’ve got a new blog-home now, and I’d love for you to stop by and check it out: http://365walkabout.wordpress.com/

    Cheers!
    Vance

  32. Joselle Merritt

    I know Georgia was hard on you. In some ways I’m quite jealous you were there. My daughter was adopted for there. But it’s nice you are home and healing. You will be better and you’ll find another project that will make your soul sing.

  33. I would tell you I’m sorry, but that sounds cliché. I know I always hate it when people tell me that. 🙂

    I wish you the best back here in the states, and hopefully your next immersive experience (or lack thereof!) will be blessed and be better. Though congratulations on making it so long, and coming out the other side stronger! Our scars, to allude to Calvin and Hobbes (the philosophers of my life :D), give us “character”. Our pain and strife becomes our strength and power when we can reflect and learn. Nice to hear that you are doing better!

  34. fabwolftravels

    Lovely description of an unlovely situation – I particularly liked the image of spikes on the monitor. Got a few nasty ones of those myself recently, but have found going on the road the best therapy and strongly recommend it. Am trying out the ‘workaway’ program and loving it; currently exploring Germany: lovely people, divine food and amazing history … I’m trying to be rigorously regular with new blog posts and I agree, it’s no easy thing! Hope things get better for you soon, and yes – the hair is definitely gorgeous.

  35. Niki

    Dearest Meghan, I’m so sorry to hear you haven’t been well, and I’m glad you’ve left Georgia and everything that made you miserable there. Although it’s clearly been the product of a tumultuous time for you I do love your new look! You look stunning! I am sending you all the sunshine, love and cheer that you so rightfully deserve all the way from Athens and I do sincerely hope you feel better very soon. A big hug and a smile to you. 🙂

  36. Oh Meghan! I would love to talk to you more about Georgia and your experience. Life is too short to be somewhere you are not happy. Glad you are back! Send me a fb message with your number as I’d love to talk to you!!!! Xoxo Nicole

  37. I have a beautiful wife and son. The perfect house and make good money. I have a great relationship with my mom and sis. I drive a nice car. Am also very healthy despite my eating habits and binge drinking. I have 7 close friends from back in high school that we still hang out…and am we are in our 30s. Although I want to, I don’t pray. And I believe in God 8 months out of the year. And he rocks!

    Your post made me think of these things. Made me happy. And I hope it makes you too.

  38. I hear you. It took me 2 years to heave my way through the fog of what it was like to be a woman in Georgia and I only visited 6 times. The good news is you DO emerge stronger and more aware and full of fight for women. Can you imagine what it is like to be a Georgian woman trapped in such a country, a culture? Ok if you are entirely compliant but not if you have any sense of an otherness. I wish you well in your journey of discovery. I too had to write my way out of it http://sarahcobham1.blogspot.co.uk/ and the reason I published, continue to publish and am now working with Georgian women to show them they do actually have choices is because Georgia is a dangerous country for women and people need to know that before they get involved. Sleep, eat, rest, laugh and heal.

    • Natia

      I wander what you girls mean when say Georgia is a dangerous country for woman??.. I am Georgian, I traveled a lot around the world and I feel pretty much at ease here.. so whats the matter? just curious..:)

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