Illustrated Stories of Living in Georgia as an Expat
‘’I have recently moved to Tbilisi and started my new life here. I won’t speak about my origins or details from the past. Because this story is about me becoming a Georgian!’’-that’s how the series of comics by Batoni Ucxoeli begins.
The author decided not to disclose his name and country of origin, so he presents himself as ‘’Batoni Ucxoeli’’ that translates into Mr. Foreigner. Yet, his subscribers on Instagram are trying to unveil his identity.
The comics portray different daily situations in the life of an expat living in Georgia, that are filled with a sense of humor. CBW asked the author to tell more about his experience:
I’ve heard ‘’Becoming Georgian’’ is not your primary job. How did you get into writing comics, is it your first series?
Unfortunately, “becoming Georgian” does not allow me to pay bills and rent an apartment. Otherwise, I would completely devote myself to this career. So I also have to work on my main job, which is not related to comics. This format - a three-image comics strip - seemed to me the most suitable for telling people my stories. I wanted to visualize my experience of living in Georgia, to share my impressions and associations. I do something like this for the first time, so my followers may have noticed that the blog style is not yet fully defined, and sometimes I experiment.
What brought you to Georgia, what was the very first impression, or so-called cultural shock?
For the first time, I ended up in Georgia as an ordinary tourist. But it immediately became clear to me that this is serious and for a long time. The first most important impression was the romantic relationship that I had here. And although this did not end with anything good, it allowed me to dive deeper into the Georgian environment. I would not say that something really shocked me, I do not resist anything Georgian, but I try to absorb it. After all, I don't plan to teach Georgians how to behave or promote behavioral patterns adopted in my homeland. Not at all. On the contrary.
If at first, I could name more specific reasons for my stay in Georgia - first love, then career, now it’s about conceptual addiction.
Are there any settings, where you get most of the inspiration?
I guess I can not single out one thing. I am inspired here by people, nature, the environment of Georgia in general. Every single day some small stories happen to me and I greatly appreciate them. Whether it is the neighbor's jeans that fell down on my balcony, or a grumpy taxi driver or my incredible Georgian friends - I appreciate every little moment and keep it in my heart. The ideal setting for me is an evening in a good company with wine and non-stop fun. It may sound sentimental, but I, in fact, am quite a sentimental guy.
Your understanding of topics like celebrities, holidays and some daily situations is so impressive, that some of your subscribers even suspect you are Georgian. Do you have any insider, who gives you further explanations to all these?
I have many friends in Georgia and I am naturally very curious, so it’s easy for me to create stories, they literally find me. All the stories in comics are made up solely by me 'cause this is my personal blog, not a commercial project or something like that. Recently, some posts have been translated into Georgian language and my best friend helps me with it. Actually, it will be more accurate to say that he does all the translations work, since I can use only nouns in Georgian (guys, what do you do with verbs!). I am eternally grateful to my bro Batoni Qartveli and if my gratitude could be expressed in Khinkali (and he is a big fan of Khinkali believe it or not) - then I would treat him with Khinkali bigger than The Biltmore Hotel itself. However, in fact, none of my Georgian friends can help me in creating stories - here I have to rely solely on my experience as an Ucxoeli in Georgia. Because what is a routine for them, for me could be a brand new world.
I, as a Georgian, sometimes find it hard to follow regional jokes and even dialect. Do you consider challenge yourself to get some experience there too and add up to your series?
I believe that Georgians are people with an amazing sense of humor. And this is a very attractive trait. Perhaps this helped them to preserve their identity and survive throughout their difficult history. Well... maybe not only that. I am not an anthropologist, but just a tall foreign guy.
To be honest, I love challenges. For example, once they told me: "Batono, be careful with the Svans, they are straightforward people and are hardly cheerful". I immediately became intrigued by this idea: "Well, where are the Svans here? I urgently need a couple of them". And I found a really funny Svan. Of course, it would be stupid from my side to say that I understand all the details of Georgian society, I still have to learn a lot, as I’m at the very beginning of my path of becoming Georgian. And I am grateful to everyone who helps me to learn more. Many followers share some useful knowledge, I communicate with everyone and answer all messages because my blog was designed for this communication.
Your subscribers are curious about your origins and further details. What makes you feel like staying incognito?
Keeping incognito status is important for me for several reasons. First, I want to distance myself from my character. Although he is my alter ego, he also has his own personality. Also, in my biography, there are facts that I am not ready to share with the public. Each of us has our secrets and demons, and I'd prefer my demons remained locked up. However, actually, several people managed to remove the mask off Batoni Ucxoeli. I can’t say exactly how they did it, while some others quite persistently demand to disclose my personal info, these guys managed to find a way to my true self. I think sooner or later I will reveal my real identity. At the same time, I leave some tips for the conspiracy lovers and the seekers for hidden meaning, so some smarts ones already could have a clue.
What excites you most right now, what’s next?
I have a million ideas, but the opportunities for their implementation are limited for me now. I would like to break the fourth wall and communicate more closely with my followers, slightly change the format of the blog. This will still happen though, but for now, give Batoni Ucxoeli a little more time to turn into a real Georgian guy.
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