TBILISI, GEORGIA: Anna, 17, was hanging out with friends when I asked for directions. As Anna led me to my destination, she said she would like to become an architect and hoped to study in Norway, where she heard the universities were better. She lives with her aunt because her father died about 10 years ago and her mom recently went to work in Turkey, due to the tough economic conditions in Georgia. Anna, who was named after her Ukrainian grandmother, smiled and laughed a lot as we walked, but she admited she sometimes feels her parents' absence. Thus, she tries to keep busy, drawing or meeting friends in her free time. She is looking forward to attending an outdoor music concert in July.
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Giorgi, 39, was standing in front of a convenience store that used to be a butcher shop in Soviet times. Giorgi, who grew up down the street and works in the tourism industry, said there was a bread store on the other corner. He recalled how the lines got longer both at the butcher shop and bread shop during the Gorbachev years due to a food deficit. At times, people would take the bread straight from the truck, not waiting for the workers to bring it into the store, Giorgi said. During the Georgian civil war in the early 90s, fighters would sometimes take the bread when it arrived, he said.
TBILISI: Nika, 13, was walking in central Tbilisi with his 3 year-old sister Mari. They were on their way to see the film 'Home' at the theater.
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Avtandil has a small room large enough for one barber seat in an alley off one of Tbilisi's busiest streets. The barber said he began cutting hair in 1978 at the age of 15 and has been in this location for the last 10 years. Times are tough, he said.
TBILISI: Olya, 22, was sitting in an alley way in Tbilisi, playing with her phone as she waited for a friend to arrive. She is a 4th year medical student. Olya won't be the first member of her family in the medical profession: her mom, aunt & uncle are doctors. Olya said she would like to move to Germany in part as the medical profession is better paid there.
TBILISI: Medea, 26, sells fresh bread from a storefront where the bread is baked. A mother of two, she said took the job a few months ago. She had been working as a waitress, but the restaurant closed when the owner died. Medea said has a degree in law, but its hard to find a job in that sector. She hoped to work in the law in the future.
TBILISI: Tattoos can say a lot about people and their interests. Giorgi, 19, was hanging out with two friends near the center of Tbilisi. Giorgi said he would like to become a ranger in the military, but that he was rejected because of his tattoos. He took off his shirt to show them. He had a tattoo on his right arm of US weapons specialist Chris Costa holding a machine gun. The tattoo was in the style of an orthodox icon. On his left arm, he had what looked like Mother Mary holding a machine gun. Giorgi said he has been interested in the military from childhood and that his favorite movies include 'American Sniper' & 'Saving Private Ryan.'
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Anna, 17, is a high school student that currently lives with her aunt in a village outside Tbilisi. The teenager said her father died 10 years ago from illness while the current economic downturn has pushed her mom to seek work in Turkey, explaining why she is living with her mom's sister. Anna, who was named after her Ukrainian grandmother, said it is sometimes hard being without both parents, so she tries to keep busy. She spends most of her free time drawing, walking around town and meeting friends. Anna would like to study architecture in Norway as she believes the universities are better there than in Georgia. She said a friend told her about Norway and she liked the idea. Her big plan this summer is to attend an outdoor rock concert.