Welcome back to my blog. It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I have made some YouTube videos, this spring, so if you want to see what’s been going on, you can also tune in to my channel. Some of you may know that my husband Tim and I are retired and have been traveling the world for over 10 years. Last November, we bought an apartment in an old building, here in Chiatura, Georgia. At the top of this post, are a couple of photos, that our lawyer, Anna, recently gave us. We already knew that the edifice was built by American financier, Averell Harriman, we presume, in the 1920s’, but Anna also found out, recently, that the structure was built as an office building, rather than a home, as I originally thought. 
The nightmare, for us, began Thursday evening, March 19th, when we arrived in Tbilisi, from Chiatura, on what would be the last bus for the duration, of what we now know, has become a World-wide Pandemic. That evening, after arriving in Tbilisi, we took a taxi, straight to our favorite restaurant called Tiflis, only to discover that they were closed. When we walked into the old town, we were puzzled when we discovered that all the restaurants were closed there as well. We found a small Spar store open, where we got lunch meat and bread to make sandwiches, before heading to the Aeleon Hotel, where we were staying. when we got to the hotel, we had a message from our translator, Nino, saying that my hairstylist, Tamera, had called and said that the salon where she worked had been closed, due to the Corona Virus Pandemic. Nino convinced her to still see me and it was agreed we would move the appointment from Saturday, to Friday, the next day, and meet at her friend’s salon, at 2:00 pm, where she would cut and color my hair. 
Friday evening, after getting my hair done, I was standing in our hotel room, and not realizing that I was so close to a couple of stairs, that led out to a balcony, I took a step backward, fell, bumped my head on the glass doors, and severely sprained my wrist. My wrist was really swollen and when we called the manager of the hotel to report the accident and to ask for an ice pack, I was given an old tub of ice cream to put on it. Since that’s all that was available I was left with no choice. Tim made some ice cubes for me, which I put in the container, and applied to my wrist, the rest of the evening. 
We decided to leave Tbilisi the next day, by taxi, after getting groceries at the Carrefour grocery store in Tbilisi Mall. It was the only thing opened at the beginning of a long shutdown period, for businesses in the Republic of Georgia.
Dito, our contractor, was supposed to do some work on our hilltop apartment, that was to include, running sewer lines, leveling the floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, and putting studs on the walls, to hang sheetrock. He got the sewer lines run and then the Pandemic hit. Now, of course, the stores are closed, and we cannot get the materials for him to complete the job. Since that job had been put on hold, we decided that rather than have our whole renovation project be at a standstill, we decided to find out if Dito would be interested in doing some work that wouldn’t need materials from the store. We decided that we wanted to have all the concrete and plaster removed from all the ceilings and walls, in the apartment, since much of it was crumbling and falling off, due to dampness. 
We met with Dito and Nino, our translator, on March 31st. Dito agreed to do the work of removing all the concrete and plaster, for 1800 Lari, or $600.00. Dito and a couple of workers began the job on Wednesday, April 1st. The job also included taking out the living room fireplace, which was reminiscent of the Art Deco period. We had planned on moving it to the bedroom and using a gas insert with it, but unfortunately, the bonnet was made of concrete and it broke apart in pieces when they removed it, and it couldn’t be salvaged.
On Monday, April 6th, we went up to our hilltop apartment to check on Dito’s progress. At that point, we had decided that in addition to having the concrete and plaster removed from the walls and ceilings, we would have the wall separating the living room and dining room removed. We knew that it wasn’t a load-bearing wall, but before we had Dito proceed with removing the wall, we wanted to make sure that a pipe that was in the corner, between the two rooms, was not connected. After Dito went under the building, he assured us that the pipe was old and not in use. When Tim and I left the renovation site that day, Dito and his crew had about half of the wall down.
Later that evening, we got a call from Nino, saying that the resident from the upstairs apartment, had been screaming at Dito and saying that the work he was doing was damaging her home. He was forced to stop working and contacted Nino. Nino informed us that we would all meet on Tuesday and that the other neighbor named Zurich, would be bringing his architect friend. Tim and I were really worried about the damage that might have been caused to our neighbor’s apartment. She was claiming that there was damage to her wall and though we knew that the wall we were having taken out was in no way connected to the floor above, we were concerned that maybe removing the old pipe had somehow caused damage to her wall. Though we were anxious to get there and check on the possible damage, we were also a bit skeptical about whether this neighbor was telling the truth. she lives with an older woman and they haven’t been friendly to us from the get-go.

On Tuesday, when we all met up at the hilltop apartment, Tim and I were relieved to see that the pipe we were worried about hadn’t even been removed yet. In fact, not much more of the wall had been removed. After we were introduced to the architect, who we were led to believe worked for the city, he walked around scrutinizing our home. He agreed that the wall we were taking down was not load-bearing, but he recommended that we still support it, before taking it down. What he said didn’t make sense to us, but as I said, we thought he worked for the city, and we assumed that we were required to do what he said. It was at that point that I asked Nino if we could see the so-called damage that the neighbor said was done to her apartment. Nino translated my request and when we all went up to the apartment, it was clear to Tim and me, that the cracks in her walls, were stress cracks that were there before we ever started our renovation project. We were never told by this architect or anyone else whether there was damage or not. They talked in Georgian amongst themselves and Nino never translated what was being said. The only thing ever translated for us was that the architect recommended that we support the wall. Since we had brought up to the architect that our walls had moisture and damage to them, as a result of the upstairs neighbors not maintaining them, Nino told us they would have an engineer come out and give us a list of what we would need to make sure the apartment is structurally sound. Though we had asked, we never did get a clear answer to our question about whose responsibility it is to maintain the upper balconies, that we don’t even have access to. 

When we got back to the apartment building, where we are staying, we stopped in at Nino’s office to talk with her. She told us that the upstairs neighbor, Zurich, had prepared a document that she would translate, have us sign, and they would send it to the Mayor’s office. the document stated that we had found some damage in our home and we were requesting that the engineer from the city come and advise us. I told Nino that we wouldn’t be signing the document. I explained that the whole reason we met the architect from the city was to determine if there was damage done to the neighbor’s property. It was during this part of the conversation that Nino admitted to us that the architect did not work for the city. Tim and I were baffled. We had just wasted another day listening to advice from someone who had no authority. We left her office very disappointed and a little angry. 

With all the issues we’d been having, and since the neighbor continued to interfere with Dito’s work on the apartment, we finally contacted our lawyer, Anna, to make sure we could legally move on with our renovation. In the meantime, Dito contacted the city architect and brought him to the apartment on April 10th, to confirm that taking down the wall was ok. We called Anna, this time, to translate what was being said. Anna told us that the architect said we could do whatever we wanted to the inside of our home and that removing this wall was not a problem. When the architect went outside, he was confronted by the neighbor who insisted he go up and look at the damage we caused to her wall. When the architect came back down, Anna talked with him on the phone. He said we didn’t cause any damage, but the neighbor wanted to file an official complaint. We were told that all our work had to stop until the city could officially respond to her complaint. Anna told the neighbor over the phone, that we would give her a couple of days to file the complaint. Dito left that day saying he would come to finish the job of removing concrete and plaster, off the walls and ceilings, when we got an official document from the city, saying it was ok to resume working. 

On the weekend of April 11th, a message was passed on to us, from either Nino or Dito, that we were to meet with an official from the city, at our hilltop apartment, on Monday, April 13th, at 10:00 am. We passed the message on to Anna, our lawyer, in Tbilisi, so that she could stand by to translate, over the phone, what the official said. We assumed we would be hearing from an official about the city’s response to the complaint, our neighbor was supposedly going to file. Nobody from the city ever showed up that day, and when Anna called the Municipality, to find out what was going on, she was told that they knew nothing about the 10:00 am appointment. The officials from the Municipality also told Anna that the neighbor woman had not filed her complaint. Anna assured us at that time, that we were within our rights, to do what we wanted, with the inside of our home.

On April 14th, Tim decided that he would take the wall down himself. He didn’t have a power tool as Dito did, but it came down easy enough with a hammer, a crowbar, and an ax. While Tim was taking the wall down, the neighbor stood outside, talking on her phone, no doubt, trying to get a hold of someone, to prevent us from taking it down. After Tim was finished taking the wall down, we got a call from Anna, saying that the neighbor had filed a complaint and that an official from the Municipality would be coming the next day, at 12:00 pm, to investigate. Once again, no official showed up at the property. When we talked to Anna, we asked her who had told her that an official from the Municipality would be coming to our home that day. It was at that point she admitted that she hadn’t actually spoken to anyone from the city. She had received the message from the former owner of the property. The lady who used to own our apartment had called Anna and said that an official from the city had called her and said the neighbor had filed the complaint and they would be coming at 12:00 pm, on April 15th, to investigate. I couldn’t understand why Anna was taking the word of this woman, who used to own our apartment, since I know she and her family didn’t like us and hadn’t been above board with us, during the closing proceedings, on the property. When I pointed this out to Anna, she called the city and they said that they would have come, that day, but they didn’t have a vehicle to get to the apartment. This all sounded very fishy to us. Needless to say, we are through worrying about what this neighbor thinks about what we’re doing in our own home. We just wanted to make sure that we weren’t breaking any rules. With Anna standing by to advise us, we feel confident that we can move forward with the renovation.

Not a lot had changed for us, living here in Chiatura, Georgia, during the first 5 weeks of the Pandemic. The only changes that we noticed were that many people opted to wear masks, and grocery stores and pharmacies were only allowing a couple to enter at a time. On April 17th, however, when Georgia was celebrating its Orthodox Easter, confirmed cases of the Corona Virus had reached 411, and the government responded by extending the quarantine lockdown from April 21st, to May 22nd. New restrictions were also implemented to include, a 9:00 pm curfew, and a ban on driving unless it’s by individuals who have essential jobs. Our neighbor, who lives in our downtown apartment building, was brought here from Turkey before the Pandemic began, to manage the project of redesigning the water system, to provide water for Chiatura, 24 hours a day. He was one of the individuals who was given special permission to drive his personal vehicle since he has to be at the main water plant in Sachkhere, every day, and that plant is about 20 km away. Another new restriction that was put in place is that no one can go, in or out of the cities of, Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, or Rustavi. Since wearing a mask was also made mandatory, and Tim and I didn’t have them, we had to cut the sleeves off his old tee shirt and use those to cover our faces when entering grocery stores or pharmacies. 

On April 24th, the government posted a re-opening and economic recovery plan for Georgia, that will take place in 6 different phases. On April 27th, the restriction on driving was lifted. Dito messaged us on the 26th to let us know that he would now be allowed to drive from his village to Chiatura, in order to finish the job of removing concrete and plaster off the walls and ceilings. We met with him at the hilltop apartment on the 27th, and with Nino translating on the phone, we told him that in addition to having the concrete and plaster removal done, we also wanted the lath removed from all the ceilings. He agreed to do the extra work for 300 Lari, or $100.00. He also agreed to clean out the rooms of all the excess wood, for free, since he wanted to keep the wood for himself. He assured us that he was aware that we had a legal right to move forward with our home renovation and he would not let the neighbor interfere with his work. He will resume work on April 29th. 

We were very happy to read that on May 11th, when the next phase of the re-opening plan takes place, construction businesses can open up, and we will finally be able to buy materials for our apartment renovation. By then, we should be ready to buy metal studs, for hanging sheet-rock, and electric lines. 

 On May 25th, retail shops that have street access will be re-opening, as well as open-air markets. 

 On June 8th, shopping malls, open-air restaurants, and beauty salons will re-open.

 On June 22nd, all restaurants will re-open.

 On July 6th, all restrictions will be lifted.

For us, as American citizens, living currently in Georgia, the Pandemic has been little more than an inconvenience, but to the people of Georgia, it will most likely cause much more financial hardship. The government will only be able to minimally compensate its citizens with the following economic anti-crisis plan.

The average citizen, who has lost their job due to the Pandemic quarantine, will receive 600 Lari, or $200.00 a month, for 6 months.

 Citizens who are self-employed will receive a one-time payment of 300 Lari, or $100.00

 The disabled will receive 600 Lari or $200.00 a month for 6 months.

 Pensioners will get a raise of 20 Lari or $6.00 a month.

I pray that the people of Georgia and of the World will recover from this Pandemic crisis and that we will be stronger than ever. 

                              Thank you for joining me. God Bless You All.

                               Christina The Traveling Diva

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This