Local TV in Chiatura interviewing Henning Photo: Chiatura TV
Gudauri ski resort Photo: Henning Boström
Henning in Kazbegi Photo: Tamuna Datuashvili
David Gareji Photo: Henning Boström
Let us introduce to you our dear friend and second ''Swede of the month'', Henning Boström, who completed his internship at the Embassy last fall and is currently staying in Tbilisi. Good food, drinks and hospitality seems to be a returning pattern of Swedes love for Georgia, and we couldn’t agree more! Read Henning’s personal story about life in Georgia and his work at the Embassy!
Last spring, when I was on an exchange at the faculty of law in Edinburgh, I was looking into doing an internship at one of Sweden’s embassies. My Russian studies a few years earlier had sparked an interest in Russia as well as Eastern Europe, and I therefore had my eyes turned eastwards. Going to Russia or Ukraine initially seemed like the more natural route to take, but after reading a book by the Swedish-Finnish journalist Anna-Lena Laurén on the 21th century color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kirgizstan, Georgia too appeared like a very interesting choice, and entered the top three of my internship wish list. When the embassy in Tbilisi offered me a place I instantly accepted. I had never been in the Caucasus region before; neither did I know anyone who had.
The Swedish embassy in Tbilisi houses both the Foreign Service and the Development Cooperation (SIDA). My internship was connected to the Foreign Service. As an intern I attended various conferences and meetings and reported about them as well as other issues of interest to my superiors. In my work I also adamantly followed Georgian news, and I have to say that I now know more about who’s who in the Georgian cabinet than in the Swedish one. At the same time I feel I understand very little about Georgian politics.
What I’m most happy about regarding my internship in Georgia is that it allowed me to meet a lot of interesting and competent people. One of the perks of being an intern at a relatively small embassy is that you always have a lot of interesting things to do. The regular staff simply does not have enough time to cover everything that happens in the country, and so a lot of exciting tasks are left to you. A memorable example was an afternoon visit to Chiatura, during which the gamgebeli (head of municipality) showed us the best parts of town and we were offered food and drinks no less than three times.
One of the things that I’ve experienced and enjoyed in Georgia is the regard for the good things in life. Georgians never seem to lack time for family, friends and good food, enjoy staying up late, and will most often not say no to a dinner or a drink. Always sharing what you have is also a habit that I will try to take with me home to Sweden.
Despite wonderful people and spectacular nature, all has not been perfect of course. Discrimination against women and LGBT people and racism are unfortunately real problems that become evident too quickly. Many of my foreign female friends have been subjected to offensive comments, stalking and unfortunately much worse by Georgian men on several occasions. Even so, the experience of Georgia that I bring with me, after quite tellingly staying several more months after the end of my internship, is a very good one. I’m looking forward a lot to my final two months here, and with new access to a garden and a grill, to in turn offer some hospitality to my dear Georgians.