Drenched by the Black Sea – Farewell Georgia

The Black Sea gave me a fitting farewell on our last day in Georgia. Batumi, where we spent the last day, is a great little city on the Black Sea coast. I went to the beach – with dark sand and small rounded black rocks underfoot. The was a storm on, and wave after wave rolled onto the shore. Looking out at the gray sky and the blue-brown sea it looked like it was boiling, and would certainly be treacherous to swim. Still, my desire to wet my feet with the Black Sea was strong, and what harm could come from just getting to the edge of the seemingly tame ebb and flow of the waves’ edge on the black-rock beach?


I took off my shoes and socks, put down my backpack, and rolled up my jeans. The water felt great, so I walked in a little more, getting most of my feet wet when the wave completed it’s journey and folded over itself up the beach, gently splashing between my toes and pulling the sand away beneath my feet as it rescinded back to the mother that birthed it. It was delightful, looking out unto the sea and fantasizing about Jason coming to just about this same spot with the Argonauts, in search of the Golden Fleece. I turned to get a picture of the coast, and when I looked back outward, I saw a formidable swell approaching. It took me a little too long to realize how close that swell was. It took me a little too much longer to realize it was going to crash where I was standing.

I turned and ran. I did manage to get away from the crash of the crest, but was not far enough to avoid getting myself and my clothes completely soaked by the spray and froth. It was a shocking delight to be bested by the Sea. As the surge up the shore enveloped my ankles, it reached my shoes and turned them into tiny Argo’s – I imagined them in search of tiny Golden Fleeces as I scoped them out of the frothy water. I picked up my partially submerged backpack as I made my way out of the thrilling Black bathing.

What a great way to end the journey and start the travels home (after a shower and an excellent Ukrainian meal, that is). Thank you to all the people who were are part of this fantastic voyage – Sophia, Sasha, Fazil, all the therapy training workshop participants, the business workshop participants, the hotel staff, waiters, taxi drivers, train operators, and on. Thank you Steven for making it all possible, for being such a force that people will fly from other eastern nations to see you in Georgia.

Georgia, thank you. Black Sea, thank you.


Visiting Georgian Historical Sites


We were planning on taking the train from Tblisi to Batumi, on the coast of the black sea. But a friend drove to Tblisi who lives in Baku, Azerbaijan, and instead five of us drove across Georgia in his Mercedes station wagon. It was a long drive. When night fell last night, our friend, Fazil Abdullayev (Adil and Fareed’s father for those who recognize those names) was tired because he drove all night from Baku. I was the only other person in the car legal and suitable to drive. So, I drove for two hours in the Georgian night on a twisty mountain road. And of course it rained. And if you haven’t been here the driving is well, interesting. It is not as bad as being on the road in India (where I have not driven), and certainly not as tame as driving in the US. It was a difficult drive.

We made it to Kutaisi before having to stop for the night. That is the same city where I posted from last week with the Svengali singers. Fazil was alert enough to drive today – thank goodness, because the roads didn’t get much better, and we drove through more towns, which are harder to navigate. We did get a flat tire along the way. Here is a picture of the family that helped us at the roadside store.


We had an awesome Ukranian meal in Batumi, which is a lovely seaside resort city. We then went to Gonio and visited in ancient Roman fortress, built in 300 B.C. There is a marker for the apostle Mathew’s grave here, which is pretty cool. What I really liked was walking along the top of the wall, imagining Roman solidies 2,300 years ago walking along that same wall. Here is the path on the wall:


And here is Sasha, Sophia, and Fazil:


Our flight home leaves in 29 hours, so tomorrow is the last morning we will wake up to in Georgia. It’s been a great trip, and I’m excited to get home.

Instead of Using a Translator, Partner With a Co-Facilitator

We finished up the Satir Model training today. It was a successful workshop, with every participant feeling like they got much more than their money’s worth. This post is about what a great job my friend Sasha did with translating between Russian and English. Sophia also did well when Georgian translation was required, and the four of us worked great as a team, but I particularly want to admire Sasha for now.

What was great about his performance is that he did not function as a translator. He was an integral part of the facilitation team. Steven was clear with him before the workshop began that he was not here to be a translator. That what we needed was someone who was going to be part of the facilitation team – which was Steven, me, Sasha, and Sophia.

About half-way through the workshop Sasha asked me how I thought he was doing. I told him I thought he was doing an amazing job. I could tell that he was not just translating literal words. Sasha has a PhD in Psychology and has been studying the Satir Model for many years with Steven, Laura Dodson, and others. When I or Steven would explain a concept in English, then Sasha would transform it into words that convey the message in Russian. A direct translation would rarely, if ever, suffice. When this happens, it is like having two people saying one thing.

For example, teaching is a creative art, and when I communicate a concept, the original words in English contain my creation of how to teach the topic. Then Sasha adds his creativity to the message as it is communicated in Russian. In this way, that set of words has meaning that makes sense and is able to be assimilated by more people, because it encompasses two people’s teaching style.

20141014_132911Because of Sasha’s high level of competence, there were also plenty of times where he would be able to give important information in Russian without me or Steven saying a word. There were a couple people who at times were not able to understand the concept in Russian, and needed to hear it in their native Georgian. Then, it would start with English, and Sasha would transform to Russian, and Sophia would transform to Georgian. That was interesting. And surprisingly, not a hinderance. This is due purely to how good Sophia and Sasha are.

Here is a picture of  Sasha (aka Dr. Alexander Cheryomukhin), who is not only an excellent facilitator, but a dear man who is fun to be around and has a great sense of humor. He humored my photographer-self when I requested this model pose of my euro-friend dressed in euro-attire standing in a euro-city.


Satir / Young Dot-to-Dot

Another good workshop day here in Tbilisi. During the day, I had a couple connect-the-dots moments, where I saw the how different Satir vehicles and Steven Young lessons connected horizontally and vertically. Here, I explain two of dot-connections: how credible images map to the Ways of Seeing the World model and how liminality and change are related to specific Satir vehicles.

Mapping Credible Images to Ways of Seeing the World

During the day, Steven and I introduced the Ways of Seeing the World model. Below is a picture of it in four languages – English (black ink on top), Ukranian (blue), Russian (bright red), and Georgian (light red or black on bottom).  We explained that the basis for everything we do as helpers and healers is to move people from a hierarchical view of the world to an organic view of the world.


After that, Steven led a very good piece for a woman whose grandfathers had died in wars. Since we are training therapist / psychologists the biggest part of the group processing is to discuss the process, not so much what people learned personally (although there is a lot of it, for sure).

One woman commented how she noticed toward the end when Steven said “let me show you what didn’t happen” it really changed the dynamic and how it deepened the learning for the star (the person who offered themselves as the “client”). I explained that this was Steven presenting the star with credible images of how she could make the change in herself that she desired. I wove in that every time you hear those words, you know that a credible image of change is being presented, and that the change will move the star’s way of seeing the world from Hierarchical to Organic. I invited the trainees to consider which of the four aspects of the Ways of Seeing the World model (the rows in the chart above) we are presenting a credible image of each time we say “let me show you what didn’t happen”. It was a great connect-the-dots teaching, that was very helpful to the attendees.

How Liminality and Change are Related to Specific Satir Vehicles

In the evening, we presented a special seminar on Liminality for people who paid in advance. During that, Steven explained that when you get to the point in working with someone where they need to change the meaning about themselves and accept how deeply they love instead of feeling worthless, that is the sacrifice required for change to happen here and now in the liminal space. For those more familiar with the work of Virginia Satir, we are talking about the Feeling about the Longing in the Anger Model.

In addition to making a sacrifice yourself, it is the practitioners job to judge the sacrifice of the client – is it enough the create the change desired? If it is not enough, you don’t judge it as such. You cannot ask for, let alone demand, the sacrifice. You can explain what is required for the desired change to occur; but you cannot ask the client to do it. You can only judge the sacrifice they make and not let something go that will not suffice for the client.


Meaningful Mature Puppet Theater in Tblisi

20141011_141948I was exposed to yet another day of rarity in Tbilisi. First, we conducted day 2 of the 5-day workshop training therapists and psychiatrists in Georgi

a. Steven led an especially good Satir Anger Model piece, with support from me, Sasha, and Sophia. There are a little over 20 people in attendance, and the work is going very well. The Georgians and Ukrainians in attendance are very grateful for the work and eager to learn everything we can teach. With the recent events in Ukraine, and the fact that Georgia has spent a lot of time under Soviet occupation, there is a big theme of war and displacement that we have not yet scratched the surface of.  Here is a picture of the statue outside the hotel where the workshop is held – it is St. George slaying the dragon.

In the evening we went to the Gabriadze Puppet Theater. It was an amazing performance. Yes, it is acted with marionettes. But you have to remove all your pre-conceived notions of marionettes, except for the strings, if you want to understand anything what it was like. The theater troupe travels around the globe doing performances, and it’s home theater is here in Tbilisi.

20141011_184310Rezo Gabriadze is the genius behind the show – he even designed the building, with a bizarre coo-coo clock tower the at noon and seven revolves the cycle of life (picture to the right). The performance we saw was Ramona. The story was absolutely ridiculous and wonderful. “Love is in pairs” launches  the story of two train engines in love, that are separated. Ramona, the female engine, rescues a circus troupe that is trying to avoid being censored and imprisoned by the Soviet party. Both of the circus ringmasters fall in love with Ramona, and one of them saws his feet off in a magicians box to prove his love. She not only gets them to their next destination, but agrees to perform in the main tightrope attraction after the primary performer breaks her leg. There is a hilarious scene where the ringmaster gets a letter from his feet, and learns they have no interest in returning. While tightrope walking, Ramona is distracted by the white smoke of her engine-lover, Ermon, and falls and dies. The play ends with an old man telling Ermon “love is in pairs, and you and I are alone”. Ermon does not want to go on without her, and is dismantled by the puppeteer while an old black and white movie of a train plays in the background.

It was remarkable how this puppet production could be so ridiculous and remain so straight and true. It was no fair to see this performance when I’ve been away from my wife, Toni, for a week, for it captured the almighty importance of love and made me miss her terribly. It also showed me how a nation copes in a post-war era. It taught me Georgian humor. And it stretched my definition of creativity. Marvelous.

Svengali Prayer Acapello in Front of Bagrati Cathedral

We had a very nice day visiting old churches today. And we got a special treat when a Svengali man (from the northern mountainous region of Georgia) took a liking to Steven and had his acapello singing troupe sing to us in front of the Bagrati Cathedral. Here is a picture of the cathedral followed by a video of the song. If you can imagine being under the front arch that you can see in the picture, listening to these men singing from the heart – it was amazing!



Tblisi Architecture

We toured more of the city today. I like the juxtaposition of old (sometimes very old) architecture, to their modern architecture, which is unique. Sasha says that Georgians sometimes just want to do things their way, regardless of what others think, and that characteristic is displayed in their architecture. Below are some examples, with a picture of me, Steven, Sasha, and Sophia at the end.

We also did some good prepping for the upcoming workshops while we toured the city. And we ate some delicious Georgian food – fried fish with currant sauce, tomato and cucumber salad with parsley, fried potatoes, traditional Georgian bread, unpastuerized village-made cheese, and other delectables.

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First Day in Tblisi, Georgia

I arrived in Tblisi, Georgia, early Tuesday morning. I am here to facilitate a couple workshops with my teacher, Steven Young, hosted by the Caucasus Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Family Psychotherapy. He came two years back, and they asked him to come again. We will conduct one workshop to train therapists and healers from Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, and another workshop on business planning and agile process development.

We spent the day with our long-time friend Dr. Alexander Cheryomukhin, known as Sasha, and Sophia Verulashvili, the President of the Caucasus Institute. We arrived at 3 AM on Tuesday and Sophia and Gulnara, who will attend the workshop and whose name means “pomegranate flower”, picked us up. We are staying in Gulnara’s apartment. We were fed a nice meal of bread, fruit, and cheese, and we talked. We then went to sleep. Sasha took a train in from his home in Baku, Azerbaijan, and when he arrived at the apartment at 1 PM, we got up and ready to go. We bought tickets for the theater and then ate at an old-style restaurant downtown. Here is a picture of the street and Sophia and Sasha sitting at a table in the restaurant:





We saw a modern dance performance at the Rustaveli Theater that was very nice. The theater itself was old and inspiring. Here are pictures of the ceiling of the theater, the street outside, and Steven and I in front of an iron gate outside the theater.

















I am enjoying being introduced to Georgia, and learning about the people, the lifestyle, and the politics. There are still a couple days before the workshop where we will see more of Georgia and plan for the upcoming workshops.