Nutsa Tskimanauri, 33 years old, Tbilisi
I am a travel guide since 2012. I started this job accidentally and finally, it turned out that I let my first and main profession – drama acting – in favor of tourism and now I am performing one-actor shows in a bus.
By accident, I went to an expedition to Javakheti, where I spent a whole month instead of the supposed two weeks. Then, in spring, I returned to Akhalkalaki for a longer period of time and I had a chance to work in a Georgian elementary school as a teacher. I had a great time and it was an amazing experience. I discovered another world and a different environment; I lived in it but couldn’t see it before. For the first time, when I lived in Akhalkalaki, I started organizing hiking tours for my friends. Everything I saw there was so impressive, that I wanted to share it with my friends.
Then I returned to Tbilisi and I continued my new job here. I am a lucky woman, I have a job I love and a wonderful family, a 3-year old son and a husband – my best friend. I found what I wanted to do in my life. Sometimes it is difficult to combine family and work. Perhaps it is hard for every mother and I am not the first one saying that, but I think for guides who are moms it is twice as hard. This is not a usual job, from which you go home after 6 pm. It’s different around here. For example, when Alex was in a hospital with Pneumonia and his father was taking care of him, I heard it post-factum because I was on a tour for three days and my phone didn’t get any signal. of course, my son would be taken care of, but it was still hard for me. every time I take my backpack and leave home, a part of me stays there. But as soon as I get on the bus and the door closes, I have to leave my personal problems out of the door and smile. sometimes we joke, that a guide never has problems, never becomes sick and never dies. She only stops talking and that’s it.
To be a guide is an adventure in all aspects. The biggest advantage of my job is education and a search for new and interesting things on a daily basis. Guidance is not a narrow specialty, you should be able to talk about anything – a bit about geology, geography, history, culture, religion, botany, gastronomy, wine, religion, and even about politics. I always try to learn something new and grow. I am still studying and I have to admit, that it’s not simple to learn, to be a mom, to be a wife and to work at the same time, but it is doable. It’s about desire and proper time management. People often tell me – ”you can’t still study at your age” or ”you are not in the age to have those adventures”. I am the only one in my group who’s married and has a son. sometimes they don’t understand. Moms have different priorities.
In addition, I always feel judged by the community. Sometimes they tell me: ”You are leaving your child and husband alone and go to the mountains for adventure and fun”. I remember one moment very hard. I was very busy back then and I had seen my family only once in two months. It was summer and I visited them in our village. When I entered the yard, I saw my son playing there. I put my bag down and ran to him to hug. We had a very emotional moment. Our neighbor witnessed this scene and asked me seriously – ”did your child remember you?” It broke my heart.
Guidance for many people is associated with entertainment, travel, wine tasting and it is difficult for them to perceive our profession seriously. Besides the fact that sometimes we have to deal with high-ranking politicians or clerics and being their guide is not simple, we also go to the mountains, on so-called ”wild trails”. Any person with any kind of rank, social condition or position is equal in nature and you are the only person, who should be trusted to get them to the destination comfortably, safely and interesting.
When I am put my backpack on, I don’t have any gender, because a woman has to do the same work a man does. However, there are some trust issues and sloppy attitudes because I’m a ”little girl”. There were some cases when the tourists asked me about my passport because of my looks; they didn’t believe me that I was of age. But, as a rule, there are many day tours and trust comes naturally. It’s important that a guide is physically fit and psychologically stable, for example, your plans to go home after a tour could be replaced with going to a hospital or to a police station and so on. It’s paradoxical that people in the mountains take my activities more adequately than here in the city. They only ever ask me if I miss my family.
It is hard for me to find a middle ground between my profession and my family. It’s always a dilemma of staying versus going. I am often on this crossroads and if not Levan (my husband), I don’t know where I would be today and what I would do. There are probably no men on earth who would be happy to have his wife always at work, but there’s my husband and I am the luckiest woman because Levan is always there for me in every way – be it the study or the job. we decide and plan everything together. When Levan and I moved in together, we were planning to travel with a tent, we were even ready to go when I received a call from work and was told that I had to go in a tour to Svaneti with an important group. Of course, I refused at first, but finally, that’s how we had to spend our honeymoon – me, working and my husband in the role of my tourist. Levan has always been my energy source and a motivation to reach new goals. Alex was nine months old when I left him and went back to work on day-long tours because my husband could see that sitting home made me moody.
There is still constant pressure on us. We have fewer girl guides than boys, that’s why I often have men as partners. There may be only one girl in a six-person working group. There are ironic attitudes about this – ”does your husband know that you are here?”. I have heard worse – ”god knows who sleeps with whom in the tents”. As if someone wants to cheat, they can’t do that in Tbilisi. I’m trying to laugh away the anger and I improvise stories about the tent of the ”pure guide”, who’s as blue as the sky and even in the 3000-meter altitude of mountains still doesn’t leave the kitchen. I make caricatures of the labels in my mind and make jokes of existing worldviews. That’s why I often joke about myself as a ”married guide”. This is a form of protest and self-defense from stereotypical attitudes. Because of these stereotypes, not many girls choose guidance as a profession. Women often have to make sacrifices and leave their jobs, because they get married and have children. Despite the fact that there is a demand for female guides, there are few women in this field. However, I have to thank my guy partners, I can’t imagine getting through the endless trails of Caucasus without them.
Except for my husband, my family members weren’t considering my job seriously for a long time. When I was on the tour, working, they simply said I was out. As if it was some kind of fun and didn’t pay the mortgage or didn’t put food on the table. Then they saw me a couple of times on TV and changed their attitude, and at once the whole family was proud of me. Not everybody understands that working in the office is not for me, but climbing the mountains brings me happiness. I believe in what I do and maybe my example could bring hope to many others. When I have a bad time, I remember that my son would not get anything had I stayed at home rather than climb the mountains. He will grow up and find a job that makes him happy, but I should have my own one. I love my job so much that I picture when I get old, I will work in the museums as an aged guide. Until that, I will try to develop myself in other fields as well and prepare for my new plans.
I am often asked how I can manage so many things. I always take my son with me. At first, it was weird for some colleagues, but everybody got so used to it that they are now surprised if I’m without him. I have never apologized for my son’s cries or screams. Alexandre is an individual who’s sometimes in a bad mood, sometimes is hungry and sometimes is laughing. People are slowly starting to take their kids out and some guides are going on tours with their children too. In general, this country doesn’t have so many child-friendly spaces – for example, there are no ramps in cafès or drugstores to bring the baby inside in a baby stroller. Neither are there playgrounds with toys or diaper tables. I don’t want to go to the toilet to breastfeed my child, I can’t belittle myself or my child. So, I try to discuss such things with my friends and talk about these problems publicly, we even created a page ”The city for children”. I am very lucky in my personal and professional life, which is a very friendly environment for children and I will never have a problem to bring my child at work. Such supportive environments are very important for women to feel comfortable while working, growing and doing the job they love.
I know that I’m not the only one who is worried about it and I don’t want to bother anyone with my problems. I just wanted to tell how Nutsa looks from the other side when she comes home and also that being a guide is usual job – with difficulties and challenges, only our workspace looks different”.
Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photo: Nino Baidauri