I believe in the power of a smile. A smile can be a subtle twitch of the jaw muscles or a large grin with both rows of teeth showing much like every one of my childhood pictures when I didn’t even want to take a picture and had been crying just 30 seconds ago. Smiling is like the Ebola Virus, It’s contagious.

That’s why one of my goals every day is to smile, whether to myself or to someone else or even a complete stranger, If I can in any way brighten someone’s day by making them laugh or smile, well then that’s exactly what I’ll do. Although I have to note, smiling at complete strangers sometimes brings undesirable results such as their boyfriend trying to fight you.

Anyways, to sum it all up I believe in making people smile or laugh. Putting a smile on the face of someone who had been and gloomy beforehand is really what I live for. And if I make someone they laugh, that’s even better because it’s nice little confidence booster when someone laughs at my “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. It’s sort of like the feeling you get when you get away with shoplifting or that feeling of danger and adrenaline that you get when you miss a step on the stairs. Knowing I brought happiness and joy, even if it was just for a couple of seconds, into anyone’s life really, makes me feel good.

It may not seem like a big deal, but since I could remember I always came home with certificates that state on them, “best friend to everyone”, “easiest to get along with”, “funniest person” or even in some cases more aggressive cases where my parents weren’t happy “class clown”, “Absolute degenerate that never stops talking and keeps making his classmates around him laugh” you know, all that good compliment stuff. But really, all I cared about is that me, as well as the people around me, were having fun, no matter where we were.

In fact, one of my most noteworthy achievements is based on the power of a smile:

A landslide carrying 1 million cubic meters of land, mud and trees. A huge flood. People missing, 20 confirmed deaths, homes destroyed, wild animals roaming the streets of the capital. That was the scene that I arrived to only a day after getting back to my home country Georgia on June 13th, 2015.

It was a brutal scene and the costs were very high. The government couldn’t take control of the situation by itself, so getting the city back on its feet was all up to the volunteers.

Seeing people coming up from the steps of the zoo that day, I could see tens of small children crying and begging their parents to do something about what had happened but, obviously, they couldn’t just go and catch the lion that had run away from its non-existent cage.

I gathered my friends the very next day and headed down to the zoo. It was gone. The landslide had completely scratched the zoo off of earth’s surface. A place of joy was now one of sadness. It was up to us, the volunteers, to rebuild the zoo. The first day we spent looking for possible survivors under debris, the second day it was time to grab a shovel and start digging. On day 5,  10 minutes into the work I heard there was a black jaguar on the loose on a street very near to us, we obviously went after to chase it, but by the time we got there, it had already mauled 5 people and had been put down. My friends and I cleared out an unbelievable amount of earth. By day 7, the debris was almost all gone.

On day 10, I asked the workers at the zoo if my friends and I could help rebuild the historic site, in terms of the cages and all. They accepted the offer as they needed all the help they could get. As they gave us the necessary tools, we went at it. I spent the whole summer volunteering at the zoo. I remember finishing enclosure after enclosure. Still, it was a sad sight, it looked abandoned with no one to inhabit the newly built compounds. I remember thinking that It would’ve been fun to have human gladiator fights in the cages instead, have a little throwback to the golden age of Rome. But the Zoo keeper laughingly brushed my comment off, not knowing I was dead serious.

However, a year after, along with other activists who helped get the zoo back on its feet, I was invited by the administration to celebrate the reopening of the zoo. A place that was silenced by destruction was now filled with laughter. I couldn’t have been more proud as I felt like I’d really made an impact. As I said to me, seeing someone happy with a wide smile on their face is priceless, that’s why I felt that rebuilding that zoo was one of the most noteworthy things I’ve done. Not only had I had an actual difference, but I saw and heard the smiles and laughter of the zoo staff that welcomed me back as well as the dozens of children around me, happy to see the deadly mongoose back in its cage.

Always a reason to smile


Sounds like an extinct dinosaur but it’s actually my last name! By the time you’ve gotten to this post, I’m sure that you’re already going to be familiar with my full name. When I say familiar with, I don’t expect you to know how to spell it or pronounce it correctly. I only know of 4 people that can successfully do so with my name, 2 of them are my parents, 1 is my little sister and the other is my roommate at my old boarding school of 2 years. I mention 2 years because that’s how long it took him to be able to pronounce it. Oh, and now there’s also Hunter who can throw a half-decent attempt at it.

Although originally from The Republic of Georgia, I moved to the state of Georgia about 3.5 years ago (Ironic! Isn’t it?). Let me just mention that it’s very bizarre explaining to people that there’s a country called Georgia.

“I’m from Georgia and I speak Georgian!”
“You mean English? Because you do know that Georgia is part of the United States and they speak English there”

“No, listen….”

“Ok…you’re not very smart, are you?”

That’s a conversation I have quite often.

The Republic of Georgia is a failing nation – a country full of all sorts of turmoil and poverty, is still my home. There are many people in various regions of Georgia who, to this day, don’t have direct access to simple, but critical, things such as clean water, electricity, and healthcare. Not to mention a lack of education. But my experiences with moving and displacement are for the next Dooley Special, for now, is one part of my life that truly shaped me.

Being a native of the Republic of Georgia has had a significant effect on my life. Then there’s the whole aspect of me being from a generation of war.

Growing up I shared an apartment with my parents, uncle, aunt, cousin, and grandparents in a large complex on the outskirts of Tbilisi, the capital city. To do the math, there were 8 of us in a 3-bedroom apartment. My grandparents had actually gotten the apartment in a soviet lottery, that’s how things worked back then. If you didn’t have money to bribe officials you would have to be placed on a very long waitlist to get a half-decent 2-bedroom apartment. But that’s a whole different story. I remember I would run down in the huge yard that used to surround our apartment building and meet my friends to start playing football(soccer) or rugby on the football field.

I remember almost every other day, I would decide that I either wanted ice-cream or some sort of candy from the local supermarket 1 block away. I’d run to back to my apartment, the 2 windows of my room would be facing me, and start screaming “Bebooo… Baabbuu” (translated to grandma and grandpa in English) to ask them for what is the equivalent of 0.80 cents in US dollars. Most of the times I would get the requested amount, sometimes, however, they wouldn’t have that much to give me for my silly candies. I was raised to be very humble in general, so I would never complain or ask again for the next 2 days because looking over at my friends, I knew that they wouldn’t get those 0.80 cents thrown down to them for weeks because of the financial difficulties their families were going through.

I remember one day seeing someone buy this big robotic dinosaur at the store, and asking my mom if I could have one too, her looking back at me and shaking her head implying that we didn’t really have enough at the time. We just had enough for the products that we were there to buy. I would smile back at her so as to not make her sad, but from her voice tone and every now and then teary eyes, I would know that my smile wasn’t always enough.

After those stories, you must be ironically thinking to yourself “One big happy family, eh?” The truth is, we were. There was nothing but laughter radiating from our windows, from early morning to late nights.

That laughter was completely silenced in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia, yeah, I know this sounds like the whole but “But everything changed when the fire nation attacked” from the Avatar: The Last Airbender, but truthfully it was far from it. I remember my mother hurrying me over to a friend’s house and sitting together awaiting the moment when it would be officially announced that we were under siege.

My dad called us from a village called Gori that was currently being bombed and where Russian soldiers would strip Georgian soldiers naked to string them up on light poles as a form of embarrassment. He said that he was there with the President and Minister of Defense and that combined they had enough army and security resources to make it out fine, but that the tanks were slowly approaching the capital city, Tbilisi. However, a few days after international leaders intervened in what was going to be a countrywide occupation, I remember standing hand-in-hand with my parents and endless others to form a human circle of strength around Tbilisi, a chain that extended over 60 miles.

Post-war there were multitudes of Georgians who had been forced out of the occupied regions. Many displaced families sought refuge in camps neighbouring our home in the city. Most mothers from Tbilisi volunteered to take care of the refugee children, many of whom had been orphaned. It took days of convincing, but my mother eventually agreed it was okay for me to take my soccer ball to the camp where she was serving. That summer, on the ill-maintained playgrounds of Tbilisi, I made many new friends, found some “rivals” – and I met Gocha.

Russian soldiers and their heavy artillery tore apart Gocha’s family, but they did not take away his playfulness. Perhaps we were both too young at the time – Gocha, a year older than me – to truly understand the torments of becoming an orphaned child. I could barely picture how lonely he must have felt because he never shared his sadness.

Gocha and I were a lot alike. Both quick to raise our hands when it was time to volunteer to be captains for a soccer game. Both bent on picking the best players for our teams. A week in, we had all become ferociously competitive, and fights were common – especially when we could not agree on whether a goal had been scored. Stones and rocks, piled up to make goalposts, got the job done, but not very well.

One such fight became unnecessarily ugly. Gocha pushed me, and I tugged at him, tearing apart what I later learned was his only shirt. At the end of the game, my teammates pressured me to apologize to my shirtless opponent. I talked myself into walking up to him – rather begrudgingly and uncomfortably. Gocha looked over at me as I rehearsed under my breath what I was going to say and, as I was about to start, he shamelessly broke into a fit of giggles. I smiled back, more confused than guilty. I realize that despite everything that had happened to him, he could still find it in him to laugh, or at least smile.

The next day I brought him some of my shirts as an apology. All of them fit, and a loyal bond was sealed. I even remember him laughing at one of the shirts because it had a pony, drawn on it by me.

At this point, I know I will spend a lifetime spelling my name and clarifying its pronunciation. I know my country will find it difficult to survive – the population of the Republic of Georgia steadily decreasing to the point where a century from now the number of citizens is predicted to drop from 3.4 million to one million. Despite all of that, I know, because I was there, that aggression does not overpower compassion.  War is devastating. But does it mean we stop looking for joy and happiness? That we can no longer smile? That we turn our backs on acts of kindness? That we subdue our natural personalities? No. As I have learned, sometimes all it takes is a soccer ball and 8 new shirts.






Overview of Friday’s Philosophy Forum (FPF) meeting

After 45 minutes of wandering around campus, asking if anyone knew where some “FPF” lecture would be, I ended up somehow stumbling into the right building. Finally, I was in Bowden hall at around 4:00 PM, but this wasn’t any type of lecture hall I’d ever been to, it was just a series of classrooms. After another 10 minutes, I finally found my way to the right one, Bowden 216.

Unpacking the drinks and snacks

As I enter and take a seat at one of the outer chairs, I see a few people unloading a few 12 packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon bear beer along with some crackers, raisins, grapes, bread, chips, cheese and some wine.  I began to wonder whether I was in the right place or not. However, looking up at the board in the center of the room, I saw in chalk writing “Canon Fodder: Exploring the Challenges of Decolonization and Canon Reform”

As I took my seat, one of the graduate students asked: ” Are you here from Lauren?” to which I said, “No, I’m just an undergraduate student here at Emory University, I’m here for a blog post for Professor Highsmith’s expository class”. At least a few people in the room laughed. At first, I didn’t understand why, but then it clicked Lauren=Professor Highsmith.

The topic up on the board

Before we begin with the lecture, let me introduce what this post is about. According to their website, the FPF, which stands for Friday Philosophy Forum, “facilitates philosophical research, discussion, and collaboration among Emory graduate students in philosophy and other disciplines.” So essentially, they provide graduate students to share current research and paper drafts for the purpose of provoking dialogue and eliciting feedback that might strengthen works intended for future publication.  All this is also a part of a bigger organization called The Graduate Philosophy Society at Emory (GPSE) which is “the body for representation and self-organizing of the graduate students in the department of philosophy.”

Some of the members of the forum

I realized soon that this wouldn’t be a lecture, it would actually be just a weak presentation of the very first draft of a paper regarding diversity in philosophy. Andrea, one of the presenters soon pulled up her partner from Canada, Emily, on FaceTime so that they could begin their presentation. “We realize that we are going to say some stupid things here, but please give us as much feedback as you can” were the first words uttered by both partners. Before beginning on the actual reading out loud of their draft, they pointed out that it would only take a maximum of 25 minutes.

Emily on FaceTime as well as other members of the forum

What follows is essentially a direct flow of the presentation as it went: Andrea provided the introduction of the paper saying that Philosophy has a serious problem with diversity and that various different proposals had to be put in place to change that fact. Both Emily and Andrea, all throughout the paper would mention about 10-15 times that a major factor of change would be a transformation of the syllabus for philosophy as well as the diversification of the list of philosophers. They said that more indigenous philosophers have to be included in the syllabi all around the world. Emily took over right after saying that people fear change but that Philosophers having different perspectives is what the world needs. She said that white male supremacy had completely dominated Philosophy for years, starting from the belief that white male Greeks were the first Philosophers. After providing no evidence whatsoever to back it up, they said that just was not true and that it was only designed to amplify white supremacy. Emily said philosophy is just one tool they love that could be used for diversification, others included the recognition of indigenous sovereignty over lands, decolonizing mines, nations, and schools. That’s where I got lost, I no longer knew what the paper was about, was it about decolonization? Diversification of Philosophers? White male supremacy?. They both then began to talk about how it was wrong of white people to go down to local tribes in Hawaii trying to help them out because the only thing that did was force them to assimilate to white culture.

After providing little to no evidence to any of their claims, and throwing around quite a few authors, philosophers and hard philosophical terms with little to no context, they were finally done. It was now time for questions.

I realized that I wasn’t the only one confused by their paper when I only saw 5 hands fly up for questions with over 17 members of the forum. When asked about the some of the topics within their paper such as decolonization and the diversification of the syllabus as well as the evidence surrounding their claims, their answers were very subpar. They were either unable to answer some questions or were only able to answer them partially. Leaving me as well as the forum very underwhelmed.

Essentially, after an hour and thirty minutes of utter and pure confusion on my part, it was finally over, I got up and left as soon as I could. Since I’d recorded the whole presentation I gave it another listen in my room hoping to get something more out of it. Nothing.

Besides touching base on so many things with little to no evidence to support their claims, the overall first draft was pretty much torn apart by the members of the forum, the facetime called ended by Emily saying again that they knew many stupid things would be said but that was the point, to receive feedback and do it better the next time. Apart from being a completely un-engaging and very uncomfortable experience for me, both Andrea and Emily left with just what they needed, some awesome feedback to make their paper better and actually presentable. Oh, and I got to see some pretty sweet beards on 2 members of the forum and that’s always a plus.


Graduate Philosophy Society at Emory, Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

17 Over Grilled Chicken days later.

Cox Hall from the outside

Considering everyone in this class is a first-year student, it’s safe to say that the newly established DUC-ling is a go-to place for everyone trying to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a day-to-day basis. However, what happens after a while of eating the same over-grilled chicken?  Hopefully, a change in menu. Of course, you might think of going to White Hall for a quick lunch bag, or even to the WoodPec for some chicken tenders. But in all honesty, the first place you think of, and rightfully so, is Cox Hall.

Cox Hall cashiers desk as well as the tables and sit down facilities

Located right by Asbury Circle (only 10-20 feet from the DUC-ling) Cox Hall is one of the most prominent dining facilities on campus. Operating from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, it is a food court holding up to 8 different dining options, with overall prices averaging from $8 to $10. By now you must be interested in what a Cox Hall experience is really like: Well,  let me be your guide for today.



Restaurant Twisted Taco
Sample of food from Twisted Taco

Let’s start off with the first restaurant you’d see when entering Cox, a traditionally Mexican joint that serves everything from burritos to tacos filled with your choice of chicken, beef, seafood or veggies along with different sauces, rice, and greens. Suffice it to say, for all you weird vegetarian folk, all tacos can be filled with seasoned tofu as a substitute for meat. Items on the menu average $4. With a menu featuring 16 different kinds of tacos and burritos, it really is hard to go wrong at this place. My personal favorite item on the menu is Buffalo Bill, which is a taco composed of crispy fried chicken strips in buffalo sauce along with tomatoes, lettuce and ranch dressing. In my little private personal ranking, I’d give twisted taco 2nd place on the personal Cox food leaderboards. To personally check out the menu as well as the prices, click on the following link:

Ray’s Express pizza place
Sample of cheese pizza from Ray’s Express

All the pizza boxes you see throughout the day that isn’t Dominos or Papa Johns belong to Ray’s Express New York pizza place. Located right next to Twisted Taco, it’s as the name suggests: a New York-style pizza joint.  Giving you the choice of pizza or pasta, averaging around $6, it is the perfect place for anyone craving a good satisfying meal. The most popular menu items, which also happen to be my personal favorites, are “Momma’s beef lasagna” and a  few slices of their cheese pizza. In terms of personal ranking and rating, I’d give this restaurant 5th place overall. Attached you will find a menu in case you haven’t started drooling yet:

Restaurant Char’D House
Food on display at Char’D house

Following that row half way down is a traditional American restaurant called Char’d House. There you’d be able to find menu items starting from burgers and fried chicken to sweet potato fries and salad bowls, all averaging a price of around $8 for a fulfilling meal. The most popular menu item is the chicken strips with a side of french fries, getting that first bite really brings you back to the first time you had chick fil a, which in my case was pretty amazing. Placing number 4 on my personal leaderboards, it offers a very\ fulfilling quality meal at a fair price.

Restaurant Bhojanic
Indian food on display at the Bhojanic

Next, comes the traditional Indian joint, the Bhojanic Market. With a menu featuring everything from Thalis to different types of curry and salads, as well as up to 8 different types of bread, this restaurant is another place where it would be really hard to go wrong. This is a more pricey restaurant within Cox hall, with food items averaging around $15. Being a huge fan of spicy food in general, my personal favorite menu item is the Chicken curry. Consisting of boneless chicken with all kind of spices, garlic and some sort of onion based sauce, it really makes it worth your money, just like every other menu item at the Bhojanic. In my personal leaderboards, I’d give Bhojanik 3rd place overall due to my biased, spice loving self.  If this has you interested for more, please click the following link to access the Bhojanin menu:

Restaurant Maru
3 samples of various kinds of food available to order at Maru








Right in the corner of Cox Hall, you will find Maru, a traditional East Asian restaurant. Featuring everything from Rice bowls with chicken to noodle soups with beef, as well as a wide variety of vegetarian salad bowls, all averaging $8 in price, Maru provides excellent quality food at a very reasonable price.  My personal favorite item on the Menu is a rice bowl with Ginger chicken and vegetables with hot sauce, it provides an exquisite balance of spicy and sweet,  and to top it off the blend of the soft aromatic chicken pieces with white rice is excellent. Having been in love with Asian food since I was little, it is my go-to place every time I am inconvenienced by the DUC-ling and therefore ranks number 1 on my leaderboards. Maru provides an excellent mix of quality food at a very reasonable price.

Restaurant ITP
Restaurant Dooley’s Farm and the salad bar displayed

Next in line are ITP and Dooleys farm. ITP is a classic Italian pizza and deli place, averaging prices of around $7, it provides a perfect alternative to Ray’s Express. With thin crust pizzas and finely made deli sandwiches, ITP provides a little fake back-to-home experience for all the Italian students. Dooleys farm is just what it sounds like, averaging prices of about $9, it’s a less popular all salad place in the food court always offering refreshing, yet fulfilling bowls at fair prices. Both joints together place at number 6 in my overall personal ranking.

A smoothie as well as a coffee place. Freshens and Beans Coffe respectively.

Finally, last but not least are Freshens and Beans Kaldis coffee shop providing smoothies and coffees as well as healthy salads and little dessert food items for all the passer byes, both joint prices averaging around $6. These two places are pretty much in a different category because of the type of items available, which are mostly different varieties of healthy or energizing smoothies and beverages.




Cashier place

After you’ve picked out food from any of the food places available, you either go pay with Dooley dollars or a credit card, indicate whether or not you want a drink with your food (which would add somewhere around $3 to your overall charge ), sit down and enjoy your meal with your friends or alone if you’re into that. I do have to mention to the first-years in the class that having $150 Dooley dollars automatically on our Emory cards, it’s best to pay with those, keeping in mind that we’ll all be getting another $150 starting from next semester.

Inner store corner within Cox

And hey, if after all of this you still can’t find something to eat, just go to the local store and get some chips, candy or a granola bar with juice/ soda, and go on back to your dorm room to eat there.

In conclusion, if you’re hungry and looking for some place to eat that’s not the DUC-ling, Cox hall is a place for you. Offering a wide variety of meals as well as its own little store, there’s something for all of us.


Volunteer Emory at Oakland Cemetery: “Great Success”- Borat 2006

It was a sunny, beautiful Saturday morning, the birds were chirping and the sound of volunteer feet echoed on the concrete.

After heading down to the Ducling for breakfast with a few of my friends, we were on our way to the WoodPec where all the volunteers were scheduled to meet.  As we set foot in the WoodPec, the chatter of hundreds of volunteers trying to fulfill their PACE requirements filled the place.


We followed this chatter all the way to the “front desk” where we checked in and were given name tags and told to get to know some of the other people going on the trip with us.

After aimlessly walking around the wide court, not even glancing at strangers so as to avoid any early morning conversations, we were all transported to and then distributed amongst 4 blue Emory shuttles.

It was just a 30-minute bus ride to Oakland Cemetery yet it was one of the worst bus rides of my life, as one of my peers was talking at a brain drilling volume, non-stop for all 1800 seconds.

After we arrived at our destination we were met by a few tour guides who led us to the groundskeeper of the cemetery, they then gave us a speech speaking to the importance of what we were doing and how they genuinely wouldn’t be able to keep the cemetery in as good of a shape as it was, if it wasn’t for all the volunteers.

Soon after, we were distributed in small groups of 12 and given different tasks.

After getting to know a few people within my group, I decided that I would be of most help to the cemetery by shoveling the mulch into wheelbarrows, that would then be spread out on different sites at the cemetery to work towards the end goal: enriching the soil that was starting to decay.  4 hours after shoveling the mulch under the excruciating heat, we had finally gone through over 3/4s of the huge pile that was there when we first arrived.

Overall, even though the work was excruciatingly difficult, and gave me back pain, I really enjoyed volunteering with Volunteer Emory, especially since I ended up getting to know a lot of people. Afterwards, I felt happy knowing that my time and volunteer work went to great lengths helping urban projects in Atlanta. Having had such a great experience, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to volunteer.