"As Russia has helped Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we expected the same from America." Discussing politics with Georgian pensioneers at Turtle Lake

Tara Bahrampour listens to Georgian pensioneers discussing politics at Turtle Lake, Tbilisi:

"I'm not pleased with how Europe has reacted," said Merab Saqvarelidze, 60, a doctor. Recalling Europe's appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s, he said, "Georgia doesn't need the same mistakes. Georgia needs, now, weapons and Stinger rockets. The Americans give Israel weapons and rockets, and for us they sent only candies and water" — a reference to humanitarian aid.

"And shampoo," said Giorgi Sikharulidze, 55.

In the crisp morning air, joggers bounced by and young mothers chatted over baby carriages. Cups of strong Turkish coffee were served. From the next table came the sound of dice hitting a backgammon board.

Whether the participants are talking about U.S. assistance or how ancient feasting traditions are being lost in Georgia's transition to capitalism, the style of these daily discussions is similar: Arms flail. Voices rise. Occasionally, the plastic table is pounded.

"Even when there are only four or five Georgians," Sikharulidze said, "they are arguing all the time."

Sometimes they argue with people who are not there. For example, with President Bush, over his September speech at the United Nations. "He should have been more critical," said Temo Gotsadze, 67, a bearded artist. "He did not defend Georgia as much as he should."

"Georgia is being punished," Saqvarelidze said, "because between two powerful countries, it chose America."

Should it have chosen Russia? The men shook their heads. No. Still, though, "We were expecting much more than just words," Sikharulidze said. "For example, as Russia has helped Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we expected the same from America."

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