This weekend the family brought up the tree from the garage.
“SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!” – Buddy, the Elf.
Tuesday at school, I passed Nika, my former host brother, in the hall. The school is has a small student population, but large enough to not see everyone everyday. I gave him a big bear hug as I always do when I see him. His English is pretty poor. As poor as my Georgian. He asked when I would come visit the family. I had always intended to when I got back from the States, but things just never really lined up. So I told him Wednesday lunch.
It was a little weird walking up the old street again. I didn’t see any of the neighbors out, but I did see Levon’s car parked in the street in front of the house from a distance. When I opened the gate, I saw people’s headed peeking through the curtains. Walked through the garage and Eka opened the door for me. She gave a hardy well-articulated ‘Hello’. Inside were Levon, Nino and the grandmother. Nino, of course was being shy. She had gotten noticeably bigger. She is still not in school, however. Next year. Everyone was as happy to see me as I was them. We asked all the relevant questions there was to ask, then we settled into watching/ looking at the television until lunch was prepared.
When it was time to eat, we all went to the table, but I noticed that only I ate anything. Apparently, they had eaten at 1 o’clock. So it was just me and Nino (who by this time had warmed up to me again). Levon brought out the Cha-cha- yuck. And I did three shots. He refused as he was driving back to work. The grandfather came back at this time. He seemed happy to see me, but didn’t ask or say much. He has since gotten a job or I should say more hours on the job. He still works for the bread factory. Because of that, he didn’t drink either. Eka left shortly thereafter, because she was back to work, too.
Lunch was delicious, but short lived. It was good to them.
Lado is still in Tbilisi at University. They think he likes it. He used to commute home every weekend, but now he has a job at a bank and works on Saturdays.
Levon asked for me to purchase an iPad for him the next time I go to the States. He had gotten an Android Tablet, but the Internet is painfully slow. Nino uses it primarily to play games.
Levon gave me a ride to my next destination, and that was that.
“I’m coming home again.
Do you think about me now and then?
Do you think about me now and then?
Cause I’m coming home again”
Homecoming, Kanye West
I have been here in Georgia for a little while now, but there has been one thing that has eluded me. All my friends took part early and often it seemed. People promised me all the time that I could join them in the next one they attended, but it never panned out. So when my host mother at dinner one night asked, after making sure she said the right day of the week- Tuesday- in English, “My cousin is getting married. Do you want to come?” I literally jumped for joy.
For those of you that know me, you know that there is NOTHING that I enjoy more than a good wedding. And I have heard nothing but epic things about Georgian weddings. Finally I got to go to one.
She politely asked me to dress nice and shave. No worries, Natia! Weddings for me means, GAME TIME! I brought a suit to Georgia specifically for this purpose and shaved and cut my hair the day before.
The wedding didn’t start until 6 pm. (And is wasn’t actually the wedding we were invited to, but the reception. Which was fine by me.) But I wouldn’t be able to go home and change right before. My co-teacher, Elene wanted me to assist her with a training presentation. So I had to walk through town with my suit on. It makes me self-conscious for some reason to be the only one dressed up. It just made for one more thing the Georgians stared at me for.
Got to the venue which was a restaurant near my last host home. And people were milling about. As soon as I got there and saw all the people hanging around outside, I realize what I walked into. The old ‘let them wait outside for hours’ trick. Ugh. After an hour or so of standing, Natia decided it was enough and took me inside to sit. The tables were still being prepared. There were rows and rows of tables. As I walked in, the intense stares continued. Natia introduced me to some of her family members. And we all sat together. Finally the doors were thrown open and the rest of the guests poured into the restaurant. Actually it was more like a banquet hall.
When it was time to eat, I remembered that although the table was full of food, there would be much, much more coming, so I paced myself. After everyone had enough time to eat a little something, the toasts and drinking started. The tamada was up front on a microphone… which was a little impersonal, but again, there were soo many people.
The food was basic Georgian food, with the exception of a few meat dishes.
In between toast’s, the DJ was hard at work. I had witnessed a famous Georgian dance called –appropriately – ‘the Wedding Dance’ at the dance performances I had attended in town. (I will try to find a video of one). But it took on a whole different context in the correct environment. The dance is such that the bride is dancing around with what looks like quick baby, shuffle steps. When she stops, the groom comes from across the dance floor to get next to her. He is also doing minute quick kicks as he goes. When they are together, they do not dance together or even touch. They don’t touch the entire song. Instead, she shuffles around and across the dance floor and he shuffles and baby kicks behind her as in a chase. After typing this, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually a very beautiful dance. Everyone knows it and have seen it a thousand times. But still, they love it and its tradition to perform it. (I have included a video of the dance at the bottom of this post. Its another wedding however and not the one I am writing about.)
I could tell that the bride loved to dance. She was trying to get on the dance floor every chance she could. The DJ played a good mix of contemporary and traditional music. And lots of people were ready to dance. My favorite part of the evening is when the DJ played an absolute favorite… a total crowd pleaser. Equivalent to ‘Living on a Prayer” at weddings back in the States. He played an Adjarian song for Adjarian dancing. The bride and groom took to the dance floor first. They both did well. The groom was tall and thin, great body type for this style of dancing. And wedding dresses are perfect as well. But the dance is physically taxing. So all the guests knew they could not sustain for the entire song. And as soon as they walked off the dance floor, the other guests flooded into the open spaces and started dancing so hard I thought someone was going to get hurt. It was soo fun!
I cant just run onto the dance floor… in most occasions. Like at weddings where I hardly know anyone. But I took a chance after a couple of songs. (Liquid courage). As soon as I got on the dance floor, the Georgians surrounded me to dance with them. They were in my face and spinning me around to dance with others. It’s as if they were waiting on me to come dance. As soon as that song ended (and other toast ensued), they dragged me off to their table for more drinking. The first time, my host family let it slide and I was able to go off and join them. But the second, third and fourth times, my host dad got up and literally told the other people that I could not go drink with them. After a while he had Giorgi follow me around.
Every dance song they came to get me out of my chair. It was soo much fun!
After a while, it was time to go. We walked home in the drizzling rain. Great wedding!
“Is it the look in your eyes,
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares baby,
I think I wanna marry you.”
Marry You, Bruno Mars
My dad back in the States doesn’t normally cook. Well, he doesn’t normally cook in the kitchen. My mom handled that. He could grill food all day, everyday. But in the kitchen, his repertoire was limited to frying fish, cooking steak… that’s about all.
My host dad here, Gurami, lost his job a couple of weeks ago. He still has a lot to do around the house to keep him busy. And on days when Natia, my host mom is super busy he will cook lunch for the family. It’s always fried potatoes. Delicious fried potatoes.
Gurami is also a very religious man… it seems. I have never seen him go to church. Even on the religious holidays. But he religiously does not eat meat or animal products for three days a week.
Yesterday, for lunch they served a dish that looked like the meat in ‘kabduri’. When I said so, they replied, “hmm… no, it’s not that.” As they gave sly looks to each other. Now, it must be said that whil living here, I have tasted and mostly liked a lot of ‘exotic’ foods; cow heart, chicken brain (or vise versa), etc. So they weren’t going to scare me, as I took a bite of the dish just to prove my point.
Natia asked if I liked it or not. I said it was pretty good. They said it wasn’t meat. …okay.
Giorgi didn’t know the name in English, so he did a round about description of it. Saying its like corn after it has popped… or its more like corn than meat. But how could this NOT be meat though it looks and tastes like meat….? TOFU!!!!!!!
I was rocking’ tofu in Georgia. All because Gurami can’t get meat on Fridays.
There is a girl at school who is afraid of me. Like afraid to even look at me. Her friends find it hilarious. So today, I ran up to her and gave her a big long hug. I turned and walked away without seeing the consequences. She could have fainted for all I know. Or started projectile vomiting.
So far, I don’t mind walking to school. The weather is still comfortable. This morning walking to school, a car crept up beside me and offered a ride. In the backseat was a neighbor and her granddaughter. These pseudo hitchhiking rides are pretty much the same. Very seldom does a person speak English well enough for a conversation. But, by God, they try! I’m not complaining. they shave off 15 minutes from my walk.
There are three streets that I walk home by. The one that the school is on is the longest. But sometimes I am the only one walking on it as far down as I can see. Today in the distance I saw a lady pushing a stroller. I didn’t notice her again until I was almost passing her. (I was lost in thought to my earphones.) Sometimes I find it awkward to pass people on the road. I don’t want to startle them as I pass. but I don’t want to offend them by crossing to walk on the other side of the street. As I approached this lady, I decided to cross the street. As I was passing, I noticed her softly singing to her baby. Georgia loves music and dance. EVERYONE sings and dances. I am not saying they all are great singers, but they sing for the joy of it. They easily and often break into song at supras and parties or even hanging out in the park. And if one person dances, you will quickly find them followed by four or five more.
The song the mom was singing was probably remembered from her childhood and her mom.
I passed a corner house walking home from school. And I noticed what I thought were two dogs playing together. When I got up to them one was mounting the other; aka sex… going to town. But only when I looked through the bushes of the fence (that sounds awkward) did I see that the other animal was not a dog, but a pig. I was confused. I am not used to this ‘rural’ living. That sort of thing might be normal happenings on old McDonald’s farm and the village, but it’s all new to this guy.
On my block, the road changes from smooth pavement to gravel and potholes. I don’t understand why it abruptly changes or stops right before my house– annoying . Between the intersection and my house, an old lady was piling up leaves and twigs in the middle of the road to burn.
I was finally home from my walk. Gurami was bagging the husks from the last of their HUGE stash of corn…. I mean HUGE! I was walking up to him to say hello, when I hear from off to the right of me, GMARJOBA!!!!!!! I jumped a good 2 feet. It was our next door neighbor saying hello from her window (that’s how close their house is to ours). Hello, Manana!
I was changing out of my school clothes when I got a whiff of a semi-unfamiliar smell. At least unfamiliar to smell in my room. It smelled…. ‘Georgian’. Kind of like how a movie theater smells like a movie theater, but you wouldn’t expect to smell it in your house. I looked around and smelled various things. Come to find out, it was me!
Just wakin up in the mornin gotta thank God
I don’t know but today seems kinda odd
No barkin from the dog, no smog
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog
I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna tip out
(Whassup?) Hooked it up for later as I hit the do’
Thinkin will I live, another twenty-fo’
I gotta go cause I got me a drop top
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop
Had to stop, at a red light
Lookin in my mirror and not a cop in sight
And everything is alright
Called up the homies and I’m askin y’all
Which park, are y’all playin basketball?
Get me on the court and I’m trouble
Last week messed around and got a triple double
Freakin dudes everyway like M.J.
I can’t believe, today was a good day!
It Was A Good Day, Ice Cube
Mosquitoes get really bad here in the summer. As there is no central air or air condition units, we keep all windows and doors open all day long. Therefore there is no way to hide from them. So they buzz in my ears while watching television and trying to take a nap. They bite me all day long.
In the last house, I suggested that I go to the store and by some bug spray to ward off the bloodsuckers. But they instead gave me a little gadget that plugged into the wall. They said that it would ward off the mosquitoes. Now, I had never seen such a gadget, but okay. So for the rest of the summer I religiously plugged it in.
On coming to my new house at the end of summer, the same plague of mosquitoes has descended upon the town of Oz. They are enough to drive me insane- literally insane. But they said they would get me a gadget that would ward off the mosquitoes. Okay.
The next day, they gave me the device, but this time it had a small capsule of liquid attached to the bottom. It reminded me of one of those smelly good things you plug into the walls.
Then I realized it…
The other family had duped me. They knowingly gave me this gadget knowing it would not ward off any thing. What else did they fool me with?
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” – Folk Saying
I had been trying to meet my new host family for several days now. But it was finally set up. I was to be picked up at my school after my camp was done at 5. I asked without thinking, ‘how will they know me’? My co teacher found this to be too funny…and obvious.
I approached the school and there were a lot of adults there, which was unusual. But when I got to the school, I noticed a good-looking kid smiling and walking towards me. He shook my hand and introduced himself as Giorgi and his father (don’t remember his name). Their truck was a two-seater, so Giorgi got in the back. He still was able to speak to his father, though.
Awkwardly, the truck broke down halfway to the house. Not broke down all the way, but it barely got above 15 MPH. …awkward.
As said before, their house was pretty far from school; actually it’s on the outer limits of town. We got to gravel pavement before we stopped. But the house was no less impressive than my current house. Some better things, some not so good things.
The family consists of only a father, mother and son. Both sets of grandparents are deceased. The father has a cement business in town and the mother is a well-respected elementary teacher at my school. The son is going to the 10th grade.
The first thing I observed about them is they don’t ignore each other. The father hears and responds to the son and the son responds to both parents. The second thing I noticed was the mother doesn’t seem to have the propensity to scream at the volume of my current host mom. That’s a good thing.
The living room is not as furnished as the current home. They have one of those double seated garden swings and kitchen table chairs (I think that eat in this room, too. It’s big enough). The television is in a far corner, which is why I think it’s the family area. The floor in this room is cement.
Off the living room is the kitchen. I was highly impressed with this space. It’s an open kitchen, expansive and fully tiled. I even noticed a microwave oven! I could have been mistaken… but I swear it looked like a microwave. The kitchen looked very modern considering. Around the corner was the only bathroom in the house. But I was impressed by it as well. It too, was fully professionally tiled with western toilet. What struck me best about this bathroom, was that it was clean and uncluttered with random items. Everything was as it should be in a bathroom. And clean.
The ‘interior’ stairwell didn’t seem to be completely finished. The bottom level was still gravel and the parameter wall was roughly cemented with cylinder blocks.
The upstairs is constructed of wood. But all the wood is beautifully stained. The area of the house seems to be the same as my current house. But they only have three bedrooms. Past what is to be my bedroom is the upstairs sitting area. All the rooms have door access to the others. So if you were to imagine a walking tour, you would start on the upstairs ‘foyer’, walk into my room, then into the sitting area then on into a long room on the front of the house. Turn left and you reenter the house into the parent’s bedroom. Straight on you go through Giorgi’s bedroom, then out to the ‘foyer’ again.
After the tour, we went downstairs to have a mini supra. Joining us was one of my co English teachers from school. The son could have struggled through as interpreter, but I think she wanted to play that role. The food was all familiar but slightly different, due to the hands that made it. The father does not speak English (and indicated that he didn’t). But was happy enough that I drank wine and Vodka. I think he was also pleased that I was able to share 7 or 8 toasts before I called it quits.
It was decided that I would move most of my things to their home this Sunday. The plan is for me to work at the summer camp for all of July. And perhaps the first two weeks of August. If not, then I will stay with them in August.
It was a pleasant first impression I think for both parties.
The only things that will have to be adjusted and dealt with are the distance from the school, and the lack of a heating system in my room. But if they can do it, so can I.