Georgia, Georgia, Georgia. Where do I begin? I have been here for just about two weeks now and, while attempting to shrug off my severe jet lag, have been caught up in a whirlwind of introductions, Teach and Learn in Georgia (TLG) training sessions, exploring Tbilisi through late night excursions, and settling into village life. The following paragraphs are my first impressions of the culture.
First off, I think it is worth mentioning that the name for Georgia in the Georgian language is “Sakh-art-velo”, which has some kind of romantic aroma and is much more pleasant to the ears than “Georgia” (no offense intended to anyone whose name may be Georgia).
Secondly, the cultural combination of both Asia and Europe gives the country a very unique vibe. Georgia is also in time of significant change after becoming independent following the fall of the Soviet Union only two decades ago. The reminiscent Soviet style architecture will make you feel like you’re slipping into James Bond film, although it is important not forget the extreme hardships of the country’s past. Black is a favorite color and the serious facial expressions of the people and bleakness of the buildings often reflect this empty feeling. And, although vibrancy and vivaciousness may not always be immediately obvious here, you will quickly find both attributes when you get to talking to the people and are welcomed with wide smiles and open arms (even if you have a severe language barrier handicap).
Oh, and the seemingly endless supply of food and wine helps, too!
Finally, I’ll discuss my impressions of the Georgian people. If the Georgians have not seen the movie Grease, they should. There are enough black leather jackets and cigarettes being smoked here to impress any die hard fan of the American 1950s. Oh, and the Georgians love to dance, too. From what I have gathered in my limited experience, the dance incorporates a bit of swaying in the arms and some loose hip movements along with walking in a rhythmic like motion occasionally lowering oneself closer to the ground. The lowering move is a lot like the “a little bit lower now” and “a little bit higher now” parts of the song “Twist and Shout.”
Last night, my host father provided me with a crash course in some of the basics. I must have done extremely well judging by the boisterous laughter coming from the family and friends in the audience.
The family that is hosting me consists of a father, mother, grandmother, brother, and sister. All of which are amazing people. Throughout my village the delicious mandarin trees are plentiful. I haven’t seen a house without them, or grape vines. My family makes their own pear juice, wine, tea, and cheese. Also, it is notable that the mother is a class A chef. That is another thing that Georgians love, food! Wine as well, but I think that goes without saying.
Really, it is impressive how much food is at every meal. Meals are when I pick up a lot of Georgian language, mostly the word “chama,” which means “eat.” “Chama, chama,” they constantly say to me even when I am stuffed. The food is HEAVY too, so it’s hard not to fill up fast.
To conclude, if I do not become an avid cigarette smoker or wine drinker while at the same time gaining a significant amount of weight, I am pretty sure that I never will. I guess you could think of it as the ultimate test of willpower. “Sakh-art-velo” versus Chris. Let the challenge begin.