Friday, September 7, 2012

"You like Georgia? I like you!"

Short version: Everyone here is lovely, and has been so kind and patient with me!

Long and much funnier version:

I am currently watching a Brazilian soap opera. The actors speak in Portuguese and are rather clumsily dubbed in Georgian. I speak neither language, but I am getting really into it. As far as I can tell, the one lady is in love with her boss, and then there are three couples who are mad at each other, and now people are fighting in the casino....

A little neighbor's child is hanging out in our living room. He's about three years old and I have no idea who he belongs to. No one seems to be watching him (although he keeps staring at me). This seems to be an ok situation though, as everyone on the street is tight and passes around babies.

Apparently, women in Georgia dance around in white when they are on their periods - just like in the US! Wow, it must be a universal woman thing. But in Georgia they also sing and sometimes wear pale pink.  Ok, enough about television...

My Host Family 

The first thing I noticed about my host family was that they laughed a lot. I took at as a sign they were a jolly bunch, rather than maniacal, and so far I've been right. I have a mom, dad, sister (15), two brothers (11 and 13), AND two grandmothers. Not to mention those random neighborhood kids. I'm glad that I'm used to a full, loud house!

My host mom (Deda - Georgian for mom) speaks Italian, which has cross over words with Spanish, so our conversations are often in my few Georgian words, her few English, and then some Spanish and Italian thrown in. 

They greeted me at their home with a dual American/British flag since they hadn't known what my nationality would be. (Awkward if I was Australian...) They fed me Georgian food, walked me around the neighborhood (my two host brothers held my hands as I went down a particularly steep hill, fulfilling the Georgian custom of petroni, a male relative taking care of the female one.) Then we sat outside eating sunflower seeds and watching the chickens, of which they have many. (Also pigs!)  They live in a good-sized town for Georgia, but it's still pretty rural - cows are herded down the street in front of our house!

Meeting the Neighborhood

Neighbors all sat outside as the sun set, women and children on the benches, the men a few feet away. The woman near me looked at me awhile as they conversed, and then had my host sister (who speaks very little English) tell me they liked me. This has happened to me repeatedly in Georgia - Georgians deciding they liked me after a few minutes observing. I take it as a compliment. This might also be because I always answer in the affirmative when they ask me if I like Georgia and Georgian food.

 Eventually, a middle schooler came by that spoke better (still very broken) English. They had him sit in front of me and, since it was getting dark, turned on the lone lightbulb over the covered picnic table (which took a man climbing a tree to accomplish). All the men moved over to the table. There I sat, in near darkness, surrounded by Georgians, all staring at me, as an 8th grader interrogated me by the one swinging lightbulb. If they hadn't been so friendly and cheery, I would have been terrified.

That trial over, I went to sleep in my lovely room only to be awoken repeatedly by dogs and roosters. I had mentally prepared myself for this and was in fact well-trained, having slept next to the raucous karaoke in Tbilisi.

Seeing the Town 

Today ( posts are being posted late...but not for you in the US...what? Time? Days?) we walked around the town center (tiny and cute and mostly painted yellow), bought some veggies at the outdoor market, and I got to meet some of the teachers at my school! They immedietly stroked and/or pinched my cheeks, took my arm, give me air kisses, and talked about how the Georgian men would fall in love with me. So much for keeping an air of professionalism, as I was told to strive for. But everyone was very welcoming and I'm excited to work there!

There was some confusion as at first some teachers thought I was Georgian. It's a blessing and a curse that I do look very Georgian (dark hair and eyes, long nose) - a curse because people expect me to speak Georgian, a blessing because I don't get stared at quite so much.

This evening we had a nice family dinner, complete with home-made wine. (Kakheti, where I live, is the wine region!) And what is a Georgian dinner without toasting? Not Georgian, that's what. So we toasted to family, to friendship between America and Georgia, to parents and to children. But the best toast came near the end, when we toasted "to church!" and drained our glasses. I was working very hard not to spit my wine back up from laughter - how different from the church going crowd of the United States! This one episode sums up what Georgia is known for - being one of the first Christian nations and first wine-making countries.

But the funniest part of these past two days was an hour ago, as we all sat around the living room and suddenly Deda pulled out the scale and told me that they had to weigh me! Everyone found this hysterical, as did I, (weight isn't a touchy subject in Georgia), and I duly let myself be weighed. They promised to weigh me every month to see how fat I get. (I will keep you all updated, right now I'm around 40 kilos.) Then the kids, Deda, and I sat on the sofa and made fish faces and laughed. Somehow, this was all absolutely hilarious. (And no, it wasn't from the tiny glasses of wine we drank.)

I know this is the "honeymoon" period, and culture shock and stress will strike as I begin teaching, but I surely am a very lucky girl.


  1. If you add up everyone in your family, you will still get 0% body fat. I doubt you have anything to worry about.

  2. Girl... I love reading your blog and getting a feel for what Georgia will be like! You're getting me SO PUMPED!! Sounds like you're having a really awesome time!

  3. This adventure sounds so amazing and I am so glad they are jolly and also planning on fattening you up although I am little concerned that perhaps they are maniacal and fattening you up to eat you? Love hearing about your adventures!