Dear Family and Friends,
Nearly a month has passed since arriving in Georgia. In the past few weeks I have had some very enriching and oftentimes entertaining intercultural exchanges, most of which have happened in the two weeks I have been living with my host family. In this newsletter I want to share some of these moments.
One night after dinner all the family was sitting in the living room when Nukri, my 8 year-old host brother, asked me to teach him some French techtonique dance moves. Thanks to a bizarre New Year’s resolution in January, I happened to know some. The French music was then switched to a Georgian folk song and the little girls proceeded to dance around the room with the quick steps and upheld arms characteristic of Georgian dance. I then, in turn, taught them a country line dance and a hula. This cultural exchange escalated. Soon the coffee table was moved and all the adults were sitting around the room clapping as the children performed a succession of dances – from salsa to Michael Jackson.
Last Sunday I came home from church to a decapitated pig in the back of a truck. My host grandfather had gone to the countryside that morning to kill it. The next day after dinner, I sat down in the living room to write. Alina, my host sister, came over with a plate of home-made fruit leather. I grabbed a roll and bit into it as she said, “It is pig. Do you like?” My thoughts suddenly jumped back to the massive pig in the truck bed, wondering what part of the animal had been dried to make these lumpy, red rolls of leather. Then I remembered that Georgian has no F sound – the closest letter they have is a soft P. The substance was indeed fruit leather, made of fig.
Today I had my first supra (a traditional Georgian feast characterized by overflowing food and alcohol). At each supra there is a Toast Master – generally an elder in the family – who starts off the drinking with a raised glass and an eloquent toast. At traditional supras, a horn full of wine is passed around the table. Today, due to the Russian guests that were visiting my host family, each toast was offered with shots of Russian vodka. I joined in the festivities with a bottle of Coca-Cola that my host family fetched me as the toasts began. And for the next several hours we sat around the table, feasting on an endless stream of khatchapuri (Georgian cheese bread), khinkali (large, meat-filled dumplings), and shashlik (skewers of chicken and beef). There was also baskets of bread, battered fish, chicken salad, various dishes of vegetables, and green peppermint soda. The occasion also allowed me to try out my newly-learned Russian, which of course was mixed with Georgian, English and Magreli (the regional language of my host family).
I am now back to finish this newsletter after having been pulled from my computer to rejoin the supra at the restaurant across the street. Six hours later, the circle of elderly drinking men has tripled in size and my host grandfather insisted I dance with him to a Brazilian pop song. When I left to come home, toasts were still being made.