The Country of Georgia

It's commonly thought of as Eastern Europe, but that's really a misnomer.
(And it's NOT Russia!) 

 Georgia is a Caucasus nation (the other Caucasus countries are Azerbaijan and Armenia), in the crossroads of Asia and Europe. Visited by Marco Polo, conquered by the Persians, Turks, Mongols and various mountain tribes, once part of the USSR, Georgia is a fascinating, ancient, wild country full of rich tradition, beautiful landscapes and lots and lots of alcohol.  

Even though they have been conquered hundreds of times, their unique alphabet and language (Georgian) has survived and is still the dominant language of the country. 
It looks like this: როგორ ხარ. (How are you?) 

This is my name in Georgian!
მერი ელენ

Look at that craziness!

They even have an alphabet tower in Batumi

Georgian is a complex and difficult language - I heard stories about foreigners living in Georgia and studying the language for years and years and never quite getting the hang of it. A friend's grammar book said that it was only recently linguists realized there was any pattern at all to verb conjugation.

Studying some Georgian - helped along by homemade Georgian wine!

They call themselves Sakartvelo (საქართველოს).
We should really call them that too because
 a) it's a cooler name and 
b) there wouldn't be so much confusion about the Southern state (which is also an awesome place) 

I went to Georgia in the Fall of 2012 to teach English through Teach and Learn with Georgia.
I lived with a host family, who really did feel like family, in Sagarejo,
a town not far from the capital city of Tbilisi.
(Tbilisi is one of my favorite cities in the world!) 
I taught in Sagarejo school #2, and enjoyed my co-teachers and rambunctious students. 

My school in the snow 

Georgia borders the Black Sea...

The Black Sea coast in Batumi graced by the heights of the Caucasus 

Mestia, near the Russian border 

ice cave in Mestia 

....and the rolling hills and plains of the east

view from Signaghi, in my eastern region of Kakheti 

Georgians are very proud of their history and culture.
Their streets are named after their famous writers and their traditional songs and dances
are known by everyone,
from my little 1st graders to my ancient neighbors. 

With some of my students in their traditional dance costumes

5th graders dancing 

Georgians are also very proud of their alcohol, 
especially their wine 

I lived in the wine region (Kakheti) and got to help in my family's grape harvest! 
Here I am helping crush grapes

Picking grapes 

fancy wines for sale - most families would never buy wine, 
they each made their own and stored it in recycled soda bottles 

Georgians love to celebrate and this is seen in their ritual supra,
a feast in which a tamada, toastmaster, leads the group in a toasting ceremony (with either wine or chacha, the homemade moonshine), everyone eats more than they would otherwise in three days, and often take part in dance offs. 

wine from a traditional drinking horn 

a Birthday supra! 

Georgians constantly asked me if I liked their food 
and luckily, I mostly did - other than the boiled pig snouts and strange liver/rice/fruit mixtures. 

Spices in an outdoor market  

Religion plays a big role in most people's lives.
The official religion is Georgian Orthodox and, according to many texts, Georgia was the second country ever to adopt Christianity as the official religion. 

That Georgia place

Kazbegi, at a recently built church 

Legend has it that Christianity was brought there by St. Nino (a woman). This is her church, Ninotsminda, only a few minutes from my own town!

I would never in a million years thought I would end up in the country of Georgia, or anywhere near Eastern Europe/Middle East. My heart was set on South America, and I was actually applying to a similar program in Chile. When I realized the summer commitments I had wouldn't allow me to go to Chile until the next semester, I was desperate for something to do to fill the months before.
 Georgia sounded like an adventure, and it certainly was!
I fell in love with this country and I still find myself scouring the web for news, boring my friends with long-winded supra stories and listening to my Georgian playlist at full volume.

I miss it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, my name is David, 35, currently in Melbourne, Australia. I enjoy your blog and am keen to get more of your thoughts about the TLG Program as I'm in the midst of applying. I look forward to hearing from you soon. My e-mail address is:

    Kind Regards, David Shafir