(Written January 15, 2008). Some days you just say to yourself, "Only in Georgia!". This is one of those days.
Today was the first day back in school after the holiday vacation. However, yesterday they announced on TV that schools in Georgia would not be starting until the 21st. I thought we were supposed to be going back to school today, so when I learned about the TV announcement, I texted my counterpart to find out what she knew. She said the school director hadn't said anything to her about a change in the plan, so we'd better go. She also told me not to expect many children to be there since it was cold outside (in Georgia that means it's cold inside as well).
Today also happened to be my host sister Nino's 17th birthday. Her Mom takes school pretty seriously, so I knew she'd be ready to go when the time came. We bundled up and started our 20 minute walk, but about 5 minutes into the walk we both started to hear loud music. I remembered blaring music had been playing the first day of the school year so I asked Nino if the music could possibly be coming from the school. The closer we got the louder it became, and sure enough, it was coming from the school. Nino said a famous New Year's song was being played (in Georgia they celebrate the "New" Year on January 1 and the "Old" New Year on January 14th). As predicted, very few students showed up for school (I'm sure the TV announcement didn't help). In one of my classes 2 of 15 kids showed up, so we had 2 students and 2 teachers, which is a pretty good ratio for public school! Unfortunately, someone had broken into the classroom over the vacation and stolen the small electric coil heater that was given to each class before Christmas. They also took some flowers according to my counterpart. Keep in mind that our school has 24/7 security guards!
After my scheduled classes I returned home to help with the festivities for tonight's big birthday supra for Nino. You can always tell it's the day of a big party because our host family always rubs the floor in the front room with a gasoline like substance which gives off noxious fumes throughout the evening's festivities. You would think that they could modify the schedule to do the floor treatment the day before the party, but they don't. The whole extended family is here to help in the afternoon, although the men generally hang around the petchi and smoke and eat, while the women do all the work. When I came in there was also another man in the front room I did
not recognize and we were not introduced. I went into the kitchen where the women were busy preparing a second cake (20" in diameter), several potato/carrot/onion/cabbage/mayonnaise salads and a mushroom dish using about 10 lbs. of mushrooms. I made myself useful by cutting the mushrooms into tiny pieces. Oh, how I long for my Cuisinart! As you may recall from our last post, Beso, our host Dad, and 2 partners have started a mushroom business in a vacant house next door. Needless to say we eat mushrooms at every meal. In the midafternoon some guests arrived from our host mom Eka's office to bring a big teddy bear to Nino and to toast her with shots of cha-cha (moonshine). The petchi in our room adjacent to the kitchen was fired up to cook much of the food in, but the first batch of chickens gave off so much smoke from the fat that our PC smoke detector went off. There I was in the smoky room with 6 adults and 2 kids who had never seen or heard of a smoke detector before. We cleared out the smoke but the room got pretty cold. I went into the front room to warm up (our room and the front room are the only two rooms in the house with petchis for heat) only to find that I was disrupting some sort of a religious ceremony. The man who I did not know was gently swinging a crucifix over a large jar of water while softly chanting prayers. I went back to the ladies in the kitchen to find out what was happening, and I was told that he was here to bless the mushroom house! I still don't know why he came in the middle of the preparations for a birthday supra to perform the ceremony or why the ceremony itself wasn't held in the mushroom house next door. Well, it's not yet 3 pm (6am for you) and there is much more to do before the 20+ guests arrive at 6pm. Some of the men are outside blowtorching the hair off the two piglets that our host family bought at the bazaar this morning and just killed and cleaned. Shortly they will be "doing time" in our petchi. To complicate things, our water pipes are frozen today with no hope of thawing before party time, so we will be drawing water from our neighbor's well for cleanup.
As I said at the outset, "Only in Georgia!"
Here is Beso's sister working on one of the many salads served at the supra.
You can never have too much khachapuri (it's the national dish)
a scene from the kitchen next to our room, just before the smoke detector went off (note the cake in the cabinet)
One of the piglets getting cooked in our petchi. The petchi is about two feet from my side of the bed in our room (we pulled the bed farther away during the supra for better cooking access).
The outside sink where all the dirty supra dishes ended up getting piled (after this picture was taken) while we waited for the water to unfreeze.
The stove top in the family kitchen. Almost everything is cooked on it or in the petchi (the oven doesn't work). Note the propane cylinder on its side. When you are running out of gas that's what you do first to try and get as much gas out of the cylinder as possible. Next you stand the cylinder up in a tub of hot water. When you can't get any more gas out after doing that, you have to get the cylinder refilled.
A picture of the five girls named Nino who attended the birthday supra, including the guest of honor (our host sister Nino) holding the youngest Nino's hands.