This blog does not represent the position of the United States government or the Peace Corps as to any matter. All expressions of fact or opinion contained herein are solely those of Mark and Lisa Lebowitz and of no one else.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Since our last post we have been busy!

Mark's 60th birthday was celebrated by our family
with a huge supra and many toasts. His office
also celebrated all afternoon at work!

Irma, from Mark's office, got married and had a big wedding reception. She is the English speaker in his office, so, of necessity, they have become quite close. The party took place at her husband's family home, where she now lives with her husband in accordance with Georgian

This is the tent in the middle of the street in front of Irma's new house, where the wedding reception was held. There were about 150 people there. Cars had to find an alternate route to wherever they were going as the tent blocked the whole street. There were many toasts, and during the dinner, the head of the cow that was butchered for the meal was presented to the "Tamada" ( toastmaster) by the bride's family as a gift for his services. A great deal of eating, drinking and dancing took place, and when we left about 4 hours after the festivities started, the party was still going strong.

Here are a couple of typical Georgian fellows at the wedding.

Our host father has started a mushroom business with his brother in law in the empty house next to ours. They constructed a hot water heating system to keep a constant temperature in the mushroom rooms and they rigged up lights which shine on the mushrooms 24 hours a day. The mushroom season runs from about late November until May. Every day they harvest the mushrooms that are ready and send them on the night train to Tbilisi. As you can imagine, mushrooms have become a big part of our diet at home too!

Here is Beso stirring the "bamba". The bamba is something like peat moss that gets cooked before being put into clear heavy plastic bags in layers which alternate with layers of mushroom seeds.

The bags are kept in the dark for 14 days at a certain temperature and then slits are cut into the sides and they are hung in a room with lights shining on them. The mushrooms then start growing out the slits and are harvested daily when ready. It only takes a day or two from the time the mushroom can first be seen until it reaches full size and is harvested. Every night the mushrooms are sent on the night train from Zugdidi to Tbilisi, where they are sold at the bazaar the next morning.

We were walking down the street when one of Lisa's students spotted her and rushed up to say hello. Pretty soon the rest of the family showed up (along with a couple of the neighbors) and the parents and kids wanted us to come into the house for a visit. This kind of stuff happens pretty much every day. Here's a picture that we took of the kids. We had prints made up and gave one to each of them.

Our host mother, Eka, has two sisters. They are
a very close family. Each sister has a daughter close to the same age as our sister, Nino. The Moms and Dads spend a lot of time hanging around our house and watching television together. They also help with the mushroom business or the cooking, cleaning or whatever else is going on. This picture shows our host sister Nino and her father Beso in the middle, with Nino's two cousins and their fathers in the family's living room (the only room in the house, other than our room, which is kept heated in winter).

Eka's sisters and a visiting Aunt are gathered around the pechi for warmth while they enjoy a cup of Turquli kava.

We rounded up three Peace Corps Volunteers from the villages in the mountains (they lead a much more difficult existence than we do) to come to our room for a visit over the holidays. One could say that they were stand-ins for our own kids, who are about the same ages as our visitors. Our first thought was to have a big turkey dinner, but the price of turkeys at the bazaar was to the moon (about $50 for a 15 to 20 pounder live weight....and then you had to kill it, pluck it and clean it). Instead, we made eggplant parmesean. Unfortunately, we mistakenly used the family's holy oil to cook with!

We used our pechi (because the kitchen gas canister was empty) and cooked in the dark (because the electricity was out). Notice the headlamps on the cooks in the picture. Surprisingly, everything turned out great, thanks to Christie, Paul and Erik!

This week was the presidential election in Georgia. The current president
Mikheil Saakashvili

seems to have won, getting slightly in excess of 50% of the vote. Shortly before the election he came to Zugdidi and presented the City with a gift of 10 new tractors and 8 new buses, which have been on display in the center of town since his visit. He also gave each family in town (including ours) a 50 kg sack of flour and a voucher to get free firewood in the forest! He got our vote!

Here's a picture of our host father, Beso, with his
Saakashvili poster.

And finally, here's a picture of Lisa doing something in our room, while waiting for the laundry to dry.


Craig said...

Great pictures! I love the one of the georgian fellows at the wedding.

Hope you guys are being a good influence on those PCV's you're hosting! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hello Mark and Lisa,

Great blog. Glad everything is well and it looks like politics are close to the same there, as they are here --Bring the Pork and gather the votes !!

Will have a drink for you tomorrow night at the Adirondack Theater Benefit.

West River Road Memories in Northumberland

Eddie said...

Mark, you look like you've lost some weight. How's the food? What do you eat? Is eggplant parmasean a typical or exotic meal. Tell us about shopping for food.

sue r. said...

we are really enjoying your stories and pics. you made the chronicle with a great article. it sure looks cold there! lisa, i love your big blue hair. it looks like my bathrobe! stay safe and healthy in the new year. sue r.

Julie Leonelli said...

Hi Lisa and Mark,
We loved the articles in the Chronicle. Our son Clark (11) used them for a reading assignment in school. Both of the boys were amazed (as we were) at the vast differences between our countries/cultures.
The pictures on your blog are great.
I'm sure Lisa appreciated the one with all of the unders hanging over her head drying on the line :)
We though of you at the Adirondack Theater Benefit in January, as a matter of fact, lots of us were thinking of you because we all mentioned it.
Lots of snow and ice here. Thanks for all of the interesting news!
Julie Leonelli

Julie Leonelli said...

Hi Lisa and Mark,
Not sure if my comment went through the first time, sorry if I'm repeating. We have really enjoyed your articles in the Chronicle! Our 6th grader used them for a reading assignment for school. Both boys were amazed at the strange differences between the cultures. I especially like the pictures posted on your blog. The one with Lisa and the line of unders in your room is a keeper! :)
Thanks for all of the interesting info you are sharing with all of us. It is really appreciated.
All snow and ice here, you aren't missing much!! We all thought of you at the Adirondack Theater Festival Benefit though.
What will the next season be like for you?
Julie Leonelli