I’ll just start by saying that today was the day to end all days. I cannot do justice to this day’s joy with my “pen”. Today, the pen is not mightier than the sword, and the sword is not capable of cutting away the wonder.
Where to begin? Perhaps, at the beginning…
12th graders and 8th graders delivered presentations, in English, about universities in Georgia and Georgian regions (states). Turtle and I both co-taught the lessons. It was great-the students were respectful, articulate, and quite curious. Plus, the 8th graders arranged a field trip for us tomorrow. Yes, the 8th graders planned the field trip. We are going to learn how to make clay pots tomorrow AND how to make traditional Georgian dessert. Then, we had a round table discussion with English and Russian teachers. It ended with a change of plans-the teachers are going to throw us a Supra before we leave. With dancing!
The way the teachers worked with each other, the warmth, concern, and professionalism with which they interacted should be the envy of any teaching department. I recorded some of the conversation-it was wild. English, Russian, and Georgian all being spoken translated, and responded to. One of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever been a part of. The best part? We have the identical issues with teaching, administrators, and education policy. It was like being a part of an intercontinental professional family.
And it was only 2pm…
Shorena, the greatest host on the planet, opened her home to us. I persuaded her to talk her mother-in-law into teaching me how to cook. And it worked-Bebia showed me how to cook Kachapuri. Reavis students, look out! It reminded me of when my mom taught me to make calzone. Working with the dough has to be taught-you cannot read about how it’s done.
We ate an obscene amount of food. All homemade and from their garden. Even the chicken was hand raised! The wine. Oh, the wine. Their white wine is orange, fermented in clay pots and buried for months. It’s amazing. Dad and son David informed me it is quite common under normal circumstances for a man to consume 3 liters of wine at a dinner like Shorena hosted. 3 liters? Since Bebia and dad did not speak English, I kept pointing to my distended gut and holding up 3 fingers usually greeted by long laughs from each and a newly filled glass!
David played a Panduri-a three string guitar that sounds a bit like a Ukelele, but deeper and less “pingy”. After a few minutes of playing, David began to sing, then dad joined in. It was wonderful. We had our own traditional concert in front of a fire place surrounded by our new “family”. With the fireplace, family heirlooms, and general familial warmth, I could’ve been at home back in Chicago with Steve Wollard on the guitar, Buttamilk Bisquit spewing the lyrics, my sister Colleen singing backup and my wife Chris at my side.
After many more toasts, multiple pitchers of wine, and several demitasse full of homemade Cha Cha that Shorena made from scratch, a yawn from David told us it was time to go.
We were escorted down the block by dad and David who told us time and again that we we’re welcome back anytime.
Generosity. Comraderie. Family.
Regardless of background, creed, culture, or manner of speaking peoples everywhere fundamentally speak the same language. But here in Zestaponi, the “language” spoken makes you feel like family.