I am in the second largest city in Georgia, Kutaisi (less than 200,000 people), but everyone in Georgia still says they come from a village. By “come from a village” they could meant that they were born in a village or they could mean their great-great-great-great-great grandfather had been born in a village. There is some matter of pride in knowing one’s origin and in Georgia, villages are where everyone seems to come from. I have yet to met someone who says their family is from Kutaisi, or any other “large” city.
We were talking about villages in Georgia and I explained what I had heard from other volunteers about village life. Mostly what the volunteers like to talk about is how everyone knows everyone and how they have been to many a supra. My host sister informed me that she was from a village near here, and by this she meant that her mother was born in a village less than 2 miles away from Kutaisi. She decided, then and there, that they should take me to their village to met their bebia and babua the very next day. Of course, I was informed of this on the day of said excursion to a village.
The plan was that once the eldest daughters husband returned from work, all 6 of us adults, a child and a baby would pile into his station wagon for the, luckily, short drive. We were supposed to leave at two. In what seems to be fairly typical Georgian fashion, we did not leave until around four.
The roads were well paved until the turn off for the village. Then began the off-roading, cow-dodging adventure. We drove on these “roads” for what seemed like hours, but was honestly probably only twenty minutes. I was afraid the baby was going to bounce out the window at somepoints, but we all made it unscathed. We stopped in front of a rusted pair of gates that fenced of a two story house with a large second story warp-around balcony and a large vineyard.
Standing at the gates was a smiling old man. My host family greeted him with kisses and hugs and explained I was an American. He then beamed at me and kissed and hugged me as well.
Seated at a table under the second floor balcony was a large group of old women, I was explained to them, I was told to “darjeki” (sit, it is something they want me to always be doing) and then we started to eat. My host mother and my oldest host sister disappeared to help their bebia, who I still had not met, with the food. The table was crammed with baskets full of fluffy bread and flat bread, plates of tomatoes and cucumbers, home made cheese, beans, and bowls of satsivi. Satsivi is a dish served room temperature. It usually consists of chicken, in this case fish, in a grey sauce made from walnuts, stock, cilantro, and lots of Georgian spices. It is fragrant and delicious!
Then babua discovered that I wanted to try Georgian wine. He pulled out a bottle of homemade white wine and passed a glass my way. Once I tasted it, it was very bitter and very strong, and said “kargia“(good) the toasting began. Babua toasted me and my relatives, one of the old women toasted me, about what, I could not tell you if my life depended on it, and then we toasted the baby. When the women was toasting me, she chugged her little glass and looked at me expectantly, so I did the same. I was then called a “kargia gogo“(good girl) and another glass was poured. Luckily, my host sister saved me from chugging glasses of wine at each toast, which I soon lost count of, partially because I was not sure that they were happening until everyone was already drinking.
After a bit the old women said goodbye and it was just the family left. It then became very cold and rainy so we picked up the table and moved it inside. Grilled chicken was then served as well as fresh, and I mean oh-so fresh, sweet and natural watermelon. Once the cooking was complete, I was finally able to meet bebia. She was very nice and I complimented her on her food. My host mothers father then called me his “shvilishvili” (grandchild). Now it seems I have even more family in Georgia!
After everyone had their fill we piled back in the car for the drive home. I must admit that the drive was less frightening with more than few glasses of homemade white wine in me. 😉