Saturday afternoon I am quietly sitting and having tea and sweets with my host family and a guest when I get a phone call from the program. The nice lady on the phone is telling me that I will need to meet in front of the Kutaisi McDonalds at 12:30 the next day to be taken to Batumi for an opera and that I will not return until Monday. Oh, and the President of Georgia has requested my presence. Well, he requested that all participants of the program come. She then told me I needed to give her an answer immediately. My first response was, “No, I can’t miss school on Monday”. Her response was, “The President is asking, do not worry about school.”
The next day at 12:30, more like about 1:00, a large group of volunteers from other parts of Imereti (the region of Georgia where Kutaisi is), piled onto a bus to begin the drive to Batumi. Along the way, we stop at Ozurgeti (a small town in Guria) to pick up another set of TLG volunteers.
We are all excited and jabbering away in English and catching up with each other on how our host families, living situations, and school life is going. It is truly amazing how every person I talked to is having a distinctly unique experience and that they are enjoying themselves thoroughly. Talking with volunteers I met in orientation also made me very happy that I have a bathroom that is attached to the house with a western style toilet. Be happy for the small things in life!
After a few hours, I really was not paying any attention to the time, we made it to the hotel in Batumi. We rushed to check in, which half of us did not have time to check in, and we were then herded back onto the bus to go to dinner at a fancy Georgian restaurant,. Once we arrived at the restaurant, there were not enough chairs for all of us, there were probably about 100 of volunteers at this point, so we squeezed into gaps between people and ate hurriedly so that we could make it to the opera house on time. We were served, khachapuri, a kebab wrapped in filo dough, a beef and tomato stew, bread, cold beef and mushroom salad, and a tuna salad. While everything was tasty, nothing was particularly outstanding or noteworthy.
Once we were done eating, we were piled back onto the buses. On the bus before dinner we were told we would go back to the hotel and have 30 minutes to change for the opera. This did not turn out to be the case. We pulled up in front of the opera house and the guys were told to leave the bus so that the girls could change. Then we waited at the opera house for 2 hours. I have had to learn the true meaning of patience.
The opera we were seeing was called Keto and Kato. It is the Georgian equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, but with a happy ending in which the two star-crossed lovers get married and live happily ever after.
Before the show started, the President and the Prince of Monaco entered the theater and sat near the front in a row with potentially important people. The sat in the front row. With other people. With seemingly little security. It is such a different world over here!
Opera is not the best word to describe what I saw. Musical is a bit closer, but still not quit accurate. The show was incredibly modern. There were no props, but the set itself was a platform with mirrors hanging above. The mirrors could be angled to show the stage to the audience from above. It was very innovative. The signing was a mixture of opera, jazz and traditional Georgian music. The dancing was completely modern with flares of traditional Georgian dance added at certain parts. All in all, the show was entertaining and I am certain that I will never see anything like it again!
After the show there was free time and a group of volunteers, being inspired by one of the songs saluting Georgian wine, purchased a few bottles of wine and went to the rocky beach of the Black Sea. It was beautiful. A few of us ventured into the water and it was wonderful. I do not often get to enjoy any large body of water, so it was an unforgettable experience. Most of the way through the wine, we all started to sing whatever songs we could think of. My Girl, Let it Be, and I can not remember what else. Needless to say, no one was in bed before 4am.
Thank you Mr. President for a wonderful trip to Batumi, an amazing opera, and time to sing on the beach with friends.