Today I drank wine with 6th graders. Yep, no joke. I partook of wine with 10 and 11 year olds. The reason for this was an autumn festival during the 6th graders Georgian lesson where there was toasting, and even youth cannot get you out of a sip of wine after a toast. The event consisted of the entire 6th grade class (17 students), the principal, any teacher that did not have class or could manage to wiggle out of going, and I. There were two desks pushed together in the center with a huge pile of persimmons, grapes, apples, hazelnuts and pears. The students’ desks were set in a half-circle around the center table. The extra teachers pulled chairs against the wall facing the students’ half-circle.

All 17 students stood and individually recited poems about autumn while the adults looked on and said an encouraging “kai gogo” or “kai bichi” (good girl, good boy respectively). The enthusiasm with which some of the students recited their poems with was incredible and despite not understanding much of the poems, they were beautiful. The rhythms, the guttural sounds somehow pouring out of their mouths and flowing over my ears was amazing. I had heard about Georgian poetry being good, but I have never put much thought in it, because I am not a poem person and it is always a Georgian telling me Georgian poetry is amazing. But somehow, Georgian poems captivate me.

After the poems, the teacher started to pour what I assumed was juice into plastic cups. Then I was handed a cup and caught a whiff. Wine. Granted, the amount in each cup was very small and some students made a disgusted face, it was still wine being poured by a teacher for the students in front of the principal Toasting then followed. Everyone, including me, gave a toast. What I could gather from everyone else’s toasts was that they were thanking people and discussing autumn, so I did the same. In Georgian I said the poems were beautiful, then in English I said something cheesy along the lines of “thank you all for being so welcoming, may the harvest be bountiful and the fall beautiful”. Ugh, I will never be a poet. 🙂

*shemodgoma is autumn in English