Published: December 24th 2012November 13th 2012
Georgia, the adventures continue in Shilda
Mik and Aaron's village is in the far east almost on thr Russian border but it was a very nice drive through more beautiful countryside and the mini bus which was our metrushka was almost empty as it was mid-week (weekends are apparently packed! Sometimes even with chickens for busmates). Georgians seem to take pride in their roads and most areas had well planned tree lined arbours throughout most of the drive east, it was almost romantic seeing huge old trees holding eachothers branches across the passageway of the roads. When we arrived I was quite the spectacle with my giant backpack walking all the way through town. We almost immediately met a tiny old lady who funnily enough spoke English - M &A said they had not met anyone of the older generation who spoke English in all thr months they had lived there. Her first question to Mik was "Who is this Maiden?" haha The first and probably last time I will ever be called a Maiden! We were stared at, alot but I was excited to meet the family of which I had tried to form a family tree
in my head from talking to Mik.
The family was so very welcoming with big hugs and broken English introductions. I also met the Grandad, who I thought was Avto (the father) and realised I had left him off the family tree as he had the same name as one of their sons....confusion cleared up I got sat in the pride of place spot by the fire (called a petchi) warm slippers to wear and named 'the new daughter'. Amazing. Dinner was an early affair and we were joined by Nana's cousin, who was introduced with the suffix of "who doesn't have a wife" as are all people male or female that are not yet married. I found this strange and offputting as I was then "this is Amanda, who doesn't have a husband" and then came the questions....why? Do you want a Georgian husband? Dinner was delicious with fresh bread, cheese, meats, and an egg plant salad which was very similar to that which I had loved in Turkey, also the wine began....and kept coming, and we had another, and another round of toasts....keep drinking, keep drinking "darlier, darlier", keep eating, keep eating "charmi, charmi". I was full!
Lots of food and lots of wine, and the rice pudding for dessert! Delish! After dinner Aaron asked to see one photo of Nana as a baby and then out came ALL the family albums. The entire family history in mostly black and white from the last two generations! Amazing. They had travelled to Russia, Ukraine, other parts of Georgia and it still amazed me that so many of the young men had such similar features. It was also nice to share with Nana that I too was an enormously fat child, with giant rolls of flab, but just look at us now! :-) Even just one evening was a big culture shock, I can only imagine what it was like when M & A first got there in the middle of winter and could not speak the language. Their family was so very nice, welcoming and lovely people. I can see why they decided to stay for the year.
So my first village began early and our walk to Mik's school was cut short as Avto decided to give us a lift. The school itself was a shock, a big shock. There was holes in the concrete walls,
doors were half falling off, luckily most of the windows had been recently replaced but even that made them look even more out of place. The floor was uneven and def not workplace health and safety standard. In fact, if the building was in Australia....I would say it was on list for being demolished or it was derelict! Half the staircases were only just hanging onto the walls and there was bits missing! Having said all that, WPHS goes overboard at the best of times and everyone at the school just gets on with the job at hand and adapts, as you would. Even Mik was immune to alot of my 'wow, really??!' comments having been there for so long, you just accept things and move on....or around them. The holes in the walls for the petchi (fire) to let heat in was another surprise. I was freezing my but the Georgians were in light jackets. The students and staff were all welcoming but very starey. Mik left me alone in the staff room for all of 1 minute and the first question asked by the one other English teacher? "Have you got a husband? Do you want to meet
a Georgian husband?" This was asked in English in one room, and the next tiny staff room / reception....they asked the same question via the usual international game of charades. Miki!?!
Off we went to our first lesson, Grade One, very cute, but I was surprised at their expectations to be able to write words already! They don't fully know hoe to write their own alphabet, let alone a foreign language! But what the government says....goes. In grade 11 the students were all lovely, the shock came when a female student was missing from class. 9 out of 10 of the boys were missing but apparently it is usual for boys to skip school in favour of farm work. This particular girl was missing because she had just got Married! She was 16....she got married to her neighbour who was 24 years older than her (same age as her Dad) and he also had a daughter who was 16.....oh and by the way, it's his 7th or 8th wife! Omg. It was a shock to everyone and definately not something normal for their village, the teachers were concerned as it also meant she may not return to school as
her husband may not let her. Crazy. Off to Grade Four, then Grade Two Music class so I could see what they did....hmm, interesting. The school timetable went nonstop from 9am to 1pm in 45min blocks including a 5min changeover so by the time we got to 1pm, I was in desperate need to use the bathroom. Use the school toilets you say? Well on Miki's advice...no. She had not used them all year considering it was a communial toileting area. Hmmm, No. Luckily Avto was around to pick us up in the car and all was fine. Another luncheon which included lots more wine....and more toasts....I even had the honour of making my own toast and sang an Australian folk song. An afternoon sleep led to some recovery and then as Avto was out with the sheep we had slightly less wine at dinner. I popped upstairs after dinner to collect my washing from what I thought was a balcony for airing stuff. But WOW! There infront of me was an ENTIRE balcony filled with corn husks, I had never in my life seen so much corn. Mind...blown!
But wait, let me digress. The family all live downstairs,
there is Miki and Aaron in one room, Great Grandma in the next, Grandpa and Nana, Avto and his wife & their son scattered in the beds in the family room and adjoining study... So lots of people in a cosy area. My MAJOR surprise, Nana followed me upstairs and said....here, let me show you this (in international charades). Whereupon she opened a door to....another house. Complete with lovely furnishings, main room, living room with PIANO, main bedroom and second bedroom. It was so pristine with the best of everything and completely unlived in. Downstairs was so cosy and homely and we were almost stepping on eachother at times. Here, it looked as if I had walked into the house of sleeping beauty after she had woken up and left! Mind....exploded. I got to play the piano, which was very very out of tune, but I am so desperate for instruments while travelling this didn't bother me a bit, then the son came up and we got the official tour. Miki had seen it once before but Aaron never had...and they had lived here a year! So I kept the tunes happening at the piano so Mik could get Aaron
to see the house. Why?! You may be asking? I certainly was. We think the whole house is for their first son who is currently away studying. When he gets married it is tradition that the parents of the groom provide him with a place to live. Totally blew me away.
Our next day of school saw me sit in on Mik's classes of Grade 8, 1, 4, 9 and 3. Pleased to say it was less eventful, I only ripped my jacket on a door that had shrapnel for a handle. I did take some photos of the best looking classroom in the school and the single powerpoint in the building (except the only other one which was in the staffroom/Reception area). Had a Biiiggg lunch again with two jugs of wine between Aaron, Avto and Mik, and I....and then Miki and I piked. For dinner Mik made some much neede toast with vegemite and then peanut butter and also honey. Such a simple thing but missed so much from home. Again we drank too much wine and needed sleep. After dinner I was offered what I thought was a piece of apple, but it turned out to
be gomshi, a rather flowerey apple type thing which tasted god-awful. Not to be rude, I wandered off to bed (I stayed in Miki and Aaron's room) where Miki saw the look on my face and said just throw the rest out the window. So I did. Unfortunately the horse was now in residence and bore the brunt of the disguarded Gomshi. I threw without checking! Whoops, sorry horse! Another enjoyable evening not quite complete, I was lucky enough to be the first to witness Mik and Aaron's ideal 80's dance moves before they will be unveiled at the wedding....we all giggled our way to bed as I sent apologies out to the horse.
Our last weekend in Tiblisi was filled with Macca's stops, dress fittings, breakie at the Irish pub, more Macca's, Lilo markets (where the local's go). Dry bridge markets, with purchases from Miki's family friend who designs felt fashion pieces. A hilariously entertaining traditional Georgian dinner with Lexid, Sam and Emily their English teacher friends from Tiblisi. Finally a few episodes of gossip girl for Miki and I before they left to return to the village and I managed to entertain myself until my 4am flight
out next morning. Overall Georgia was probably one of my biggest surprises from my whole adventure, I was there for only a week but fell in love with the place and their welcoming family. I have been bragging about how amazing and wonderful Georgia is ever since to every other traveller I meet. I am definately going to return sometime to explore the landscapes and culture or this amazing and surprising place. Thank you so much to Miki and Aaron for inviting me, being my guides, interpreters and friends.
There are more photos below