Monday, November 29, 2010

A wedding, a Thanksgiving, and an announcement

Two weekends ago, I encountered my first Georgian wedding. I use "encountered," an otherwise cumbersome word, because I really intersected with the wedding rather than being a part of it. As a foreigner, I found it difficult to feel like an active participant in the whole thing. It didn't really differ that much from any other wedding I've been to, but the language barrier once again found me on the outside looking in.

I finally got to see the inside of our village's tiny church. It's quite beautiful (pictures to come, at some point) but, as with a lot of Georgian Orthodox architecture, very simple. About 5 couples got married that night, but all had separate parties. I'm not sure how big our village is, but they could not have all come from Anaklia. There were about 300 people at our couple's celebration, which I think is small for a Georgian wedding anyway. I never got to see the actual ceremony -- we had to leave before the priest began to catch the bus to the actual supra -- but I think that's standard fare around here. We got to the groom's house and waited for an hour, torture when you're hungry, but tradition dictates that no one eat before the newlyweds arrive.

Finally, amidst car horn fanfare, shouts of joy, and pops from party favors (which I mistook for gunshots, see my previous posts), a procession of four cars rolled into the dirt driveway. The couple exited, stopped at the outdoor stairs to the upstairs, and stepped on the plate that I guess signifies unity (I should really look this up, sorry). We had to wait another twenty minutes for guests to greet the couple upstairs.

I have painted this whole affair as a bunch of hurry-up-and-wait, but it really was fun once the party got going. It was a slow burn but finally we sat at the long rows of tables where cold dishes were already waiting and hot dishes were soon brought out to us. All of the traditional Georgian and Mingrelian dishes were served. And there was far more than anyone could eat. Toasts, dancing, laughing, and general commotion ensued. Lela and I left pretty early in the evening, but the party continued well into the next day -- my host father showed up still quite drunk at two in the afternoon the next day. FANtastic!

This past weekend, I made the long trek out to Tbilisi once again. I was only gone for a night, but the trip was well worth it. Two volunteers from my group share an apartment in Tbilisi and held an amazing Thanksgiving party, complete with butterball turkey and cranberry sauce. It was a little slice of home. It even had a bit of the family reunion feel as I had not seen many of my fellow volunteers since we trained in Kutaisi oh so long ago. So many familiar faces, so much familiar language being spoken...it was a little overwhelming. Thanks to Neal and Steve for a great night!

Which brings me to my announcement. I have gone back and forth on whether or not to put this on my blog, but I have decided not to return for the spring. I signed my contract for a semester knowing I would have the opportunity to extend if I wanted to. That deadline has long passed, and I feel confident that returning to the U.S. is the right decision, knowing I've fulfilled my contract, and feeling quite blessed by the opportunity. Hopefully the next thing I find will be just as fulfilling. Of course, I don't go home for another couple of weeks, so I'll still be blogging more as the semester winds down. The next thing on the radar? A Christmas show put on by my teacher. I'm not sure, but the kids claim they have a surprise for me...

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