Thursday, December 16, 2010

Days turn into hours; a Georgian show.

That's really all there is to it. It's been a long journey as I've mentioned before, but I'm heading to Tbilisi on Saturday amidst a gaggle of other bleary-eyed, worn-out volunteers ready to take a nice Christmas break. I'll stay the night, spend Sunday shopping, and spend Sunday night in the airport in preparation for a 5:15am flight. Kudos to the ones who are staying a bit longer.

So the show. Oh, the show. Yesterday, my school was chaos. I had spent Monday night with two other volunteers in Kutaisi and the following morning traveling back to Anaklia (which turned into a travel time of 4 hours because of constant stopping). I got to school around 12 and it was clear that nothing exactly productive was being done. It was just a mass of Georgians standing around, yelling, and occasionally practicing. I wasn't allowed to preview the show (except for the English bits that I had proofread and helped with pronunciation, admittedly they gave me a pretty good idea of what was going to happen).

The gym was packed. I was made to sit front and center with a bottle of cha-cha (which made me dubious, as in, "Am I going to need this alcohol to get through the show?"). I chose not to partake, wanting to approach the show with a clear mind. Plus, I was apparently going to be on television both during and after the show. Yes, my lovely English teacher invited a local TV crew in to film the entire hour-long production -- a fact she apparently forgot to tell them because they spent about 15 to 20 minutes filming my doofy American self during the course of it. But anyway, the show.

I guess I have to say that it was probably the most adorable, awkward, and fun thing I've attended in Georgia. They really went all-out. The "gym" was decked with curtains, they had rented a sound system, and all the kids were in costume. Unfortunately, wireless systems haven't quite reached our little corner of the Black Sea, so during the performance of Cinderella (in which my host sister Ani, 11, was the titular character) the kids just passed one wired microphone between them. The cable proved to be a hassle; during the palace ball scene one of the teachers had to pull the cord out from underneath the kids' feet.

About 60% of the show was in English. Two of my tenth-graders, Salume and Tatia, narrated everything. Tatia would read Georgian and Salume, by far my most accomplished pupil, would translate it into English with her fairly competent pronunciation. Mari, my 15 year old host sister who you may recall speaks very little English, read the story of how Anaklia got its name (I'll post this later). Other students told the stories of why they decorate the fir tree at Christmas and how woman was created.

The best part, though, was the music and dancing. There were three or four Georgian dances during the course of the show, and I was surprised at how well my students dance. Three musicians provided live accompaniment with two drums and an accordion. The accordionist nearly stole the show when one act was unprepared and he was shoved in front of the crowd to sing a traditional Georgian folk song along with his accordion.

It was full of awkwardness, naturally. Mostly it arose from technological issues, including the fact that all of my students (aside from our school's 7-student choir) had recorded their songs in Zugdidi a few days early and simply lip-synched. This is pretty common in Georgia, I've heard, so as a critic I'll let it slide.

I got interviewed after the show. I fumbled about: "Er, um, yeah, I've been here for two months, hurr hurr, the show was great, blah blah." I couldn't do the school and students much justice in one minute, and I refused to watch it later that night. Lela said they screwed up the subtitles horribly. This did not surprise me.

Tomorrow is my farewell supra. I will rise early on Saturday to begin the journey home. Monday night I will be at home where it is apparently a lot colder and a lot more American. Go figure.

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