Basically the last two-three weeks has been almost nonstop travel. It originally was my reaction to realizing that, for all its relative charms, willage life is pretty dull. Cow. Chicken. Small cow. Corn. We went skiing, we went to Vardzia, we went to Tbilisi, we went to Kutaisi.
The actual Easter Vacation*, though, I was set to spend in Buknari. It’s the biggest holiday in Georgia. For a few days beforehand, flower stands and dye-shops opened up around market squares in every city. In Georgia, so we have heard, everyone goes to the graveyard for a big party on Easter Monday. Anna’s host parents are sometimes weird and passive-aggressive, so she asked to come with me to my village. As I may have mentioned, my host parents are muslim, so they lay on the couch for easter.**
The actual Easter day was spent at Gelati monastery in Kutaisi. This is a GORGEOUS old cathedral from the 11th century with frecoes on the walls and old praying Georgian nuns practically spilling out the windows. We took a way overpriced taxi up the mountain and hung out and took pictures for awhile. Two cows meandered into the monastery yard; two men chased them out of it. Some Georgians showed us how to do their easter tradition: you and a friend each take a red egg, then smash them together. It’s like an edible wishbone. The winner’s egg doesn’t crack, and he wins the loser’s egg. I say “he” because Anna won exactly no egg smashes that afternoon. I ate a lot of hard-boiled egg on Easter.
Anyways, back to my heathen parents. We came home and ate first, then had coffee, then had coffee at a neighbor’s house, then went back to the field to ride a tractor and take pictures. (Jemal was pretty insistent about that. “Fotoebi!”) Then we walked to the cemetery. The PE teacher hailed me towards his family’s plot. He poured us each a glass*** of wine, hugged us, and greeted us with the Georgian equivalent of “Christ is risen.” (kristeaghzdga AAAAHHH HOW SAY) Then his friends took us to several other grave plots where I visited my students and their parents, and lots of drunk guys followed Anna around. We ate cakes and salmon and vegetables and Russian salad and mtsvadi (delicious, delicious BBQ pork). And, of course, more eggs.
Following this whole drinking-and-feasting episode, we caroused in the direction of Jemal’s sisters place of residence on the other side of (ha-ha!) town, where I saw my host brothers for the first time in two weeks. They were shoveling shit into the back of a giant soviet truck. We took pictures of them. “Facebook!” we said. “They will go on facebook!”. We wrestled and hit each other with sticks for awhile. Then Jemal’s brother-in-law appeared from the pasture with the cows. I herded the cows with a stick and pretended I was Moses. As they came up the hill towards the family, Tengo pointed to the nearest cow. “Fuck you cow!” he shouted. “Fuck you Ernie! Fuck you cow!”
Happy Easter, America.
*Americans, take note: we celebrate us some Orthodox Easter over here, which means ours was a week later than yours.
** “Lots of red eggs, right?” –Jemal Iremadze
***Wine in Georgia is not consumed from the thing Americans know as “the wine glass.” We use tiny glasses the shape of dixie cups, and we must drink the entire glass when we toast. No sipping, no sniffing, no palate-cleansing, just QUAFF IT ALREADY