This is a feasting culture. The Georgians have a story about how they got their land: while God was divvying up the world for the various cultures, the Georgians were all drinking at feasting, so they didn’t show up to receive their handout (damn liberals.) So God fusses to them, “Where were you?” And the Georgians respond, “We were feasting and toasting in Your honor, Lord!” And so God says Aw Shucks and gives them the land he was saving for himself. Altenatively, my Peace Corps friend in Ozurgeti claims that Georgians have supras to forget.
I was walking home from the burned-out gas station awhile back, and before I managed to make it home, a bunch of neighbors feasting outside invited me to their table. It was laid out with many small plates of bread, chicken, pelamushi, pkhali, and other delights. It was…someone”s birthday? He may have been dead. The grandma showed me a picture of her son, in the casket, and we drank in his memory. We also ate a lot of food and drank a lot of wine (typical). What was atypical was the incredible singing. I’d read about the wildy polyphonic songs of rural Georgia, but this was the first time I actually heard them at the table. It was amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. It was loud and drunken and boorish and I loved it.
Kind of like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTkFrWc36XI
Suddenly everyone at the table leapt up and ran through the gate. I was left with my students. “What’s going on?” I asked, and ran to the road. They whole party was walking with a man who had blood pouring down his face. “Bicycle,” Tamta told me. “It break. Front wheel come off.” They walked him to the well and poured a bucket over his head. Once he was cleaned up, they pulled a horse-drawn cart up to the gate and got him home. The supra ended. The song, incidentally, Teona and I did our best to translate:
When autumn begins to fall,
the thrush begins to sing.
When men run out of money,
They begin to insult their wives.
I love eating fresh green cheese
between my clicking teeth,
as much as I love winking at and
kissing pretty girls.
Even Georgians find this song strange.