Basketball

is making a comeback. I played with the 12th grade boys. They’re all done with real school now, and taking goverment-mandated exams in the computer lab. This is the first time it’s been used. They had to have tech guys connect everything to the internet/set up four more computers which had been lying unsused, still packaged, in the director’s office.  After tests, everyone plays outside. Come to think of it, half of my “lessons” today were badminton.

The last day of 12th grade (which was also the last day of 1st grade), there was a concert for the first graders. White curtains had been hung around the walls, and a surprisingly modern stereo system had appeared in the room. It was very, very crowded. Everyone in the school, and I mean teachers, students, and a few parents, were packed into one side of the first grade classroom. The first graders were being cooed over by their parents, who’d undoubtedly been waiting all year to stuff them into tiny tuxedos and party dresses. There was a very large cake.

Then the kids lined up opposite us. They’d spent a month learning lines of a (long) Georgian poem so they could spit it at us in the manner of a firing squad. Then, they performed a traditional Kartuli dance for us. Then, we all danced, and suddenly the air was full of flower petals. Everyone was throwing flower petals.

All that day, the 12th graders had their graduation ceremony, or “bolo zari” (last bell). All that day, the 12th graders wore white shirts, which teachers and students could scrawl well-wishes upon. Then they all get to ring the bell.  Then, in the evening, they feast. I didn’t know about the supra, so I went home for an hour, and heard the pulsing sounds of beat from the school during my evening walk. I went in. The students had pushed the desks in the teacher’s lounge together to form a long table. One of them poured me a glass of wine from a plastic barrel. Giorgi, who speaks the best english, was acting as Tamada. He gave a few long toasts which I did not understand, and then we all drank. Then we danced. Repeat.

Please note: graduation day should forever be known as “bolo zari.”

***

I’m considering extending my contract. I’d be moving to Batumi with the eminent Laura Deal and her friends until December. Not that I don’t love the village, but life moves very, very slowly here. The most exciting non-school thing is when I go to the purple cafe in Chokhatauri to meet my friends Rachel and Patrick for 3 lari pizza. (Make sure, when you get here, to order pizza WITHOUT mayonnaise.) Or, last night, we walked across the cornfield to my neighbor Manana’s house for dinner and Nitchieri (Georgia’s Got Talent).* Or, a few nights ago, and this is like most nights here, I wandered up the street and my students called me in to play with them. I sat on the edge of the well and they all told me that Gudian would eat me. He lives in the well, and has sharp teeth and long somethings (claws? fingers? wasn’t sure on this word.) It really hit me the other day, that the three Dumbadze sisters (Mari, Kesa, and Eteri) exist nowhere else in the world, and leaving would mean not being their teacher anymore.

Then again, if I eat anymore khatchapuri, the salt content alone might kill me.

*Let it also be known that Georgia has some fabulous television personalities. Vake on the Vake show is really funny (even though I don’t understand him). They’ve got an Oprah (Nanuka somethingsomethingshvili) and on Dancing with the Stars, this judge Gocha who lived in NYC for 20 years and sometimes forgets the Georgian words for things, so he inserts “What a girl!” and “Allright!” into otherwise unintelligible conversation. The Georgian version of Wheel of Fortune is absolutely terrifying. The host is a 40-something lech’ with a mullet who brings in musical acts and strippers between each spin.

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