Had a lovely day with my host family today, and it was nice to experience some local traditions too. My family, like many Georgian families is Orthodox Christian, and it was nice to visit the church with them. The church was old, but small, and was warm and cosy. I forgot to wear a scarf this morning, but luckily I had a hood on my coat, so I was able to cover my head still. We walked, and took with us some plants that the family had had since this time last year. I don’t remember the name in English, but basically it is what the people in Jurusalem laid out for Jesus when he arrived. We bartered with some people selling this, put our old ones in a heap at the back of the church, and bought the new ones in a lovely woven basket from an elderly lady who was selling them outside the church. The Georgian name is ‘bza’ and it looks a little like green sage sprigs. We also purchased some from the back of the church, as these were special and had been blessed. We went into the brightly painted and frescoed church, with heads covered, and lit some lovely smelling bees wax candles.
It was nice to sit and be quiet for a bit, and there were lots of families there with their children. It was strange to see little children arrive on their toy scooters, and then to cross themselves many times before entering. Even children of 1 or 2 years old, seemed well practiced at crossing themselves. Afterwards, we walked back home and popped into a few shops for provisions.
I also discovered an outdoor market close to our house and one of the stalls had, what I believe to be, leeks. This is the first time I have seen these for sale in Georgia, so I was pretty excited. There were more fruits and veg here than I ever saw in Akhaltisskhe in the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti where I previously lived. I have also not seen this variety in the Goodwill in Vake, but I am talking about variety on a Georgian scale, not on a UK scale!!
Its also interesting to note that, in Georgia you generally buy everything by the kilo, not just one or two apples or potatoes. Obviously not so for items like garlic though!!! There were no avocados, but I have only seen these once during my 7months in Georgia, but maybe in summer I will be able to get them again. They are one of the things I eat a lot in the UK, and am really hankering after.
We also stopped by a shop, stacked from floor to ceiling with cakes that look rather like Italian Christmas Cakes. These are called ‘paska’ and are special for Easter. Many people look forward to Easter for this cake, and they will not eat it until Easter weekend (next weekend). I sampled a little piece and the family asked if it tasted good, apparently it wasn’t such a good example, so we didn’t buy it, and will try more before we purchase the final cake. It reminded me of shopping for a Christmas Tree!! I have never in my life been excited about Easter, and I was dreading Christmas in Georgia, but for some reason I am actually looking forward to Easter here and experiencing some traditions which are new to me. I am told that they hard boil eggs and paint them red, to represent the blood of Christ, but that some people also paint the eggs more elaborately. Sadly, they do not have Easter bunnies or chocolate eggs, so I am really hoping for shipments from friends. This evening, I was preparing some Easter materials for school as I want to educate them on British traditions so we can compare and contrast Georgian and British traditions. The kids in my host family ended up joining in and we made some little Easter cards too, so it was nice to spend some time with them.
After church we came home, and ate scolding hot and delicious Borshi. A soup made from cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. It was really warming, especially as the weather was strange today. It was really hot when the sun came out, but also grey and cloudy, and a little cool. Only 17degrees c today.
On the travel front, a friend of mine, who is also teaching English in Georgia, made me some awesome fliers to advertise my wine tours. They look blooming marvellous and I was really pleased with them. I love how volunteers here have so many hidden talents! I am hoping we can continue this little collaboration, and also that she will stay in Georgia once our contracts finish:)
Today I have been thinking a lot about my three ocean rowing friends and how we are in some ways doing the same thing. They are rowing oceans to promote conservation issues, and I am trying to instil this into my kids at school. Every time I go to the shops here in Georgia, I have a mini battle with the packers at the shop’s counter. They insist on putting everything in bags, and wrapping everything in more bags. I always refuse, but they get a little annoyed, and just don’t understand why I don’t want a plastic bag. Its the same attitude with driving, and I remember the first time I wanted to go for a run in Vale. They looked at me startled, and didn’t understand why I wanted to run, when we had a perfectly good car that could take me wherever I wanted to go!! At school, we are talking about such issues, and if I can do just one thing during my time in Georgia, I really hope that it is to change the way Georgians often think about their beautiful country and how to look after it. They are so proud of their landscape, yet at the same time, there is a lot of rubbish dumped in remote places, and other rubbish is burnt. I wonder if Sally Kettle, Sarah Outen, and Roz Savage have the same thoughts with every stroke of the oar that they make??? Every time I go to school, I think about something that Roz once told me. That, every stroke of the oar is small compared to the miles she has ahead of her to cover when crossing the ocean, but when you put all those little strokes together, you make it across the ocean. And so, I hope that with every little thing I do, a seed will be planted, and change will eventually occur. Its not always obvious or evident that change is happening in school, particularly with my twelfth graders, but when I look at my film project classes, and I think back to how we were at the start of term, I feel immensely proud of what we have so far achieved. Its not perfect by any means, but its all there for the taking and I hope that one day these little people will grow into the future of Georgia and make amazing steps to a new improved Georgia. I love the traditions of Georgia and the culture, and its not that I want Georgia to change…..far from it. But, I want Georgians to have the opportunity to out into the wider world, and to say ‘you know what, I’m Georgian, and you will know where my country is and why it is so amazing and unique’. I want people to think about Georgia as a country when they hear the word, and to think about other things other than wars of the past. I want people to think about hospitality and what the country has to offer. I am proud to be a part of this change, even in my small way, and in that way, I feel that whilst I might not be rowing across oceans, the fundamental motives are the same. And I thank the rowing girls for keeping me focused and that if they can achieve their dreams of environmental change, then you know what…so can I:)
Whilst I am enjoying life with my host family, and their total kindness towards me, so Sarah Outen was yesterday treated to such warmth as a kindly German family took her in for the night. Her next stage of the trip is to Prague (http://www.sarahouten.com/). Sally (http://www.sallykettle.com/) is not rowing across any oceans at the moment, but today she ran the London Marathon in aid of the Children’s Trust Charity, and when she is not ocean rowing, she gives her time to ShelterBox, who provide shelter to people who are in disasters (http://www.shelterbox.org/). Roz had serious issues with wind (pardon the pun) last night, and was blown off course, but thankfully the wind was in her favour today and she made up for what she lost (http://www.rozsavage.com/). I really hope you guys will follow three of the most inspirational people in my life right now.
Now, time to get my stuff ready for school tomorrow, and I am also starting the day with breakfast with the Minister of Education….not sure why, but I suspect I am in trouble as always:) Will update you tomorrow anyway. Now we have visitors…..ta ta for now!