Georgia 2 – 6/2014
A day in our peaceful river camp gave us time to reflect on this new country. Thoma, the gentleman who had presented us with wine, cheese and bread the evening before, adamantly insisted we go and visit his mother in her house above the river the next morning, even though he would be out of town. Her nephew, Giorgi, spotted us walking up and invited us in for Chai. We knew from our experience in Russia that Chai, “tea”, is usually not just a cup of tea.
We were delighted to meet Thoma’s mother and she immediately set about cutting up vegetables as she continued to make homemade bread. Her last version was very special. She mixed handfuls of homemade cheese into the dough before baking it in her little electric oven.
Meanwhile, Giorgi entertained us with his homemade semi-sweet Georgian white wine, not our favorite, but who can refuse. We had great conversations. Mostly Giorgi was talking, waving his hands even more than Monika does. Mom understood what he was saying, chuckling all along. Though we understood only little, we could just laugh and agree.
The experience gave us an interesting perspective of how many people live in this ex-Soviet country who are not zooming around in their luxury BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s. Their beds were a single metal frame and a thin mattress. A wood burning stove was their primary source of cooking and heat in the winter. They did have a television that was on continuously with political announcements and news. An open hat & coat rack and a little closet/cupboard shared a wall with their kitchen cabinet in this one room home. The kitchen sink consisted of two buckets of water but there was no running water in the house.
The shower in the adjacent storage room, (The water supply probably came from a tank on the roof.), was a pipe connected to a rusty wood-fired hot water heater that we were not sure worked any better than the aging washing machine. More laundry may have been done by hand. We didn’t dare to ask about the toilet but we figured it was just the common squat outhouse. They were proud to show us the new pump that drew water from the well and ran out of a spigot in the yard.
Despite these third world living conditions they were extraordinarily hospitable. Thoma’s Mom prepared a care package of a warm loaf of bread, a bag of walnuts and some fresh eggs (and this after her son had brought us a loaf of bread, a big hunk of cheese and a bottle of wine the evening before), and the cousin insisted we take a two liter plastic bottle of wine with us back to the truck. It would have been impolite to refuse any of this.
Monika somehow had a feeling that this may happen so she brought some little gifts of safety pins, (which are always welcome), and soaps in a zip lock bag. She showed Mom how to use the zip lock and stuck in a few Laris (Georgian currency). Mom smiled gracefully, quickly closed the bag and tucked it away before Giorgi stepped back into the house.
At the camper, we inspected the loaf of commercial bread that we had purchased in the previous town. While beautiful we realized it was cheap, tasteless white bread. It was so bad, Monika quickly cut it into pieces and fed it to the local chickens and a pig, no doubt a “delicacy” for them. Nothing gets wasted.
Before leaving the next morning, we visited the 9th century Ubisi monastery the village is famous for. Monks were busy reciting their prayers. Monika wore the customary head covering and a skirt while she lit a candle.
Across the street from the monastery there was actually a recycle bin, a trashcan and an outhouse for the pilgrims who visit the monastery. The outhouse consisted only of a squat hole. Unfortunately, some people missed the hole and the water spigot was broken off.
Heading down the highway, it was interesting to see the old Soviet style houses that would be typical in this part of Georgia. Many fences were made of ex-landing platforms similar to the aluminum ones we carry on the back of the truck.
We couldn’t resist stopping at one of the roadside stands that sold a unique sweet bread called Nabizi. Worth a try for 1 Lari, ($.50), The “shingles” advertising Nabizi were actually made of clay.
The bad news was that we were still having trouble reading the pretty Georgian signs and despite the famous Georgian wine, grocery stores stocked mostly juices and beer, probably because most families made their own wine. The good news was that this was no longer a Moslem country so pork and sausages were readily available in meat markets.