Monday, August 30, 2010

Realities in Georgia

Original Wordpress post date: 8.15.10

Excerpt from a blog I've been reading about Georgia: 

"These are a list of things that are usual or normal in Georgia—at least in my experience. First of disclaimer—some of these “realities” are stereotypes and do not hold for all Georgians, so take the comments with some humor and a grain of salt. Here we go.

  • 1. Children driving cars down the village hill (actually more like starting the car to get it rolling and then turning it off to coast down the hill). Of course, this is not unlike farm kids in the US.
  • 2. “We have not such luxuries in Georgia.” – A response from a Georgian when there was mention of movies, but also applies to many aspects of American amenities.
  • 3. Turkey attacks – Yes, there are some rather large, dominant turkeys that lived on my road, and more than once was I forced to wield a long stick in order to protect myself. I may have also had to be saved by a neighbor at one point…Lesson learned: speak softly and carry a big stick applies both to politics and arming yourself against farm animals.
  • 4. Constant awkwardness. Yes, it is inevitable when you enter a village where you know no one and barely speak their language.
  • 5. Pretending you understand. Smile and nod is a way of life here sometimes. But it can also get you into trouble when you agree to marry a Georgian.
  • 6. Constant encouragement to marry a Georgian.
  • 7. Birzha and the birzha-squat. This requires a little explanation. A birzha is typically a group of men that stand around (or squat), deep in conversation, playing cards, or just watching the people pass. There can also be women birzhas or child birzhas, though they are less ubiquitous. And the birzha squat is a way of—for lack of a better word—squatting that most Georgians use if they don’t have a chair or bench. You can ask for demonstrations when I am stateside, but don’t expect much because this squat is acquired from birth.
  • 8. Injuries and illness—at least in our group of mokhalise (volunteers). For me, broken fingers. :)
  • 9. Saying things 3 times. Favorites include: Tchame, Tchame, Tchame. Dalie, Dalie, Dalie. (eat, eat,eat; drink, drink, drink).
  • 10. Animal droppings.
  • 11. Georgian hospitality.
  • 12. Constant/concerned scrutiny (but from a loving place) over everything you do in life. To understate it, Georgians are curious. And when you don’t speak the language well, your actions speak very loudly.
  • 13. Us volunteers being easily satisfied after living in the villages for 9 weeks—i.e. by hot showers.
  • 14. Living by the “gaachina” code. Gaachnia means “it depends” in Georgian and is a great way to answer questions, especially since sometimes it’s hard to boil down every American into one stereotype.
  • 15. The dative case. So, this is a little hard to explain, but in Georgian, there are cases. This means that depending on what verbs you use or how you word a sentence, the way the nouns in the sentence are said/spelled changes. Yeah, it’s fun. However, sometimes the dative form of a word is fun to say. For example, dzghals. Ok, this one might be lost in translation.
  • 16. Your music not being appreciated and soon being replaced by Georgian/Russian techno played on a cell phone (and yes, every Georgian has a better cell phone than the volunteers—though at least we have them at all!).
  • 17. Man-childs. Another Georgian phenomenon in which 16 year olds look like they are 25. Also happens with female Georgians.
  • 18. Being blessed on the way to school. As soon as you pass a bebia (grandmother) in the street and say “Gamarjoba. Rogora khar?” (Hello, how are you?), you will almost immediately be called a “kargi/kai gogo/bitchi” (good girl/boy) and be blessed.
  • 19. The stare-down. This reality happens more upon entering a village for the first time and not knowing anyone. Most of the Georgians would not initiate a hello but rather just stare at us. Now, you could respond by just staring back; hence, the stare-down. However, upon saying hello to a Georgian, he or she would probably try to strike up a long, friendly conversation.
  • 20. Chacha (very strong alcohol made from grapes) as the cure for all evils (including broken bones and the flu)."
[For a little bit more fun, here's a song I found on a Georgian radio station. Somehow I can totally see a Georgian jamming to this in a little soviet car. --Amanda]

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