Let me be the first one to tell you that Batumi, the beach region of Georgia, is awesome. It is a shame that it is November and cold because Batumi is designed as a sweet summer hang out location. There are tons of huge parks, large stretches of beach, dancing water fountains, fancy hotels and restaurants all in a pretty small town. My experience was made extra special because I went with one of my co-teachers and got the inside scoop. I made the right decision to go with native Georgians because it is always the non-touristy things that end up being the most interesting. This last weekend was no different, and I got to cross a couple must-do things off my list.
The coolest thing I got to do was attend a Georgian wedding reception. I feel partly guilty because the more I think about it, the more I want to be born, get married, have children and die in Georgian custom… The passion for life here is incredible, and I think that weddings are likely the best microcosm of that zest for life. A lot of the reception was pretty standard and comparable to an American one, but there were really cool differences as well. Also, I think I was a little spoiled because whoever’s family was throwing this reception had a TON of money because it was quite lavish.
One of the weird differences is that we sat down and started eating right away. The bride and groom had not yet arrived, and there we were chowing down on delicious food! I felt a little weird about this, but no one else seemed to mind very much, and I don’t need to be told twice to eat. Once the happy couple arrived, the crowd was introduced to the Tamada (the king of the suphra who is in charge of all the toasting). This guy did an insane amount of talking throughout the suphra, and, even though I thought I would love to be the tamada with all the attention, I didn’t envy his job because it is a ton of work. Also, he used an ornate horn to drink out of which I think is super cool – more on that horn later.
Round upon round of amazing food was delivered to the table. When we got there, there was absolutely no space for additional food, but this is not a problem in Georgia. After the 10 (yes, I counted) courses were brought, there were two levels of food on the table stacked on top of each other. We had everything from kabobs to stuffed mushrooms to venison to beef hearts to caviar. Everything was superb! We washed everything down with the traditional white wine, and that brings me to the funny part of the wedding.
The father of the bride was making rounds and someone at our table told him I was an American. He was absolutely ecstatic to discover that I was there, and so he did what any good host would do and brought me his giant drinking horn to toast with. So there I was in front of 300 people with a huge horn full of wine, and I then did what any good American would do and downed it in style, after paying my respects to the bride and groom, of course. The crowd went wild and I loved it, no surprise there. It was a really cool experience, and I think I want a drinking horn at my wedding.
The other really cool part of the wedding was the dancing. The wedding party (excluding the bride and groom) prepared a special dance to perform, and it was intense. Now that I think about it, it was mostly guys doing the dancing, funny considering it is the other way around at American weddings. The groom also had a special solo dance prepared which he performed after a special toast. Oh, and all the music was played by a live ensemble in the balcony, and a nationally famous men’s choir, Batumi, did the singing. High quality stuff for sure.
I couldn’t speak English all weekend, but my Georgian allowed me to understand what was going on and have a great time. It is cool to be functional in three different languages, and I hope to add more over time. The family I stayed with was really cool, and I didn’t pay a single tetri (cent) for anything all weekend. Even though I have to subsidize my family with money, I find that Georgian hospitality makes up for whatever small amount I am dishing out elsewhere.
As if my weekend wasn’t good enough, my teachers told me that I didn’t have to go to class on Tuesday because they wanted me to rest and recover. So, I had a five-day weekend, and after seeing my schedule today, I realized that I will be working a whopping 8 hours this week. Why am I here!? Well, I came to have a great time in another country, so.. great success! Haha