Cuttino's Georgian Life

A journal of my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Georgia, 2006-2008.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Birthdays and Marshutkas

Salam, everyone...

This weekend I traveled to Kutaisi (pronounced Koo-tai-see), Georgia's second-largest city and home to a number of Peace Corps Volunteers. We gathered to celebrate the September birthdays, four in all. On Friday after work, my boss took me to the highway, where we stood on the side of the road in the pouring rain waiting to flag down a bus that would take me. Fortunately since Gori is on the main highway between Tbilisi and Kutaisi, the buses pass about every fifteen minutes. Still, it was long enough to get completely soaked.

As I arrived in Kutaisi, the clouds magically cleared and the rain stopped. Eighteen other volunteers had travelled to Kutaisi and we were joined by the five living in town. After gathering near the bus station, we hiked up to a guesthouse on a hill high above the city. Not far from where we were staying are the ruins of the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral. Here's a picture I took:

Bagrati is still a functioning church, there were several icons and an altar inside. The girls had to cover their heads with scarves (a common practice in Orthodox churches) and the gate keeper followed us around suspiciously. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset:

After our visit to the cathedral, we returned to the guesthouse for a birtday supra. Giorgi, our host brought out the wine and the food; according to Georgian custom, each birthday guest gets a toast and they drink from "the horn"--a hollowed out ram's horn filled with wine. To drink from the horn, one must lock arms with another, "balumde" (drink to the end), and kiss three times on the cheeks. This can be a dangerous prospect at Georgian supras because the more you drink from the horn, the more affectionate the kisses become. Dancing followed the toasting and everything was going quite well until Giorgi brought in the largest rabbit I've ever seen. No one is really sure why this happened, but I thought that we were all about to witness the sacrificial slaughter of this rabbit.

The rabbit was spared (for now at least) and the dancing continued well into the night. It was raining the next day, but we ventured out into town. The prospects of sightseeing were not exactly great and after being soaked and harrassed by gypsies, most of us headed back to the guesthouse. That evening, we threw another supra at a restaurant to avoid a visit from one of Giorgi's rabbits.

On Sunday, I travelled home to Gori. I took a "marshutka," or a minibus. Marshutkas are the main way to get around in Georgia. They seat about fifteen people but usually carry around twenty. For marshutka drivers, speed limits and traffic laws are more of a suggestion rather than a rule. Seated in a packed marshutka beside a chain-smoker and an old bebia, travelling at the speed of sound through the mountains, I suddenly felt car sick.

I've heard that under great stress, people are capable of the impossible and I now belive that to be true...I was suddenly able to scream fluent Georgian: "Stop this car now or I will throw up!" The marshutka came to a screaching halt and I ran off into the ditch. When I returned, I suddenly found everyone in the marshutka waiting to help me. I turned to everyone and said, "Bad food" (unfortunately my Georgian had returned to its original intermediate-low level). They all nodded in agreement. The women in the marshutka kept checking on me all the way to Gori. Sometimes living in a communal society isn't a bad thing.

That's all the news here, I've posted more pictures from Kutaisi and the supra on Flickr. Take care!


  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger Stacy said…

    This reminds me of another incident involving you and carsickness outside of the U.S. What I'm thinking of included a sheep though.


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