Cuttino's Georgian Life

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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Georgian Oom-pah-pah

One of our favorite hangouts in Tbilisi is a South Ossetian restaurant in Old Town. Not only is the food good and cheap, but the beer is some of the best of the Georgian variety. While Georgian wine is the pride of the people, alas, Georgian beer is an afterthought. Of course, the Ossetian khachapuri is worth the cost of a round trip bus ticket to the capital. So, last weekend, when one of my Volunteer friends had to unexpectedly terminate his service, we decided to have an impromptu sending-off party Ossetian-style (minus the sedition).

On a weekend, the restaurant is crowded and smoky, and the large oak tables and stuffed animals on the walls give it the feel of a beer hall. Most of the table were taken up with men having supras. As the night wore on, some young men decided to sing some folk songs, which is typical during a long supra. They must have been a choir, because they were excellent and most of the tenants in the restaurant applauded at the end of the song. This continued for a while until another table decided to join in the act. So, the competition began. After a few more songs back and forth, we Americans decided to get in on the fun.

The only Georgian song that we all knew (or could at least fake our way through) was the Georgian national anthem, "Tavisupleba (Freedom)." So, we stood up and started singing. Suddenly, everyone got quiet and stared at us. There was a moment of hesitation in the restaurant while the Georgians tried to figure out what was going on. The table of young men next to us stood up and joined, and by the end of the song most of the restaurant was on their feet, raising their glasses, and singing along. All in the name of cultural understanding.

If you're curious about what the Georgian national anthem sounds like, here is a link to a YouTube video. This is a pretty fascinating clip and airs every night on Georgian television just before the station goes off the air, if I'm not mistaken. I'm a bigger fan of the anthem of the Georgian national football team, "Chven erti gundi vart (We Are One Team)." In the video, they're chanting "Sakartvelo! Sakartvelo!" or "Georgia! Georgia!" I need to find some white and red face paint so I can be this guy for Halloween next year...

PS--Thanks to Mike for his help in translating the word gundi. Even though he ET-ed, he's not that bad of a guy. Gone but not least until the new people show up...