Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday in Gurjaani

Breakfast al fresco in Maia's courtyard. We were: My hostess, Nino; her sisters Mzia and Maia; her sisters' granddaughters Nino, Nely, and Mariami. Breakfast included delicious leftovers from the previous night's feast: mackerel, fried chicken, fresh tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, cheese, bread.

Note: One menu item I forgot to mention from Friday night was a sort of thick, room-temperature, oatish porridge. Hopefully, those terms sound neutral. I tasted it. I can now check it off my list, along with its similarly-textured and -tasting companion item. It appears to be a favorite of little Mariami.

Even in the country, the heat was oppressive. It drained the energy from everyone. Many of us took frequent, short naps like dogs and cats. The heat pushed the odor of the outhouse into full bloom, and it wafted throughout the courtyard.

When one looks at photos of Tuscany -- the pretty scenery, the tables groaning with fruits, cheese, baguettes, and wines, the convivial gathering of smiling people, the grape arbors sheltering all beneath ... you don't think of the prosaic realities that accompany such beauty - flies that crash the party, fruit that over-ripens before your eyes, the aroma of super-heated humanity, the rationed water that means bathing is not a daily or every-other-day event.

Life isn't a photo, and Georgia is, perhaps, the next Tuscany that will capture the attention of the trendorati. (However, Georgians would say that Tuscany is the Georgia of Europe.)

I've already imagined what one of these glorious Gurjaani houses might be like fitted with air 'conditioning! Soon there will be cookbooks and decorating books and HGTV shows that revolve around Georgian cuisine, kitchen design, and lifestyle.

Little Nely was stung by two bees in the morning; her grandmother and great-aunt pressed the blades of two knives above and below the injuries, presumably to draw out the venom. 

Neighbors stopped by throughout the day, usually bringing a tidbit of something, then we all shared it, and then the neighbors moved on for awhile. Little Nino's parents brought by ice cream treats, which gave frozen respites from the heat. In late afternoon, Maia and some young neighbors played bunco.

Through the course of the day, I met other neighbors and visited their compounds. The neighbors are really delightful people, very engaged with each other, and proud of the fruits of their gardens.







 In the evening, several of the young'ns escorted me to the "sleeping volcano." Ok, listen up: I did not heed my instincts before we departed, and suffered for it. I did have the wits enough to ask how long this outing was going to take and what it included other than a visit to the sleeping volcano. So I knew it would be about a three-hour activity. I considered drinking some gulps of water before we left, but the concern over toilet facilities over-ruled thirst, so I chose not to drink anything. What I should have done was take with me a bottle of water, despite the fact I didn't know the etiquette or dearness of rationed water in plastic water bottles - I fell into the insecurity of the not-wanting-to-impose trap that would bite me later.

So off we went, and I did ask how long will it take us to walk to our destination. When told it'd be half an hour, I kicked myself about the water. But I asked about access to water, and was assured there'd be water at our destination. After we passed a couple of small markets that had water, which I had money with me to buy aplenty (but also knew there'd be a tussle about me paying for it), I asked again about the water accessibility at our destination. Oh yes, plenty of water, And cold, too! So we trudged on in the miserable heat. We finally arrived at the park where the sleeping volcano lies, passing two little cafes with water, and I indicated that before I could even look at the darn thing, I needed water. .... Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The water was spring water coming out of a rusty pipe. Shit. For all I know, this water could have been safer than bottled Perrier, but I couldn't take the risk of getting sick for several days so early in the game, certainly not by blithely slurping down a substance surrounded by red flags. So despite the fact I'm sure I came off looking stupid, I declined the water. .... It all worked out OK; a couple of the young ones helped me get some bottled water at one of the multitudinous places we'd passed, but lesson learned: When going somewhere in hot weather, take your own water supply. If I had done so, there'd have been no problem to emerge.

"Sleeping volcano," Gurjaani, Georgia

"Sleeping volcano," Gurjaani, Georgia

Moving past  the water business: The "sleeping volcano" interesting - we saw a pool of hot sludgy water that bubbled throatily. Dry, gray lava flow remnants evident. We moved on to Grandfather's Park, a shady, pleasant space filled with young parents and their babies and toddlers, along with romantic couples, and teens on skates.

Roasted sunflower seeds are wildly popular in Georgia, and black husks cover the pavement in front of park benches.

The mosquitoes arrived in the dawn.

No comments: