Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rustavi: A Sweet Send-Off

My former hostess, "Nino," and her friends and neighbors gave me a sweet send-off today, in honor of my leaving Georgia on the 24th for my winter vacation.

When I arrived at Nino's place (the "leeftee" was not working, so I trudged up to Nino's sixth floor flat), Mari, visiting from the village, stood by the stove stirring sunflower seeds she was roasting. (The day before, Mari and her sister, Tia, had presented me with a selection of churchkhela made by their parents in their home village, which is near Sighnaghi in Kakheti.)

As I sat on a kitchen stool, Nino corrected the spices on a tomato-based dish she was cooking on the stove. Tia sliced potatoes french-fry style.

Nino added miniature khinkhali (called Russian khinkhali) to boiling, salted water.

Mari set the table, adding some artistic flourish by crafting the paper napkins into decorative shapes on the plates. Tia's young daughter, a tiny tornado, always getting into trouble, always doing things that are on the brink of generating catastrophe, helped.

Presently we sat: Nino, Tia, Mari and I, later joined by Nino's friend, Dodo, and her daughters, Nino and Mari, then by Nana. And Eka, with quiet daughter, Mariami, on her lap.

Mari, a senior in high school, put on some music and performed a couple of folk dances. Mari is a lovely, confident dancer. She is a very feminine girl, adept at the careful hand and arm movements requisite in traditional women's Georgian dance.

We drank wine and sherry (chacha plus fruit juice) from Gurjaani. We toasted to our health, future, and happiness, and that of our families.

I received homemade wine and chacha and more churchkhela to take home with me.

In a beautiful small gesture, knowing how much I like it, Nino even made popcorn for me to take away.

It felt like an afternoon of grace.

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