Zarzma

Apologies if my posts (and especially my pictures) are a bit disjointed; Georgians apparently have a rule never to leave a guest alone for longer than ten minutes at a time — so I spent the whole of yesterday being quizzed on English and Georgian words by various people; Gia, my little host brother, N, the English teacher, and M, a friend of Anna, my host mother. Then I fell asleep very early, not only because I hadn’t slept so well the night before, but mostly because — I forget the psychological term for it — it means that it’s much harder and more tiring to use language by conscious recall; by thinking about the words themselves — than it is to use them automatically in order to refer to other things. Obvious, yeah? At present I have a brain that lets out words like a sieve.

This morning, because it’s Sunday, they went to their regional monastery, Zarzma. N said that Zarzma means ring — because they would ring the bells in the tower. It was built in the early 14th cenury, and is fairly impressive. I’m not quite sure if this outing was more like having an exchange student attend church with their host family or taking a visitor to, for instance, San Xavier — I suspect more like the latter. In Syria as well there was a distinction between going to a service and going to visit a church — we would have a service at the monastery or chancery at which we were staying, and ought to go, but could get up and walk over whenever we wanted — but then we went out and visited a lot of churches, but didn’t stay to pray. The reason why I’m unsure is because if we were only visiting to see the church, why go for Liturgy — and if not, why not go earlier? In any event, this morning we ate a rather leisurely breakfast, showed up for the last fifteen minutes of Liturgy, looked about for a bit, and then left. Since we can’t communicate very well I didn’t get to ask why — whether they usually don’t go, or go late, or simply thought it would be too hard on me, as a visitor, to stay very long. In any event, I wasn’t entirely settled for even that 15 minutes, since I was given some candles to light, some icons to kiss, and then was led over to a little crypt to look at the skulls — I’m guessing they were monks who lived there in the past. The reason I’m a bit confused is because if we were simply church viewing, why go on Sunday morning during Liturgy; but if we were attending church, why wait until it was nearly over? They also gave me some postcards (comment if you want me to send one, but apparently the postal service here is very slow, and I’m not sure how to send international mail), a paper explaining the monastery, and a mug. It’s a lovely church and monastery, though a bit far — perhaps 6 miles.

Later I studied a bit of Georgian (“arra — khck, ar xhks!!”), and have been watching Anna and M making xinkali (that’s xinkali with an xkh and a k’), which are a kind of meat dumpling, rather like pirogis –I think we don’t make very much of that kind of thing, between a homemade pasta and a dumpling, unless we’re trying to make international food on purpose; I would probably never think to make a priogi or a ravioli from scratch, but other people do make xinkali simply to have a nice dinner. They’re crimped at the top, and there are spices and cilantro mixed with water inside; you’re supposed to put pepper on top and eat them with your hands, hot.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to try teaching police officers. We’ll see how that goes.

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