Return to Sakartvelo

Blessed Theophany (again)

Christ is baptized in the river Jordan!

I, on the other hand, just slept for a ridiculously long amount of time, and am watching Liturgy on the TV, like one of those people. Those people being, I suppose, people who are either disabled or very lazy. I’m obviously in the latter category. And, yes, they do broadcast the entire Liturgy, with commentary, on feast days — kinda like a sporting event. In Georgian Theophany is Nateli, which means, “light” — so the holiday is, I suppose, “enlightenment.” The Greek means something more like “the showing forth of God.”

Speaking of Georgian words, I’m unfortunately a little slow on the uptake. After having a terrible time remembering the Georgian word for Orthodox, which is martlmadidebeli, I suddenly realized a couple of months ago, while talking with another TLG volunteer who’s much better with languages, that it’s just a literal translation of Orthodoxy. It means “true-teaching.” Actually, –doxy means both teaching and glory. At which point I realized that I use all the time martali (truth, but a different kind from when they say “truly” — it becomes martla for “really”), dide (glory, greatness, I suppose from didi, big, great — which we use all the time), –beli, which is a kind of suffix, I think for “convey” — because it’s used both with teacher (mastavlabeli = conveyor of teaching, I think), and train (matarabeli — I have no idea what matara is; I suppose it’s the stuff conveyed by a train). So I suppose a super literal translation of Orthodoxy in Georgian would be “conveyor of true glory,” which is simply a super literal translation of the Greek.

English usually import Greek words by simply importing them. Georgian seems to prefer to import them by translation. I wonder if, in addition to the historical reasons for that (Georgian was a language contemporary with Greek, whereas English came much later), theres a linguistic reason for that. English doesn’t lend itself to compound words like “conveyor-of-true-glory” — we can make some compounds of our own, but it’s awkward, and becomes nearly impossible with more than two words together. Apparently German isn’t like that; you can just stick them all together like legos. Georgian is apparently much more adaptable when it comes to constructing compounds, perhaps because it’s inflected? So it can create most of the same combinations as ancient Greek, whereas English does a very bad job of it. When we try we get things like Christ-follower for Christian — a hyphenated word rather than a simple one — which is decidedly less graceful.

Anyway, winter break. I was, as I suppose you know, in Tucson during Winter break. Mostly I remember sleeping a lot, and then chastising myself for sleeping, watching TV on the computer, and then chastising myself for that as well. Otherwise, I saw some friends, went to Yuma with my parents, had Christmas with family, enjoyed the weather and the cactus, and wrote angst-ridden blog posts. (You see how I had to hyphenate angst-ridden? I bet in German or Georgian I wouldn’t have. Especially German; it’s possible that there isn’t a literal translation available in Georgian. They don’t strike me as an angst-ridden sort of people.)

I had a seven hour layover in Istanbul, and proceeded to spend it in the most absurd manner possible. They have a respectable public transportation system which connects to the airport. Unlike in Tbilisi, they are kind enough to print free maps for tourists, and put up large maps in all the stations. That didn’t prevent me from simply hopping on the first train I saw, however — I suspect that I’ve learned very bad travel habits from living in Georgia, where it’s not even possible for Georgians to figure out the train or marshutka schedules with any reliability, and foreigners just have to show up with time to spare and hope for the best. They do post schedules on the train station walls, which might or might be reliable, but which are nearly impossible to figure out, because one must already know the routs and how long it takes between stops, before consulting the schedule.

Anyway, Istanbul isn’t like that, but it took me a while to remember that, at which point I had already started navagating like I was in Georgia: by walking up to the first person I saw on the metro and asking how to get to the city center. He asked someone, who asked someone else, who consulted with someone, who didn’t speak English, but said to get off at her stop. I suspect that she was Georgian. Not only did she operate like a Georgian and look kind of Georgian, but I heard her saying things like gamarjoba and ra vitsi, ra? (what do I know, wot?) on her cell phone. In true Georgian fashion, rather than showing me the map of the metro lines at our destination and pointing to things, she took me to find a marshutka. On the way there she bought a wallet. I tried asking if I might take the metro (because it is possible), but, no, we were at the wrong stop. She found a marshutka to Taksim, which I had never heard of, and then went her way.  I suspect that the driver was also Georgian, because he said things like ra ginda, ra? (what do you want, wot?) on the intercom. Anyway, we eventually got to where we were going, which turned out to be a square next to a crowded avenue with a bunch of shops and restaurants on it. I realized that that was not in fact what I had wanted (I had apparently wanted to see some cool architecture, but not enough to bother looking at the tourist map the airport had given me, so I figured I deserved to end up in the wrong place). I walked about for a bit — up the street, back down the street, down another street, got a bit lost, asked my way back, asked after the metro, bought a cup of coffee and some Turkish delight, tried to find a promising domed thing, failed, was surprised. because it was quite large with domes and towers, and since I was right next to it, it didn’t seem like the sort of thing to hide; realized that it was behind a two-story opaque metal gate; went back to the metro, and tried to follow the map back to the airport.

I accidentally ended up getting on a commuter ferry to the Asian side of the Aegean, rather than the light rail that goes by all the fabulous architecture. Cool as it is that there are commuter ferries at all, one might suspect that it would be easy to tell them from a light rail. One would be right, but somehow that didn’t occur to me until we had already embarked. I spent most of the trip staring at the map, trying to figure out where we were, and where we were going. Fortunately, a nice man who spoke good English decided to help me out; he explained how to get back, and then wrote directions on my map, in case I forgot. There was another ferry in ten minutes, and I spent the trip back taking pictures of my reflection in the window, and reflecting that I can probably get away with more than I should as a feckless traveler, being a young woman. Following the man’s directions, I did in fact get back in less than two hours by tram and metro, and on the tram I caught sight of the cool architectural things  might have taken a closer look at if I had been a more mindful traveler. I got back to the airport with a couple of yours to spare, exhausted, and took a bit of a nap.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about my visit. On the one hand, it was very silly. If I hadn’t been alone I certainly wouldn’t have done things that way. Nor if I had somewhere (an un-hyphenated compound word, but they’re each only one syllable; that does happen a fair amount) in particular to go. On the other, I don’t know whether I like looking at the outsides of cool architectural places (I think I may have caught sight of the Blue Mosque while on the tram — at least it was the most impressively domed mosque I’ve ever seen) better than I like getting lost and then un-lost again. The one place I would really have liked to have visited was the Hagia Sophia, but it would have been closed by the time I got there. Well, if I ever go back during day, I’ll pretty much know how to get there. And how to take a commuter ferry as well. Getting lost in public places, when there’s certainly public transport nearby, isn’t so bad really — it’s kind of fun in its way. I do wish I hadn’t had some 15 lbs of bags with me, though.

My plane got into Tbilisi on time, at 3:40 am. There were no signs to public transport (I was in Georgia now). There may or may not be a train very near the airport. Well, there certainly is such a train, but the people there may or may not know how to find it. There are busses, starting at 7, which may or may not take me anywhere where I would want to be. There are also taxis, which cost twice as much to go to Gori as if I were with a Georgian. Being crabby and tired, with two heavy suitcases and two bags to lug around, I sat down and read a George MacDonald fairytale and wait for the bus. It’s called Day Boy and Night Girl, and is quite odd, but charming. Four hours later, after starting The Princess and the Goblins as well, I felt much better, and went out into the cold dawn air with my suitcases and insufficient clothing to figure out how to get to where I was going. After about a minute, I thought: I don’t know where those busses go. Nobody here will tell me where they go. These bags are heavy. So I took a taxi to the marshutka station. I’m pretty sure that was for the best. A friend in Gori helped me get another taxi, and I went over to her house for breakfast. Her husband is having a godson baptized today (glory to God!). Then I went back “home,” unpacked, lit some candles in church, stopped in at an English class, and returned. I slept for an absurdly long time, ad ended up missing church this morning, because t was so very cozy beneath my huge, heavy blanket by the heater. So here I am, and school starts tomorrow or Monday. Everyone thinks it starts tomorrow, except for G, who actually goes to school there, so perhaps it does start, but nobody bothers actually going there? I’ll just have to show up and see if anyone’s there. How extraordinarily Georgian.

The Liturgy is over on the TV, and now they’ve switched to the post-liturgical videos of icons and domes, with chanting and occasional narration. It looks old, a bit crackly, and sort of reminds me of the end of the film Andrei Rublev.

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