Saturday afternoon, after getting back from Gelati and hanging out at the park in Kutaisi for a few hours, I went with Guchi, a Georgian friend, to her mother’s home in Lentekhi, a small town in Lower Svaneti. Her relative drove from Tbilisi, which was ever so much more convenient than trying to take a marshutka, especially as it’s about a five hour drive from Tbilisi. Saturday evening I met her mother, sister, and grandmother, climbed a hill to a little white church, and had dinner with some neighbors. Lentekhi is a “reoni,” which is bigger than a village, and has some villages around it, but smaller than a town. It’s the administrative center for the area, with a police station, museum, school, music hall, hospital, church, sports field, a couple of stores and whatever else is needed in the area, since the nearest actual town is Kutaisi, a two hour drive away. They also have a sports center and the cutest little church with a little monastery and a couple of nuns next door.
Sunday was Pentecost, and also the feast day of the village Pak’i, further up in the mountains, so I walked there with G, her sister, and a friend. I ran into another volunteer teacher from America, but we split up because G and her sister were walking pretty fast. Even so it was a decent walk of an hour and a half or so up the mountain. There’s another church further up the mountain where apparently the men went, but the women weren’t allowed, which was pretty far, so that the men mostly drove, and the women mostly walked. That was sort of odd to see, since I suspect that in America everyone would feel a little bad about that arrangement. The mountains there are lovely, and it was warm, clear, bright, moist, and green. It looks how I imagine Colorado; sort of like Northern Arizona, but greened with more firs and deciduous trees, in addition to pines, because it’s not so dry.
Pentecost in Georgian is “sultmopenoba,” and in the area around Lentekhi it’s also “Pak’oba,” because everyone goes to Pak’i to celebrate. They do not have an ancient stone church there; currently it’s a little square whitewashed church, which about a tenth of the people there could get in, so I didn’t even peek inside. Mostly people burned some candles outside, stood around for a while, perhaps prayed a blessing over a lamb they were about to eat, had a picnic by a grave of their relatives, and then hung out, talking and looking at “the Nature.” That’s what we did as well. I’ve always thought that in America it would be disrespectful to set up a table straddling your grandfather’s grave and have a picnic there, but in Georgia it’s pretty normal. I used to wonder why each grave has a little garden and a fence around it — especially about the fence or wall — but it seems to be because they use them like this, like a grave-ramada. If I were writing a poem about Georgians it have a picnic beneath a grave-ramada. After hanging out for a while with a friend of Guchi and eating cotton candy (“ice-cream candy” in Georgian) from a little stand someone had set up, we walked back down the mountain, getting a ride from about half way. we hung out in the garden with some neighbors, walked about for a bit, and then got a ride home with Guchi’s relative.