Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Arch Trellis to the Famous Golden Arches

The content of this next post is two fold, last weekend I had the privilege of attending a traditional Georgian wedding, but I also experienced my new found sense of comfort within the seats of McDonald's in good ol' Kutaisi.  Trust me, no one was more shocked than myself to find that I truly enjoyed eating and hanging out at McDonald's - I always said I would never be 'that' American that resorted to eating greasy french fries and relishing in the m&m mcflurry in the midst of another culture; a culture in which clearly McDonald's did not belong.  But here's the thing, just when you don't think you're missing home or you need the comforts of home, McDonald's comes a calling.  Eating that ice cream, those french fries, the occasional chicken nugget, it somehow tasted just like home (even though at home I only go to McDonald's for the delicious iced coffee that I got severely addicted to last summer).  

Let me back up a bit and explain why so many TLG, peace corp and other English speakers/backpackers happen to go to McDonald's.  It's literally where the Marshutka/Bus Station is.  When we take a Marshutka from Samtredia, it drops us off smack dab in front of the entrance to McDonalds.  The first time Melissa and I went, we hopped off the Marshutka and headed to the nearest shopping mall (I was on a search for heels for the wedding, Melissa needed a present for Koko, her brother).  However, we had barely made it 20 feet, when a friend from orientation ran and caught up with us.  How did he know we were here? He saw us get off the Marshutka because he and a bunch of other TLG people were hanging out at Mickey D's and taking advantage of the free wireless.  Low and behold, we met and hung out with several good friends, as McDonald's seemed to be the hubbub of free wireless and fries.  Of course we wanted to join in the fun.  As we sat down, 15 minutes turned into several hours because more people just kept coming.  I randomly ran into my roommate from orientation, Katy (my favorite Brit in the world), and other TLGers just kept coming in! We also met a Fulbrighter who gave us tips on traveling to Armenia (a trip we're planning for this month) well as some Polish backpackers, who spoke English and had no idea where they were on the map of Kutaisi.  Finally, I met a Peace Corp guy who just happened to have his Wisconsin sweatshirt on...right after they sadly beat the Hawkeyes.  Yes, that was the first thing he said to me after I told him I was from Iowa... come on Hawks!! 

To sum up, Mickey D's has a new found special place in my heart.  It satisfies both my cravings for delicious ice cream and English speakers different from those that I speak to everyday in Samtredia.  Plus, you NEVER know who you'll meet there :) 

Well, in case any of you were wondering, I did not manage to find any shoes for the wedding in the shopping mall as they were ridiculously priced and often quite hideous... Georgian fashion and Emily are not a good combination.  Luckily, while browsing the market in Samtredia the next day (the day of the wedding) I managed to find some heels that were somewhat bearable.  If you know me, you know that I relish in cute flats, not cute heels.  My feet hate them, and heels seem to hate my feet.  Luckily, for the majority of the wedding party we were sitting, so it all worked out! My Saturday was devoted entirely to the wedding.  I woke up, went to the Bazar to find shoes and run other errands, then spent the afternoon getting ready.  Weddings are a very fancy occasion in Georgia, women break out the beautiful dresses, do their hair in a special updo, put on their best the pressure was on! After showering, drying, straightening my hair (first time in Georgia by the way...) and ironing my dress, I was ready to go! 

I went and met Marina, a fellow English teacher and we went to the wedding together.  Angela, the third English teacher at my school, invited me to her son's wedding, as well as several other teachers at the school and the director.  Sadly, we did not attend the wedding ceremony.  In Georgia, only a small number of guests actually attend the ceremony - usually at the most 20.  That ceremony is relatively short and ends with the bride and groom walking around the church with the priest several times wearing the marriage crowns.  Everyone else joins them for the huge party afterward.  Ours was held at a restaurant and was decorated beautifully.  We sat at 2 LONG tables that took up the entire place.  About 150 people attended, but there can be up to 400 people.  

Sitting with Marina (English teacher next to me), Khatuna (the director, blonde) and Tsitsana
At the party, we all took our seats and waited for the bride and groom and their family to enter.  They entered to great applause and cheering as they made their way to the head table.  After that, the eating begins.  I don't think I can explain to you how much food was on our table.  The plates were literally stacked on top of each other with food and we spent the next 4 hours eating.  Once I realized this was all we were going to be doing, I quickly slowed down and began to pace myself.  I was amazed at the sheer amount of food some of the women around me were able to eat though, I was full after like an hour! Luckily my mom had told me not to eat much during the day so I went there ready for food! 
This was just the beginning of the endless amounts of food from the evening!
While eating we listened to the Tamada (toast master) make many, many toasts.  There was a toast to Georgia, to appreciating women, to the couple's happiness, to love, to loved one's who have died before us, etc.  These toasts often went on for a looooong time, and it surprised me that people would go on about their time during these toasts.  In America, when someone gives a speech, everyone sits back and listens, but here, people just keep chatting.  I suppose that's due to the amount of time that the Tamada speaks.  I honestly found myself tuning him out, partly because I can't understand him, but because he seemed to always be speaking!! After the Tamada finally finished a toast, all the men would stand up and down their glass of wine.  Women, just sip theirs, as it's completely fine for men to get incredibly drunk, but inappropriate for women.  The men also pass along a drinking horn and take turns drinking from it.  At one point they passed it to me to look at, but when I asked if I could drink from it, they gave me a look of horror saying 'It's ONLY for men!!!!' Oh well.  

Students and staff on the dance floor!
After a while, the bride and groom came down for their first dance.  It was quite beautiful and I loved watching them dance away, but suddenly I realized that every woman around me was crying and saying 'lamazia gogo, lamazia gogo' (beautiful girl)  I felt strange that I couldn't start crying along with them, but thought it was sweet that they were so happy for the couple.  Soon, everyone else was joining in the dancing festivities.  Several of my students were there with me, so I had a blast dancing with the English teachers and my students.  I only had one minor creeper who told me that he was in love with me and that he wanted to marry me.  I politely declined, but then laughed when my director heard about this and came to yell over to yell at him basically saying 'What do you think you're doing crazy man? You have a wife, she's sitting at the other end of the table - go tell her you love her, not this poor American girl!!!'  Highlight of my night, right there! 
Some of my adorable students! 
Well, it has been raining for literally 24 hours now and it's cold and windy.  I've been curled up in my bed, relishing in the fact that I can't leave the house and using the time to read, catch up on emails, blogs, posting pictures and of course, watching movies online.  Here are two links to my facebook photo albums, if you haven't seen them already.  

For pictures of my trip to Tbilisi and my time in Samtredia:

For pictures from my trip to Mtskheta and Kakheti:


  1. Emily,

    Story is hilarious. Wedding in west Georgia is an event for itself and especially in village (a lot of Tbilisi folks would consider Samtredia as a village of 10 000 people ;-)

    BTW, if not such a broad smile nobody would distinguish you from locals. I do not mean that you should not smile on photo - you really have a charming smile.

    P.S. Was there any dancing on tables and drinking from 'different vessel' like clay pot or... barrel of a shotgun?

  2. Hey Em! Oh man, when we were on SST we were dying for McDonalds & Starbucks Frappuccinos for some reason. It totally cracked me up when you were describing longing for McD's because I totally remember that feeling of simultaneously wanting McDonalds but being sort of disgusted with myself that all I wanted was a greeezball cheeseburger! Haha!!!

    Love ya, keep having a blast & writing about it - It's so much fun to read your posts. Makes work days infinitely more interesting!

    Love, Rach

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  4. One Arch Trellis to the Famous Golden Arches. The content of this next post is two fold, last weekend I had the privilege of attending a ...