My parents came to visit me in Poland in the spring of 2008. I showed them the wonderfully large village/small town of Opole which I had made my home. I obviously wished to eternize the place in their memories as I so loved the charmingly simple place and the timing was perfect-it was the weekend of ‘Opole Days.’ There were exhibitions, fire shows, and plenty of people walking the streets. Worked out quite well.
I bring that up because if one were to ever visit Martvili, it should be on the 25th of September. If you remember from my earlier Martvili post, King David the Builder (KDB) was educated here by Giorgi Chkondideli (which if you correctly say three times fast in the mirror legend has it that you turn into a frog…that is not true). So every September Martvili celebrates Mr. Chkondideli. However, perhaps comparable to ‘Opole Days,’ the rest of the country isn’t necessarily aware of the celebration…or if they are aware they don’t care. That’s a shame because people ‘be going bonkers’ in honor of the great teacher of KDB. I didn’t keep a diary of the day, but as a special guest for the day’s events I can more or less recap it for you several days later:
10 am: My school director & I head up to the monastery. There we met up with the other volunteer teacher from Martvili (Brian) and his director. Also met up with Max from the nearby village of Banza (aka Bonanza to those who know it well) whose director was MIA. Probably embarrassed of him being from Pixburgh.
1015 -1016 am: Went into the monastery, smelled heavy amounts of incense, turned around and stood outside for the next hour or so.
12 pm: Went down to the center where we waited for a concert to begin. Some other events that were going on were amateur kickboxing and…well isn’t that all you really need? We also were met by some other volunteers (Tomas the Brit, Bill the South Carolinian, & Helen the Younger).
130 pm: Anticipation for the concert to begin is not enough for people to stand next to the stage in the boiling sun…crowds therefore began to form in the shade 20 meters away.
2 pm: My first experience of Georgian rock was really quite positive. Played some up-tempo stuff that got the people going, however I did again feel bad as one member of the band was standing the entire time (see stage left) while the rest seemed to be much more comfortable sitting.
3 pm: Then ushered from Martvili as special guests to the Salkhino Monastery a bit away. I smiled to myself that on Martvili’s holiday we left town, but it is quite understandable. Salkhino is a beautiful place and we were treated to a suphra in an open field at the Dadiani’s old summer residence. The Dadiani Family used to be the most powerful in the region a few centuries ago and there is actually a connection to Napoleon (later entry), but all you need to know is that on my previous trip here the monastery had the best wine I’ve had in Georgia. That’s saying something.
7 pm-ish?: Back to Martvili for dancing & singing performances by the children of Martvili.
830 pm: Amazing traditional Jewish dance done by Public School #1!!!!! (My school!) To quote Maxwell house, “I’ve been to a lot of bar mitzvah’s, and that was cooler than anything I’ve ever seen.” Though I cannot be certain, I imagine the reason that it would be a Jewish dance is that not far from Martvili (actually, again in Bonanza) was one of the few synagogues in Georgia (until it burned down…still a few walls remain). The country is extremely orthodox Christian (around 101% of the population or so), yet during Soviet times there was a fairly high percentage of Jews in that area. Since the end of the Cold War however that number has thinned considerably.
10 pm: The Martvili Café becomes a disco (unlike the earlier disco too)…and a friend of mine-David-is saved in my phone as “The happiest man in Georgia.” I later spoke with a friend of his who I asked, “Have you ever seen David sad?” He answered, “Yes, once. About a girl…for about 2 minutes.”
So, that was the day Martvili ran the show & became the epicenter of Georgia. Personally, at the very least the result of the day was another reason I’m truly enjoying my time in Martvili: they celebrate teachers.
And for a final note on a fashion observation…though perhaps I’m not qualified to make such critiques. Anyway, as it is nearly October and still so warm, I was curious why so many people wear black in the country. I had read about it before I came, but it is not simply a stereotype. It seems once Georgian’s wear black, they don’t go back…or change…or dare think about another color. A friend suggested that the reason is marshrutkas (minivans that are a very popular means of transport around the country) are often dirty and black hides dirt better. Maybe.
Another reason may be that after the death of a husband a woman will mourn by wearing black for at least one year (I’ve also heard for the rest of her life). Maybe…but men wear black a lot too…and I don’t think every woman in the country is mourning someone.
My guess is that black is to Georgians as some kind of reverse white after Labor Day for Americans. Except there is no day where it starts, you just wear it. Whatever the reason, if you ever go clothes shopping for a Georgian, use this as a helpful suggestion.
Okay, so that is it for now – kargad!