“I found a way to live forever, I found a place where no one cares.” – Pete Yorn; The Legends of T’Serteli Street

Forgive the absence of time. I would like to suggest that this entry has been being prepared all the while. Or, perhaps as absence makes the heart grow fonder, readers have anxiously been checking back repeatedly awaiting this. Well, I can assure you one is not the case and presume the other isn’t either. Simply, I made an oath to myself that I would not make another blog post until I was done with all of my graduate school essays.

While November passed with me coming up with a series of excuses to avoid writing the essays (Thanksgiving Feast in Martvili anyone?), they have thankfully been completed. More or less. To be accurate, they are in the final stages. This entry is just a cathartic break used by someone who needs to type something that does not answer a question about his future, his goals, his future goals, the goals he held when thinking about the future, and goals he scored when he was seven playing for a football team called “The Futures.” . . .Having a great time with these really.

This entry’s purpose has been in my mind for quite some time however. That is, this is about the legends of T’sereteli street (I assure you I am not upsetting privacy advocates by stating the name. As mentioned in previous posts, I firmly believe most residents/post workers do not know the names of streets but simply the names of everyone else in the village and where they live). This boulevard is home to some of the greatest people not simply in Martvili, but in all of Georgia. I am convinced of it.

That is no disrespect to anyone else in Martvili. Some of my Martvili favorites are people I work with, a taxi driver I say hello to every day, the owner and workers of Boom, the list goes on. But, this is my street. With my time winding down in Georgia I think have to get my home right before I proselytize on or, dare I pun, address anything else. So, with no further ado, the legends of T’sereteli.

Velody-the biggest legend on Tsereteli street in some respects-& I. The guy is hysterical.

Velody is the most convival, humorous, and by popular belief fattest man in Martvili. I am allowed to say the last thing because I truly believe he is one of my better friends in the community (Also, Georgian’s really don’t seem to take it as an insult based on what I’ve seen). A man whose humor transcends language, our conversation tends to revolve around one thing: a planned trip the next day to Chicago where Velody will get a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th depending on his mood) wife with me helping to pick her out (she requires certain qualities I would rather not type out). The trip is usually planned for around 6 am, the plans conducted entirely in Georgian or Megruli, and done in front of Velody’s most understanding wife. V, as I call him, is also the only person outside of a college roommate to call me by the nickname: E. What can I say, with him it somehow works.

Who is V’s son? Zaza who for some reason is more popularly known to everyone as Buska (which translates to bull). I prefer Zaza. Now, he may have been mentioned in this blog before so I won’t expound into too great of detail…though it’s hard not too. Zaza’s English isn’t the greatest but he can get a multitude of points across in the ten words he commands with expertise (“by foot” a favorite expression). It’s a great shame he studies in Tbilisi as anytime he is around there is a dynamic which only his goodhearted nature can bring.

Zaza in red at a block party with other T'Serteli legends

Two short anecdotes. Zaza saw me on facebook and we went through the process of setting up an account for him. Right at a crucial moment…well actually it took me 15 minutes at that crucial moment…I realized Zaza was trying to explain he didn’t have an email account. Why? No need. My mother would love this kid.

Second story-friends were recently leaving for a week in Istanbul. I got a message from one of them at 3 am. “We’are at the airport and guess who is here-ZAZA!” Oh Buska…

Gugesha in what I believe to be his corn shucking outfit...100 points if you can read the hat.

So I am still running quite often (current temperature in Martvili: 10 C, 50 F…Needless I may not have a white Christmas) and as I run down the street I usually pass a small little house at the end. At first, had no idea who lived there. Then, one day I saw a man with a pitchfork start running next to me. This didn’t really frighten me as I’ve had cars (at least three times) slow down next to me while running to talk/high five me while I continue to run. I recognized the pitchfork carrying man, Gugesha, as the one who occasionally vermicularly crawled round my neighbor Lela’s (the musical legend) home. Needless to say, when he started running I couldn’t help but laugh. Despite being probably 65 with the appearance of someone 10-15 times that age (all love), this spry fella has no problem doing work that would make most 20 year olds cringe…yet his normal walking pace and stature may also make a 20 year old cringe at the thought of aging. The secret to his duality lies in his favorite habit which is to sneak into our home and whisper to me “ginda chacha?” (Do you want ridiculously strong alcohol?) in a naughty school boy voice with a glint in his eye to match. Good man that Gugesha.

I can’t write a legends of T’serteli without writing about my host father Dato. The doctor, the myth, the legend and most importantly the family man who I will be eternally thankful to for welcoming me into his home. His collection of impressionable gestures are contagious-though not exactly definable. His worldly intelligence constantly impresses me on subjects ranging from art to literature. I also can’t help but observe how his slightly childish nature and enthusiasm, in a positive sense, must make his position as a pediatrician all the more successful and apt. Additionally, the fact that more or less all of Western Georgia calls him their friend convinces me of these strong qualities in addition to others I am probably unaware of due to language.

The legendary Dato

Yet, what I may remember most about Dato will be his random moments of intentional humor which burst forth like a bull through your enemy’s china shop-pure destructive delight. You see, generally Dato possesses a serious demeanor aimed at things like learning English, having English lessons, making sure his sons are learning English, or making sure his sons aren’t killing each other. However, there have been moments where Dato has left me speechless in hysterics.

A recent gem was when my friend Max was up to Martvili to visit our local dinosaur discovery, which had made international headlines and a lot more national ones that I won’t link to. Well, we ended up not going but instead talking to my host family about a rumor friends of ours heard. It went that people in Martvili were called snitches in communist times by those in the nearby town Senaki. Dato was not happy having probably heard it before and went off into a tangent. While I obviously did not record it, I think it reads better if I try to paraphrase his response: “Martvili always has many professionals in Tbilisi. Doctors, teachers, government, Senaki has nothing. But, people in Martvili do not care if Senaki are jealous. <<pause…smirk comes to his face>>…Senaki no have dinosaurs! Martvili have!”

There are countless more legends in a numerable town. I am also doing a great disservice with no women on this list-but  rest assured that is nothing more than a product of little time. I have plans to address my other oh so important family members in my final and next post from Georgia as they are most deserving of my written respect. Yet, I wanted to declare that it’s bittersweet knowing my time on this street is concluding. I suppose the greatest way for me to cement everyone’s legendary status however is to leave.

I have often walked this street before...

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