Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Georgian Weddings 101

When discussing Georgian weddings it is difficult to find a place to begin. Do you start with the drinking part? The eating part? The dancing part? Or the still more drinking part? Simply put: one must experience a Georgian wedding to even begin to understand it.

But before I can even begin to discuss the wedding, it is important to understand what a supra is. Supras are synonymous with Georgia. They are an integral part of the culture, and are giant feasts with copious amounts of food and alcohol. Supras are held for any myriad of reasons: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, passing tests, etc. Since my arrival I've averaged about 1 supra every 7-10 days. Toasts are a huge component of the supra. I've had to give supra toasts myself. I always toast to Saqartvelo da Amerika! It's easy and everyone agrees. They would probably be even happier if George Bush was still president not Barak Obama and I could say something about that in my toast. As for food, there is A LOT of it. To give up an idea, this is what was served at a supra I attended in September:

  • Whole chickens
  • Fruit (bananas, grapes, apples, watermelon)
  • Water (basically I was the only one drinking it
  • The most disgusting soda I have ever had (Never had I had a lemonade that tasted so medicinal)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • A Georgian salad with egg, mayo, peas, and the ever-present dill that seems to be the only spice besides coriander that Georgians know how to cook with
  • Various types of meat
  • Eggplant with walnut paste (I thought this would be a great vegetarian dish, but I cannot stand the sight or taste or it)
  • Corn on the cob (This is something which I cannot eat; growing up in Minnesota you are accustom to a certain level of corn and this is not it. No one understands why I do not like it, and it is less comprehensible that there is corn elsewhere in the world better than Georgia's).
  • Chocolates
  • Chocolate cake
  • Birthday cake (the frosting was more than an inch thick in places).
  • Bread
  • Khachapuri (Nothing says Georgian celebration like that! It is the national dish of Georgia, and involves cheese and bread. Georgians could happily eat this dish 3 times a day for the rest of their lives. My favorite type is the Adjarian version).
  • Homemade wine
  • Some other type of meat
  • Tomatoes and cucumber
  • Pickled cucumbers and peppers
  • Meat fritters (I'm not sure that to call them)
  • Pizza (Pizza here definitely is not like its American counterpart. Mayonnaise is frequently added to it. Gross. Now if it was ranch dressing, that would be a different story. In college I was introduced to that practice by some Californian students.)

Since my arrival I have attended two weddings. The first, October 10th, was a lot to take in. I really was not sure what to expect except that it would be a supra on crack. And it was! There were approximately 450-500 people present. It was a lot to take in to the point it was overwhelming to me. For most of the 4 hours I I had people comment to me about how I did not eat anything, which was not true. I ate, just not the same amount as Georgians. And then there was the bathroom. For a moment I need to rant. For reasons that make no sense to me, for some reason even new buildings in Georgia are built with the dreaded Turkish toilet. The event space was a recent build with this style of toilet. Why Georgia why? Increasingly I think that USAID funds to Georgia should come only if Turkish toilets are completely outlawed. There is no reason for those toilets let alone at a place with weddings.

After Wedding #1, I was anxious for Wedding #2 the next week. I wanted to go, but after the overwhelming experience the week prior, I was not sure if I truly wanted to go. Wedding #2 was a big family event for my family as it was a cousin who was getting married. One of my host sisters came all the way from Tbilisi to attend. While I slaved away at school, the rest of the female family members all went to get their hair done and I met them later in Batumi.

Long story short about Wedding #2: IT ROCKED. I cannot wait for my next Georgian qorts'ili (wedding).

Wedding #2 was much like Wedding #1 in that there was a lot of homemade wine, toasts, 500 guests, Georgian dancing, toasts, and loads of food.

The Food
Wedding food is the same as supra food, but in much greater amounts. For example, I counted no less than 15 different meat dishes alone! One looked suspiciously like what bats would look like if they were barbecued. No one in my family touched it all. It was unsettling. However, the desserts were terrible. It is sad really; the dessert I tried tasted like slightly sweetened cardboard. Desserts here all look good, but taste wretched. In Georgia, the wedding cake is ate on day 2 of the wedding, not at the wedding reception. (I have yet to go to the day 2 festivities of a wedding). One of my favorite parts of the food was the dolphins made out of bananas. They had eyes made out of olives and little cocktail umbrellas. Jaba, my host brother, adored them and carried his around all night.

The Alcohol
American weddings simply have bottles of wine, but Georgian weddings have 2.5 liter pitchers of wine. They do not mess around with that. There were a lot of drunk Georgians there.

The Dancing
The dancing is largely Georgian in nature. Wedding #2 featured traditional dancers. But we also go to dance. It was great. However, seeing the Georgians try to dance to "Cotton Eye Joe" was disheartening. As the only American there, I had to set them straight about how you dance to that song. You do not dance to that song like you would dance to "Waka Waka" by Shakira. By the end of the evening all the drunk uncles wanted to dance to with me. Awkward. But whatever. I went with it.

The Minor Celebrity
Since our arrival in Georgia, being American is like being a celebrity. I've been interviewed for TV, been in commercials, people always want to talk to me, etc. The wedding was no different. People wanted to talk to me. They would pull me over to their table, set a clean plate, fill it would food, and pour me a glass of wine. Then they would begin to talk to me. Me in broken Georgian, them in Georgian I do not understand. We would talk about the wedding, me being from Las Vegas (I say that because it is sort of close to Springdale/Zion and people here have heard of it), and whether or not I enjoy Georgian weddings. Of course!

The Change from Wedding #1 to Wedding #2
Wedding #2 was important for me as part of my entire time in Georgia. It was a great lesson in being present. The wedding came at a time here when I was having difficulty with school, the teachers, etc. At the wedding I knew beforehand that it would be hours long, and it was then I decided I have to focus on where I was. I thought, "This is where I am now; anything before and after does not matter. Just now does." By staying present I could enjoy the wedding more. This exercise has remained with me. I think about it a lot, especially when I things get crazy at school. Amazingly, it calms me and provides perspective. It allows me to focus on the craziness of 7A while I am there and not worry about what will come later in grade 12.

Perhaps my time at Zion Adventure Company would have been different if I had already learned the lesson of presence.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Charlotte, all of us could benefit from staying in the present...it's a gift, that's why it's called the present, tee hee.
    Not all Georgian desserts are terrible. You haven't tried my mother-in-law's chocolate cake. Delicious, even when she served it to me at breakfast!