Teach Abroad - Republic of Georgia, Teach Abroad Programs

Spirits for Spirits

by Michelle Esther, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Georgia

Instead of a simple Saturday lunch of bread, cheese and yesterday’s leftovers, the other day I enjoyed a supra-style feast. After a short Frogger-like car ride to the village (picture the car weaving in and around cows and ducks for ten minutes) we arrived at the lovely home of Melissa’s host cousin, Lela.

As soon as we opened the car door, we were greeted by Melissa’s little cousins: the adorable eight-year-old Tica and her blonde and blue eyed, ten-year-old sister Mari (both sported cute, new haircuts). We were instantly brought upstairs to sit on a couch while three other female family members laid a feast out before our eyes. Of course, since Melissa and I were guests, we could not help at all (but Melissa did find time to accidentally break poor little Tica’s sparkly, new barrette).

 

Only half the food for the supra.

 

This supra was special because it was in honor of two family members who had died within the year, and all efforts were made to memorialize them. The Georgian Orthodox religion is very spiritual, and many believe that a special feast like this one will attract the souls of these deceased members to come to the table. Because of this, only the favorite foods of the two family members were made for the meal and special candles were placed in numerous dishes. Finally, a bowl of scented, wooden ashes (simulating the ashes of the two family members) was placed on the floor.

While a meal like this sounds like it would be somber, the mood was very light-hearted. All the food was divine (though I mostly ate salad; it’s such a treat when it’s placed on the table) and all the wine was made that week by the family themselves! Melissa’s host-dad Koka was the tamada (toastmaster) and he made various toasts in memory of the two family members and also of lovely things like world peace and good health to all fourteen of us supra guests.

After several toasts (meaning various glasses of wine) Koka asked Melissa and I to lead a toast. We both first looked at each other a bit dumb-founded and then Melissa proudly said, “To pomodori, ketri da puri!” (To tomatoes, cucumbers and bread!) Maybe it’s because Georgians are nice people, but they all seemed to really love Melissa’s toast and cheered to it very enthusiastically.

Our spiritual lunch was filled with various blunders on both our parts. Melissa incessantly tried to toast with her left hand (you can only toast with your right) and I could not seem to keep my changali (fork) in my hand. I repeatedly dropped it on the floor. Lela’s father told me that in Georgian tradition, every time a fork is dropped on the floor that means another guest will come to the meal. So not only were the two souls of the family members coming, but also an entire other village because I dropped my fork 80 times.

Even worse, after one of the occasions where I dropped my fork, Lela stood up to get me a new one and accidentally knocked over the bowl of ashes. I mean, wow, hello, that cannot be a good omen. It was totally a throwback to Ben Stiller breaking the ashes vase in ‘Meet the Parents’. (No one seemed too offended though and my apology only resulted in me being given extra lemon cake).

Read more of Michelle’s evening…

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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