I decided to try my hand at skiing on one of Georgia’s regal mountains with the help of my Canadian friend Andria. After one of the worst lines I’ve ever experienced (Six Flags in the summer has nothing on Georgia—probably since the concept of a “line” hasn’t quite been developed here yet), we arrived at the top of the blistering cold mountain, where the snow and wind struck painfully on our skin. I felt ready for the adventure, so I headed out with Andria. Overconfident with my athletic abilities, I took off ahead of Andria, who got caught up helping some of our other amateur friends.
After gently gliding down the first part of the mountain, I became too impatient to wait for my friends, and took off again. I quickly discovered that skiing is a lot like skating terms of how you move your feet, so I seemed to be fine with the momentum part of the sport—but as soon as I began to fly, I realized that I didn’t know how to stop. That was one lesson I seemed to have missed. Quickly gaining speed and with my “pizza” lesson not helping me stop, I shifted my legs to the side in an effort to stop as I would with skates. Luckily, I did stop, but only after gliding painfully on the slick slope and flipping a couple of times. Again, I waited for Andria to no avail.
So I repeated this step about five more times before proudly making my way to the bottom. With this newfound confidence (but mostly with Andria’s help) I made it down the hill somewhat more gently the second time around. I went down the slope a third time before I decided I’d had enough.
Prominent natural beauty from mountain tops is one aspect of Georgia’s luster, but there is a more subtle beauty that may be found deep in the fiber of this country. It abounds much like the former, but is much smaller and infinitely more valuable. I’m talking about the people. There is much to be said about Georgian kindness and there are too many personal examples I could give to substantiate my claim, so I will just share the most recent and vivid in my mind.
This Monday, I began my slow recovery from my short weekend in Bakuriani. Despite the limping and pain at school that day, it turned out to be one of my best days. Going in to my first class that day, which also happens to be my favorite, I was invited by the teacher to join them during 6th period for a party to celebrate Women’s Day. This holiday conveniently follows just days after Mother’s day, giving us two holidays back to back (and yet no long weekend…). Arriving at the end of the day for this celebration, I saw that rather than a party, the children were preparing for a skit. Parents and siblings awaited the third grade’s production for Women’s Day.
As a guest, I was offered the best seat in the house. The children delivered their lines avidly for 30 minutes. Some pumped their fists fervently in the air while proclaiming the strength of women and mother Georgia ( I presume… It was in Georgian but I’d like to think I caught the main idea). After their skit, some of the children swarmed over and showered me with flowers and kisses. I took pictures with the class and then was invited by the teacher to join her for an impromptu suphra (Georgian feast!) where I was forcefully fed about a dozen different types of foods and desserts.
This display of kindness is really no exception. My favorite co-teacher, Marina, invites me almost daily to join her for a snack between classes, and other teachers bid me similar royal treatment. But these examples do not come close to doing these people justice. They are the real essence of this country, a hidden treasure nestled amid the giant Caucuses. Everywhere I look, there is an overwhelming splendor in this country that genuinely captures you. I invite any of you curious enough to come experience it yourself—just be sure to look beyond the cement exterior.