Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gori: School Excursion!

Nino at Uplistsikhe

Two geography teachers, mother and daughter, invited me to join student government members (8th through 10th grade) on an excursion to Kareli. The weather turned ugly, so when I walked up to the chartered marshrutka in front of the school, at a chilly, rainy 8:00 a.m., I learned we'd go instead to Gori. Specifically, to Uplistsikhe (cave city), the Stalin Museum, and to some nearby historic churches, the Ateni Sioni and "Dedas' Monastery" (a convent).

Sustenance for the trip

On the way to Gori, we stopped at a market so the boys could pick up some chacha and beer. Yes, it's a different world in Georgia. More on this later.

Ateni Sioni and the Dedas' Monastery

Georgians are very clear about the historical, religious, cultural, architectural, and artistic differences between their many (many) churches and monasteries. For me, I must admit, after the first 10 or so, they all pretty much look the same. Nely, my hostess, felt a little put off at my sheepish admission in this regard recently, exclaiming, with finger raised, "But this is our history!"

Budishi. I am sorry, but ....

The lively yellow foliage near the convent and church was really pretty.

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia

Dedas' Monastery (convent), Ateni, Georgia
Ateni Sioni, Georgia

Uplistsikhe

The cave city outside of Gori reminded me of the cliff dwellings in the American Southwest. The city was built B.C. The church dates from the 9th or 10th century.

I was amused by Geography Teacher the Elder. A strong Georgian woman, she seemed to delight in leading the charge, invariably identifying the path most likely to break someone's neck. While she scrabbled happily up and down rocky surfaces, I learned quickly to note her plan of attack, and then to chart my own, more timid way. I have health insurance through TLG, but it doesn't cover medical evacuation to the states or the cost of shipping my body.



Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, near Gori, Georgia



Lunch

Time for lunch; afterward, time to break out the chacha and beer the boys had bought. All shared among students and teachers. Most of the girls were sitting in the back of the marshrutka (where we dined), so I don't know if they also drank.

The lead teacher gave a toast (urging me at the end to drink it all! drink it all! all being half a glassful of chacha).

So what do I think about the kids not only drinking alcohol, but drinking alcohol on a school excursion, and being joined by the teachers?
  • Alcohol is not intrinsically unhealthy.
  • In the U.S., a goodly number of school kids ingest prescription drugs that are mind-altering. I'm not talking about drug abuse. I'm talking about drugs being prescribed to address ADD, ADHD, and other syndromes.
  • It was a bit shocking to be part of this drinking scenario. 
  • It's part of the Georgian culture and there are boundaries in place to address good taste, behavior, and safety as defined by Georgian society.

Stalin Museum

After lunch, we went to Gori center and toured the Stalin Museum. Stalin was born in Gori. Here's what I want to say about Stalin and his museum:

Stalin's toilet, Gori, Georgia

Picnic dinner

Just as I thought we were well on our way home, we stopped at dusk at a park between Tbilisi and Rustavi. Out came leftovers from lunch (with some refreshments of supplies): roast chicken, seasoned burgers, khachapuri, grapes, cheese, and wine. We ate standing, shivering a little, as the dark descended.

Georgians don't let a little bad weather or night get in the way of a picnic. Gotta love that.



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