I was lucky enough to spend two weeks of November with my family.
My parents had come to visit me in Georgia, I think they came because of all the stories I had told them and out of sheer disbelief that they were true. So they had to see it for themselves and at least have the peace of mind to know that their son is safe and sound.
They get to airport, and already they are amazed by the wonderful gesture at customs to give them a bottle of wine as a welcoming gift, and then the shock of realizing that there are only like 30 people in the entire airport.
My parents were not here to see sights and monuments, but instead to experience and understand the culture, so the first order of business considering the horrible weather was to take them to one of those underground typically Georgian restaurants and overwhelm them with Khinkali, Lobiani, Khachapuri and Mtsvadi……OHHHHH HOW THEY LOVED THE MTSVADI!!!!
After all the dust had settled, our stomachs full and a table still full of too much food, my father could only laugh at how cheap it all was and thus immediately fall in love with Georgia.
We spent two nights in Tbilisi, walking around the whole city, stopping at interesting places and drinking holes.
I arrived in Georgia in January of this year and for the first 6 months of my time here, I was based in Khashuri. It was a tough place to be initiated, but I got through it. So I planned to take my parents to meet my family and school in Khashuri, to experience the ‘humbling’ Turkish toilet and numbing cold.
There we were, in Didube Station, ready to get on a mashrutka, it was nothing too hectic for them because the public taxi’s are exactly the same at home in South Africa…..until it started moving.
After an hour and a half of listening to my mom’s prayers thinking her death would be an unlikely mashrutka in the middle of Georgia, we finally arrived in Khashuri.
The red wine came out, the white wine came out, the chacha came out, the great food came out, and the bond between two families with one common connection was evident.
A day, and a food and wine hangover later, we were on our way to Batumi, to meet my current host family.
My parents loved Batumi. My Dad figured out the perfect defense for the leg grabbing gypsy kids…..he just ran away shouting “If you can catch me, I will give you some money”. I wish I could have video taped this, because it was much funnier seeing it live.
Anyway, my family met my current family, and there was so much emotion, so much love and so much gratitude between two of the same generations living under very different circumstances.
We visited my schools, and I had them as my guests in each class, allowing the children to ask questions and converse with them. Exposing the children to a different experience. They loved the schools, they had fun and they understood what it is that we do here as volunteers.
After 3 nights in Batumi we left for Istanbul. In a nutshell, we ate a lot of lamb, bought a lot of cheap things and my mother got her first tattoo at the age of 55 years old…..YEAH, A TATTOO!!!! I could not believe I convinced her to get a tattoo! It was awesome!
After all of this, all the travelling and having the opportunity to observe my parents as they experienced all the things that I had, they said of all the things they enjoyed and loved, there was one particular aspect of Georgia that they will never forget…
My parents grew up in the Apartheid era, a time of horrific segregation, discrimination and violence. We now live in a South Africa that is 18 years free and democratic, but the pain and the imprint of Apartheid is still dug deep into the minds of our society, racism still exists, prejudice is still obvious and tolerance is still something that we need to grasp. We are still a young democracy and still have a lot to let go of as a nation. My point is, that my parents had never experienced so much warmth, love, acceptance and a genuine welcome from people who do not know them and in their case, considering their social background, people who were not of the same skin color.
They left telling me that there is no other place like this one, it may lack a lot and they may have a lot to learn, but after travelling all over the world, there is something about Georgia that the whole world could learn from. What that something is……. That depends on your own interpretation.
Georgia: A place like no other.
Live. Laugh. Love
I welcome any comments asking about any experiences that my family had and what their thoughts were about certain experiences.