Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mind the wolves

Some berries in the rain
 I know Melissa is a true friend because when I asked her to wake up at 6am while it was pouring rain outside in order to hike up a mountain to go to a church service, she agreed. And that is exactly what we did yesterday!

While the sky was dark, and lightning lit up the sky, Melissa, Eka (my deda) and I set off into town to catch a 6:40am marshutka (mini-bus). This marshutka ride was unlike any I’ve had so far because almost everyone on the bus was a vendor of some sorts, carrying kilo upon kilo of tomatoes, parsley, eggplant and other vegetables to sell at some bazaar outside town. There was actually a wagon attached to the bus where everyone placed their produce, which gave the bus a lovely smell of fresh vegetables. Melissa was also kind enough not to tell me that there was a spider in the hair of the woman sitting in front of us. She is a good friend, I probably would have screamed if I noticed which would have caused our driver to swerve the bus, spilling all the tomatoes.

After about a half hour, the three of us and Irakli, one of my deda’s dental patients, and a sweet, deaf man from Samtredia got off the bus at what appeared to be the middle of nowhere and began to hike up a mountain. I had misunderstood when my deda said the church was a far walk, and forgot to tell Melissa not to where heels. Yes, that’s right; she hiked up a mountain in the pouring rain, wearing heels.
The rain stopped for a bit and we could take a photo. (We climbed all the way to the top of this mountain).

While the walk was beautiful, Irakli, Eka and the nice, deaf man kept warning us about the wolves. I thought they were joking, but they repeatedly told us that when we hear the wolves howl, we should stand still and let the wolves smell us. Irakli often assists the Mamou (the Georgian Orthodox priest, I think) at the monastery we were going to, and he told me that there are almost wolves on the path. I was worried that the deaf man would not know to stop walking when the wolves howled, so I made sure to stand near him to prevent him from being eaten.
The only two living things we passed on our walk up (not counting a snail).

While I was really excited to see some wild wolves, Melissa was not. I almost lost circulation in my hand because she was griping it so hard, anticipating wolves to pop out at any second. Alas, instead of wolves, the only thing that bothered us while we were walking was the rain…

Finally, after about an hour we made it to the monastery! I absolutely cannot remember what it was called, something starting with an S or a J, but it was quite beautiful. Before the service started, we walked around and explored and Irakli told me all about the history of the place.
The church we went to on top of the mountain!
 There was one awkward moment when one of the nuns tried to convince Melissa and me that we should convert to Christianity. She really did not like it when I said that while Christianity is beautiful, we were happy being Jewish. She was trying to prove to me that Christianity is better which made both Melissa and I uncomfortable. The concept of “to each his own” did not seem to translate over well. I don’t like it when people make a fuss about religion. So, you like oranges and I like apples; at the end of the day it’s all fruit.
Don't we look like nice Georgian Orthodox girls?

Any ways, the service was pretty but also uncomfortable. Irakli told me not to touch anything or make any hand motions because I wasn’t Christian, so I wasn’t really sure if I should stand when everybody stood or bow when everyone bowed. I wanted to be respectful but not sacrilegious. There were a few moments when the Mamou blessed everyone for being a good Christian and I did feel like the elephant in the room. Something that I really liked about the service was that all the nuns formed a little chorus and there was beautiful harmonizing throughout the entire service.

Melissa and I decided to leave before everyone was given the communion to eat to avoid further, ‘oh-sorry- we-can’t-eat-that-we’re-Jewish’ awkwardness but we left a little early and ended up huddling like arctic penguins in the rain for twenty minutes. We were really cold, but too worried it would be disrespectful to reenter the service so we wandered around the monastery looking for a little shelter. We came across this beautiful but tiny little house with pretty frescoes within it and took shelter there.
The small room we took shelter in

I’m almost certain we were trespassing into a very holy room that we should not have been in, but we agreed that had we not gone in there it’s possible we’d have to have our feet cut off because of frost bite (and surely then the wolves would want some toe snacks).

Meow, I am a wet cat
Once the service ended, we regrouped with Eka and Irakli and chatted with the Mamou. He really liked Melissa and said that if she converted, he could find her a wonderful husband. He didn’t seem to like me at all, but it may have had to do with the fact that I looked (and felt) like a wet cat. After a bit of chatting, we went inside a small dining hall with three tables for lunch. We were separated by men and woman and sat down to eat. I sat next to a nun who came to Georgia from Ukraine who seemed very curious about what kind of bread I liked (black bread, in case you’re wondering). We were given some much appreciated hot soup, fish, potato salad and wine.
Cuddling in the rain to keep warm!
The wine was quite gross, but my deda told us that it was special wine and very healthy. All of sudden Melissa felt nauseous and desperately needed water but all our glasses were filled to the brim with horrible wine. So what does a friend do? I quickly guzzled down my wine so Melissa could have a glass for water. Yes, it tasted like dirt and leaves but I was no longer cold and Melissa did not end up vomiting on the Mamou.

Our walk back down the mountain was cut short when we hitch-hiked a ride home with a family from Samtredia. Melissa and I squeezed into a car where three adults and three children were already sitting (it was a tight fit to say the least).

Once we were finally home I cannot even explain how wonderful it felt to put on a cozy pair of sweatpants and crawl under the covers of my bed. Pure coziness has got to be one of the most underrated feelings in the world.
Hiking in heels (and some paw prints)

Animals pose for me


  1. What a wonderful friend Melissa is, and you are to her. "If you want a good friend, be a good friend" and you both are. I really enjoy your stories and your humor. Toe snacks for wolves, how hilarious is that???

  2. HAHAHA. I don't know if you "attended" pre-departure orientation when I mentioned something about a "good pair of boots" but the wet mountainous roads you described in this blog were EXACTLY what I had in mind! LOL. I'm glad Melissa survived without breaking an ankle!