Friday, January 28, 2011

Earthquakes, nakedness and khachapuri

Living in a town surrounded by two mountain ranges has its advantages. Whether I look north or south I can see some beautiful snow-capped mountains and the air happens to be much warmer than it is in cities just a half hour away. Of course, there are also a few disadvantages. Take for example the various earthquakes we’ve been having lately. The Earth’s plates are shifting, the mountains are growing, and the good- china is shaking in the cabinet.

None of the earthquakes have really been anything to worry about. I slept through most of them (though I could sleep through an apocalypse) but I got to experience the biggest earthquake we had!

As bizarre as the earthquake was, my whole day had already been kind of crazy. I’d woken up that morning and got ready for church, ready to watch Nini become a Godmother to some adorable child. After a marshutka ride, a cab ride, and a bit of hitchhiking- Nini and I finally made it to a church that was literally in the middle of nowhere.

Almost as soon as we walked into the church though, Nini was asked to leave. She was wearing pants and the nuns and Mama (priest) who worked at the church found her outfit inappropriate. The main problem in this was that Nini was supposed to be a part of the baptism service- she was, after all, the designated Godmother.  

Several of the women attending the baptism thought that the only solution would be for Nini and me to switch outfits. For oh, maybe fifteen minutes or so, I had to explain to strangers why this was in fact a terrible idea. For starters, Nini is like 90 pounds. I am not. Sure, Nini could wear my dress, but I can’t just put on Nini’s double zero slacks and extra-small sequin tunic. No one seemed to understand this concept though. The rebuttal to this argument was that I could just hide behind the church in my jacket and wait for the service to finish so no one would see me not wearing clothes. (Yes. This was actually a suggestion…)

After I vetoed these ideas, it was suggested that I could pretend to be Nini during the service, something like a church stunt-double. After quickly throwing it out there that I’m Jewish, can’t speak Georgian and have no idea what baptism-participation entails- a new church stunt-double was found. (One who was both Georgian Orthodox and spoke Georgian).

The actual baptism service was pretty weird for me. It was kind of barbaric to watch babies get thrown in a pit of water surrounded by candles (but hey, us Jews cut the tips of boys’ penises off so who’s judging). Plus, I literally knew no one in the entire church except for the crazy woman who tried to get me to stand outside the church naked
So many babies getting baptized!

The creepy-cute church in the middle of nowhere.
 Well anyways, after the service Nini and I went to Crazy Woman’s house to prepare for a big supra celebrating the baptism. We got to Crazy’s house at 12 but the supra wasn’t until four. I get bored easily so I decided it might be fun to just help the caterers prepare dishes for the supra.

Okay, now let me tell you- getting old Georgian caterers to agree to let you help cook is harder than converting to Judaism. I had to get turned down maybe five times before a nice little bebia said I could make khachapuri with her. Each time I asked one of the caterers to let me help, they’d say, “you can help by sitting and eating”.

Once I got started making khachapuri though those grannies really put me to work. After making maybe thirty pies it was decided by the caterers that I was now ready to become a Georgian wife. I guess once someone can make a good khachapuri cheese pie they’re ready to pop out a few babies.
Right around here though is where the earthquake happened. All of a sudden the house started shaking and Nini latched on to me like I was the last Tickle-Me-Elmo on the shelf during Christmas time circa 1996. It didn’t really feel like an earthquake, it kind of just felt like an elephant was running around upstairs causing a ruckus. (Though in retrospect, finding an elephant running around upstairs would be a much bigger problem).

As the earthquake continued, everyone in the house ran outside to wait it out in case the house collapsed. Well not everyone. One of the old bebia caterers ran back into the house and came out with a few pies of khachapuri. (She was worried we might get hungry).

Later that evening, Eka showed up for the supra and we were exchanging stories about what we were doing when the earthquake hit. Eka’s story definitely topped the namts’khvari  (cake).

While Eka was getting ready for the supra she thought it might be a good time to try out the Dead Sea mud I got her in Israel. She stripped down to her underwear and began to slather her whole body with mud. Just as she was letting the mud sink in (it needs to stay on the skin for about twenty minutes) the earthquake hit. Covered in mud, Eka hid under the table in the dining room waiting out the earthquake to end. She told me how she was completely terrified not just because of the earthquake, but because she thought someone was going to burst into the house to check on her and find her naked, covered in mud, hiding under the table.

I can’t decide what would be worse, to be found behind a church wearing just tights and a winter coat, or to be found at home wearing just underwear and mud!


  1. I asked one of the caterers to let me help, they’d say, “you can help by sitting and eating”.

    AND how is this any different from a Jewish Event!? I tell people this all the time when they are in my kitchen..IM proud your cooking though, tried to cook any rice lately? ;)

  2. :D :D omg :D :D
    Laughed like a crazy :D :D

  3. Michelle, so happy I found your blog! Hope you are doing well and best of luck in all your future travels. xoxo - Brittany Baratz