Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My friend got bride napped

One of my favorite things about couples is hearing the story of how they first met. My own parents’ story is actually my favorite (my mom happened to walk in on my dad doing the most meticulous job cleaning a fish) but, in general, I just love hearing how love stumbled upon people.

In Georgia, I’m now careful not to ask this question. The one and I only time I ever asked it I was told a long and harrowing story about being bride napped. 

I have a friend hear in town (we’ll call her Ketino) that I enjoy the company of. We don’t hang out often (she’s always quite busy) but when we do we always end up having a nice long chat over coffee or tea and get to know each other better.

On one particular occasion Ketino was telling me some silly story that involved her husband and that’s when I asked the question, “How did you two meet anyway?”

“Oh, he kidnapped me and I was forced to marry him”.

The casual manner in which Ketino just blurted it out must have alarmed me because I let out a big old, “Are you s***ing me?” (I normally try not to swear in front of Georgians; it makes Americans look a bit classier).

Ketino went into an elaborate explanation of how the whole thing actually happened. Basically, a man approached her one day at a bus station and told her how beautiful she was, begging her to go on a date with him. Ketino refused, and thought nothing of it. The man asked her out again a few days later and one more time Ketino refused. Next, the man figured out where she lived and went to her home to once again plead that she go out with him. After three refusals in one week, Ketino assumed the man had gotten the hint.

Later that week Ketino went out to the market to buy some new shoes for work. As she was walking to a small shop she noticed a car that she thought was her neighbors pull over next to her. Assuming it really was her neighbor, Ketino stopped for a second expecting her neighbor to deliver a message or something.  Then ever so quickly, a man stepped out of the passenger door and forced her to get in to the backseat. Ketino noticed that the driver of the car was the same man who she had rejected earlier in the week.

The two men drove her to a small house about thirty minutes outside of Samtredia where three beds were already prepared. Neither man actually touched her; she was not raped or physically assaulted in any way. The man from the bus station fed her fine meals daily, he talked to her, he let her sleep when she wanted to sleep and he told her that they would stay at this house for seven days and at the end of the week they would get married.

Now, you can imagine that I am getting more and more livid as this story progresses. I was trying to suppress it as much as I could, but surely what this man did should be illegal on so many accounts. It’s incredibly strange to hear someone talk about how their rights as a human were taken away from them in such a nonchalant way.

On around day five of her capture, Ketino’s parents were able to find out where she was being kept and came to rescue her. The thing is, Ketino told them to just go home- she would have to marry this man if she were to have any life in Samtredia.

This is where things really got messed up for me. Ketino was now practically forced to marry this man because if she decided not to marry him she would be ostracized as an ‘impure’ or ‘unmarriageable’ woman in town since she spent five days with a strange man. It didn’t matter that nothing actually happened or that the whole thing occurred against Ketino’s will. In her eyes, and what she assumed were the eyes of Samtredia, if she did not marry this man no one would ever marry her. It’s for this same reason Ketino could not tell the police, this would make it town-wide knowledge that she was alone with a man for a week.

So, on day seven the two got married. The wedding photos are difficult for me to look at. Ketino was so stressed during the entire bride napping that she ended up losing about 3 kilos (7 pounds) in a week. She’s insanely thin and weak looking in each photo. The photo of their first kiss looks like a snapshot taken of two high school kids rehearsing a kiss in a play. There’s no romance; it just looks forced.

Ketino’s husband is the same man that offers to drive me home from school when it rains, the same man who offers me cake when I walk by his office- he’s the same man who bride napped one of my good friends.  It’s hard for me to look at him in any other way but a negative one whenever I see him.

I hate him for what he did. He saw something he liked and he took it. He did not for one instant think about anyone but himself. It’s disgusting if you ask me. Granted, I know, this is not my culture and I should be accepting and tolerant of alternate ways to court people, but this just seems out of line- a complete violation of human rights.

I asked Ketino if she loves her husband and she hesitated for a second before she said, “Mmm, sometimes. He gave me my children”.

The whole thing is just so sad. It reminds me of an article I read this summer about an eight-year-old Liberian girl who got gang raped and then disowned by her parents for 'shaming their family'. Both stories just resonate events where people are ostracized (or fear being ostracized) for an event they had no control over. 

Fortunately, times have changed in Samtredia and events like this are few and far between. Regardless, gender roles are incredibly defined and men continue to have a dominantly 'nobler' status then women. I don't like the inequality but it has given me a greater appreciation for the equality between men and women in the United States. I love Georgia but a bit more equalism couldn't hurt.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Golds do Georgia

Eka, Melissa's parents and all of us Samtredia gals!

A first visit to Georgia wouldn’t be complete without some projectile vomiting off the balcony, now would it? Melissa’s parents were in Georgia for the past week and they certainly got their fair share of exposure to Georgian culture.

The first few days they were here were full of catching up, Georgian restaurants, sightseeing, a hotel that actually had real toilet paper, Oreos with peanut butter, and lots of hugs for Melissa. It was when the Gold’s actually got to Samtredia that the whole trip started to get especially interesting.

Nana, Melissa’s host mom, celebrated her fiftieth birthday on Tuesday and the Gold’s were fortunate enough to be able to participate in a huge Georgian supra. Plus, due to the fact that I serve as a pro-bono Russian translator in my free-time (seriously, I’m ready to translate the Q&A for all the Russian-speaking chicks at the Miss Universe pageant) I got an invite too!

I’ve been to my fair share of supras, but this one was unlike any I’ve ever been to. The Bokelavadze’s set up a huge dining room table in their darbazi (living room) that must have had table settings for at least thirty people. Delicious little salads, fresh breads and cakes, even an entire piglet (complete with teeth) was sprawled out on the table.

I actually really love it when Georgians hold supras inside their home as opposed of going to a restaurant. I like the whole process of watching a place transform from a cozy little home into an event hall for thirty. The Bokelavadze’s house was truly transformed; they even made space for a dance floor!

It was really sweet watching Mr. and Mrs. Gold interact with Melissa’s host family. Despite the evident language barrier, everyone seemed to really show love and appreciation for each other. It was especially touching for me to watch Mr. Gold hug Koka, Melissa’s host dad. You could really see the whole family was bonding.

After a few hours where Mr. and Mrs. Gold were allowed to do nothing but sit on the couch (they were the guests after all) and I helped cut up a full scale pig with pliers (never thought I’d be able to say that-and shalom Rabs if you’re reading) the whole family sat down to enjoy the supra meal.

The first few minutes were a bit awkward as no one knew exactly how to act around an American family but after a few glasses of wine everyone seemed to get along swimmingly. Mr. Gold especially.

Somehow Mr. Gold ending up being the right-hand man of Dato, the tamada (host leader). I don’t think there was a single toast that Mr. Gold didn’t drink to. Needless to say, he became drunk as a skunk within a matter of hours.

Granted, his interpretation of Georgian dancing was hilarious to watch (I have a video that has YouTube written all over it) and his affectionate canoodling with Dato and Koka was endearing, but lord almighty was he drunk. He asked me to translate various toasts for him that I colorfully edited to be less dramatic and more lighthearted (much to Mrs. Gold’s delight).

The pinnacle of the whole evening however was when Mr. Gold nonchalantly told me he’d very much like to throw up and asked if I could open up the back door for him. I fumbled with the key for a minute but as soon as that door opened up Mr. Gold ran over to the balcony and reintroduced all the wine and meat he’d been eating to the drive-way. (It’s a real good thing it rained during the night…) Mrs. Gold even took the liberty of putting a puke bucket by Mr. Gold’s bedside.  Mr. Gold did in fact he use the puke bucket, but he also mistakenly spilled all of its contents onto Koko’s bedroom floor. Party fowl?

The whole evening prompted a very important lesson: even if you were in a fraternity in college that does not mean you are ready to drink with the big-wigs in Georgia.