The week I returned from Paris was a rough one. I had very little sleep and a good deal of Jetlag upon return, but tried my best to tackle it in the first few days. I think I did a pretty good job! I only missed one day’s worth of school! Whoops!
That Wednesday, Tina asked me if I wanted to come to a concert with her. It sounded like a good plan to me. She didn’t tell me exactly what it was, only that everyone was going and she had an extra ticket for me since Ilia would be away and Tata was taking care of poor sick Niccolo. It was a Wednesday–my busiest day, and so I was undernourished and exhausted by the time 4 rolled around and we hopped in a cab to the Sports Hall. Like the main one that hosts the national basketball team.
I wasn’t sure what exactly what we were on our way to, so I was a bit surprised when Tina dashed off to a side entrance to the sports hall leaving me, Manana, and Luka to our own devices.
As we waited in the packed stadium for the event to begin, I questioned Manana about what kind of event we were at, anyway. She told me that all of the schools had had all sorts of cultural competitions. What’s more, my school, School #175 in Mukhiani, had won in three of the four categories! We were in the finals for first prize! I saw Tina sitting across the stadium from us in a special section with the directors from all the most prominent schools in Tbilisi (School #53, School #1, etc.).
The whole stadium was lit up and arranged nicely to accommodate a concert, rather than a basketball game. There was an enormous stage and bright lights and a giant banner for USAID–part of the reason for the concert was to promote AIDS awareness.
There was a suspicious throne in the middle of the audience and I wasn’t sure who it was. I had my fingers crossed for Saakashvili, but it wasn’t meant to be. No, instead the Patriarch himself showed up! Depending on who you ask, that’s even better!!!
Once the Patriarch had taken his seat, we were ready to begin the festivities. Apparently what was going to happen was that song, dance, and poetry-reading groups from the finalist schools would demonstrate their excellence on stage in front of the Patriarch and on national television. At the end of the performances the winning school would be named and awarded with a prize. The first group was a Georgian boys’ choir.
After the opening song/medical emergency, the American Ambassador took the stage to give a nice speech about the necessity to increase sexual education and awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He had a nice capstone line about “Hopefully I can come back in twenty years and we can host the biggest, best suphra ever celebrating the end of HIV/AIDS as a major threat to Georgian public health.” I hope he’s right. This would suggest he might be on to something.
The performances continued after Mr. Bass’s speech and kicked into a higher gear with a very energetic drum performance. The drummers kept passing their drums around, tossing them to the central drummer (The King of the Drummers!) and twirling them on their knees as they kept a steady, fast, tempo. It was quite impressive. They sure beat the hell out of my efforts to impress during Martvili Thanksgiving!
After the drummers, some Georgian dancing happened! We’d now had the trifecta of Georgian singing, drumming, and dancing! I was already very well satisfied!
The traditional dresses of the Georgian folk dances was really something to behold. You can see the boys above wearing a fashionable waistcoat (whose name I forget) adorned with a large kinzhal (the big dagger) and pouches along their chests for shells. Not like Mario Kart shells, like shotgun shells. The Caucasus has lots of warlike traditions birthed in a history of necessity. When you’re on the fringe of every major empire in history, you learn how to defend yourself pretty damn well.
After the above multi-media-format presentation (Singing and dancing!), I finally got to see some students from my own school perform! Alas, none of them were kids I recognize or teach, but it was good to know that they belonged to my 175 Clan!
Finally, after about an hour and a half of performances, the directors were called to the stage for the announcing of the prizes. As Tina stood on stage with the other directors, my heart was racing. I realized that I had a lot invested in my school. I had a lot of school pride for a place where I’d only been for four months. I really, really wanted her to win. It was a strange feeling to find myself so involved and caring so much. I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose–it has been a rather intense four months. Either way, being unable to understand what the MC was saying only made me more nervous!
I noticed that Tina didn’t get anything while every other director received some sort of bag. At first that worried me, but then I realized I should have been thrilled already!
Following Tina’s speech, the performances resumed, but now they generally included a lot of famous Georgian celebrities and pop stars from GeoStar. I didn’t recognize any of them (as I don’t watch TV here, The Office aside), but Manana and Luka got more and more excited with each subsequent star who graced the stage. Maybe some Georgians or in-tune foreigners who read this blog can clue me in as to who these people are?
Finally, the grand finale (yes, that was intentional) arrived in the form of the best Georgian dancing I have ever seen. Those are not italicizations of sarcasm, but rather of extreme emphasis. They were doing moves that I could barely comprehend! They were whirling and twisting in inhuman ways all while in beautiful traditional dress and hats. It was really a sight to behold. Here’s a photo that foreshadows their performance:
I was really starving and had to pee like a racehorse by this point. It had been all day since I had eaten (Read: I hadn’t eaten all day) and I was pumped we had won because that meant we were going to a restaurant! My family is probably pretty well-off. My three host moms work hard and hold down multiple jobs. Tina’s clearly the best director in the country, Manana has two jobs, and Tata works at the Presidential Palace.
So we do pretty well for ourselves. That said, we have never gone out to eat. But it’s not every day that your mom wins first prize in a city-wide scholastic cultural competition, is it?