Georgia on my mind – Tbilisi, 2006 – #9
My 4:05am flight from Tbilisi was cancelled due to the airplane computer not working. We sat on the runway for a couple of hours before being bussed back to the airport and sent to the Marriott for a few hours of sleep (yes, the infamously exorbitant, luxurious Marriott where Bush stayed).
I slept solidly there, for which I am grateful. It helped to have lots of North American standard sized pillows for the first time. At my other Tbilisi hotel, there was only one GIGANTIC square pillow. I should have asked for smaller pillows, but there was the language barrier and wanting to be a gracious guest living Tbilisi style.
That last night in Tbilisi, I went to Keti’s house for dinner after the evening of theatre. It was just four of us – Keti, Coka, Yossef (an Israeli theatre critic and guest of the festival) and me.
I said to Keti that I would love to see one of her films, and she showed me a documentary called White Scarf about a world peace movement she began called “The White Scarves Movement.” According to Georgian legend, when women throw white scarves between fighting men, the fighting must end. When civil war broke out in 1993, Keti led a group of 2000 women to the front lines of battle and worked hard on a cease-fire.
It is absolutely remarkable what she has done. Women in 38 countries celebrate White Scarf Day as part of the movement. In the documentary, she reads a John Steinbeck quote from his travels in Georgia in 1947. I loved the quote, so searched for it online. I don’t think this is the exact excerpt, but it captures the essence:
“If one tried to describe Georgia using one single word, the right word would definitely be ‘hospitality’… Wherever we had been in Russian in Moscow, in the Ukraine, in Stalingrad, the magical name of Georgia came up constantly. People who had never been there and who possibly could never go there, spoke of Georgia with a kind of longing and a great admiration. They spoke of the Georgians as supermen, as great drinkers, great dancers, great musicians, great workers and lovers. And they spoke of the country in the Caucasus and around the Black Sea as a kind of second heaven. Indeed, we began to believe that most Russians hope that if they live very good and virtuous lives, they will go not to heaven, but to Georgia, when they die…. It is a magical place, Georgia, and it becomes dream-like the moment you have left it.” . – John Steinbeck, 1947
In that sense, Georgia hasn’t changed over these 60 years.
Oh, there are so many more stories to tell about my trip!
[End of 2006 Email Series]