People of Georgia

Seems they come from a different time, a time of fear and darkness. They remember it, and base, of course, their lives of today on the fears of the possible return of the dark times.
In their lives, they have lived and seen abundance, hunger, fear, happiness, war. They still remember when everyone had a job, everyone was trained for a job, everyone had a right to go to school for free. Then, at the same time, those same people remember the lock on their frontiers, the forbidden products, like records back then, and anything seen as subversive, anything coming from the Western world. They remember sharing jeans, because they were so expensive. Now, hardly anyone has a job, people struggle each day to earn a very meager living. What system, they ask themselves, is the better one? Interesting dilemna! Would you want a sure job, and no possible way to leave your country, where you are in very restricted freedom? Or would you like a society where business is now possible, but you don't have any security at all?

 This man sells hats on the Black Sea. He is blind. All day, he sits in his trailer and sells hats. What he did in his "former" life, I cannot tell you. He takes your money and trusts you on the amount you give him. His family makes the hats to survive.

This lady sells fish on the side of the road. The fish hang on strings at the edge of her stall. Passer or driver-bys stop and pick out the fish. She guts out your fish, wraps it, and you are set!

Here is an interesting little story:
What do you suppose this lady is doing?
 She is washing wool! In each of the netted bags, she has about 3 sheep shavings. The content of all 3 came out of 8 sheep. Brown or white sheep, it does not matter in this job...
So, here it is. When she is done hosing and stumping on the wool, trying to remove all the dirt and such out of it, she will hang the bag from her balcony.

 In the morning, when the wool has dripped and dried, she will take a willow stick and beat it...That will fluff up the bag...Getting an idea of what she is making yet?
 Well, here is the answer:

She is going to fill her mattress with the new wool. Here in Georgia, the mattresses are made of wool around Tbilisi, while on the Black Sea coast, they use cotton, because the weather is more clement on the coast...
Cool, no?
Another detail of importance: The beds have 2 mattresses, one for each person. The wool will end up making an "envelope", more than a mattress as we see it. It will be about 10 to 15cm high. Here you see the blue mattresses for single beds. It is not particularly fluffy, as you might have thought, but it is very comfortable. The idea that each person has his/her own mattress brings on some interesting discussions, but I have yet to think that it is a bad thing. The beds are usually quite large, about a king-size or a little less. Plenty of room to stretch out!

Georgian people tend to be somewhat gloom about the situation in the country, but they are very rich emotionally. It comes from having lived at a period of turning points in their lifetime, having seen and first-hand experienced 2 completely different social and governmental systems, having had abundance, and lack of everything. They are amazing people, very resilient.
 ..and the new generation is coming right up. Same beliefs as the grandparents and the parents, but with a love for CocaCola and wifi...Watch out world!

the Georgian Language! ქართული ენა, kartuli ena

Oh, dear, oh, dear! The Georgian Language contains 33 letters, most of them recognizable in the English Language. Some sounds, totally unknown to Westerners. Glottal sounds that are somewhat impossible, even for a global chick like me.
The alphabet is beautiful, a work of art!
Somewhat distantly related to some Greek letters, but not really, although the Greek influence has been recognized, it is also close to Basque, the language of another curious land. As a matter of fact, those two civilizations may have some ancient relationship. In the bookstores, they put those dictionaries together...Strange!
Georgian is a poetic language. One example, to be pregnant, or "orsulad" is translated as having "two souls"..

There is no tonic accent, so it may sound a bit flat. This blogger took a long time to figure out that they were not constantly upset with each other, but simply, there was little intonation, and so it just sounded like they were upset. They are not. They are pretty calm people.
There are no UPPER CASE letters in Georgian. Even first names don't start with a capital..the questions marks are identical, commas, etc, too..
What is surprising in the language is that the order in which you put your words doesn't really matter. For example:
"hungry me I am" is perfectly acceptable. "I am hungry" is acceptable too, but the emphasis is on "hungry", so it goes first.
"am" would actually be "to be" so..."hungry me to be" would be how you would put that together.

When I first taught French to Georgians, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. The sentences they were making in French sounded so strange! It wasn't until months later, when I started learning the language and bought a "go ahead and learn Georgian if you dare..."book, that I understood. They were translating word for word what they were trying to say in Georgian! Needless to say, if it is difficult for Georgians to learn French or English, it is just as difficult to learn Georgian for us!
and is not like Russian...Everybody thinks that, because the population speaks it very fluently(bilingual at birth they all are...). The alphabet is different, so that children learn the minimum of 3 alphabets before the age of 10: the Latin(French, English, Spanish, etc) alphabet, the Georgian alphabet, and the Russian alphabet..Let's institute that in our schools!
It is true, however, that, if Russian was mandatory during the Soviet years, it is no longer required and many teenagers prefer to learn English. Many programs on television are in Russian, such as cartoons, and children are therefore still able to understand it. 

Language is part of the individual. The individual is a representation of the language, and the country. It is only fitting that the Georgians be such a proud people. Their language is direct, to the point, but finite in its ways of describing feelings. They change their verb conjugations in fonction of their feelings. A preposition? Well, you can have prepositions, post-positions, and even the middle, to express a feeling! Those are complicated people! That is a complicated language! However, I heard that out of the many people who have tried, the Anglo-Saxons, or English speakers have actually been the most successful at it. Now, that is reassuring!

March 12th, 2013
I have been taking lessons from our niece, the English teacher, for a few months now, and on Skype..Also bought a very good book, "Beginner's Georgian" by Dodona Kiziria. A very good book, it turns out, if you have already spent a few years trying to speak it, without trying to understand the grammar..That was my case: I know quite a bit of vocabulary, mainly nouns and adjectives, and the verbs were a mystery still. It turns out that after studying on my own in the book, I started to "get" the way to put things together. Needless to say, I am far from speaking it fluently, but now, it is no longer a big mass of sounds, it is starting to make some sense..
So, yeah, the verbs are the toughest I have ever learned. I have a hard time figuring out when to use what, even with all the languages I learned over the years.. I thought Ancient Greek would help, and maybe it helps a bit, but only so far.  I am thankful for having had the pleasure of a good linguistic base in my life, for it chases the fear of adopting a new language. But practicing on a regular basis does seem to help, of course.
Now, if I could just figure out why verb forms change when the direct/indirect objects change, that would be helpful!

March 26th, 2013
I now look forward to my lessons, oddly enough..The company of my dear Maia is bound to have something to do with it, of course.

I realized I didn't post the actual alphabet, so here is a little sample, with maybe even some real words


so much for the keyboard. No wonder I get lost..You must admit, it is very very pretty. If any of you have studied Greek, you will see "some ressemblance", granted...not much, but it does have a little of it. It is normal, as the Georgian alphabet, at least this one, was inspired by it.

ღომი : prononced "romi", with a hard "r". That is the equivalent of polenta in Georgia. A favorite in this family. The only difference is that romi there is white, and is mainly prepared by the Western Georgians.  Good stuff..

გამარჯობა = gamarjoba, or "hello", but literally "May you be victorious!" Love that...

გული = guli, or "heart"

Not so difficult, when you have memorized the letters, eh?
Now, if I could just remember all the cases..and the tenses...and the numbers..Good thing I have the rest of my life, eh?
too pretty..

One of the very famous writer in Georgia is Shota Rustaveli. In Georgian : შოთა რუსთაველი
He lived around 1100-1200 and wrote the epic poem "The Knight in a Panther's skin". It is a story of courtly love, chivalry and ladies in distress.
Rustaveli is also the large artery in the middle of Tbilisi, and most cities in Georgia. Walking Rustaveli is like walking the Champs-Elysees in Paris, although it is probably more expensive in Paris.

July 10th, 2013
The first things I needed to learn in Georgian were the basics. Food stuff! How do you say "beer", for example..Actually, the Georgians, or kartveli, use a lot of Russian words. In this case, it is piva. The Georgian word is ludi, but I have yet to hear it refered as such.

So, here are some of my favorites:

eggplant: badridjan, here prepared "nigosit", which is ...full of walnut, and coriander, and tons of grated garlic.

tomato: pamidori this is from the Italians, pomadoro, or gold apple..
milk: rdzay
yogurt: matsoni
walnut: nigosi
rabbit: kurdreli
bread: puri 
the bread varieties depend on the shape and whether or not they are stuffed, so you will have:
lobiani(with refried beans stuffed in the middle!)

green or red pepper are tsitsaka which really bothered me, since I also love greek tsatsiki...made with yogurt and cucumber, which is kitri in Georgian, by the way... Love tsatsiki with tsitsaka!

So have a wonderful dinner, everyone, which, if you are lucky, is called a supra! That is the most food you have ever had the chance to see at one time. Yeah for supras!!!  Supra is also the word for tablecloth! That is always a good start, right?

September 5th, 2013
After a month in Georgia, and a mountain of conversations around the dinner table, I realized my learning the verbs has increased my speech a minimum of 2-fold. I was able to order my entire dinner yesterday!
Figuring out the verb formation has led to sentences in more than the present tense. I can say what I did yesterday, and my plans for tomorrow, with a disgusting ratio of errors.. Oh, well..

Yesterday, while on tour in the palace of the Chavchavadze princes in Tsinandali, the guide decided to literally attack me with the historical stuff, in Georgian, of course! Always prepared with historical background, I swear I think I understood maybe a good 50%! She spoke of royal European families tied to the princes and their wives, so, 'twas easy.. 

My favorite new words:
sashishi = dangerous. Can be used every second while driving..
sa interesoa! = how interesting!  For when you didn't get what they said...  :)
gabrazebuli = upset. It just sounds cool.
skhvanairi = different. The prononciation is real different too..
itsostkhlé = health. To be used when somebody sneezes. The equivalent of gesundheit!
kmarkhopili = happy. Not to be confused with kartopili, which led me to say I was a ...potato! 

Of course, nothing compares to my version of coffee, nakeliani khava, an unfortunate error that could have brought me cow patty coffee instead of nalekiani khava, Turkish coffee.. They will be repeating that one in the family for generations to come, no doubt..

and the winner is..
shlangi ! That would be... Rubber hose! Just too fun to say!

Lessons are continuing with Maia, for conversation purposes, and with Thea here in France. She is a lovely Georgian woman I met last year. 
Thea teaches me to read and write. In language acquisition, the process goes as follows: listening, speaking, reading, writing, thinking and then, the Golden Ticket : dreaming in Georgian! That is how children learn, and the most logical sequence to follow.
Although I mastered individual letters, I had neglected one step when I studied them on my own, mainly, the way to write them. Do you start with the top of the "a" or the bottom? And yes, I was making the graphism of the letters incorrectly! Thea is fixing that, and so, I am attending my own private 1st grade...
Now, it is easier to write the words, because I have understood the flow. Although the letters do not touch, as in cursive writing, it is easier and faster to write a word if you know where to start the next letter!
Next, reading..since I have, for my own sanity, decided to write the verbs forms in Latin letters, my reading skills are basic, and as slow as molasses. Once again, I feel for the Georgians who come to France and have to learn the grammar with the additional pain of an alphabet unknown to them..
A few new words:
Mshia: I am hungry, although the likelyhood of that nil..
Ra lamazia! : It is so beautiful!
Atami : peach
Gargari : apricot. Not to be confused with gargarisme in French.  😏
Bali : cherry
Avtobus: bus. Many of those "auto" words in English become "avto"
Teleponi: telephone...due to the lack of the letters "f" in Georgian. Check this one out : pilosopia...

Now, the next hurdle: finding a word in the dictionary, since the order of the letters in the alphabet is slightly messed up, in my limited mind..

And this is sausme, or breakfast, complete with blini filled with smetana, a Russian word for sour cream, tonis puri, or bread made in a tonay, and chai, you've guessed it... Tea!
Mikhtvit! (Enjoy!)

It appears that verb conjugation affects the case now..Oh, geez!...
What's your pleasure this morning?
Hang on to your hats on this one:
In the past, the subject of the sentence changes its case from nominative to accusative.
Here is an example"
the girl gives an apple to her sister:
= gogo adzlevs vashls tavis das  = გოგო აძლევს ვაშლს თავიმ დას
the girl gave an apple to her sister 
= gogom mistsa vashli tavis das = გოგომ მისცა ვაშლი თავიმ დას
"gogo" or girl, went to "gogom", which is cute, in itself, but is still the same subject! 
Note how the verb "to give" changes from adzlevs to  mistsa !!  Yes, it is the same verb!
This is when I realize that the road is still very, very long..

Here is a good word: 
tavisupleba : freedom!

September 2014:, yeah, there is no accusative case..So much for my try at using Latin and Greek to explain what is happening..Wrong again!
My word for today: genatsvale...
I have always loved this word, even when I didn't know what it meant. I heard the grandmas say it to their grandchildren..."Oh, genatsvale!", so of course, any normal person, would just assume it meant "dear", or "love", or something like that..
Wrong again!  I did learn recently that it meant "May I take your pain and carry it for you.." or something to that effect.. Since I had been using it with "my.." preceding it, of course, it meant nothing. Still, I think that is an incredible sentence..

And now that I know how to read...(yeah, right..), I practice..
Like I can say: "Maia kalia". Unfortunately, if you say it with the wrong "k", like I am likely to do.., you don't say "Maia is a woman", but "Maia is a cricket", which loses its charm, doesn't it?
I pray that my very soon, upcoming to Georgia finds me mastering the glottal letter, or I am in deep you-know-what...
Here is a fun sign to try to read:

and this one, known all over Georgia and much further, as one of their favorite bottled water:

Second trip to Georgia 2009: more on Georgian food

So, of course, it will all start with food! In a year, the look of Georgia has changed, but the food is still just as fantastic!
It is so nice to come back and to see that the work of Saakashvili is not lost. The streets have been repaved, and the danger of falling into large holes is not so present. People walk with more ease, their heads a little higher maybe. Reconstruction is such a long process!
It seems like the outlook is a little less grim this year. A little over a year after the Russian attacks, people are still standing, and still extremely proud of their country.
In Gori, where a lot of destruction happened, Saakashvili has built tons of houses for the people who lost everything. In South Ossetia, the region around Gori, the houses belonging to the Georgian natives have been destroyed to the ground, while the houses of the Ossetian, claiming loyalty to the Russians, remain standing. It is very disheartening to hear the stories of people whose entire lives have been wiped out by the Russian armies, and then some of them miss the era when they all had jobs and lead maybe emprisoned lives in this country from which they could not escape, but where they had an identity.
and so we eat....At Chilika's, a nice kababi, some green stuff and beer, of course..A little dessert churchrela  is always welcome, along with all the fresh fruit that Georgia is famous for. The Churchrela is a string of walnuts halves dipped in pelamuchi, a mix of grape juice and thickener like flour. The ladies then dip the strings of nuts in the pelamuchi, and hang the lot. They dry and form a delicious treat with low sugar.

A great bunch of khinkali  and bbq items go well with a nice bottle of saperavi  wine. Let's eat!