Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tilling the Land

Stacking corn stalks for winter cow feed.

Some days school can be discouraging. There’s only so many times you can chastise an entire class for cheating or encourage them to do their homework and participate in class. Sometimes it just feels like there are no tangible results for all your work. So when you walk home and wonder, “What did I accomplish today?” you feel just a touch of despair and helplessness. And that’s why it’s a welcome change when there’s manual labor at home. It takes a lot of begging to be allowed to help since even though I’ve lived her for over a year I’m still considered a guest in many ways.

Today I used a two-man saw to turn logs into firewood. A heavy snow had brought down numerous branches in a nearby forest so my host father and a friend had brought a bunch back. It felt good to break a sweat on a cold winter day. My host mother came home while we were taking a break and she good-heartedly chastised her husband for being tired. “Oh, you say you’re a strong man because you can drink more wine than anyone, but you saw wood for ten minutes and you’re exhausted. You are not a strong man. You’re a woman.” He countered back by threatening to plant an axe in her skull. This banter continued for the next two hours while we worked. I should mention that they are both really funny and this is just sort of how they flirt.

Me and Omari shelling beans by the wood stove

A neighbor came over and saw us working and commented, “You are giving your American a lesson in Georgian village work. Very good.” And I suppose it was. And maybe I should be more sympathetic to my students, because even after a few hours of work I was still screwing up the timing of the two-man saw and bending the stupid thing at horrible angles that made my host father cringe.

These lessons in Georgian village life make up much of my favorite parts of living here. Making wine, chopping wood, stacking corn stocks, shelling beans, all are welcome breaks from the general monotony. My host family is really resourceful and they make brooms from shrubs tied around a long stick. Showers are made from bits of hose tied up to hang from the rafters. Wild herbs are gathered and dried and high grain alcohol is cooked up in a still from the dregs of our wine making. And my host family is continually perplexed by my interest in this. The marvel at my electronic gadgets and I at their ability to can food and pluck a chicken.

Paige getting a tutorial in churchilla making from my host mother Lela.


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