Nestani – Georgian Teacher and Mother Extraordinaire
Nestani is my host mother. She is also a teacher and a full time mother. She’s about as tall as I am and very slim. She has nice, smooth chestnut hair (colored) that is usually pulled back with a large clip. She usually runs around the house in either a floral skirt and camisole or a red sweatsuit that reminds me exactly of what my mom wore when I was growing up (only my mom’s was light pink). Apparently all mothers wear sweatsuits. Nestani’s has a basket of flowers embroidered on it with the words “Original” arching over the top. I saw Nestani in jeans for the first time when we went to Gori; she is still a very attractive woman.
As a working mother, Nestani is usually in a hurry and is usually yelling for someone to hurry up and come “Modi, modi! to hurry up and go “Mide, mide!” or to hurry up and eat “Jame, jame!” Giorgi, her youngest child, receives a lot of affection, but is also the source of a great deal of aggravation. When upset, Nestani makes this awesome cross between an “ugh” and a “huh” that expresses her indignation at the unspeakable nerve—the cheek—of her youngest child. Sort of a grunt, but not, it is always uttered only once and loudly. It always makes me smile. I’ve never heard anything like it in the States.
Beso – Man of All Work
Beso, my host father, is a rather quiet man. He is a man of few words, who seems to generally let his wife do most of the talking. But he has a very nice smile and is amazingly affectionate with his children. I have never seen the like. He will let his son Giorgi crawl all over him and does not blink. He hugs and kisses all of his children regularly.
In the States, physical affection between men, even between men and boys, always seems so sparse and so awkward. We seem to have this specter of “inappropriate touching” always in the back of our minds. Gruff clouts and pats on the back seem the norm, with occasional big hugs on special occasions. In Georgia, men and boys are very physically affectionate; hugs, kissing on the cheek, and holding hands are the status quo. It’s quite a difference from what I am used to, but I think it is an improvement on the American way.
Back to Beso, I suspect that he is a little shorter than his spouse, but I am not sure. His face looks very young to me, so it contrasts a bit confusingly with his silver hair. He is very tan and has quite a large, straight nose. He is slim with quiet, dark eyes. There is something about him that I find very attractive. He is definitely a very good-looking man physically, but it is also his manner that is appealing. He and Nestani make a handsome couple.
Beso has a car and works sometimes drives it as a private taxi. Apparently this is not to be considered his full-time job though. Mostly he works around the house and usually there is plenty to do.
Beso is around, but I do not interact a great deal with him. For that reason, it seems more accurate to call him Nestani’s husband than my host father. I am sure he was not the initiator in having me stay with the family, but he is a gracious, if silent, host.
Tamta – Sweet Sixteen
The image of her father and sixteen years old, Tamta is the oldest child in the family and the oldest girl. My reading of the family structure is that this brings with it a lot of responsibility and a lot of work. Women already have a lousy position in the Georgian social structure and being the oldest child just seems to add more pressure. So she has to set the example for her siblings AND she has to do more work than them. Tamta helps a great deal in the house and in the small store which is family runs. If the family is sitting down to dinner and something is needed, Tamta is the one who usually gets up to get it. If we are all watching TV and a customer stops by for the store, she goes to take care of it.
Tamta generally does not seem aggravated by her lot in life. I don’t hear many sighs of exasperation, very little complaining. I am not sure if she has simply been socialized into accepting this situation or if she is just a cheerful, dutiful girl. Perhaps I should slip her some feminist literature and upset the satus quo . . .
When not “slaving away” for her family, Tamta likes to use her laptop computer (some sort of prize from the President for being a good student?) and go on the Russian version of Facebook and Skype her friends. She wrestles with her little brother Giorgio and inevitably gets yelled at to stop even if he is the one who started it. She is more affectionate with him that I think he deserves, but more on that to come.
Tamta also has the (un)enviable position of being my translator and the family interpreter. A blessing or a curse, I am not sure. I know she wants to improve her English. I can guarantee that she will get plenty of practice!
Teona – Giostari
Teona, or Teo, is the dramatic middle child. Affectionate and sweet, she is prone to singing and dancing around the house. The second season of Giostari has just begun, the Georgian American Idol, and I love to tease her by calling her Teona Makishvili—Giostari! Teo is dark where Tamta is fair. I am not sure where she gets her looks.
Like many middle children, Teo’s life seems more complicated than her siblings. Unfortunately she seems to suffer from very severe headaches, possibly migraines. She has been to the doctor twice since I’ve been here and they even took her to the capital, I assume to get better treatment. Teo is also a picky eater. Tamta and her both eat like birds, but if Tamta is a sparrow than Teo is a hummingbird. She is frequently being yelled at to eat, but seems to somehow always wiggle out of it (Why can’t I do that!).
The sisters seems to get along well enough through they do not seem particularly close. Teo and Giorgio are frequently in altercations and Teo seems to get more sympathy than Tamta ever does in regards to Gio’s depredations. Teo also does a fair amount of work around the house, but her headaches seem to give her a frequent “out”.
Teo is easy to love and I do love her. She is just one of those sweet, sunny personalities that you are instinctively drawn to. And our relationship is not complicated with the issues of translation and interpretation.
Giorgi – The Boy King
Giorgi, Giorgi, Giorgi. This toothy eight-year old is a non-stop talking machine. He is extremely active and extremely loud. His volume starts at “fortissimo” and just goes up from there. His boyish screech can be hear no matter where I am in the house, usually followed at regular intervals by bellows from his mother, father, grandma, or grandpa when he finally crosses some line or another. On those occasions he might get his ear yanked, the skin on his arm twisted or a smack on the head. I usually quietly cheer when this finally happens. I think he deserves far more of them than he gets. You might sense I am not Giorgi’s number one fan.
Nestani spends long nights going over his homework with him, making him read aloud and correcting his mistakes. This usually involved a fair amount of yelling back and forth between the two of them. I cannot believe they let him talk to adults the way he does. Free from helping around the house, Giorgi roams the neighborhood with his young cronies, generally up to no good. He is first at the dinner table and loudly demands a good seat on the couch. I should probably not be so hard on Giorgi—he is only 8—but today I am just not feeling that forgiving.
There is also Neli, the grandmother, and Vakho, the grandfather. More on them later.