Family, Republic of Georgia, Transportation, Village Life

Those Georgian Friday Nights

We received a text message on Thursday night letting us know that the local cinema in Sachkhere would be showing a movie in English on Friday night, 5 PM. I found this news interesting, but knew that it would be unlikely I would be able to go. It is almost impossible to go into town in the evenings. There are never any martshutkas and taxis are expensive. Though it’s not so much the expense that bothers me as the impression I feel taking them conveys to my host family. I already feel like an American wastrel. Taking taxis does nothing to contradict that impression.

So I resigned myself to not going. I whined a bit to Jason on Skype. He suggested that I see if any of the other teachers on my side of town would split a taxi with me. At first I disregarded this suggestion. However, later one, after thinking of everyone having fun in town without me, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to send a text out to see. Amber, the teacher two towns down, surprised me by saying that she’d go in with me. Wow, cool. Movie night after all.

The last English class on Friday afternoon ended up getting hijacked for rehearsals for the mini-Christmas recital the English students are participating in. We did our rehearsing and then I headed out. There were some disappointed looks for the really devoted students who actually like coming to English class. Sorry kids. Amy has an important meeting in town. A movie.

There was debate in the teacher’s lounge on whether or not there would be a martshutka at 4 o’clock. Not reassuring. The last time I tried to go into town in the evening I ended up walking back to the house after waiting for 40 minutes. I ate lunch very quickly. Grandma Neli was even less reassuring on the subject of martshutkas. She said, “Well,” long pause, “maybe”.

Turns out Neli was right. I waited. And I waited. I paced. I called Jason. Jason and Susie were also waiting. Bad sign. Two martshutkas passed, seemingly with plenty of room. But they did not stop. There is something mysterious about martshutkas. Capricious seems to be the word for them. I can think of no reason why they would not stop if they had room. But they don’t. Maybe someday I will understand.

There were three other ladies in the shelter with me. I am thinking we should split a taxi. A taxi split four ways is not very expensive. I keep thinking this. I look at my cell phone and I think it again. But what would be the reaction to this? I don’t want to be suggesting something that is going to get me strange looks and three polite refusals. I chew a fingernail. I cross my ankles. Suddenly all 3 women are getting up. Martshutka? No, they’ve decided to take a taxi. Come on, they say. Hah.

Well, it was the worst taxi I’ve ever been in. Amazing we even made it to town. I found Amber. We made it to the movie relatively on time. Not that it started on time anyways. The movie was good, but the hang out time with other teachers afterwards was even better. Some of them will not be returning after Christmas so we have to enjoy each other while we can.

I laughed as we walked towards the restaurant and commented that it was Friday night around 8 PM. The entire city was quite. Lights were off in most of the houses we passed. I felt like we were disturbing the peace just to be walking down the street. Friday night and it takes almost an act of God to get into town. Friday night—the night when it’s almost mandatory to be out and about in America. How far away that all seems.

Leaving the restaurant around 9:30, Amber and I found a cab. I hadn’t really even been sure if there were going to be cabs around then. But we found one and headed off into the dark countryside. I turned my cell phone back on which had been off since the movie. Nineteen missed calls from my host family. Nineteen. I don’t think I’ve ever called someone 19 times simultaneously in my life. But it was almost 10 o’clock. And it was dark. And I’m a girl. And this is Georgia. Need I explain further?

A Georgian Friday night is worlds apart, both socially and culturally, from anything I’ve known at home.

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