What to write about? I guess I should start with the post that should have written last weekend. I have been having a great time being back in Poti. Two of the ex-pats from last semester had stayed in Poti and one woman from the most recent batch of volunteers came to Poti, too, bringing our number up to three. Disappointing, seeing as we were nine last semester, but the semester is young and they will send more people here as they get them. Case in point, Lela came home one day to tell me there is a new volunteer at her school. Since I found out about the other volunteers in Poti by a note written to me by the TLGer at Lela's school, I thought it would be fitting to send a note to this new volunteer. Lela passed it on, but I did not hear anything for a week. Then one day, on my way home from hanging out with the other volunteers, I got a phone call. It was the fourth in our number. It turns out she was actually in the same training as I was and has been bouncing around Georgia in search of Internet, non-depressing cities, and wine. Anyway, it was a nice day and I took a little while to get in the house, but while I was standing outside, Maiko, Lela's sister poked her head out to see who was standing and talking outside the house. When she saw me, she waved and closed the window. Eventually I realized that while the sun was shining, making me think that all was right with the world, it was still barely above freezing and I should get inside. But instead of going into my room, I came and sat down in the dining room, a room rarely (ok I have never seen it) used. While I sat there, Goneri poked his head in and then Margo. Finally, when I was just sitting there, not on the phone anymore, just comfortable, Margo looked in again and told me “Poli, Modi!” Now I am not really sure if “modi” is what she said, I am not very good at conjugating, but whatever she said, it meant “come, and come now”. Ok, I threw my jacket and bag in my room, and went into the living room, where Goneri and Maiko are telling me to “modi, modi” into the kitchen. When I get to the kitchen, I see a bowl full of some kind of chopped up meat, but that is not so unusual. Then Goneri picked up a piece. It was the head of a cow! I held up my hand in a gesture for them to wait and RAN into my room to get my camera. I am pretty sure they thought I was running the wrong way to the bathroom to throw up. When I came back in with the camera, I took a closer look at what was in the bowl. It was the organs: the liver, the heart, the head, and all kinds of other unknown to me things. Once they were satisfied that I had fully appreciated the contents of the bowl, I was “modi”ed outside, where the rest of the carcass was. It was hanging by a leg and I took some pictures before Goneri started butchering the meat. The whole evening was devoted to cutting up the meat and washing it. I have decided not to post the pictures, though I did take a little video of Maiko cleaning the meat. That I will upload to YouTube once I have a stronger internet connection. If you are interested in seeing the process, I you can click on the link (when there is one, I will post it when I have it), but out of the respect I have for my friends who choose not to eat meat, I am not going to post the pictures here.
One note though. The day before all this I saw a kind of “not my job” gimmick on a Georgian television show. The “Vanna White” of Georgia as a flight attendant, a fashion designer collecting eggs, that type of thing. Then I saw something that anyone who grew up around a health inspector would find absolutely horrifying. Some guy was working at a meat shop of some kind. This was not the Deli at the supermarket. This was an outdoor shop (as many are here) and the meat was displayed in wooden crates. There was no ice and no glass keeping people from the meat. In fact, people would reach a hand in and pick up the meat to inspect it closely before putting it back. The guy selling the meat did not have any gloves, well, no one had gloves, and did not wash his hands or anything between going for the meat and handling the money. I have said to myself many times while being here “humans have lived for centuries without being so cautious about food, but there is a REASON that we regulate it”. Needless to say, I was THRILLED to find out that for a little while at least, I know exactly where my meat is coming from. It does make me feel much better. And boy does it taste good. Last night, Goneri made “mtswadi”, a fried meat dish. SO good. Mostly though, we have had a lot of “satchmeli” which I was a little confused by. “Satchmeli” seemed to be what they called every kind of soup/stew that we have been having. To me they seemed like very different things, so I finally narrowed the possibilities to two: One, it is a kind of stone soup, made with whatever is on hand, and two, “satchmeli” means beef. Turns out it means meat, but I was close.