Tuesday, April 06, 2004

A little lesson in Caucausian customs

Last Friday night was the big post-election supra, loosely translated as mega-dinner-party. There were more than 50 of us spread over 3 long tables, as buried in food and wine as the table my first night in Tbilisi. At any self-respecting supra, I've learned, you have your singers wailing traditional Georgian folksongs about war and love and Tbilisi at the top of their lungs, and everybody must dance.

So inbetween courses, we'd all take to the dance floor. At one point, a young boy from another party approached me and tried to dance. I don't typically like dancing with strangers, but had no compelling reason not to. This attempted one fruitless grab at my hand when Giorgy, a man from our party, managed in one quick movement to pull the kid's hands away, push him aside, and yank me backwards. "What the hell, Giorgi?" I asked. "It is not allowed!" he fumed. "Sorry?" Giorgy looked firm. "He cannot dance with woman he has not permission," then very seriously, "He can be beaten for this." Indeed. Later, I mentioned to Giorgy that I had run into someone in Tbilisi who claimed to be a friend of his. Giorgy was incensed. "What did I tell you about the dancing boy? No, you cannot talk to stranger who comes up to girl he does not know. He can be beaten for this."

Men here have not picked up on that prickly feminism thing, but at least I have an excuse if bothered by unwanted company. You will be beaten.

There's a chance that I may be extending my stay here an extra week for some unfinished business. (Seriously, actual work.) There's a 3-day conference to attend, and the painful prospect of wearing these same clothes for another week is assuaged by the fact that the conference will be held in Gudauri, which looks a little something like this:


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