I am not a spontaneous person by nature. I like to plan. I usually am armed with a Plan A and a Plan B. Georgia has made me a bit more flexible–as a mental survival mechanism, I usually have Plans A, B, C, and D in my head, and I try not to get my heart set on Plan A too, too much. Georgia, on the other hand, is a country that embraces spontaneity. Ask any foreigner living here about the frustrations of planning an event, or even meeting up with a friend. It can drive you crazy. As my mother and my roommate often remind me, learning to let go of my plans builds character and flexibility. And though it’s hard for me, I am learning (and I’m going to have SO MUCH character soon). Last weekend, I had a major breakthrough in my spontaneity, and my totally spontaneous weekend was awesome.
I had been invited to visit a friend’s village that weekend for a village festival, but I honestly wasn’t very interested in going to what I thought would be a very large supra where I would be force-fed a lot of khachapuri and treated as a novelty, so when I woke up to horrible allergies in the city, I decided that a trip to the village (with all the possible allergens there) was just not my cup of tea that day. Besides, I’m taking an online class, and I had homework. Right after my friends departed to the village, I received an exciting instant message–Cat was being spontaneous, and would be passing through town that evening: was I around?
I was very glad I’d decided to stay home, and spent the day getting work done so I’d have some flexibility once Cat arrived.
Cat came to town, and we got some dinner and ice cream, and we went to the welcome party for a friend’s new flatmate, while trying to figure out what to do the next day. Cat had planned to go skiing, but wasn’t sure which resort to go to. In the meantime, roomie S, who was already in the village, sent me a text message about the festival–our friend’s brother was designing his mask for the festivities, and there were horses–this festival seemed a bit more exciting than a regular supra; did Cat and I want to come and join? It looked like there would be rain in Gudauri, so we decided: why not?
Sunday morning we made our way to the marshrutka station, from whence we made our way to the village, not far from my old home in Kakheti (incidentally, my friend’s mom attended the school I used to teach at in a town nearby–small country!). Our friends were standing alongside the road to flag us down, and not long after we alighted from the marshrutka we saw the spectacle of the village festival: the young men of the village were wearing masks and had adorned their clothes in strips of brightly colored rags. They were menacing passers-by with whips and extorting money out of passing cars. We asked our friend to explain this odd phenomenon. The explanation seemed a bit incomplete, but here it is: The festival is called Kvelieri (ყველიერი) which comes from the Georgian word for cheese. But there is no cheese involved in the festival. It might be related to cows. The guys in masks are called berikos (ბერიკო), which I have since learned means “little friar”. The festival happens in the village of Patara Chailuri every year in February or March.
So, there we were, being chased by guys with whips and possibly celebrating cheese. We weren’t really sure, but it was fun! After not too long, we were ushered to our friend’s house to meet his family and have some lunch. His mother is a very good cook, and the menu included a special type of kada (ქადა, Georgian sweet bread) made just for this festival which interestingly incorporated both onions and vanilla (and was really good.)
After our mini-supra, we went to the village square where the main celebrations were taking place. There was a song-and-dance show put on by the local kids, a wrestling competition, and a very cool (and probably not very safe) gigantic swing fashioned from a tree trunk. (The swing is recommended pre-supra)
After sampling the festivities, we returned to the house for more food and some rest. Before we began our journey back to Tbilisi, we learned from an inside source that the berikos had made themselves nearly 500 lari over the course of the day! Kvelieri was unlike anything else I’ve seen in Georgia–this place still has some surprises up its sleeve!
(Apologies for the lack of pictures: I hope to remedy my camera situation in the near future. If you’re a real-life friend, you should be able to see some tagged by the others on Facebook)