Sunday, January 30, 2011

I've seen this before.....

Ever since I first arrived in Shamgona, I have felt like I live in a movie. My first comparison was to Fiddler on the Roof, and today while I was sweeping up leaves in the front yard with a twig-broom (a surprisingly efficient instrument), visions of that movie flashed in my mind. But later today, I watched the movie that more accurately represents where I live.

Mkhiaruli Romani ("Happy Romance," 1972) is a romantic comedy that had me laughing right out loud several times while Tea and I watched it during lunch. It reminded me so much of life here and now even though it was made the year I was born. I was going to call the movie "old," but that would make me "old," too, and I am certainly not old! 

Anyway, so many things about the movie are what I live, day in and day out here in Shamgona. Today while on my walk, the same large, creaky dump truck passed me that I saw in the film. The same Soviet white "Lada" (a make of car) that got stuck in the river in the movie drives down my road every day (actually, there are several of them here in the village). The basket-weave stick fence around the main character's house is the same kind of fence that several people here in the village have constructed around their properties. The inside of the houses, furniture, decor, and all are identical to almost every place I have been in. Today, before the movie was on, Tea and I went to a neighbor's house to take some fresh khachapuri to them -- the man of the house had stomach surgery recently, so we went to visit. Later when the movie was on, I could have sworn that they had filmed it inside the neighbor's house. 

More than visually, the manner of life around here is the same as what I saw in the movie. The verbal expressions have not changed -- in the film, the women gasped with a breathy "Deda!"closely following the gasp just like I hear from the women around me all day every day as they react to everything that is surprising, happy, or sad. Young people get married without telling their parents -- it happened in the film, and a month ago, here in Shamgona, a girl in college did the same thing. The parents were not too happy about this -- in reality, or in the film! When a guest arrives at a house, the lady of the house immediately sets the table with plates, silverware, glasses, a bowl of fruit, bread, whatever other food is handy, and wine. It has happened every single time I have gone to anyone's house (including this morning's neighborly visit), and in the movie, as well. 

So, what does this say about the movie? What does this say about this country? I think the movie is a perfect portrayal of life here in Georgia -- with a comedic twist. This is a country deeply in love with its traditions. Everyone has done the same things for decades, even centuries, and some things for millennia because it is the Georgian way. It is what defines them as a people. It identifies them in their own, unique culture, keeping them separate from other groups who are geographically close - Turkish, Russian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani. The Georgians fiercely hold onto what makes them Georgian. 

I think that any one who comes to Georgia in the next 100 years or so and watches Mikhiaruli Romani will also feel the same way I did today. There will probably still be Lada cars rattling down the road!

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