Koba hasn't had a car for a couple of years. Tea told me that he used to have one, but he also drank all the time, too. He had several car accidents from driving drunk. After his last accident, he repaired the car, sold it, and quit drinking completely (very unusual for a Georgian man).
About six months ago, he decided to get another car -- transportation is nice to have when living so far out of town. Someone suggested that he get a car online from the U.S. and have it shipped to Georgia. Somehow that is cheaper than buying one here. Or maybe it's not necessarily cheaper, but better cars are available that way. Of course, he could have bought one of the million Russian-produced Ladas that putt and clunk down the road everywhere -- but not Koba. He wanted a Mercedes. Back in October, he found a 2000 Mercedes Kompressor something-or-other through an online auction house in New Jersey, and going on photos alone, he bought the car.
Since two weeks before I arrived in Georgia, his car has been en route to Shamgona. (Tea and I have joked that I should've brought the car with me -- it may have gotten here faster!) Every day Koba followed its progress online. In New Jersey, it was loaded onto a container ship and sent to a port city in Belgium. There it was loaded onto a truck and sent overland to Turkey. In Turkey, it was loaded onto another ship and sent across the Black Sea to the Georgian port city of Poti. The car sat on the ship in port for a couple of weeks before finally being unloaded.
Koba is not a patient man. He is kind, honest, trustworthy, thoughtful, and lots of other good things, but not patient. To have to wait almost four months for his car about drove him nuts -- and he drove Tea nuts about having to wait. He fretted about the time it was taking -- about whether it would arrive safely -- about any possible thing that may go wrong. But the day finally came when his car was on the ground in Poti. That day he dressed in his best and took the bus to Poti to pick up his car. There were a few minor things that had to be fixed (he bought it with some dings in it), so he had to take it straight to the mechanic in Zugdidi to be fixed. That entire week while the car was in the shop, Koba went to town every day to watch over the repairs being made -- and he probably did as much hurrying and supervising of the mechanic's work as he possibly could. Finally it was ready to come to Shamgona.
That was a week ago. Something as big as a new car must be celebrated with a suphra. I'm not real sure how far ahead the car-suphra was planned, but Koba had a goat killed and butchered while I was in Bakuriani (I had no idea this was happening), and when I arrived at the house from my weekend trip last evening, I walked into the middle of the celebration. The living room was full of the dining table surrounded by at least fifteen men -- Koba, an uncle, all of Koba's friends, and our village tamada, Davit (the recent-bride, Lika's grandfather who I danced with at her wedding). I was just getting over the surprise of the hub-bub (should I still be surprised at these things??....no.) Dropping my backpacks on the porch since there was no room to get by the table with them, I edged my way inside and greeted everyone. It was just about dark outside, and the power was still out (it had been out for four days already), so the room was very dim, illuminated only by candlelight. They all wanted to know how my time in Bakuriani was, so I told them what little I could in Georgian -- that it was great -- it was beautiful -- I skied a little -- there was lots of snow -- and it was really cold. That about covered it.
I made my way past everyone and left the man-zone (my friend James's term) for the comfort of the kitchen. Tea made some dinner for me and we talked about our weekends. A little while later, Koba called Tea out of the kitchen and asked her to bring me back to the man-zone (not in those words). They wanted to toast to me, and they wanted Tea to translate. I've had toasts said to me before, but this was different. Davit asked for the horn to be brought -- they had been using regular glasses for wine, but bringing out the horn meant that he wanted this to be a special toast. He began the round of toasts dedicated to me -- for my health, for my profession, for my family, that I would have success in everything I do, that I would find a husband, and that I would stay in Georgia. Everyone at the table took their turn toasting to me, and Tea translated for each one. One of Koba's friends made a comment that the whole village loves me, and thinks of me as one of them. I thanked them all with my own "thanks-toast" (a necessary follow-up to a personal toast), and I drank a glass of wine for them. Koba and Davit were so pleased that I drank a whole glass for them -- they know that I don't usually drink for toasts. I wanted them to know that I respect them and am thankful for their love and support that they show me on a daily basis. Drinking a glass of wine shows this in a way (for Georgians) that words cannot express. Although Tea translated my thanks to them all, downing a glass of wine spoke volumes more than my words.
So, the car has been celebrated -- not quite the same as christening.... but for Koba, I'm sure it's better!