When I was little I begged my mom to let me become a girl scout or more specifically a Brownie. You got to wear cute sashes with badges and eat food with melted chocolate and marshmallows. Mother made this dream happen and signed me up for Brownies. I walked dusky city streets to my meetings and took long bus rides to camp where we trudged in the woods and sang great songs. A dream comes true.
And now as I walk the mountain pastures enchanted by the snow on the Southern Caucasus Mountains I think on those days.
I feel like I have earned a few badges here.
I have spent days without hearing my natives tongue, eaten raw pickled fish. I have taken bus rides to nearby villages to shower at facilities where one pays to cleanse, to find that there is some sort of burnout on the electrical grid and begged to take a shower though cold as we had lost all water at home and cold beat nothing.
But soon I will cross the stage, just like in Brownies (it was called stepping up) to become a Cadet. I had survived and thrived the regiments to become a cadet.
Soon I will leave here. Yes I do count the days. Dream of central heating and showers.
The narrative of this chapter though I think will not end. Its like ai is part of the landscape or it is part of me and only with some distance will I have perspective.
I have much to tend to before I leave.
A big musical extravaganza conceived and directed by me will take place on my last day of school (December 16th) We will sing American kid classics with each grade singing two or three songs. The event will culminate with Georgian traditional Christmas songs.
It is called Stars of TSkatlsminda . It begins with Luka singing a traditional Georgian folk song about rain and then Auto takes center stage and booms in his native tongue, “ But tonight there is no rain in TSkaltsminda, there are only stars”. After the applause I will walk out of the school, turn left towards the sea and my house. I know I will never here the chants of “Mas. Mas/Teacher. Teacher” of these bright eyed children ever again”
I will come home and pet Mitzi the adopted feral kitten and she will purr. I worry that she may starve without my secret feedings. I worry that Marie the little orphan student will not understand my departure. Just one more women gone missing from her big heart.
I will come into my house, into my ugly green room and that night it will be the loveliest shade of green and it will embrace me, verdantly.
I will put my tattered clothes into a suitcase.
I will drink one more toast, to family, parents, to Georgia, to love.
I will kiss and hug Maya, Geti, and Nardoli. We have never found common ground, the heart. Yet they cannot know mine. They have only ever known this place, this Brigadoon village. I will die a bit like I do at goodbyes.
Garmajos we say when toasting. Good to all people. I will not know how these stories end, or even any of the chapters. I hear the refrains from Lerner and Lowe’s musical about strolling through the heather filled moors of Scotland and fear I will be haunted.
I will call a taxi to take me to the night train. It will drive past the red roofed church, where since my arrival they have been constructing a bell tower. I will never hear the ring of it… I will wait in the damp station till the desolate whistle announces the train. I will be meet there by a young volunteer Nathan who will assist me in my leaving. We have walked religiously on these mountains, always talking of God and our love for him. He will lift my bags to the train and we will sit in the sleeper car…and I will cross the country in the dark, just how I arrived, from some dark unknowing place.
And life will not end, but chapters do.
On December 21st the Winter Solstice I will board a plane and head to the west, to Tess. Then on December 26th to Detroit where Joel will be, the ball will come down with love and community
In Amsterdam Tess will cook for me and we will find a church. We will walk and listen to Christmas music. We will talk of my mom who loved Christmas ever so that she has become Christmas.
And perhaps I will have two Christmases this year. Perhaps on January 7th, when it is Shoba, Orthodox Christmas I will find an ecclesia and light a candle under an icon as I have done here so many times in this land that has been home now for five months.