Saturday, June 16, 2007


Georgian culture is characterized by the making and maintenance of friendships. One great example is the supra, a great feast that can last for days, which every capable Georgian takes great honor in hosting whenever they can. An integral part of the supra is toast-making in which every individual at the table is honored with a unique toast. As you might see, Georgians place great importance in relationships. While I have not yet had the privilege of attending a supra, I've seen what can come about from the many connections Georgians have.

Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of what I'll be seeing for the rest of my stay in Tbilisi. After a delicious breakfast at Giorgi's house, Fr. Theodore, Derek, Giorgi, and I set off to Gudushuari National Medical Center to meet Dr. Merab Kiladze, the surgeon whom Derek and I plan to have supervise us while we volunteer at the hospital. Now, Fr. Theodore was at one time operated upon by Dr. Kiladze, and since then, they have been good acquaintances. Thanks to this relationship, Derek and I were given this amazing opportunity. Like most buildings in Tbilisi, the medical center is not in the best of conditions, but I was a little more surprised than usual because I expected the hospital to look like the ones back in the States. We located Dr. Kiladze but we had to wait a few minutes while a heated argument in the physicians' lounge was resolved before meeting him. Dr. Kiladze is a serious man but at the same time clearly happy to have us volunteer at his hospital. My only concern is that he may have high expectations of us--he said that our duties would involve things such as inserting IVs into patients' arms, changing the dressings on wounds, and tending to patients in the ICU. Derek and I have agreed that we must make it clear on our first day on the job (next Thursday) that we haven't done such things in the US (it would be illegal for us) and would require training. Another possible hurdle is that our activities will actually be monitored by the head nurse, and she doesn't speak much English.

Our next stop was at the apartment Derek and I will be living in beginning Sunday. Fortunately, we will be staying with a family, the Danelias. Again, thanks to Fr. Theodore's connections, he knows Nana Daniela as a language tutor, and when he learned that Nana would be teaching in the US for the summer and would leave a vacant room, he made arrangements for our stay there. By strange coincidence (or perhaps not), one of the Georgian language books I have been studying is written by Nana. Nana's mother-in-law Tsitsana and her 13 year-old son Giorgi (it's a very common name) will be living with us. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by Tsitsana and soon afterwards by Giorgi who had just woken up. Giorgi is a great kid, very friendly and mature (he also speaks great English), and also very brilliant. A couple of years ago, he was Georgia's number one chess player in his age group. I'm looking forward to our stay there.

Our next meeting killed two birds with one stone. We picked up Inga, who will be one of our language tutors, on our way to see Dr. Dato. Inga was once Fr. Theodore's tutor, and they, too, have maintained a close friendship. Dr. Dato practices integrative medicine, meaning that he uses 21st century tools to diagnose health problems, but prescribes herbal remedies if he feels that they are more effective than modern drugs. He understands both modern medicine and Caucasian herbal medicine, and uses both to treat diseases. It was clear from talking to him (through Inga) that he understood modern medicine and was not any sort of witch-doctor. His office also served as his workplace, and we got a chance to see him make a remedy for kidney stones. He also invited us to accompany him on one of his herb-collecting day-trips.

More later.

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