Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wine Weekend!!!

If you know even the first thing about Georgia, you know that Georgians like wine. A lot. And that most Georgian families in the grape-producing regions have their own little vineyards and make homemade wine each fall. Sometimes that homemade wine is very good; sometimes it tastes like…well, less than good. Regardless, it sure is fun to make! Which I found out last weekend when Ryan’s host family showed me how Georgians make wine. Or at least how they do it in Dimi.

Ryan Nickum returning from a long day in the fields. Sporting capri pants. It's okay though, he's a vintner.

Ryan and I with Omari with the wine press.

The obvious first step is to harvest the grapes. I missed out on most of this unfortunately, but I got to cut a few vines. So, we cut the grapes, threw the nice, plump ones in a bucket but chucked the rotten, raisin-like ones. Right? Wrong. Even the dry and shriveled ones are not to be wasted. Once the vines are bare, divide the grapes into red and white and get ready for the next step: crushing.

Crushing grapes by hand!
I admit that I had a naïve notion that I’d get to stomp grapes with my feet. But no, I guess that takes way too long and would probably result in even funkier-tasting wine. So instead, we crushed them with this homemade contraption shown below, made by Ryan’s host father Omari, a real wine-enthusiast (well, a Georgian wine enthusiast. When he tried Greek wine we’d received as a gift in Greece, he took a sip and then left the room in disgust).

Ryan host parents Omari and Lela and the grape-crushing machine.

You probably think that before we crushed the grapes, we washed them and removed things such as stems and leaves and spiders from the bunch. Wrong again! All that stuff is fine, really. Because when the fermentation process begins, all of those germs and stuff just die. Like how boiling water kills parasites. Right?

After taking a spin through the crushing machine, it’s time for the press. This is the longest part of the process. Once the juice starts pouring out, it’s time to transport it to a big blue plastic barrel, as I am doing here.

Sometimes, before we start the press, we get to use this big caveman club to squish the grapes. I didn’t really see the point, but it was really fun to use.

Ryan and the beloved wine press.
Next we poured wine into these thick glass barrels, where it will sit until siphened out for a supra.

The fruits of our labor. So proud.

The processes for making different varieties of whites and reds were slightly different, but I’m a little fuzzy on the details. Some of the red varieties were only crushed, not pressed, or then combined with a different grape and then pressed, etc. All I know is that making wine is fun and that I want to do it again.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It’s mid-October, which means that school’s been back in session for a month now. My school joined this year with two nearby schools, and the results so far have been slightly chaotic. By chaotic, I mean that my classroom has been broken into twice, one kid has been beaten up, and a kid spit spitballs at and harassed the Peace Corps Inspector General visiting my site, to my extreme mortification (don’t worry, he got his comeuppance). THAT SAID, I’m glad to be back working and teaching regularly (I am! Really!). My teachers have shown a lot more creativity in lesson planning so far this year, we’ve had some pretty interesting class discussions already about the future of Georgia, and my 11th formers even wrote some pretty good haikus.
You may (or may not) be wondering how, after my adventures with the nuns, I spent the rest of my summer. So here was my summer, in pictures…

I was lucky enough to be invited to GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp for one night. As you may have guessed, it’s a leadership camp for teenage girls, and it’s been a big success in Georgia. I got to paint thank-you notes to donors, witness a talent show, read year-old Vogues, and dance awkwardly at the discotechi! It was fun!

The GLOW girls and the "Thank You Donors!" banner.
I spent a really fun weekend in Batumi with Ryan, Lyssa, Seth, Nicholas, and two of Nicholas’ friends visiting from the states. We narrowly escaped sure-doom at the scariest hotel (hopefully) to ever be suggested in Lonely Planet, but other than that it was a great weekend.

The beach at Sarpi, right on the Turkish border. It's the cleanest, most beautiful beach in Georgia.

Sarpi, again.

Sure, we got some strange looks from the little kids on the choo-choo, but who says a group of 20-somethings can't ride the kiddie train?

On the Batumi ferris wheel, in one last futile attempt at taking a nice picture together. As you can see, it didn't work out.

SELF Camp (formerly known as Girl’s Sports Camp)
I was a counselor at another girls’ summer camp, SELF (Self Esteem and Leadership through Sports) camp, for 4 days in the Black Sea coast town of Kobuleti. We taught all kinds of fun exercises and sports, as well as healthy eating/lifestyle type stuff. There were AWESOME guest speakers, some female doctors and a woman who plays soccer for the Georgian national team and has played all over Europe (first question the girls asked? “Are you married?” GRRR!). It was a really successful, smooth camp and more exercise in those 4 days than I’ve had in the past year in Georgia.

Morning exercises on the beach. Don't they look thrilled?

Some forced post-soccer game sportsmanship.

Kazbegi is a village in the mountain regions north of Tbilisi, and one of the biggest tourist draws in Georgia. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The church and Mt. Kazbek

Mt. Kazbek and the village below.

The church and me. The cars in the background kinda ruin the "ancient church and village nestled in the mountains" scene though.