Thursday, February 20th
I’m at school with the male co-teacher and everything is going well. We are with the first graders, who are adorable. The bell rings before we have finished the lesson, and my co-teacher tells me that class has been cut short so that we can see the school accountant. Will I come? Sure, I’ll come.
I’m thinking maybe the school accountant is one who we give account to, or check in with, rather than one who keeps account of the money, especially after I realize that EVERY TEACHER in the school is going. Seriously, I have no idea who we are leaving with the building full of kids. We walk down a muddy road near the school. My male co is up ahead with the couple of other men who work at the school and I must walk with the other women at a pace of about 0.00000000001 miles per hour. I actually have to make a continuous conscious effort to go slow enough and stay with the pack. The female co isn’t there today, so I have no one to ask for more details as to what exactly we are doing.
We stop to wait for a missing teacher. I hear wailing in a house nearby and can’t tell if someone is angry or crying or what. Oh well, Georgians are very loud and unreserved about expressing their emotions, so it could just be someone angry about lunch being burnt.
But when the missing teacher arrives and the turtle walk continues, I realize that we are going into the house with the wailing. For a minute I’m seriously wondering if in Georgian culture, the school accountants are shaman-like personas and if we will be given a big speech completely in hysterical yelling. What kind of ritual could this possibly be?
As we file into the upstairs room, I see that the source of the wailing is a middle aged woman, seated with a row of other women, all in tears. In front of them is a coffin. It’s empty. The body is laying outside of it, covered in a white sheet.
Yeah. I walk in the room and there is a DEAD FREAKING BODY. Furthermore, I can’t in any graceful way remove myself from the procession of teachers as it passes the mourning family, but I don’t know any of them or what to do so I just pass by in silence as the women around me comfort them. We then stand around for a while, many of the teachers tearing up, and listen to the woman lamenting her sorrow over the loss of her loved one. It really is a solemn sight, and even I have to fight tears when the woman goes to the body and pulls back the blanket to kiss the deceased on the cheek. One of the teachers goes to her to calm her down and pull her back to her seat.
Afterward we make our way back to the school and teach the rest of the day’s lessons.
So yeah….what an interesting experience. That evening at dinner, I entertain my family by using a combination of charades and broken Georgian to tell them about my day. They get a kick out of it. So at least the situation provides for some host-family bonding. This is going to be a crazy adventure, but I really think I’m already starting to feel ok.