Letter from Leslie Turpin, MTour08 Participant
"Dear John, Luarsab and Nino, Malkhaz and all our friends in Anchiskhati and Zedashe,
A few weeks back John wrote and asked if I would write something about my experiences on the monastery tour. I had been thinking about Georgia so much since we were there and didn't know quite how to distill my thoughts and feelings into a few sentences.
How does one describe the warmth of the relationships or the arresting and elusive beauty of Mt. Qazbegi? I’ve been thinking about the guard we met at the Russian border who seemed so relaxed and, in retrospect, so distant from any thoughts of war.
I think I would have written about how at peace and how hopeful I felt in Georgia. I would have written too about how resilient and rugged it seemed and about the flowers that seemed to grow and flourish on the sides of mountains in places where I least expected them.
It has been so hard to reconcile those images and emotions with those conjured by the chaotic news reports that have come our way this past week. We feel so far away and so powerless to offer anything tangible that can possibly represent our deep care and love that we feel for all of you. We are praying for your resilience and for your capacity to create beauty in hard times.
We were so grateful that Malkhaz was here with us this past week. I think we poured our love of Georgia into every interaction with him and each hug felt like we were all reaching out to touch Georgia and envelop it and all of you from afar. I don't think I will ever forget Malkhaz. In the midst of everything that was lost, I can say that I gained one true friend. That friendship is as special, unexpected and sweet as those mountain flowers that grew on the mountain-sides in Qazbegi.
After four days I said to Malkhaz that I felt as though I had known him forever. He said, "I feel like this war has lasted forever." And I felt that way too.
I thought a lot about the Anchiskhati Choir on tour (in Sweden during the August invasion) and Luarsab and Nino on vacation and about how hard it must have been for all of you to be away from home. It was such torture for Malkhaz to be away from his family and we worried about all of you who were also separated from your families and swimming in the same chaotic and conflicting news reports that we were. At one point I feared the phone lines would go down and Malkhaz would be cut off completely.
I am so happy that he is home safely and I hope that Luarsab you and Nino
and Anchiskhati are also back in the arms of those you love.
Take care, Leslie
Westminster West, Vermont