Anna Berman, Professor of Russian Literature, McGill University, Canada, originally from Amherst, MA
As a scholar of Russian literature, I have often found myself confronted with this mysterious and magical place called "Georgia." Whether it's Pushkin evoking the beauties of Georgian song or Lermontov capturing the breathless sublime of her mountains, or friends in St Petersburg extolling the cuisine, Georgia emerges as a place of beauty, hospitality, and pathos.
I knew that I would not want to visit Georgia simply as a tourist. John Graham's monastery tour, which he led with Eka Diasamidze, was the perfect way to enter into Georgian culture as a visitor and guest. Through John and Eka's combined wisdom and insights, I felt like I had a unique window into modern Georgia and its relationship with its cultural traditions.
I had been singing in a Georgian choir at Princeton University for four years before the tour (some of those years with John), and music turned into a powerful force on the trip that united us with our hosts. At each monastery we visited, we would chant.
Hearing and participating in this music in the sacred spaces for which it was designed was humbling and inspiring. It brought us so much closer to our hosts and made me feel a deep connection to the places we visited.
Both John and Eka's love for Georgia is palpable, and we were all the beneficiaries of their desire to share this beloved place and its culture with all of us on the trip.
I have never been so well fed, seen so many varied landscapes, learned so much history, and connected with so many people on a trip before, and I return to my memories of it more often than I can say.