Alix Kotar, choir director, San Francisco, CA
I have some deeply fond memories of Georgia in my heart – especially the Orthodox moments (touring and singing in the churches, the services); a few of the special moments when our voices really seemed to meld and come together; the mountains (I wanted more of those!).
Most of all I treasure the soul and spirit of the Georgian people, their awareness of the joy and blessings touching them at each present moment, and their readiness to thank God for it and express their love for the people sharing in their joy at every given time.
I learned from them the importance of solid faith and conviction in belief, of the need to be aware of every good thing and to find a way to share what is in the heart instead of taking it for granted and keeping it inside oneself. For this I am very grateful.
There were several times – especially our last night together, when the locals joined us – that I felt the richness of community within the people in whose company we were lucky enough to be. I spoke to Luarsab about this, that your little group of friends seems so unusually loving and caring towards each other. And every one of the people in it seems especially talented, unique, blessed by God.
Something else I felt again and again was how truly Orthodox a country Georgia is. It's felt in every passerby, on every street corner. More so than Russia, than Serbia...
First of all, I never felt threatened or unsafe, even when I was alone. The people share a common love and dedication to their faith. Even the youngest and most masculine of Georgian men find a way to preserve their manlihood on the exterior while being mindful of God at heart, mindful of their faith, and not afraid to show it.
Favorite moments – walking along the path leading from Vardzia Cave Complex, tearing bits of random plants to both sides of us, and finding each one to be an incredibly fragrant and unusual herb.
Being stopped by a shy monk after vespers in Sapara Monastery, who gave me an icon of the Theotokos – which just happened to be the Diveevo “Mother of God of Tenderness”, a very special icon for me personally.
Singing with the Georgian girls in Ubiza church after a chance meeting of choirs. I remember that the frescoes in that church were especially unusual and striking, so it was a true blessing to sing among those ancient and holy images.
Sharing stories from our lives with each other over a dinner table overlaid and overflowing with food and wine, finding inspiration in the toasting tradition of the country hosting us, and the bravery to overcome whatever qualms we may have had in our faraway homes.
Starting off on a leisurely evening walk and ending up embarking on a three-hour hike through river-beds and up fortress walls to the most breathtaking view imaginable.