Linda: remembering my scout times

Alarm rang every 10 minutes between 7:00 and 8:00. We were finally on the road at 9:00 waiting for marshrutka to Qvabiskhevi. In 15 minutes a posh Toyota stopped- “where are you heading to, girls? Hop-on!”. Hesitatingly- trying to figure out, if he would expect a payment from us for this private taxi service, we got into his car and soon understood, that this guy would never ask for money, he wants to show off instead- his car, his job as the boss of local rescue service “I was shown on all international TV channels- BBC and CNN, when there were big wood-fires around here during the war- I was managing firefighters!” He was very eager to take us to Akhaltsike or Vardzia instead of the park entrance of Qvabiskhevi: “I am calling the park director to tell him that today you are not going to the park!”. Convinced him to drop as at the park gate anyway and received a promise “to chop off heads of anyone who does any harm to you”. So, we have a strong backing now. The ages are quite confusing here- for us he looked like 40, but said to be 32. People here do look older than I am used to and they always perceive us to be younger than we really are.

We were warmly received at the scout camp- in the first 5 minutes offered a spare tent, food and drink and participation in any activities. Joined the so-called “environmental action” of scouts. 

Well…. we were supposed to clean the entrance of the park- all covered in litter, especially a small river, flowing along. After half an hour of selective rubbish picking and still leaving all the pink plastic bags cheerfully floating in the river, the group leader- Rita (a power loving girl of around 20, enjoying commanding this group of boy- scouts and two foreigners by using her whistle sparingly) exclaimed: “OK, enough, we cannot clean everything” and we moved on to “clean the forest”, sarcastically commented by Marta “I tell you- this is a Sherry Bobbins action.”
In the forest picked up some more PET bottles and cigarette ends, threw some fallen branches down a hill- hardly any of them reaching the destination- camp-fire place and came to path, used by campers as a toilet, obviously disliking the plastic-walled pit toilets on the camp ground. Rita commanded the boys to clean up, but it was too disgraceful for them. I volunteered and Marta joined me, followed by our lovely translator Farid- to cover up the mess with leaves and soil, others looked at us with sheer disgust. 1,5 hour before the scheduled finishing time all cleaning stopped and in the middle of a forest still full of garbage games started. By repeating “chiteli, kviteli, shaui, lurgi”, we learnt names of colours (”red, yellow, black, blue”), received countless kisses and some slaps, personal questions about our relationships and age and even if I would take one of the boys with me to Latvia, both were approached by gallant “I love you”s presented in Georgian and Azeri by standing on one knee, I got a present of a friendship wristband and temporary gift of a sweaty t-shirt of a teenage boy-scout. Rita used any possibility given by the game to slap the boys mercilessly and painfully. Our actual age was again a very disappointing factor to them. 

After lunch went walking alone along the supposed path of out tomorrow’s hike, took my diary to write, but instead by feet just kept walking on and on un till I got a glimpse of the bliss of being alone in marvelous nature surroundings. Heaven was pregnant with storm, but I still did not want to return. Only the warnings on thunder turned me back and soon it started raining huge warm drops.

When raining stopped joined a body language workshop done by Imran- SALTO certified trainer from Azerbaijan. Young, ambitious and talented. The workshop was quite good, despite our lack of knowledge of Azeri. We were frequently called forward to demonstrate and learned some games, which I found to be good exercises for experiential learning.

In the evening went to say “hello” to the park ranger at the ranger hut and ask advice on the trail. but ended up toasting cha-cha together s\with a priest, ranger, who looked like a bear-like ex-prisoner and a typical Georgian “man in black” at a table crammed with freshly caught river trout, soft home-made cheese and onions. They raised glasses of cha-cha and we ate cheese and all together laughed at Marta’s tries to communicate with the help of her phrase book. On our leave agreed to meet in the morning for instructions and were presented a large chunk of cheese.

Returned to the camp for evening fire and there- in the middle of hill forest with these Georgian teenagers- I saw some of the most amazing performances- a girl, who could have sang on an opera stage and cool breakdancers showing off their perfect moves on the wet forest floor. 
After performances and games that included me dancing sitting on shoulders of Rezi, him trying not to step off a tiny piece of paper, we were invited to join a group of people going up a hill to a 8th century church- as this was the night of St. Peter and Paul. Hiked up in darkness on a slippery trail and was awe struck again- the breakdancers in their stylish sporty clothing and their only a bit older leaders now converted into priests and made a mass all by themselves with all the rituals- chanting large chunks of Bible, burning incense and candles, singing chorals, saying prayers, crossing themselves- all in a setting of this ancient stone church, lighted by candles and decorated by numerous small icons. I stood there, closed my eyes and got carried away by a cleansing energy. Stayed merged with the energy and found myself crossing with 3 fingers- the Georgian style. 
In front of the church sat in a row above a cliff drop observing the mystical mountain scenery lighted by bright moonlight.

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