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Jazzin' Around Europe

Changamire at GIFT: Part 2-3 - Changamire's Gift

By Published: September 5, 2004

Clifton and I left the stage for the dressing room, and Tati joined us soon after. Then, Clifton returned to the room with the audience so that I could undress. But he soon knocked on the door and said photographers wanted to take pictures. So I put the gown back on and Keti introduced me to the wife of the Netherlands Ambassador to Georgia. She was lovely and beautiful. As we chatted, photographers took loads of pictures. Then, reporters shoved small recorders at my mouth asking all kinds of questions. The same was happening for Clifton, across the room. It was incredible.

Once I finally was able to change, Tati reminded me that her friend wanted to take us to dinner. It was about 11:30 PM, and we were dying to go. I had heard so much about Georgian feasts and knew I was about to experience one. As we left Hotel Old Tbilisi, Keti invited us to join GIFT's website launch event on Saturday at 1:00. I told her I was considering going back to Rusudan's art gallery, so I would let her know in the morning. But most importantly, we were going to have another performance Saturday evening and wanted to be fresh and relaxed for it, which may mean missing the website launch.

The Return to Georgia
CD's were playing as we rode to dinner in a minivan with Tati's Georgian friends, Kaha and Serge. One CD, with its young lead singer, sounded like the Jackson 5 with a modern groove. Except for the language, it sounded American. Kaha wanted to know if we liked it, and we did. He played other CDs of party or dance music, and they all were groovin' and sounded American.

But during our trip to dinner, our attention was directed more towards the dark road. It had unimaginable potholes. There were very few drivers on the road that night, but those that were, including Serge, knew how to drive it. Soon, we arrived at the restaurant. Our two hosts had us remain in the car while they checked the restaurant for available seats. They returned and told us that the kitchen was closed - after all, it was practically midnight. We continued down the dark obstacle course to another restaurant that the two men thought we would enjoy. Again, its kitchen was closed. Kaha asked that we please bear with him as they check one more restaurant further down the road. We complied. This time, the drive seemed very long. Tati, Clifton, and I began concluding that the area must have been the outskirts of Tbilisi, since the road was so bad and dark and buildings were so scarce. We arrived at the last restaurant, and its kitchen was open.

As we approached the elaborate, wide, concrete staircase to the restaurant's door, we saw outdoor patrons dining and talking at white cloth-covered tables under a huge colorful tent that was surrounded by exotic plants and bushes of roses. The tent was large enough to accommodate a reception. The night and weather was beautiful and perfect for outdoor dining. To the left stood a lighted, villa-looking building with loud music and festive singing. People were standing around it and going in and out. It seemed like a wedding or some similar celebration, but in hindsight, it may have just been dinner.

A view of old Tbilisi with Marina Klebanskaia, gracious guide and GIFT Executive Manager.

A white-coated waiter escorted us into the restaurant, but there were no small round tables set up. Instead, there was one long table. We were in some sort of private room with a grand fireplace and a table for twelve. It was as if the room was built around the massive, wood table.

With Tati translating Russian, Kaha asked for me to choose wine, for which Georgians are worldly famous, or champagne to celebrate the evening. I knew that being around the table was an important Georgian custom, so as much as I didn't want to offend Kaha and Serge, I told him that I don't drink and asked him to choose. They both blurted something out, saying that I must choose. So in light of our musical performance and the present warmth around the table, I said, "Well champagne, of course!" In addition to champagne, Kaha asked the waiter for dishes off of the menu and the waiter left, returning soon through the door of our room with wineglasses and bottles of champagne and juice.

We talked and laughed as the waiter continued to enter the room, every 15 minutes or so. He brought in several dishes each time. Kaha and Serge told us about the food and the Georgian toast. They said it was customary for each person around the table to make a toast. So Serge toasted first to the well being of our families. Tati toasted to how special it was meeting Clifton and I that she hopes we return again and come to Moscow. Her words were much more touching than this, bringing me to tears. Neither Clifton nor I made a toast. I was too overwhelmed. I think he was too. Considering the food and company, this was the best dinner I had had in my life.

We were taken back to the hotel and thanked Kaha and Serge for a lovely evening.

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