Until the Cows Come Home

Sometimes, we use idioms we don’t even understand the origins of. For example, saying “close, but no cigar” comes from an era where cigars were given as prizes for carnival games. Judging by the way tobacco is now demonized in America, it is clear that this phrase is now obsolete, yet it maintains its presence in our vernacular.

The same goes for “let the cat out of the bag,” which references a con used in medieval marketplaces where merchants would claim to sell pigs in a bag, but when opened an overpriced cat would be revealed instead.  We still use this to reprimand people for revealing a secret.

In Georgia, I got to see the origin of an accepted idiom in front of my face: “Until the cows come home.”

The phrase has been used as early as 1829 to mean “for a long but indefinite time.” The first time I noticed the phenomenon was when winter was approaching and the days were getting shorter. I walked from town to my village, chasing the sun so as not to get scolded for walking at night by my worrisome host family, and I realized I was walking with a herd. All of the village cows were mozying toward the village after a long day of grazing. When I got to my gate, my family’s cows were waiting for me to open it for them. The cows had come home.

The village cow migration

The village cow migration

The ironic part, to me, is that the cows come home around dark, which changes with the seasons but is never later than 10 or 11 pm. So when we say, “Let’s party until the cows come home!” we really mean, “Let’s wrap this up before midnight!”

While we’re on the subject of cows, let me share a random anecdote I thought of a few days ago. When I was maybe ten or eleven, my family visited a quaint lodge for a weekend getaway. We purchased massages and creme brulee room service, and culminated our pretend rich people time with a hot air balloon excursion.

On the road from the hotel to the balloon site, we kept our eyes peeled for deer, a constant threat in Washington State for the well-being of our cars. We warned my father of an approaching animal and as we approached we realized it was not a deer, but a cow. My dad hit his brakes, and without words we shared a collective laugh at the pure absurdity of this “wildlife.” I grew up in a small, rural town, but cows were fenced on ranches and farms, not standing nonchalantly in the middle of the street.

If I knew then that cow-in-the-street would one day be more routine to me than car-in-the-street, I wouldn’t have believed it.

–Kacie Riann


Slow Living, Fast Drivers


It has been 2 weeks since I moved into my new home in Gut’uri, and I think I’m ready to give you a preliminary tour.

My family:

My family consists of 5 people +me. I have a host mother and father, Irma and Misha, a 16 year old host sister named Salome, and despite the information I was given at orientation, a 10 year old host brother (athough hey, maybe in Georgia ten is “adult”) named Mirza. I also have a host grandmother named Liana who sleeps in the guest house, and a 19 year old host sister named Lanuka who goes to University in Tbilisi.

My host parents! And my first experience with Georgian photobombing

My host mother is a doctor, and my host father does something with tires, though I haven’t been able to gather what that is yet. They have been married 20 years and are very sweet and love to show me off to their friends. My only complaint is that they are clearly trying to make me fat, feeding me at least 7 times a day and mainly providing me with bread and cheese.

Salome warms herself by the fire… which is part one of the moonshine operation. I’m not kidding.

Salome is my closest ally in the house because of her basic knowledge of English. The teachers recommended this family to TLG because she is the star student in their English classes. She is the liaison to the family, explaining my emotions and cultural differences to them, and she’s also pretty fun. She loves to dance, and the other day we bonded over a shared knowledge of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

That’s Mirza on the left with cousin Giorgi on the right, the 35th family member and 24th Giorgi I have met so far!

Mirza is super sweet and totally intrigued by me, but I rarely understand what he is saying. He loves running around the house and pointing at things he knows in English, which makes a lot of our conversations go something like: “Apple! Chair! Eggs! Table!” It makes me miss 2 and a half year old Matty when he was in that same stage. Mostly, Mirza plays Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and whines a lot, but I’m glad he’s not an adult.

My bebia declined to be photographed, but she is every bit the stereotype of a Georgian grandmother: slightly hunched over, hair wrapped in a scarf, ignoring her gout and operating the family farm day in and day out. She also tries to have lengthy conversations with me in Georgian despite my very, very loose grasp on the language.

My House:

Okay, so I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty sure my family is “village rich,” because I have a lot of amenities that the other TLGvs in my area don’t have. For example: a Western toilet, and indoor shower, a water heater, and a washing machine.

There it is ladies and gentleman, the bathroom that inflicts envy on my fellow teachers

But seriously, my house is like a fantasy world. There’s this really old foundation that’s been redone piece by piece on the inside, leaving some rooms looking somewhat decrepit, and some rooms looking majestically beautiful.

I have to climb a pretty janky set of stairs, which is more like a loft ladder, to get upstairs, but my room is immaculate. I have a desk, a mirror, a fireplace, a wardrobe and a double bed.

Can you spot my memorabilia from home?

The best part of the house, though, is probably the outside. Most of the families in the villages have little homesteads and make a lot of their own food. My family has cows, pigs, chickens, persimmons, apples, grapes, pomegranates, pears, mandarin oranges, sweet corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bees. They make their own dairy products (milk, cheese, cream cheese, butter), ketchup, honey, applesauce, red wine, white wine, chacha (moonshine), and more. They also have a giant room dedicated to jarred and pickled foods for the winter.

In case you couldn’t tell, that is a literal vat of white wine, next to a pumpkin and a giant pile of corn.

My School:

My school is pretty small, with only 98 students in grades 1-12. I only teach 1st-6th grade, and I have two co-teachers: Tsitsi and Shorena. So far, I’ve mostly been observing, but next week I will know how to better insert myself into the English lessons.

Gut’uri Public School: established over a century ago

Soon, I will get some photos of my students and co-teachers and will give you a lengthier post about my school. I’m sure it is clear that the building is ancient, and I fear for how cold it is going to be in the winter with it’s barely there walls and half-broken windows. My co-teacher asked me if we had schools this run down in America and I honestly don’t believe we do, even in the inner city. She informed me that the government promised to build them a new school in 2013, but with political powers changing, I’m not so sure that will happen.

My Village:

I thought growing up in Chelan would compare to village life, but boy was I wrong! Chelan was not a village. The other day, I walked the length of the village (roughly 1 mile) and found the “city center.” Here it is:

See that bus stop, that’s actually Guturi’s one store!

Also, you may have noticed that there are cows roaming the streets. This is normal. Also: sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, and horses. If you look closely you can see that the cows are tagged, there isn’t a stray cow crisis, they totally belong to people. The animals openly graze during the day, and then come to their owner’s gates at night and moo/oink loudly until they are let in. It is super bizarre.

The farm animals also add yet another layer to the terrifying driving that goes on, because not only are the cars careening around corners at 120km per hour, but they are dodging farm animals/people/potholes as well. When I am walking into town, I always leap onto the grass when I hear a car coming, because they slow their roll for nothing and nobody.

Drinking beer with the Georgians in the cubicle bar in Chokhatauri

Though my village is limited, I am only a fifteen minute walk from the district center, the “city” of Chokhatauri, which has 3 restaurants, two bars, a Sunday Bazaar, and a gas station. I have been meeting with my fellow Westerners at least once a week to speak English and swap stories. So far, it seems like I have the best deal. I’m fine with that!

So, there you have it folks, my new life in my new environment. I’ll keep you posted!


-Kacie Riann



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