Camp Day: Becho, Svaneti

The dates all changed. A weekend training session for Georgian teachers would happen in Tskhaltubo, near Kutaisi: the weekend we had chosen for the Becho children’s camp in the schoolyard. And (as I wrote last week) I was to be away with my wife on the days chosen at the last minute to replace those unavailable ones: her aunt had died near Chiatura and we must go to the funeral. So regretfully I bowed out, promising that if someone would take photos, I could at least interview people about the event upon returning.

We are encouraged to come up with special projects as part of our teaching; the camp was the brainchild of one of the more active teachers, and it began some time prior with the Shabatoba (or Subbotnik in Russian, i.e. not really voluntary work day) of which I have also already written. The paper pennants on their strings festooning Svaneti’s best schoolyard survived a bit of rain, and the newly arranged day turned out sunny and fine. Pupils, with some adults’ help, had erected three sets of benches and tables, one per team. Teams had names, changed several times before settling on suitably thematically competitive ones. I suggested several traditional English picnic events, such as a sack race and three-legged race, as well as a water balloon toss with gradually increasing distances to add to the tension; and a few language-based competitions, too. These included putting the jumbled up words of a sentence in the correct order, making as many smaller words as possible from “Mediterranean”, and so on.

My main co-teacher, Manana, also had a couple of her best pupils imitate a foreigner asking a local for tourism details of Becho, and being given a good run-down of the place, the main lodestone of which is undoubtedly that towering mountain presence, Ushba: that view pulls them in like a magnet!

The best thing said about the whole day was by more than one parent, who claimed that in living memory no such amazing event had taken place in Becho. It had been hoped to stretch over two days, not just one, but the second day was one of torrential rain, followed, yes, by about eight inches of snow on the weekend, so that put a full stop to that. Quit while you’re ahead, and give everyone a fine memory of how it went, with possibilities for more in the future. And indeed, this is the intent: We’re considering a five-day camp in the summer holidays, with hopefully some fundraising via outside sources- a real extravaganza! With this as its successfully tested starting point, we can only expand. There is much more time to prepare, too, to evaluate and improve things. Make it an annual thing? Why not?

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1350 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

Tony Hanmer

04 May 2017 17:09