Some Assembly Required: Etseri, Svaneti


You know that cute phrase, don’t you, dear reader? The one featured in large or tiny print on that item you’ve just acquired be it toy, electronic device or piece of furniture. The manufacturers cover their bases legally, so that when you get home and realize that the thing isn’t “plug ‘n’ play”, they can just point you to that text and let you know that the fun is just beginning. IKEA has turned this into an art form, a performance art, that is, in which the purchaser all too willingly participates and receives, at the end, the satisfaction of having participated. All tools, to say nothing of parts and fasteners, are included.

So my wife tasked me with buying some kitchen furniture in Zugdidi for the ongoing upstairs second kitchen project of the guest house. This is where our self-service guests will be free to cook and clean up for themselves, to save their money and our time. We needed a cupboard unit and a table, maybe with chairs.

I perused the furniture shops all clustered on Rustaveli Street, near the railway station. Plenty of kitchen cabinets, but the set narrowed when I specified that a) we don’t need a sink, b) it needn’t be more than 4 doors wide, and c) it must be packed into my 4x4, to be reassembled at the other end. I wasn’t expecting solid wood, had been instructed NOT to buy anything second hand no matter how good, so was expecting fiberboard, or DSP as it’s locally called. Not too expensive or fancy, but nice enough for a hopefully steady stream of upstairs guests to use for some years without falling apart.

Finally, one set ticked all the boxes, and as a bonus, the same shop featured a good-looking table with a foldout leaf, going from minimum 6 to 8 or more sitters. I asked for it to be ready to load in a couple of hours, and drove away on other shopping business.

How two men shorter than I am got the table top onto my car’s roof with no damage to the former, or to themselves is still beyond me, but my stretchy hooked ties soon had the thing subdued and not going anywhere. The rest we loaded inside, and off I went into the sunset towards home.

A kind pair of friends staying as our guests offered to help me unpack and do the “some assembly” part; help which in the end I really needed. How many Germans, Armenians, Brits and Georgians does it take to set up half a kitchen? One of each, as it turns out (the Georgian taking the photo, too), and the German lady was the stereotypical lead engineering mastermind behind figuring out what went where with what from all the disparate pieces we had. No tools came with our purchase, but we needed exactly one: a Philips screwdriver, check.

Once we had the pieces separated as the first big job, we knew we were on uncertain ground when it came to order of operations, with no instructions included, just a photo of a similar finished item. And we did make a couple of mistakes which needed backtracking, undoing and then redoing in a better order. But one thing we could say was that not a single screw was missing from the whole large collection needed in the proceedings.

The cabinet sat came in two pieces, one sitting on the other instead of being bolted to the wall (which would have required a magnetic stud finder to avoid hanging it on mere drywall). Nice and solid. Nothing wasted, no tempers frayed. My wife held or passed around screws, anchored this or that item when we needed some leverage to push the driver against, and generally encouraged us on. It helped hugely that she liked my choices of model and color, and she approved their fit into the existing space’s décor, too. The Armenian and I supplied the torque with a screwdriver each to speed things up.

Now we are one step further along in the guest house’s flexibility plan to accommodate as many different kinds of guests as possible. Next, as the hot weather continues: a gazebo for twenty in the front yard!

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 nearly 1500 members, at

Tony Hanmer

10 August 2017 18:37