A couple of acronyms to start with. The first, based in Austria and existing since 1986, stands somehow for Association for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid. The second, more recent in Georgia, is a Local Action Group, this one in Mestia but to be found all over Georgia where Things Are Happening. I wanted to incorporate these acronyms into a witty title, but one has negative connotation, the other positive, and it didn’t work. So nothing fancy this time.
Together, they have been helping us bring our dream of a separate café for our guest house into reality. There have been significant challenges: finding and hiring of good workers to build the thing, Covid, and our garage fire. Plus, we run the guest house and village shop, and my wife has been the village’s main English teacher for 11 years, while I also write for GT. So, busy times! But it’s coming together.
We envisioned a space where both guests from afar and local people could eat, celebrate, learn in workshops or training sessions of various kinds. Hopefully using local talent as much as possible, in building, furnishing, decorating, provisioning, using; even working in. A place where the benefit would not primarily be ours, but for all.
Currently, we cook for and feed all our guests in the main house, but this is simply getting too small for the numbers we can get. There are even two kitchens here, one upstairs for people on a budget to cook and clean up for themselves, as the workers cementing our main road through the village are currently doing. But we needed a bigger kitchen, as well as much more than the 20 maximum seating spaces we now have here. Plus a nice balcony, a first for us, from which to sit or swing and enjoy the fabulous view of the Mountain Wall on the other side of Etseri. So, the café.
While the bureaucracy has been a bit daunting, the hoops jumped through show us that this is a serious business, not the throwing of money around with no interest in how it’s being used. The Association for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid provided an initial grant of 5000 Euros last year, followed by another of 8000 GEL after the garage fire took a lot of our stored building materials and supplies from us this January.
Yesterday, as I write this, a friend from Ushguli came to video us talking about the vision and details of the café, and this footage will soon appear on the guest house Facebook page. We long to see, and facilitate, the working together of local people towards common goals, instead of the fierce jealousy which for so long, centuries even, if the many watchtowers here say what I think they do, has been hampering progress and causing deep divisions everywhere in Svaneti.
We could host local art and craft demonstrations and exhibitions by adults and children, evenings of song and dance, cooking demonstrations, training in vocations or languages, parties for birthdays (as long as the drinking doesn’t get out of hand: a real worry…), and more. Not just a place to eat. Where foreigners and local people can give and take the best from each other, lifelong connections be made no matter where people end up in the world. The guest book already has more than 65 languages written in it from the last 10 years, in a host of alphabets, so the future possibilities are endless. A huge thank you to the Association for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid and LAG Upper Svaneti for helping us in all this. See you at the grand opening, date to be announced!
Photos by our visiting friend Lia Bitsadze.
Blog by Tony Hanmer
Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/
He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti