The #etnographquarantinedan, Episode 7: The Tsaturoff-Gogidze Family – Alexander (Sandru), 49, Natalia (Neta), 47, Giorgi, 16, Tbilisi, Georgia
The conversation was held in English.
Unlike previous episodes where I met my interviewees on their balconies, this time it's a family who was staying in the room right across from ours; hence, it’s a story from the hotel corridor.
The Tsaturoff-Gogidze family immigrated to Israel from Tbilisi, Georgia. Alexander is a dentist, Natalia works as a tailor, and Giorgi is a high school student. They arrived on the same day as us. They won my heart when, through the peephole in my door, I saw a paper bag they had left outside full of bread rolls and with the Hebrew word "haval" (meaning too bad or what a waste) written on it. They were absolutely correct: we received two bread rolls per person per meal – a total of 24 bread rolls a day!
The next day I knocked on their door to offer them some delicious food that friends had sent to us. Alexander opened the door smiling and was happy to receive the food. After a few hours, he knocked on my door and gave me, in return, some delicious apple and apricot Tklapi (a traditional Georgian puréed fruit leather).
After the food exchanges, I decided it was time to learn more about the Tsaturoff-Gogidze family. When I asked them about their surname, it turned out that while the men in the family bear the surname Tsaturoff, Natalia uses only the surname Gogidze. I was very intrigued and asked why, and Alexander replied, laughing: "Women have an ego!" I smiled at Natalia and gave her an understanding wink.
Giorgi is translating the whole conversation into English, as his parent's English is not so fluent. He seems quite embarrassed by the situation. At some point, both his parents and I understand that Giorgi is not translating everything – neither for them nor for me – and Alexander says with a huge smile, "he is a little bit hooligan."
After finishing the quarantine, they will live in Afula (a city in northern Israel), where Natalia's father, a vet, has lived since immigrating to Israel 29 years ago. Since they have family in Israel (they also have Aunty Bella in Yavne), they have visited here several times before and say that they love the country very much. They especially like the weather and the Israeli sun, although Alexander points out by raising his arm, "we are white", referring to the fear of sunburn. Natalia adds with a laugh, "We are blue and white!" referring to the colours of the Israeli flag.
They told me that there are not many cases of COVID-19 in Tbilisi but the pandemic did not make them afraid to come to Israel. Will they miss Tbilisi? Giorgi replies: "Yes, especially my friends and my older sister who decided to stay in Tbilisi."
How do they spend their time in quarantine? Alexander answers: "We are doing everything we can do online: Twitter, Facebook, and Skype. We also have online Hebrew lessons run by the Jewish Agency three times a week." I asked them if they were finding Hebrew difficult to learn? Alexander and Giorgi claim not, while Natalia is the only one willing to admit that she is finding it quite difficult.