The juniors and seniors at my school asked me to participate in a comedy show they were putting on. I agreed, thinking that if it were to actually happen, it could be really fun, but it could very well turn out to be like my experience with the local musicians and producers. I never elaborated on that situation because it turned out to be pretty herky-jerky. I played in a blues café a couple times, which is what I originally agreed to and was then invited to sing on TV. I said ‘sure’ but each time I was called to rehearse, circumstances had changed. In the end they wanted me to sing something in Georgian. I felt like I was compromising my talent and opted out. It just wasn’t what they told me I’d be doing in the beginning. All I wanted was the café experience. So when the comedy show opportunity came up, I said ‘sure’ with no expectations, except for maybe that I wouldn’t get a call until the day before the show. It turns out it was already the week of the show. I was told this was an urgent matter and very important that I participate. I was made to drop all other plans or else certain people that I work with would be upset with me. I was a little aggravated because a friend was loaning me his electric guitar to practice precisely during the time of the comedy show rehearsal. I haven’t played an electric guitar in years and this was my only chance to practice uninterrupted before my next ‘gig’. Up until this point, I had just used my acoustic. When I told my colleague that I would be late for comedy rehearsal because I had another rehearsal scheduled, she thought I was being selfish and that I just wanted to be with my friends. I tried to tell her it had nothing to do with friends; that I would be alone and also that this would be my only chance to work on an art form (music) that means much more to me than that of theatre. To say the least, I appeased my colleague and went to the comedy show, and as for the gig, it went pretty poorly, but it was worth it.
The comedy show went spectacularly. My school won first place for the third year straight and I believe I played an integral role to that end. We did a skit in which I was an angry English teacher. I spoke something of a popular Georgian catchphrase from television. The crowd went wild. The other skit was me performing as a “Georgia’s Got Talent” contestant. I was only supposed to sing for maybe four or five seconds, but the audience began clapping and I went with it. In the skit, the judge was disgusted with my performance and walked out on me. I told her, “Kurtumos nu aknev, gogo!” which roughly translated is, “Don’t shake your rear, girl!” Before I knew it, the audience was rushing the stage and I was giving an interview that I would broadcast nationally. One of my best, if not thee best experience, I had in Georgia.
That was a month ago. I can hardly believe how fast things are coming to a close. I have grown to love this place so much. It hasn’t been easy, not that I thought it would be. I had no expectations, but was still surprised from encounter to encounter. People are people. I think we’re all pretty much the same, with some differences. –not the other way around. Those differences have been confusing and even frustrating. After getting to know these people, I have gradually developed expectations. It happens. I’m not that disappointed, but I know I would have been better off without. Having preferences instead would have complimented my Georgian experience wonderfully. I’m not saying it hasn’t been wonderful. It has, and I desperately want to come back soon. I’m saying that when expectations aren’t met, it messes with head and heart if you let it. Sometimes I let it. Georgians have had expectations of me & when I don’t qualify, a psychological chess game ensues. I’ve tried to refuse to play, but there’s a chance I come off as crazy, so instead, I’ve had to castle my king, hiding my heart, playing to win (where everybody wins), but not really having a clue of which moves to make. I can’t remember the last time I’ve won at chess, psychological or regular.
What can I say? I’ve been at Georgia’s disposal. I’ve tried to be my own man while letting my hosts groom me to be as Georgian as possible. I’ve tried to show how much I care by participating in all things Georgian. And although they call me ‘Jori’ (Ass) when I refuse to guzzle the grape or smoke the square, I thank God who gave me that stubbornness to know when I am right. It’s not a ‘Sobota’ thing. It’s a Holy Ghost thing.
I hope ya’ll enjoyed the hiatus as much as I did. I can hardly believe it’s been a month since my last real entry. I’ve had several requests for the blog to continue. All from the same person but that’s neither here nor there. The last month has been a bit chaotic. From the weather to the job things are changing dramatically. One day it’s freezing & raining with winds strong enough to knock out the power for a few hours, and the next, it’s warm & sunny enough to busk down at the ‘white bridge’ in a T-shirt and shorts. And as far as teaching goes, it’s still really good, with the occasional deviation from plan by host-teachers. Everything 3rd graders have learned I could recite in a matter of minutes, but it really is a lot. They’ve come a long way. At first they could only say, “Hello!” and now I can ask them about their toys, the weather, the seasons, almost any object in the class room, and I can command with prepositions almost flawlessly. It’s funny, when I first arrived, I was least looking forward to the little ones. I think it was partly because I worked with 3-6 graders in Salt Lake for over a year & I wanted to experience a higher level of maturity, and also because there’s more room for natural conversational advancement with older kids. They can infer more based on skills they’ve already developed. But now, I’m perfectly happy to say that the 3rd graders are one of my favorite groups and I always look forward to seeing them. Sophiko, my host/co-teacher is a wonderful lady to work with too. Besides, I don’t think it would have mattered much if I did work with the upperclassmen. Kids are kids, or rather, boys will be boys, and it’s rare to find a boy that’s willing to put his head down and do the assigned work. At least when they’re tiny there’s a level of fear/respect. Teaching can be almost useless some days depending on how many boys are present. Discipline reform would do wonders for Georgia. It needs to start at home, though, not at school. As I’m sure I’ve said before, people are still very much soviet influenced. It doesn’t really bother me like a lot of other volunteers I work with. A national mind-set is going to take a generation or two before all the reformation is evident. I’m just glad I played a part, and at the beginning. So there’s that; all the little intricacies of teaching English as a foreign language in a place that’s foreign to me. That, and the fact that my time to leave is fast approaching. I’ll be glad to be home. HOME, home – with the family, no less. But I will miss this place. I already do. I love Georgia.
And I hope you’ve enjoyed the introductory Israel-trip teaser. The iItt. If you want to read more, you should’ve donated money or been a better friend.
Kidding. I’ll have photos when I’m back in America, but I reserve the right to who.. whom? ..I should know this- English teacher and all, to CindyLou who(m) I will publish more written accounts.
OH! Guess who got April Fooled? Me! Tiniko, my deda(mother), told me the new principal at our school called my program directors and requested another volunteer to come work at the school because she wasn’t pleased with my work. When she saw I started to get upset she pointed a finger in my face and said, “You are April Fool.” and then cackled like a witch on Halloween. I didn’t even know they knew about April Fool’s here. I was flabbergasted, and even a little perturbed. I got GOT on my own holiday.
And now, my hands are cold and clammy & I’m hungry for some hammy.
Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day here in Georgia and everyone has the day off from school. I had a meeting with the Minister of Education & Science of Georgia today with all the other people in my region. It was mostly Q & A. The minister seems like a really swell guy. If i were a citizen and he ran for president, he’d have my vote. He worked under John McCain at one point of his career. After the meeting a bunch of us went out for dinner. Delicious food. Funny people. Great time.
On Saturday I ‘couch-surfed’ a guy from Germany. He claimed to be a master of bio-computing, an organic farmer, & only 90% heterosexual. I told him he was a true scientist at heart & it was time for me to go to bed. An interesting experience to say the least.
Sunday, I spent the day with my friend Nini & will see her again this Sunday. She’s a great girl with a very open mind, unlike most of her countrymen.
Monday I had class which went well. In the evening I saw off one of my buddies, Allen. I haven’t known the man very long but I love him like a brother & consider him one of my best friends. He’s a righteous man who applies himself more than most people. He’s the one that got me into karate, which I mostly use for lifting weights, now… when I go. Anyway, as I was saying goodbye to Allen, I got phone call from my Georgian friend, Dato.
“Can you come to studio?” he said. He was talking about the music studio he has recently been inviting me to. He records demos which his friends who work at the studio then take and make real classy & professional. It’s good stuff. They are fine producers. A few weeks ago I played a couple of songs for a sound engineer who was pleased. So when Dato called I wasn’t being invited for another ‘listen session,’ I was being summoned to play my music. When I entered the room, there was a stage full of musicians with violins, guitars, drums, & a shaker. Ya know, ya shake it and it’s got beads inside. I sat down. Shota, the bassist came to me with guitar in hand & handed it over saying, “play your songs, please.” I began to play my newest, Drops Like Stars, a song about being in Georgia. One by one they started joining in & before I knew what was happening, i had a full band accompanying me to my own song. It was amazing & so many other marvelous adjectives. I think I love the violin more than the guitar. I finished & played one more, A Whole New Way. It’s a bluesy one. When we got to the violin solo, which the guy fiddled with ease, I was tempted to drop the real one and substitute the air-guitar so I could dance. It was the best musical moment of my life. And it segued into another great one. When I finished this song, the producer asked me if I wanted to play my own concert in Kutaisi & if I wanted the band to back me up. I told him a thousand times, yes. I don’t know when it will be or if it will actually happen but the producer said it would be so. I’m pretty happy as is, just jamming my tunes with the group. I can’t express how wonderful it was to here that fiddle shredding to m’ song. Best Sound Ever.
There & Then: The Tales of Israel will be continued soon.
In my new seat I spent what felt like hours in limbo-in this case, the space between being awake & asleep. It turned out to be 40 minutes. Then I sat up & reached for my guitar. I haven’t played James Taylor or Stephen Fretwell for some time, but for some reason that’s what I ‘picked.’ When I got bored of that, I set my guitar down & as I was doing so, I heard, “Thank you, that was a treat.” It was Penelope.
I didn’t even realize she was sitting next to me. I was still in limbo. Flying is exhausting, especially when you’re nervous the whole time you’re in the air. Penelope doesn’t get nervous about flying. Her visa had expired in Israel or something & she had to leave for a spell. She had just returned from a tiny hiatus in Poland & was waiting for the same train as I. Penelope is from Australia. Or was it New Zealand. I think it’s Australia. She has no family to speak of. She’s got to be 60, at least. She’s got a a boy-cut for hair & piercing blue eyes. Most blue eyes are. She generally looks worn-out, but the good kind of worn-out. Not from drugs or alcohol or any other vice or sin but from enduring in careful work. It’s how I want to look. She’s volunteering service in Jaffa & has been there for a year.
I told her this was my first time to the Land & that already, I was probably a suspect. I told her about what happened with my luggage. She laughed hard. Not the kind of laugh that’s half natural, half forced, & still hard. But the kind of laugh that links people unconsciously. For a moment, we were the same age. After another couple zingers about bombs, I made myself simmer. When she settled, I asked her if she was Christian & she was. I said, ”Me too,” and that that’s really what my trip was all about-a peaceful journey to grow closer to God through Christ. I also wanted to re-up my energy to continue teaching in Georgia.
A negro janitor came by & saw my bottle of water on the floor. He gestured as if to take it & I told him ‘No, thank you.’ He made a face, I think because it was empty. What he didn’t consider is that I had plans to refill it so that I didn’t have to pay $3 for every bottle. He lingered by.
Negro. I don’t know if ‘black’ works in Israel, although, I suppose the difference is the same. African Israelian? Here, we shall call him Efah.
Efah is a small man who was one of the darkest men I’d ever seen. Some negro people are light skinned, maybe because they’re mulatto or something. Others are dark, but they have a shine to their skin. Efah was so dark, he had no shine. He looked like he got plucked straight out of Ethiopia & dropped in the airport. I don’t think he even spoke Hebrew (which I really want to learn).
Penelope asked me my denomination. I told her I’d been raised Catholic but converted to LDS (Mormon) when I was 19.
“I think that we’re meant to progress through different religions before we land where we’re supposed to, ultimately, closer(closest) to God,” she said.
I chortled. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. For some people, anyway.” There was a pause & then she asked about my guitar playing -how long? Who do I like? What do I want to do with it? -that sort of thing. I told her she probably wouldn’t know any of the musicians I liked, except for James Taylor, but I did mention Age Pryor (from New Zealand) & Tommy Emmanuel (from Australia). “I’ve been playing for about 7 or 8 years & I suppose I want to do what everyone else does: play my songs & let people know it’s all ok if you use your body for love… The recognition & fame & all that’s fine too.” She smiled & I reached for my guitar when I noticed Efah was there again gesturing for a half-eaten bag of potato-chips. I grabbed it & started eating the rest. Penelope was laughing hard again. I found myself thinking I’d rather be a comedian than a Musician. I would too. But I’d rather be a funny musician than a musical comedian. Efah was happier to know this time there was a reason he could not have the trash. It wasn’t yet trash. Penelope & I discussed whether or not we should give him SOMEthing; an old wrapper we had stuffed in our pockets, a piece of note-paper we no longer needed. It felt a little too much like giving a table-scrap to a dog, or a bread-crum to a pigeon. He was gone anyway.
Finally, it was time to go catch our train. Originally, Penny (yep, I’m calling her Penny now), was heading to a different location via another train, but she decided to catch a bus from where I was going. I told her I could use the help getting to the right place. I left a wrapper & the potato-chip bag for Efah & Penny escorted me to the train. I really believe Efah was happy to have something to do that wasn’t just walking around looking unbusy. He could’ve gotten fired had I not left that trash.
We arrived at the platform & Penny confessed she wasn’t sure which train to get on. We asked an employee whose shift had just ended if she could help. She told Penny what she needed to know & then basically held my hand until I got on my bus for Jerusalem. Sometimes I forget how good people are. We make friends & then stick to them. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that those friends gain more & more power to hurt you & you them because of how deeply you know each other. I like meeting new people. It’s easy to go the distance with ’em. They are often their best selves when they’re new to someone. Call it a complex, but I think it’s a nice idea knowing that strangers can’t hurt you emotionally. Especially when it’s the last thing I want to do to them. And if by chance they say something at random that happens to bring tears or pain or what have you, you’re defenses are down because they don’t know you. You let them in & you let them help. This is eternal mercy, and evidence of God.
At one point in our conversation, sitting in the airport, waiting for the train, I was telling Penelope my feelings about being in Georgia & returning home. I started to go a bit sour, expressing frustrations & worries over the pleasantries & joys. Penelope stopped me, held a finger out (up) & simply said, “He knows.. He knows.” I don’t think she just wanted me to shut up. She believes that, & reminded me that I do too. To be continued.
I’ve been back in Georgia for 3 weeks. Time has flown & I’m choosing to take that as a good sign (originally typed ‘god sign’ by accident..) School has been back in session for almost 2. It’s been an exciting start. Everyone seems happy I’m back & I feel the wame way. Strangely enough, when I arrived at the airport in Tbilisi, I felt like I was almost home. I approached the baggage claim carousel & on the screen it read ‘Tel-a-wiwi’. After getting my bags I walked out to the lobby expecting to see someone from the program. Instead it was a random friend of a friend of the program whose English extended as far as my name, airport, taxi, & money. He took me to what he called a hotel & I would call some lady’s house. It was a hostel, but it was located 4 flights up with no elevator. I was lovin’ every minute of it. The next day, I found my way back to Kutaisi where i stayed in another ‘hotel/lady’s house’ until my host-teachers could find me a host family. After a week of no luck (and perhaps no effort. I love this country), finally push came to shove when the owner of the house I was staying at called my host-teacher & said I had to go. I don’t know why. I was rarely home. It might have been an issue of payment. I certainly wasn’t going to pay -not my responsibility. So on a Saturday morning, I was enjoying a rare occasion to sleep in & my host teachers & some of my students even show up to help me move. I had clothes & books everywhere. They through my things in bags & we were out the door. We walked about a block when I was told to leave my stuff with one of the students (who ended up losing my capo -a very necessary piece for my guitar & my music) & come with my host teacher. This was all worth it. Later that evening I was taken to a house that would be all mine. And that’s where I currantly stay. I want the experience of living with a Georgian family, but I really like living alone. Besides, 3 months with the Datuadze’s was enough. I think we’re all better off.
About classes, I have less than last semster because some take place simultaneously. I’m okay with that. I’ve learned something this past week. Many students are educated privately outside of school. They take English, Georgian, Math, Geography, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, & others. School is the place they go to goof off with friends, unless they’re female. Females tend to study diligently wherever they are. There are some good boys but they’re rare. For this reason, I spend as much time with Tiniko teaching after school as I do teaching at the school. Anyway, it’s all good. Almost all the children in the younger grades do everything required of them. It’s the 8th grade boys that don’t give a damn. We have fun, though. It’s been a pleasant start to the new semester.
There & Then
Israel. Wasreal. Realgood. I had such an uplifting time walking in the footsteps of The Savior & His prophets. But I’ll type about that in a bit. I want to take you day by day starting from the beginning. I think I was more scared on this flight than on any other with the exception of my first ever flight from Ontario, California to Salt Lake, Utah. There’s been times when I’ve floan pretty much unbothered, but I remember being nervous for my flight from Chicago to Amsterdam last year, & this flight to Tel-Aviv was even worse. ANYWAY. Normally, I’d think it pathetic to applaud a landing, but when all the Georgians on my flight started clapping as we touched down, I almost did too. Then I thought, ‘We SHOULD clap!’ We just sat on a chair moving through the sky at 400 mph, 5 miles up! Yeah, I know. They say you have a greater chance of dying on the road than in the air. It’s not true. I don’t care about statistics. 72% of all stats are made up on the spot… I believe in my gut & while I’m in the air, it tells me that if ANYthing goes wrong with this plane, YOU WILL DIE. But we landed, all plane parts and body parts in tact. I had to spend the night at the airport and wait for a train & bus in the morning. I found a seat, plopped down & after about a minute of that, I decided to do some browsing. I went straight for the junk food & book shop. This was a delight. It seemed that Israel has everything Georgia doesn’t. I wanted to buy a boat load of books right then, but there was no way I was going to purchase any merchandise in an airport. I had to rationalize food, but I was hungry. When I returned to my seat, my luggage was gone. I should have known better than to leave a suitcase lying around in an airport, especially in the place where people have been warring for land rights for centuries, even if it was only for 3-4 minutes. I asked the ladies sitting nearby if they saw anything. They pointed to the employee who removed my things from the building who reproved me not to leave my stuff unattended & then took me to where it was. I pulled it back inside & sat down, in a different seat. To be continued..
72 more hours and I’ll be in Tel-Aviv, Israel. I just wanted to say thanks for all of your prayers & support. I’ve been a bit frustrated this year’s end, but I know Israel will fix that. The semester wrapped up nicely today with candy throwing in the classrooms and fire-crackers in the streets. My ears are still ringing.
I’m looking forward to a new year. I’m ready for change, growth, & progression. I look back & I feel like I’ve been having a quarter-life crisis – for 4 years. It has nothing to do with religion, a bit to do with marriage/divorce, & everything to do with turning belief into action, all while taking a road less traveled. I’m tired of being tired of being afraid. The end of 2010 & 2011 are the years for faith. And it couldn’t come at a better time, what with the world ending in 2012 & all.
God bless us. Every One.
Today is day 101 without a nicotine fix. I quit the day before I got on the plane to Georgia. It’s been tough, but it’s definitely getting easier and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t learn that they were 60 cents/pack until after I’d been here awhile.
Unless someone is smoking right beside me or I eat McDonald’s(that was when I enjoyed a Marlboro most), it doesn’t really phase me. I can’t stand secondhand smoke so when someone does light up & I breathe it in, it makes me desire smoking in general less & less.
Just thought I’d share that. I’m the most addictive person I know & I’m proud to say I’m substance free(unless you count chocolate, but you won’t). I’m okay & I’m on my way.
see 21 days of healing (below). –I still need your help!
I did not get the job & I’m sorry for Georgia because I do believe the boy who did get it was the least qualified. No skin off my back, though.. or nose.. or any other parts.
Tbilisi twice actually turned out to be Tbilisi thrice due to a ‘malfunction’ with my glasses. I’m finally back in Kutaisi, hopefully for at least a week before heading off to the big city again. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to see all the friends I made during orientation week. I’ve visited with most, but there are some I have not seen in 3 months!
Obviously the Christmas holidays are fast approaching and I wish everyone a wonderful time of rest and spiritual renewal. I am also seeking a spiritual renewal of sorts by traveling to Jerusalem for a few weeks over the Christmas holiday. I am extremely excited about and grateful for this opportunity.
They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. It is for this length of time that I’ll be in Jerusalem. I’m hoping to break a couple bad habits as well as develop my good ones, better. Fortunately, my travel fare to and from Israel is covered by the English-teaching program I am currently involved in, but I do need to somehow cover the cost of my stay while in Israel and it is for this reason that I seek your help.
I plan to make my experience in the Holy Land as fulfilling as possible but also live within the constraints of my limited budget. I’m confident God will provide. I am so excited to be able to do this and look forward to telling you all about it. I will be keeping a journal and taking photos to let you know how my trip to Jerusalem goes.
With love and all best wishes for your Christmas and New Year
Lately, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the networking of books amongst my fellow TLGers. I just wanted to share what I’m reading/I’ve read. There’s been some good’n’s.
The Drawing of the Three
Memoir’s of a Master Forger
The Master & Margarita
The Innocents Abroad
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (although, I’m ’bout to quit it)
To be read:
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Shadow of the Wind
Crime & Punishment
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff
Also want to mention that a few weeks ago I received an email inviting the American TLGers to the U.S. Embassy. There were various booths providing info about activities going on in Georgia, but there were so many people there, many of whom I haven’t seen in weeks so I spent the majority of the time mingling & snacking on Texas Chicken, which was a lot like Church’s Chicken. It was pretty neat, although when I first arrived, I walked by a portrait of Joe Biden & I made a remark about his smile (he looks like he’s up to no good), thinking friends were behind me. They weren’t. Instead, it was some couple staring at me like I’d taken the picture down & stomped on it.
I spent the rest of the week hitting up various hot-spots including Prosperos English Bookstore, a guitar shop loacted in a beautiful downtown park, & the casinos with my friends Titus & Jon where I just watched. I spent part of my stay with some other TLGers, part with a Serbian family that I know through another friend, & part at a hotel. I had my first Thai food experience-delicious. Titus Williams, a fellow teacher & friend found an American donut shop which served breakfast sandwiches too. I can’t express the pure joy I felt when I bit into a chocolate glaze twist. Titus & I just started laughing. Forget gifts & quality time. Food is my love language.
I came home on Monday & had Tuesday & Wednesday off because it was St. George’s Day. I don’t know what that entails, which is ok, because I think most of Georgia doesn’t either. On Wednesday night, I received a call from Lana with The Ministry of Justice asking me if I wanted to interview for a position with them to teach English to their staff in Kutaisi. I was planning to go back to Tbilisi on Friday or Saturday, but I received a call from a friend telling me she was taking the night train to Tbilisi that night. I asked my co-teacher if I could have Friday off. She said, “Of course.” & there I was, headed to Tbilisi for the second time this month. I wished I had waited til Saturday though. I spent most of my paycheck on hotels, food, & transportation & didn’t even have that much fun. The interview went well, though -about as well as any Georgian job interview can go I think. I spoke with 2 ladies working with The Ministry who were so polite & a pleasure to interview with. They asked me about my experience in Georgia & with teaching & that was about it -pretty ‘wham-bam’. I came home late Monday night. Today is Tuesday & I’ve just spent the day with Ship.
Ship says: Take your ‘ah’ ‘ah’ ‘ah’ & stick it up your ‘ah’ ‘ah’ ***!
Awhile back, maybe even in October, I was having dinner with Jonathan (my go-to-guy in Georgia), Lisa (an older TLGer), & Ship. During our wait for food & drinks to arrive, Lisa was expressing her frustrations, of which she has & has had many, about one of her co-teachers. Apparently this co-teacher is kind of needy & demands a lot of time & energy from Lisa. And apparently, a lot of these demands are trivial, minute, & even futile. Lisa was telling us how one day of this particular week, her co-teacher was asking her if she was pronouncing the short “A” sound correctly. The Georgian Language (Qartuli) only has pure vowel sounds, you see. You could say that Georgia speaks the way a chorus sings. It’s difficult for Georgians to pronounce diphthongs & such. The short “A” sound is not a diphthong, but you get my point. Well, it turns out that Lisa had about a half hour discussion on her co-teacher’s pronunciation of “A”, an experience I think Lisa couldn’t have cared less to have. The language barrier is difficult enough, & to minimalize it only makes it more frustrating. Lisa ended up leaving school early that day. When she relayed this story to us, it was a bit of a struggle for us to hear, and when she finished, Ship told Lisa, “You should tell’er to take her ‘a’ ‘a’ ‘a’ & stick it up’er ‘a’ ‘a’ ***!”
Love that man.
I love you too.
Although Ronald MacDonald has poisoned me, it doesn’t stop me from visiting his house. I suppose the burger alone is worth it, but so is Nuka. She’s an employee there with a degree in History & English. A few weeks ago I received an email from Chris Walters, director of IREX Georgia(International Research Exchange) asking for local Georgians we know with a degree to apply for the Edmund R. Muskie Fellowship. It’s a chance for a native to go to America to study & live for free. I noticed how well Nuka spoke English while ordering so I told her a bit about the program & exchanged info. Since then, I’ve been helping her fine tune her app. Although, I’m not sure how much she cares about it because as I was reading her essay, I could tell she didn’t write it all, & I barely know the girl. I copied a passage, pasted it on google, & sure enough there was the source from which she copied. It was funny, but still discouraging. The requirement was for no more than 1,500 words. I was pretty happy to push a Georgian to go above & beyond what they normally would. If she doesn’t get accepted this year, I hope she continues to apply. She wants a masters in international affairs. We’ve become friends in the last month & often meet up for some lobiani & a walk in the park. She’s 22 and was once a refugee when the Russian/Georgian conflict was at its worst. She’s remarkable like most ladies here. She’s extremely bright & speaks English better than most of the English teachers I work with. I think this fact & her employment at MacDonald’s are her biggest strengths in getting to America through the fellowship application.
I finally went on an excursion yesterday with my 8th grade to beautiful Borjomi. On the way there, they sang harmonies effortlessly to any & every song that came on the air. Mari Sakashvili may be one of my weakest English speakers, but she’s probably the best singer. I might very well have the next Georgian pop-idol as a student. Back to Borjomi. I didn’t get to take the cable car to the top of the city (which probably would have made the best photo.. I’ll be back though), but I did get to visit Borjomi Park, which included bumper cars, a roller coaster, & a swinging pirate ship. I rode the coaster, screamed, and felt empowered. I was privileged to do some hiking as well – such gorgeous views. I saw some historically awesome monasteries including The Green Monastery. It was good to have some church on the sabbath. During transport from scene to scene, my students literally begged me to play Brees Leh Meow. Its a game of kissing, slapping, & dialogue. One person closes their eyes while another(narrator) points to the other players one at a time repeating the name of the game until the eyes closed person says, ‘Meow!’ Then, eyes closed person chooses either red (kiss, typically on cheek but can be anywhere but mouth), black (slap), or yellow (3 questions) and has to perform that action on whoever was being pointed at. Whenever it wasn’t my turn to have eyes covered, the ‘narrator’ would go back and forth between pointing to me and then someone else, rather than one at a time, all in a row. This way there was a 50% chance of me being the target. I’ll leave it for you to decide which color was chosen most. =P
On the night before the excursion, I ran into the woman that used to be in charge of my program. She was in town to visit some relatives. It was such a pleasant surprise, and I was so glad I didn’t go to Turkey this weekend, because seeing her was better than anything I might have done in Hopa. We went for dinner, but neither of us were hungry, so we just spent time catching up. When the restaurant closed I walked her to where she was staying. In the course of our walk&talk we discussed marriage, family, & divorce & how they tie into Georgian culture and where Georgia is headed as a result of their mentality about life & love. While there is more initiative to learn the English language, it probably won’t quicken the initiative to play a more prominent role in global networking. It takes a rare individual to leave Georgia to expand their attributes & open up their mind. People are so set on getting married & validating consummation that things like a great education & traveling fall by the wayside. My coordinator, we’ll call her Ana, expressed to me that many a Georgian man resent her and think her a difficult person because she’s educated, she expresses her opinion, and she doesn’t play the manipulation game that she’s ‘supposed’ to. She stands out. She is a what Georgia would call, a white crow. To me, it sounds cool. To Nino and other Georgian women of a similar stature, it can be a frustrating life – seeming rebellious, being resented. Nonetheless, its the life they prefer. When Ana & I crossed the bridge, she pointed to an apartment building a half kilometer away with every 2 out of 3 windows lit up like tiny candles at a distance. Romantic, right? This is what was said:
“In every one of those apartments is a family, right?”
“Well I don’t see a family. For every one of those apartments, I see one lie.”
Essentially, Ana sees a husband with a mistress because he’s grown tired of his wife, or a wife who repeats her same vain prayer every morning because its what helps her get through the day because she’s afraid to face the pain of really trying, etc. It’s faith without works at its most banal. When I came here, I believed that Georgia was a developing country. Since being here I’ve learned that Georgia is not a developing country because the very citizens that occupy this nation don’t believe it is. It’s developed, as in, we’re not doing more than this. This is Georgia.
I like Ana. A lot. She believes life is for living, not for living a lie and she lives that principle to the fullest. She concluded & we parted on this wise:
“It may be difficult at times to be a white crow, but we should refuse to be pooping machines; to simply eat, sleep, poop, & repeat like most of ’em. We’re better than that!” I told her that the best white crows know they’re white crows, and I was happy to see she knows it. But white crows poop too..
I’ve extended my contract through May. As someone who doesn’t write about the teaching, which is the main point of being here obviously, I promise its going well & I enjoy it. I still love it here, in fact. I don’t focus on those who think Georgia is developed; those who don’t want to learn. I spend my time helping those who do. It doesn’t have to be euphoric. Learning that was bitter/sweet. I came here to serve no matter if they want it or not. It’s just a bit tougher when they don’t. The lessons are like this: 10-15% = reading text/correcting mistakes. 10-20% = disciplining bad boys/policing. During this time their real teacher continues with the lesson & I only chime in when necessary. 30-40% = exercises forcing them to speak & communicate with me. I stress the use of complete sentences with correct grammar. Vocab comes pretty naturally. Sometimes we play games, & with the younger kids we sing songs and play Simon Says which they call Barbara Says. I taught them the Hokey Pokey a couple weeks ago. I had no clue how well that was going to go over. It was hilarious -particularly when we did shoulders & whole body. Though I must admit, I still spend some time at lessons just observing, waiting my turn to contribute. While I can’t say the same for everybody elses teaching companions, mine know what they’re doing.
I suppose I don’t really care to blog the school time because I spend all day experiencing it. Once is enough for me. But its good. Its great, in fact. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have extended. Though, the free trip to Israel helps too 😉
I’m finally getting involved with S.O.S. Village. Its a small community of kids living together with some teachers who fill the role of mother. I think most of these kids actually have mothers and fathers, but they don’t make very much money and can’t really provide for the children, so they live in S.O.S. I visited there with Tinico last week and loved it. She wants me to teach informal English lessons, which is cool, but I’m also going to just hang out & play with ’em. They really enjoy soccer & rough-housing and there’s a lot of room to do both. The village is located on the outskirts of town. It’s lovely.
While walking down the road at one of Kutaisi’s local bazaars a couple Saturdays ago, Ship & I see a fella nonchalantly walking with a chainsaw in hand. Ship simply says, “I think everyone in Kutaisi should have a chainsaw.” “Why”, I says. “I dunno. Just seems like they might come in handy.”
-Never really thought of it ’til now, but he’s right.a note: the people mentioned are real. the names used are not.
Love you all, including & especially you, Georgia.. ya ornery little turd.