Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November lifea

I can't remember what I posted last so I'll just write and see what happens.

Two weekends ago we had a long weekend because of St. George's Day.  This holiday is to celebrate the anniversary of the Rose Revolution in Georgia.  I was also celebrating my village manager's birthday with they normal group of Georgians that I hang out with.  The only one of them that speak English is my English teacher from school and sometimes she is not there so it can be somewhat quite for me.

We drove to Kutaisi because we were wanting to visit at place called Sataplia.  At Sataplia there are footprints from both herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs.  Unfortunately it was closed, so we just drove back to Zugdidi.  When we got to town we went to a restaurant to have a supra in celebration of my village managers birthday.  (His name is Papuna and if you didn't already know he is the one who wants to marry me.  He tells me a few times a week that he loves me.  I have argued with him about this several times but it still does not seem to change things).  He left the restaurant around midnight and drove home to Didinedzi.

Then last weekend I went to my first Georgian wedding.  (I have been to two funerals since being in Georgia and I have seen two dead bodies at those funerals so, I think it is only fitting that I see a better part of Georgian culture).  I had a really great time at the wedding, even though I was with people who do not speak English.  There was tons of food and a groups of 3 guys singing Georgian music.  People were dancing the traditional Georgian dances and I, of course, was forced to participate.  When I wasn't dancing the Georgian dances, I was dancing with Papuna.  He really likes to dance and, I think, he just wants to be close to me.  Every time another guy asked me to dance, Papuna would cut in.  All the guys are afraid of him so he always won.  It was pretty funny.  But don't worry he is very, I mean extremely, respectful of me.
At the wedding my host dad was the Tamada (or supra leader), which means he starts all the toast and gets completely pissed.  He was really great to watch in all of his glory.  I have some video to prove it.
We finally left around 5:30 in the morning.  The band was still singing and I wasn't ready to go home but things were starting to die down.

Then this past Monday, a few guys came over for dinner.  (I guess as Tamada at the wedding my host dad received a cow head (brains being the most important)).  I was deemed Tamada of our mini supra.  So what does that mean? I got completely pissed.  And on a Monday night!  Yesterday was rough to say the very least.

I don't know what I am going to be doing this weekend but I think I'm going to get out of town.  I have been in the village for two weekends in a row and my body needs some descent food.  After that I will be in my village for another two weeks.  I am going to leave my host family's house on Dec 17 and go to Tbilisi for a few days before we all fly home.  Most of the flights are on Dec 20, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


For everyone who does not already know. I am coming home at the end of December. I do not know when my flight will be but I will keep you all posted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Borjomi Weekend

                So last weekend I went with 16 other volunteer English teachers to the city of Borjomi.  Borjomi is a destination city in Georgia not only because it used to be the resort town during the Soviet era but also because it is where the famous Borjomi water comes from.  The water that comes from Borjomi is a natural mineral water.  It is believed to be very healthy and regardless of your sickness everyone says to drink the mineral water.  I personally would account for this.  Every time I have a stomach problem (which is every week or so) I drink one of the mineral waters (Borjomi, Nabeghlavi, or my favorite Likani) and my stomach does feel better.
                Anyway, we ended up leaving Zugdidi early Saturday morning and driving to Borjomi, finding our hotel then driving on past Borjomi to Vardzia.  Vardzia is a city carved out of the mountain side.  From the outside to you can see large openings in the rock, which lead you into tunnels in the mountain far from the reaches of daylight.  We spent two hours exploring the caves there.  In Vardzia there is also the Sapara Monastery.  The church was closed but the monks opened it for our group. (That, among other things, are the advantages of working for a well publicized government program).
`               After the caves we made the drive back to Borjomi.  We were all so hungry because we hadn’t eaten all day and we had been drinking wine out of huge barrels during the drive to Borjomi.  (Again, one of the benefits of living in a developing country, there are no open container laws… I think.  Plus, they don’t even count wine as alcohol).  We arrived at some restaurant in Borjomi, where we proceeded to order 7, count them, 7 courses.  While we are waiting for our food, some drunken Georgians from another table spontaneously started dancing the traditional Georgian Folk Dance.  It was really entertaining.  One of the guys asked me to dance with them right when we got our first course.  I looked at him like he was crazy to ask me.  If I hadn’t have been so hungry I probably would have joined them.  (One of my English teachers has been trying to teach me the traditional Georgian Folk dance in our off periods recently so I do kind of know what I am doing).
                After dinner we went to our horrible hotel and climbed into the most horrific beds I have ever seen in my entire life.  We are all still alive and without disease so I think it’s fine.  The following morning we woke up, went to a place for tea and coffee and then we made our way to the famous park in Borjomi.
                In the park there is a fountain where you can fill containers with the natural spring water, a fitness center, and a special part of the park called Fairy Land.  We actually spent most of our time in Fairy Land.  There were all sorts of interesting play structures that we were all climbing on, in and through.  There were also a few slides but no one was able to actually slide down them.  Ironic, right?  We spent maybe 2 hours there and then we got back into our beloved Marshrutka and headed back to Zugdidi.
                We ended up getting back to Zugdidi late so a few of us were not able to make our buses to our villages so I caught a bus to the next village over from mine and decided to figure out how to get home when I got there.  Keep in mind my house is 4km from the village where I got off the bus.  So I ended up walking the first third because I was waiting for my host dad to meet me.  I figured I would just start walking in that direction even though it was dark and somewhat not safe.  Mom and Grammy, I am sorry for this next part.  BUT, I was walking along when a car pulled up next to me.  The guy driving started speaking Megruli to me so I asked him to speak Georgian, and the he asked me where I was going. I told him and he seemed to know where my house was so I got in the back seat.  I could not believe that this was my first time hitch-hiking.  When I got in the car I saw another man in the front seat and I got a little nervous but I felt better because I was in the back seat and I had my knife in my hand. (I had been walking with it in my hand the whole time anyway).  So this guy starts asking me questions and I’m trying to answer them with the best of my ability and I am asking him questions as well but I was having the hardest time understanding him.  Then I learned he was drunk.  So not only had I hitch-hiked, I had gotten into a car with a drunk driver.  But we were on a dirt road and going ridiculously slow so I figured it was ok.  Finally, I saw another car headed the other direction and I asked the man to stop; I got out and lucky enough it was my host dad.  I had recognized his headlights (Passat).  (I guess learning the headlights for different cars in high school has finally paid off in another way rather than identifying police cars).
So I made it home ok so don’t worry about anything.  I won’t be doing anymore traveling in the near future so this won’t be happening again, so don’t worry.

Just Life

                I can’t say there are really any new huge developments in my life.  It is pretty much the same old same old.  The weather has gotten nice again so it’s not freezing in my school.  (For those who missed it, my school or my house for that matter is heated).  It does not get that cold here in Samegrelo because we are so close to the Black Sea but it does get colder at night.  And no heating really does make a difference. 
                I am still conducting English Club after school on Mondays and Thursdays.  It has been a challenge to keep my students focused on using English rather than trying to teach me Megruli (the non-written language that is spoken in the Samegrelo region of Saqartvelo (Georgia)).  They think it’s just hilarious to hear me says words in Kartuli (Georgian) and Megruli.  I think it’s funny to because I know I can’t make certain sounds but that door swings both ways so we have a good time trying to teach each other.
                My family is still amazing! I love talking and hanging out with my sister.  She is so motivated to learn English and I can’t be more proud of her.  She used to not say anything when she didn’t understand something but now she stops me mid-sentence and asks me to define a word.
                My brother is learning more and more English as time goes on.  He has been writing my name and a few other words in English and giving them to me.  I have been gluing them in my journal so I can show them off when I get home. 
                School is about the same.  I am trying to participate more in my classes but it’s not really happening.  I have yet to work out with my English teachers how they can actually use me in the classroom rather than just for reading something aloud or working on word pronunciation.  The kids are still enthusiastic so that makes me happy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't worry I'm still alive

I will post when I have written something.  I hope all is well with the very few people who actually read this.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

random thoughts and quotes

Just some random thoughts I have had while being here.
  • Who needs a lawn mower when you have cows?
  • Why buy a vacuum when you have chickens?
  • Georgians never heard the Greeks when they said everything in moderation (I’m talking mostly about alcohol).
  • What goes through your head when you see a road sign over the highway near Tbilisi saying Tehran 800km?
  • I tried to wipe the mud from my shoes on the grass in the yard but the cows ate it all.
  • Did the Russians really have to bomb all the bridges near Gori? It really makes it hard to travel to Tbilisi.  (Of course as far as military tactics go, I guess it makes sense).  Russia I shake my fist at you.
  • Why do the mice in my house have to pick 2 a.m. to play soccer with the walnuts?
  • We lost power because it rained so much that the power line could no longer be supported by the ground it had been placed in.

  • “I feel like I’m the bun and you’re my hot dog and I am bunning you” -Carla (introducing Carlaisims)
  • “Oh my god I am a fire breathing dragon. Is anything coming out? –Carla
  • Maybe the Minister (of Education) can come to Zugdidi and we can voice our complaints to him directly” –Carla  “With bricks” –Yevgeniy   This was a response to the Ministry breaking our contract (again) and adding or changing things.
  • “Memoirs of a Geisha reminds me of my life here” –Ilana “Because of the gender roles and all” –Carla “No, because of the captivity” –Ilana 
  • “You would never be able to get this close to a cow in the U.S.” –Ilana  Talking to my sister about the difference between cows in the U.S. and cows in Georgia.

the battle of epic proportions

                There is a constant battle in my house; it’s between my bother and the rest of the family.  My host brother is out of control hysterical.  Every day he does something to make me laugh.  He is eight years old and makes the strangest noises.  Everyone will be sitting at the table in near silence and he will bust out in these strange noises and hand movements.  He knows he is doing it so it’s not like a medical condition or anything; he is just an eight year old boy who only has an older sister to pick on.  But that’s not the battle part.  We also have this dog, Puska.  My brother, Andro, loves Puska.  So does the rest of the family but everyone else seems to love him from a distance.  Andro always wants Puska around.  When it is getting close to dinner time yelling always breaks out.  This is how I know when to come down for dinner.  I walk in to everyone yelling at my brother and the dog.  They are trying to get the dog out the dining room and he is trying to keep him in.  Andro and his sister, Ani, are always on either side of the door; one trying to close it and the other trying to open it.  At this point my brother tends to lose because everyone, including my sister is stronger than him.
                What is really great is when it’s between my host grandma and Andro.  I’m laughing as I’m writing this but I just cannot convey the noises that everyone makes when this is going on. I’ll have to record it or something.  But, her voice get really high pitch (like and octave higher) and she is yelling and stomping at the dog and trying to hold back Andro.  She is bent over at 90 degrees so her center of gravity is a little off so he can usually win.  He almost taunts her.  Then again there is the element of the table in the center of the room.  You can imagine how this plays into it.  Puska is running around and under the table, my brother is perpetuating the excitement in the room and my grandma is trying to hold him back.  I really wish I could explain this better but it is just so funny.  I stand in the corner laughing almost every day.  We also, usually, go through this twice a day, once at breakfast and again at dinner. 
                I always wondered how life would be having a little brother and now I know.  Although he does not pick on me as much as he picks on Ani, I get it.  I don’t know what I am going to do for my daily dose of entertainment when I leave here.

Halloween in Tbilisi

                Opps so it’s been some time.  Sorry I have not written.  I had a long weekend two weekends ago and then this past week we lost power (and then water).
                 I was planning on going to Tbilisi for the Halloween weekend anyway when I got am email from my cousin the week before, saying that her friends was going to be in Tbilisi conducting a training for USAID and asked if I wanted to attend the training.  Of course I wanted to go but I was not sure that I could take that much time off from work (not that they really need me anyway).  At first I only asked for Friday off and my Principal (and my aunt-who I live with) said yes.  I told my cousin that I was only going to take Friday from work and attend the training on the last day.  Her response to this changed my mind so I grew a pair and asked for more time off.  So, I ended up leaving Wednesday after two lessons.
                To get to Tbilisi it takes however long to wait around for the bus which comes around a certain time but you never know.  Then it takes 40 minutes to get from my school in the heart of my village (Didinedzi) to Zugdidi (the closest large city).  Once in Zugdidi I have to walk about 15 minutes to the bus station, find a Marshrutka (a mini-bus (I’ve talked about them before)), and wait around until they are good and ready to leave.  I never know what takes the driver to long to decided to leave but it is usually half an hour or so.  From here it is easy just sit back and enjoy the scariest ride of your life, five hours to Tbilisi.
                Once in Tbilisi I met up with my friends Carla (she is another teacher from my training group) and we went to our old boss’s apartment.  Our old boss is such an amazing person. I cannot say enough nice things about her.  I wish she still worked for our program but her reasons for leaving became very clear after we got to our host-families houses and started work in our schools.  Anyway, she was kind enough to let me stay at her house for the night.  I was really great to just sit back and relax.  She cooked dinner for Carla and I and was sat around drinking tea and talking girl talk (something I never get to do here).  Talking with our old boss is like talking to another American because she spent the last two years getting her Masters in the U.S. and she thinks more like an American then a Georgian (that is hard to explain so I’m not even going to try).
                The next morning I headed out to the USAID training at the Radisson (which was like real civilization).  The training was very interesting and some of it was familiar.  I learned some of the same sort of things in my Development Administration class in college.  During the lunch break I went with my cousins friend to a cute little place and had a salad with real lettuce (something Georgians do not know much about- they could grow “American” lettuce here but they just don’t.  I don’t get it, much like most things here in Saqartvelo).  We talked about AID how she started her career and what I was interested in doing with my life.  I also told her about life in my village.  She was shocked to hear about how much poverty there still is here. (I’ll talk more about that more when I am getting close to leaving).
                After lunch we went back for the rest of training and finishes out the day and got ready for the final day of training.
                The next morning I went back to the Radisson (my new favourite (haha) place) for the last day of the training.  They played a review game so, it gave me an idea of the material they had covered in the previous three days of training.  Not too much more to say about that.
                After the training was over on Friday we went sightseeing in Tbilisi.  We walked up to the fortress and through old town and we spent a great deal of time looking for the restaurant that we had been told about from the other Americans and Georgian during the training. We finally found it but it took us so so so long.  At this point we had also met up with my friend Adam.  So the three of us ate at this amazing restaurant; It was totally worth the time and energy we spent looking for it.
                The rest of the weekend we spent exploring other parts of Tbilisi, looking for good food, buying books in English from a bookstore in Tbilisi and walking around in the cold.  On the food note, we found this restaurant called “Scarlet Sails” near old town.  They had the most amazing fish and chips, as well as good burgers and chicken curry.  And on top of that the staff spoke English and they carried a good assortment of beer!  Sorry Saqartvelo you cannot do beer, you actually suck at it.  Stick to wine, that you can do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Georgian TV

                Whoever thought that I would find myself watching cheesy Mexican soap operas in Georgia?  Certainly not I.  They don’t get any less cheesy here then they are in the states either.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I could actually watch them and hear what’s going on because that way I could practice my Spanish but…they are dubbed over in Georgian.  I can kind of hear the Spanish in the background but not enough to really help.
                The best part is that my eight year old host-brother is crazy about these shows.  He gets so frustrated when my host-sister changes the channel to something interesting like the news.  Even though we watch the news in Georgian I would rather watch that than these soap operas.
                Georgia also dubs cartoons.  I think it would be a great way for my host-brother to hear more English but I guess those channels don’t come in in English. But I’m pretty sure you can get them in Russian and Turkish if you really want.  I just don’t understand how you can watch the same cartoon is 3 different languages but never actually watch it in its originally language, English.  Well actually most of it is probably comes from Japan so really it should be in Japanese.

you know you're in Georgia when

                You know when you are in Georgia when you are being lead by your school principal into a sketchy looking building to drink wine and eat fruit grown at someone’s house after school. 
                One of the buildings across the street from my school is so sketchy looking and this whole time I had thought that it was abandoned.  Turns out it is the office of the village manager and I’m not sure what else.  As long as we are on the subject of the village manager; he wants to marry me.  Apparently he never thought of himself as the marrying type until he met me.  I think this is somewhat funny because I can’t speak Georgian and he can speak English.  Not that I would marry him if this were not the case but I just can’t understand why he is so confident that he wants to marry me.  It’s really flattering but sometimes it gets a bit awkward.  He has learned how to say “I love you” but that’s about it.  Does a girl really need to hear anything else? Haha just kidding, totally kidding.

no power

This morning I woke up to no power.  This actually happens quite frequently but I’m not sure if I have mentioned it before.  Even the wind can’t kill this beautiful morning.  I wake up with no power almost once a week.  For my house I am lucky because not having power does not mean not having water like in some of the cities.  (Also in the cities you can have power but no water.  Water in the cities is on a cycle and usually comes on for a few hours a day every day.  Then some days the water never comes on.  No one seems to know why the water is off but they also don’t seem to care either.)
I thought that is would bother me more that the power drops out so often but it really does not affect my life too much.  I have just learned to charge my phone, computer, and iPods when we have electricity.  And if I don’t get around to it then I don’t have those things, oh well. 
                My family cooks most of our dishes over a fire or in/on top of this wood burning oven/stove we have in our dining room so the lack or power only affects their ability to see what they are doing.  But this is why there are flash lights, candles, and lanterns in every room of my house.  I am really impressed out it does not affect them that much.  Having always lived in cities when having power is just a given and when the power goes out the whole city shuts down, this is quite a difference.

drinking at school

Yesterday at school we had a mini supra in the middle of the day for one of the teacher’s birthday.  There are many problems with this because 1) they put the whole school on hold so that they teachers could have a party, 2) there was  very strong homemade Georgian wine at the supra 3) Georgians think it’s great when I drink.  Needless to say I went to my next class, following this mini party, slightly intoxicated.  I tried to tell them that I didn’t want to drink because we still had more lessons that day but my principal insisted that I drink and that it really didn’t matter.  She ended up getting drunk off of three glasses of this wine.  This is totally the norm though.
                I was totally exhausted by the end of the 6th period and I still had one more class to go.  I was more tired and frustrated than usual because this was the second day in a row that my co-English teacher had not been at school. I knew she was not going to be there but I didn’t realized how difficult the 4th graders were going to be.  I teach 3rd grade and their behavior is better!  So by the end of 6th period I told my 7th period class (my  11th graders) to just go home, they were more than excited to go home early.  More than half the class was missing and I didn’t think they were going to show up either.  This also just happens.  Students are around, somewhere, but they just don’t go to class and the best part is, is that no one cares.
                Then I proceeded to have a dance party in our computer lab with two of the other younger teacher and a 9th grader.  Maybe he should have been in class… I don’t know.  Either way it was a really good time.   I guess people on the street could hear the music and they would give little jig when they walked by the school.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Almost a month ago I took my first weekend trip with a couple of friends to Batumi (the resort town of Georgia).  The drive to Batumi was amazing because we spent most of the time driving along the coast of the Black Sea.  It was also sunset so the sun was setting behind the water.  It would have been such a romantic moment if it weren’t overwhelmed by the stench of Georgian men.  Just as a side note, I don’t know what it is or where that smell comes from but dear god-find a shower.  It’s strange because everyone looks like they have showered, at least in the last two days, but they still smell so bad.
                Anyway, when we got to Batumi we were met by a Georgian man who was a friend of a friend of one of my friends that I was traveling with. He said that he had some apartments we could rent for the weekend and we thought it sounded like a good idea…not.
                He first took us to his apartment and told us (through Yev speaking Russian) that they had a spare room where we could all sleep.  We tried to tell him that we didn’t want to stay there with him and his family.  (At this time as we are all standing in the front hall his daughter is running around us like it’s totally normal).  We finally convinced him that we didn’t want to stay there, so he insisted that we go to another one of his apartments.  As we arrived to the other apartment, we walked up 6 flights of stairs, and through what could have been a set of a horror film we got to the second apartment.
                When we went inside we weren’t that impressed but it was close to the beach so whatever.  We paid him for two nights (mistake) and got him out the door as fast as possible.  We were so hungry we just wanted to drop our stuff and find a restaurant.  Not five minutes after he left the water in the apartment stopped working.  We weren’t too shocked because the water in most of Georgia is on a cycle so we figured it would just come one later. Again, we were wrong.  But at that moment the only thing we were focused on was food.
                As the night went on we found ourselves at a Turkish restaurant for dinner (as the Turkish border is only kilometers from Batumi), walked along the stone beach of the black sea, climbed a tower over looking Batumi and the water (even though it was night time it was still cool), and found some other English teachers at a bar by the sea.  Finally we had had enough and we made our way back to our waterless apartment.
                The next morning we still didn’t have any water and we were all feeling a bit gross but I guess at this point we were just beginning to fit in and become Georgian (remember the smell I spoke of earlier).  We found a restaurant and got two Irish coffees to start our day then we walked around a bit and found a book store with some English books.  I bought two books for my host-sister and then we decided to walk back to our still waterless apartment to rest and get stuff so we could shower a friends’ hotel room.
                After our showers we grabbed some dinner and a few bottles of alcohol and headed for the beach.  We spent the rest of night drinking and catching up with friends from our training group on the beach, with the sound of the waves crashing in the background.  My friends Carla and I had the bright idea to go ankle deep in the water for a drunken heart to heart.  We almost fell several times but we managed to stay somewhat dry.  At the end of the night we flagged down a taxi and returned to our still waterless apartment.
                The next morning we still didn’t have water, but at this time we had given up hope.  We got some food and went to the bus station.  It was definitely an experience, one that I don’t think I will do again.  I vote hotel from now on but you live and you learn.

Best quote of the whole weekend, “I don’t want to complain but, this orange juice could use some work.” –Yev, who was the only one who never really complained the whole weekend regardless of what happened to us and finally the OJ broke him down.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wishing I had what every Montanan has

A gun, to shoot these dogs.

I have been running in the mornings or the evenings around my village and I am still having problems with the dogs.  Shockingly enough, I had fewer problems with the street dogs in the cities, than the dogs in my village.  Yesterday I was running in the evening and was literally chased by a dog.  I honestly thought that I was going to have to fight a dog.  I keep thinking to myself how that would go down and how I could manage to win-which I'm unsure about.  It is truly terrifying but I have managed this far I guess.  I am learning where these dogs are so I am not going there but still I never know when one is going to round a corner and decided that today is the day.

A life full of surprises

It has been some time since I have posted.  This is because I am finally gaining independence from my family, who has been very protective since my arrival.  I have been able to travel with friends on the weekends to Batumi, Kutaisi, and the capital Tbilisi.

Batumi was an interesting experience.  The lesson we learned there was not to trust a friend who knows someone who knows someone.  The good part about our trip to Batumi was the sea.  For those who don't know and I have not made look at a map, Georgia's coast is of the Black Sea.  Batumi is the "resort capital" of Georgia so things are a bit more expensive and there is a ton of construction going on.  I feel this is where Georgia is trying to build it's tourism industry.  They will probably be successful in this in 5-10 years.  I also feel that if it's not a Church then it's going to take twice as long to build it.  This could be just a rule of thumb, but who knows.

My time in Kutaisi was a bit more relaxed then my trips to Batumi or Tbilisi, and I think this is because there is not to much in Kutaisi to see.  It is more a city of function.  Although we did stay at a cute hotel on the hill and rode the cable car down to the city center.  I think that's much cooler then a taxi.

Tbilisi was yet a different experience.  We took Friday off from school and took an afternoon bus from Zugdidi to Tbilisi.  I can't even tell you how long the ride took but this drive and the one on the way back were by far the scariest driving experiences I have ever had in my life.  Please talk about L.A. or New York but there is no competition.  And as we keep saying, for this specific situation Georgian drivers are good drivers but it's scary as hell.  At one point I realized that we were all holding each others hands or knees in fear that we might just tip over.

Back to Tbilisi.  Tbilisi is much like other cities in Europe but not as nice but it still has much to offer.  We visited the Holy Trinity Church that was just recently built and took 4 years to build.  I would say it's much more grand on the outside then on the inside.  We also walked up to the fortress and to the statue of Mother Georgia.  The fortress was really cool and the stairs were nearly impossible.  We also spent a good deal of time at cafes in Old Tbilisi which is very cute.  And of course, if there is a McDonald's it beckons all Americans in its radius.  So we made a few trips there as well.  But, the most interesting part about going to McDonald's in Georgia is that they have a hostess at the door who greets you.  On top of this she will always look like a super model.  Its a cross between a super model and a flight attendant-heels and all.

Then, on Sunday we somehow got back to Zugdidi, only to find that the weather had turned and it went from around 85 degrees to maybe 50.  It's a nice change of pace though.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why won't you let me run and not eat

9/18 Even though this was only the second time this similar situation had happened to me, I realized that Georgians don’t really get the whole work out/running thing.
                My first experience with this was the day before school started for the semester (9/14).  I had been wanting to visit my school and I was told that it was only 2km away so I decided to run there for my morning jog.  I ran the whole way and was greet by very strange looks when I arrived.  Then all of a sudden I was being beckoned over by strangers.  I figured when in Georgia-I might as well take this risk.  I knew this building was my school but all the unfamiliar faces made me a little unsure.  I slowly walked over and finally saw a familiar face of my aunt and principal.  Relief came over my mind, follow by the thought of “wow this is my school.”  (Both good and bad thoughts can be included with that statement).
                I was quickly given a tour of the school, and then hustled across the street to a shop with three makeshift walls.  As I stood there very sweaty and as a first smelling worse than most European guys, I was handed a box of wafers and was told to eat.  Mind you I still had to run back to my house 2km away.  And the whole point of running that far that day was because I had eaten so much the day before and was feeling weighed down by the ridiculous amount of carbs eaten at each and every meal.  So, through the help of some guys who spoke okay English, I tried to explain that I was willing to carry the wafers back to the house but was not going to eat them at the present moment.  No one really got it though.  Finally, I told everyone I would eat them after dinner, as my desert, and that seemed to satisfy them for the moment.
                Another similar experience happened to me just a few days later.  I as running along, thinking to myself that I really didn’t want to run that day but there was nothing else to do and the countless number of carbs being eaten here re-entered my head.  I was on my way back, only minutes from home when a neighbor flagged me down and started yelling at me.  I turned around and he handed me an over sized handful of grapes.  Again, I was promptly told to eat them at that very moment.  I tried to used key words and some Georgian to explain that I would eat them when I got home (as I was less than a minute away).  He seemed to understand and let me on my way.
                When I got home, grapes in hand, my sister gave me a weird look as if she understood but my aunt was sitting next to her, saw the grapes, and again told me to eat.  I said I wanted to shower and that we could all eat them with dinner.  This seemed to work for the time being.  So later, after my shower, the very same grapes were thrust back in my hand and I was told to eat.  I had a few, just to appease the situation but gave most of them to my host-brother, who is a bottomless pit at 7 years old.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

animal farm

Taking an afternoon walk is becoming one of my favorite things to do here and it kills time.  As there are no street signs and I have no sense of where I am compared to anything else, I have been walking a different directions.

For two days last week I walked in the same direction and found myself in the same animal farm situation each time.  As I was walking a realized that I was being followed by a little pigs.  He was sorting along with every step and getting closer and closer.  I picked up the pace, but then so did he.  I was becoming more and more disconcerted and started to talk to myself, saying "this is how is all starts-it's animal farm all over again."  I finally get far enough away that this pig becomes disinterested and I was left to enjoy the rest of my walk.

Just the next day I was walking that same route and found myself being followed again.  By the same pig.  He was less shy this day and came toward me at a brisk pace.  I quickly moved along, crosses a small river and he was left sorting on the other side. 

I later found myself in a very large field and talking about my weekend plans with another friend.  I heard large and fast footprints behind me, to only turn around and realized that six huge horses were running straight toward me.  I had nowhere to run.  As a was starting to freak out I headed for a small heard of cows.  Heading in that direction I realized that if this were animal farm, they too would be in on the take over kick.  As the hooves came closer and closer, I watched and waited to see if the horses would change coarse.

When they were only 20 or so feet away they turned ever so slightly.  Relief took over my body.  Still on the phone with my friends, I come back to laughter on the other side of the phone.  I to realize how ridiculous this situation was and begin to laugh.  But my laughter soon stops when I realize the same 6 horses are coming back around...again straight toward me. I head for the cows on my right and they turn a bit to their right and we pass each other again.

The whole point is, why aren't this animals just a bit frightened by humans.  I want to instill fear.  This is one of my new goals for my time here.  I want the pigs, the cows and the horses to act like their counter parts in the U.S. and run in the opposite direction when they see me coming.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

my life in the village

9/12 So I think at this point almost half the people in my village have met me and the other half have met someone who has met me.  Yesterday I  met some of my will be students-it was very exciting.

At home things have been rather slow since the wind have knocked out our power.  I walked into the dining room only to find that a chicken had also wondered in and it scared the crap out of me.  This chicken this does happen fairly regularly now that I think about it.

School starts on Wednesday and I have yet to visit my school or meet my teacher but I am sure it will happen soon or at least on the first day of school.  I have a meeting now with the other teachers from my group and maybe I will finally learn something that may be useful during my next year here.


Today on the way to Zugdidi we just barely hit a cow.

Also, we went to the bizarre. What an experience.  I tried on a dress and a shirt in the middle of everything.  It was so crazy in there.  I wanted to take pictures but I already felt like such a tourist.

My family should be getting  Internet soon, so maybe I will be able to post more often.
9/10 I feel as though so much has happened since my last post I don’t know where to start.

Disclaimer: Justin, this entry isn’t very funny, but I will try next time.

To start off we completed our last few days of training and Georgian classes, heard once more the words of warning from our program director and were let go from her grasp (with tears) and shuttled to the homes of our host families.

 I am now living and working in the region of Samregelo near the city of Zugdidi. I can’t remember the name of my village-sorry. I have discerned that I am somewhere between 7-10 km from the Abkhazian boarder. One of my neighbors was explaining to me that the this village was swarming with Russian troops holding machine guns only two years ago. I asked if anyone had been killed and I am pretty sure the answer to that question was no, but it might have been lost in translation. After this and many other “comforting” stories I has reassured that now this area is very safe. And I have to say I do feel very safe. I am pretty sure the majority of the people who live in this village have seen me running (this morning) or I have met them or they have talked to someone who has met me.

Now for my family-my father’s name is Kaha (patroni for sure), his wife Esa, their son Andro, daughter Ani, Kaha’s sister Eka (my Principal), and the grandma (who’s name I don’t remember but she is a babushka for sure; bent over at 90 degrees and everything). Ani is the only one in the family who speaks some English. We are able to communicate but we use a dictionary all the time. There is also a neighbor (Leo) who is over a lot of the time who speaks good English, which has been very useful in communicating more important information to my family. Leo also gave me a book of short American novels which was very gracious. Family is amazingly sweet and is always telling me to eat. Apparently I am too thin-or so Kaha says. My family also speaks Megrelian (sp?) which is a non-written language what is spoken in this region of Georgia. They were told to speak Georgian to me as that is part of this programs goal.

We were forewarned that Georgians would ask many personal questions right away but I wasn’t ready for my second question to be “are you married?” It was interesting the see the relief on their faces when I said no. Since this only happened last night I feel I have some time but I need to explain that I am nor marrying a Georgian man in the next 10 months that I am going to be here, which is what they would like. I know other girls and guys who have already been asked if they would like to marry a Georgian while they are here and I really don’t want to have that conversation but it will probably happen.
I have not met my English teacher yet and school is starting on Wednesday so I am hoping to meet her on Monday, if not before then. (I have spoken to other teachers in my program and they have come to the realization that their “English teachers” don’t really speak very good English so I am a little nervous). I have also learned that my school is 2km from my house and that there are around 150 students. I have also been told that I will be teaching 2 classes; one class having 10 students and the other having 9.

Now for the fun. I woke up for a run today and was pleasantly greeted by my aunt who practically shoved me out of the yard only to find a pig in the middle of the road. This however is not uncommon. I have learned that in Georgian almost all animals roam free. This includes dogs, chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs. I have notice an interesting yield system as well. Pedestrians yield to cars (or you will get hit), dogs just get hit ( we had a dead one outside of our training site in Kutaisi for two days before someone did something with it). Chickens and turkeys just barely more fast enough. Cows seem to rule the road as they move for no one and pigs seem to be the only ones not getting in the way. Anyways this morning, I was expecting to see people staring (as Georgians don’t exercise, hence the Georgian gut and women just don’t run) but it was really more the cows. They will watch you forever! At least the people watched for a bit then move on to their own things but the cows they don’t have anything else to do. For me this was a completely different experience because on Justin’s farm the cows are afraid of humans but here they are kings. It’s just so bizarre to me that people just let their animals out on the road. I asked my sister if she knew which cows were hers and she said yes but she has no idea which pigs are hers. Also, on a side note, I get fresh natural chicken every day, guess how fresh? That’s right. I have yet to experience this wonderful display of blood and guts and hear the sounds of a chicken cry but I am sure it will have sooner or later.

Tomorrow we are going to the city of Zugdidi (for what I have not learned yet) and I am very excited. I am hoping to see some of the other teachers that are teaching in the city and maybe buy a few essentials. Oh and Zugdidi looks like California in some ways. It is also 20 minutes from the beach, which my father already said he would take me and my friends. This is where I will be next weekend if I don’t meet up with some friends in Batumi (the resort city of Georgia).

Over all everything is wonderful. I have a bathroom inside and well water so I can shower whenever I want so I cannot complain. I know this is not that case for others so keep them in your grateful thoughts.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moving day

Today, I am leaving Kutaisi (our training city) to move in with my host family.  I am not in the region of Imereti like I thought I would be but rather I am in the region of Samegrelo (the next region west of Imereti).  I will be located in a village near the city of Zugdidi.  I am so happy with my placement and I can't wait to meet my host family and have a supra tonight.  I don't think I will have Internet so this could be it for a while or not. Who knows.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


9/6 Today started very interesting as a result of last night. Last night we decided to go back to the pub across the street from our training center. I think we were only on to our second beer when a Georgian man came over and asked us if anyone of us spoke Spanish. I replied saying that I only knew a little and then the conversation was off to a running start. Oddly enough he thought that we were all high school students but I quickly told him that we were English teachers working for the Georgian government. He seemed to be a little more respectful after I said this. After a bit more conversation we said goodbye and he went back to his table. Then, not long after he left another younger Georgian guy came over to talk to us because he wanted to practice his English. We told him we would be happy to talk to him, so he sat down said a few words then we saw something we had never really witnessed before. He and his friend quickly left without saying a word when another guy from our program came in the pub and sat at our table. We have learned from our administrative people that Georgian men can be very strange when there is another guy they do not know with a group of girls. So the younger Georgian men walked away and we were then again left to our group…at least for a little while.

Not too much later I went to the bar to get another beer and the group of older Georgian men called me over to try one of their famous Georgian dumplings. They instructed me to eat it as a true Georgian and not like a tourist. Fist you take a little bit from the doughy outer layer, then you put 2 spoonfuls of this vinegar mixture into the small hole that was created when you took for your first bit. You then tip your head back and drink the vinegar mixture form the dumpling, swallow and proceed to eat the rest of the dumpling with your hands one bit at a time. After I finished my dumpling they said that I had now become a true Georgian woman. I laughed but I can hardly say this is true after the conversation I had later this evening.

We were kicked out of the bar at closing time at midnight and proceeded to walk back across (what I consider the most dangerous road in the world) to the front steps of our training center. Here we continued in conversation which later turned into a life changing conversation for me. I don’t want to use their real name so I will just call her Jane. Jane is Georgian and is one of our administrators here in Georgian and has one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard. She thinks very differently about Georgian politics, economics, and gender roles than anyone else in her family and has lost very special things in her life because of her opinions. She has such high hopes for this country and believes that the people here can change and that one day things will be different but that it will take much longer than just a few years. Jane encouraged those of us who were speaking with her to try to make changes in the attitudes of the Georgian people around us during our time here and share some aspects of our culture with those people as well. Some of what Jane would like us to share is our attitudes towards gender roles, internal politics, foreign policy and our work ethic. Jane thinks that especially in these areas Georgian should be more western in their thinking. I don’t want to bore you with more details but I can honestly say that I have never, I mean never met a more positive revolutionary in my life. She has given up so much for what she believes in and it has inspired me to work harder in everything that I do.

Last night we were granted a special excursion to the Gelati which is a monastery 10km northeast of Kutaisi. We were able to observe a short service given every night and time to walk around. The ambiance was amazing but visually, I think everyone wants to go back during the day light hours.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

9/4 Our Georgian courses are really helping. It is one thing to see the language but it is another to here a native speaker actually pronounce letters and words correctly. I really like my Georgian teacher but I cannot remember her name. So, again today we had Georgian class for three hours in the morning and then we had our second and finally day of methodology training. This class is so painful to sit through. I was falling asleep in class. I feel this was partially my fault and partially hers as well. My fault because the majority of the 92 group members went to the pub across the street and tried our first taste of Georgian beer and then proceeded to stay out on the front steps of the building until 3am. And her fault because she did not seem to understand that we are native English speakers and that we do not have to read everything aloud and repeat its meaning 5 times over. It was definitely the dead horse thing.

After class we had about an hour so a bunch of us decided to take a walk down to the closest store. It took us about 15 minutes to walk there at a good pace. Along the way we saw the most dilapidated buildings along the way. Like they had not been touch for 50 years. I find it so interesting that they have just let these buildings fall apart this way. Anyways, we got some very weird looks along the way, as well as buses, cars and Marshut’kas slowing down just so they can watch us while we walk. It is so interesting how blunt they are with their curiosity. Most of us have gotten used to it but I feel it still bothers many people. Myself, I quickly realized that it was not going to be as easy to blend in here as it was in Prague. My hair, eyes and skin are so much lighter that I will never look like a true Georgian-and that’s ok by me.

As for some very random facts. We are not allowed to flush the toilet paper because the pipes cannot handle it and this building (because it is owned by the government) has water tanks below it. We learned this today because we were told that Kutaisi does not have running water 24/7. Apparently, the water is turned on for four hours each day. A few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. This was shocking to me. We do not know why this is the case, whether is it a matter of availability of water as a resource or if there is something else preventing the city from having water all day every day. It also makes me think that I really need to make sure I am up and showing at the right time of day when I get to my host families house.

Some other information about this program. We have learned that all of the host families are volunteers and receive nothing from the government for hosting us. We have also learned that we are the third group of teachers coming to the country of Georgia. The first group came sometime in June, the second two weeks ago and now us. As you can see this is a very new program and there are still many things to work out. I will say that the younger teachers do seem to be more “go with the flow” then the older teachers. Yes, we do have some teachers that are well over 50 years old. It is an interesting dynamic but we are making it work, though it is very clear that there are some differences in lifestyles-as to be expected. We also learned that the President of Georgia was hoping for 2,000 teachers to come this year to fill almost all the 2,200 public schools here but so far this academic year there will be 1,000 teachers coming from English speaking countries. In our group we have representation from the U.S., the U.K. (Irish and British), Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Zimbabwe. Mostly it is U.S. but it is really nice to connect with people from all over the world.

I think that will be it for tonight.

First day of training

9/3 Today was our first day of training, both of Georgian language and teaching methodology. Unfortunately, our training and sleeping and eating are all in the same building so we don’t get out much. We aren’t really allowed to go into Kutaisi or interact with the local population. I am hoping to take a run tomorrow morning before people are really out on the streets but my concern will be the street dogs. Apparently, there are a bunch of street dog packs on the streets of Kutaisi.

As for our training…Georgian class went well and I really like our Georgian teacher. I can’t remember her name but she used to do training for the Peace Corps before she switched to this program. I think that is also the case for the rest of Georgian teachers here. Then we had teaching methodology in the afternoon. We briefly learned different teaching techniques, well in three hours. Either way it was super boring!

Oh and funny thing my Georgian teacher says wowels, not vowels. Chet that is for you!!!
9/2 Today started earlier then the other days. We started with breakfast and a check out from the hotel. We then went to the Minister of Education and Science, where we were greeted by the press. The Minister himself spoke to us about this program, the Georgian country, his hopes for Georgia, and why we are so important to the improvement of Georgia. He then quickly left and left us to enjoy more Georgian wine and our mingling.

We then got back onto the bus for a quick return to the hotel to change cloths, just to get back on the bus to a very very late lunch in Mtskveta. This is where we had our first Georgian Supra. It was full of Georgian food and lots of different drink choices-but no wine. We then got back on the bus and headed to Kutaisi.

On our way to Kutaisi I felt like I saw a completely different side of Georgia then what I saw in Tbilisi. There was so much trash on the side of the road, along with random cows, and people selling hammocks on the side of the street. The houses also looked like they really needed some work. It was almost like a scene out of Africa. There was different flora but about the same idea. It was clear there was still building left over from Communism.

Urban hiking 2

9/1 We started today feeling more rested then the previous day and ready to explore Tbilisi. After breakfast and some well needed time getting ready we flagged down a taxi and headed to city center. I sat in the front seat while Michelle, Melissa, Emily W., and Sandra (from Zimbabwe) sat in the back. Our taxi driver was an older man, say 60-70 years old, with the typical Georgian belly. He tried to communicate with us in Georgian with no success, but Michelle saved the day with her Russian. (Most of the population older than 20 speaks both Russian and Georgian due to the Soviet rule over this country which ended with the end of Communism). He tried to tell us about the city and why it was named Tbilisi, but Michelle could only translate so much for us. Either way he was really nice. As for his driving, I think the book described it very well. Georgians care somewhat about people on the street but cars definitely have the right of way.

We walked down the main street (Rustaveli Ave) for a couple of hours, taking pictures and trying to identify landmarks we read about in our tour books. After walking around we found a small park that had a bend in the shade. We made the mistake of sitting down on that bench. Not a few minutes later a couple of Georgian guys came over to talk to us. It was not long after that they discovered that Michelle could speak Russian also. After a horrible awkward but none intrusive conversation we began to leave and found a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

Later we went to the Georgian version of “Walmart” or Goodwill. There we picked up a few essentials and realized that not only being able to speak but read Russian would be a very useful skill. Although they call it the Georgian “Walmart,” it is nothing like Walmart, Target, Tesco or anything else like what we have in the states or the rest of Europe. That night we had dinner and later we had our first taste of Georgian wine-it was amazing!!!

Urban hiking

8/31 The beginning of my travels started at 10:45pm MST as DIA. I got through security with no problem and had almost two hours at my gate before my plane departed for JFK in New York. I got about three hours of sleep on that flight then I landed at JFK at 6:30am EST time. I got a small bite to eat and pass out on a table near the Starbucks. I spent most of my day near that Starbucks because it was great people watching and good music. How could my day get any better? Later I checked in for my next flight to Munich. I was at my gate for the longest time then finally these two very nice girls came up to me and asked if I were a part of Greenheart Travel. I knew there were going to be at least four other people from my group on the flight but had no idea how to find them. We then also found another participant and later when we were boarding the plane we found yet another. So in total there was Michelle, Melissa, Ken and Emily.

After almost a 2 hour delay at the gate we were off and flying. Once we were in Munich we checked our bags into a locker and got on the Sban to city center. After walking around aimlessly around we decided on a free walking tour. Our guide was really interesting but a bit over the top and Scottish. He knew a great deal of history, which was great! From there we went back to the Hofbrau House for some German beer and bratwurst. A liter of beer later we were all feeling a little drunk but, decided to go to the second level for another beer. Finally we made our way back to retrieve our bags and to our gate.

We arrived in Tibilisi, Republic of Georgia around 3am and were greeted by personnel and put onto a bus to our hotel. We finally got to bed around 5:30am. The rest of the day we spent eating and sleeping at out hotel. Later in the afternoon we took a walk near our hotel and had our first experience of Tbilisi.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First blog ever!

I just started my blog today!!!  I will be sharing my adventures with you and expressing my thoughts about Gerogian life, culture and food.  But, I'll write more later.