Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
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.
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
Saturday, November 6, 2010
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.
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.
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.