Tbilisi Public School #62

So I final was able to go to school!

I got a call one morning saying, “Be ready in 15-20 minutes! Nelly, another TLG representative is coming to take you to your school!!!” …okay.

So I got my stuff together. And went downstairs and waited. Because I have been sick and wasn’t here this past weekend, I haven’t really been seen outside the apartment building a lot. This time, I had to stand on the corner at the ready. Of course she didn’t come in 15-20 minutes, so I stood there for a long while.

Enough to notice things: We had a gatekeeper. And he mingles and hangs out with the gatekeeper of the building next to ours. I don’t know their names yet. There are also some other dudes that congregate with them. One the near side of the intersection, there is a kiosk that serves as a mini bodega. She sells eggs and milk and such. Good to know. Then on the corner across the street to the right is the bus stop. Conveniently beside the bus stop, but smack beside the road, is an ATM from my bank. When I say ‘smack beside’, I mean you have to stand in the 4-lane highway to access it. Behind the bus stop is another kiosk. This one sells coffee, cigarettes and such.  (I’ll put a photo here later on.)

Anyway, I wait and wait. And finally she comes in the TLG van with driver. Off we go. Straight into traffic. It took an hour to get to school. I don’t even know the way they took. She kept saying, ‘Its close.’ But I couldn’t figure it out.

When she jumped out of the van, I assumed we were there.

First we met the school director. Her name is Tamuna. Great smile and extremely friendly. We chatted for a bit. She’s from Guria, too and knows decent English. She called the other English teachers in. There is Tina, an older teacher. She’s spunky and is excited to have a native speaker. There is Nino, who is a little younger than Tina. Then Irma, who has only been teaching a couple of years. All of them seemed really excited about me being there.

We exchanged numbers, and then they showed me around the school.

This school is a lot bigger than my school in Oz. Oz was three levels, where this one is four. Most of the rooms are in descent condition until you get to the top floors. Then things start to deteriorate rapidly. Since my school is in the city, its hard to get a great picture of it. Plus, its fronted by thick trees. I’m still looking for a good angle, but until then here is a view out one of the windows.

DSCN6355 DSCN6357 I was able to pop my head into most of the classrooms, and they were jazzed to see me. Not the same level as Oz so far, but maybe its still early.

The school has no library or computer labs that I saw. And the gym seemed smaller than the one in Oz.

I had to get to a doctor’s appointment, so I told them farewell.

As said before, I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to get home. Irma repeated again, “Oh, it’s close.” And pointed to the back of the school…okay.

So, when I walked out of the school, I circled to the back and walked up that block. At the end of the block, lo and behold, I was at the top of my avenue. I decided to walk it to get a feel for the distance and the stores along the way. It was a 40 minute walk… I won’t be doing that too often.

***

Yea, Back in the days when I was young I’m not a kid anymore
But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again.
Yea, I sit and wish I was a kid again,
Yea I sit and wish, man.

School Daze, J. Cole

Gori: Take One

DSCN6330

I thought I would go see some friends in Gori this past weekend. I had never been in my years here. There was never a convenient time, or there was a higher priority. Now it’s only an hour away. A marsh there is 3 lari, and a shared taxi is 5. A shared taxi is the way to go!

Gori is a small city. Larger than Ozurgeti, smaller than Batumi. It is the home of the Stalin Museum. And not far from the city center is another cave city.

We didn’t do either of those things. I just wanted to hang out.

We walked around a bit, and took a look at the fortress in the center of the city. But shortly after that, it started raining.

DSCN6321

DSCN6351

DSCN6347

We walked through a renovated area of the city. It was really nice, but totally empty of store owners. Zura said that the former government had been doing that to several towns/cities to encourage tourism and growth. The other places I knew about were Mtskheta and a town in the East called Sighnaghi. And I guess its partially working because I REALLY wanted to live in Mtskheta.

DSCN6340

DSCN6327

DSCN6332

DSCN6341

We had lunch in a café while waiting for our other friend to meet us. We finally settled in a small coffee shop and played Settlers of Catan. I loved the vibe of the coffee shop as well as the proprietor. The great thing about cities in Georgia as opposed to the towns are its options. (I guess that can be said about any city over any town anywhere.)

It was a great easy day trip!

***

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Under Construction

One morning , Zura asked me to join him in going out to a house they were building in the ‘country’ (what I have taken to be analogous with ‘village’ here in Georgia).

The goal of building the house is for the eventual benefit of their daughter, Anna. They don’t want her to grow up in the city air of Tbilisi. The new house is in the outskirts of Tbilisi, a little further than Mtskheta, in an area called Saguramo.

When we exited the main highway toward Saguramo, I anticipated the unpaved, rock-ridden paths that pass for roads in village life. But just the opposite occurred. The road stayed smooth. I expected to see the weather worn homes surrounded by miniature gardens growing everything needed to stay alive during the winter months. Instead we passed rows and rows of high brick or cement privacy walls.

Once at the end of the street, which was also the top of the hill, I was able to get an overview of the community. This was not a normal village. It wasn’t even a village per se. It was more like a moneyed community.

I didn’t think I would see anything new, so there are no pictures. Maybe next time.

Approaching his home, I could see over his high cement fence to observe a three-story home. It was HUGE. One side was glass from top to bottom enclosing the stairwell. Although the outside was pretty much done, the inside was still being dry walled, and fitted with electric wires and plumbing.

While I was wrapping my mind around seeing my first in ground swimming pool in Georgia in a neighbor’s yard, Zura came out and explained what this ‘neighborhood’ was all about. Like Zura’s family, all the residents here wanted to have a house outside of the city. They had to buy the property, then build the home. They also had to pay individually for all amenities to get to their homes, i.e., electricity, Internet, plumbing. Those things alone priced most people out of the neighborhood. On top of that, the price rose because of the status of the neighbors. As he pointed out house after house, I got confused between Minister of This and Minister of That, or this house belongs to that athlete.

Zura and the father-in-law started building the house together back in ’09 from the ground up. After he died, Zura took in on himself. He hopes to have the top two living areas complete in about a year. That day, he had 6 workers doing various tasks. He has to come out often to make sure the workmanship is up to standard. That’s one thing true to past observation- shoddy work in construction work. But although Zura is exacting, he is generous. He bought the crew a couple of litters of beer.

 

***

WALTER: [W]e have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick. We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that’s all we got to say about that.

-A Raisin In The Sun, Lorraine Hansberry

First Night

Slept in the new host home last night. Their rooms are on the back side of the apartment facing the courtyard. Mine is on the street side.

It’s been a long time since I slept in a city. It’s totally different than Ozurgeti, of course. There I am jarred awake by roosters,  dogs in the middle of the night, or the occasional scamper of a rat in the crawl space. Here, its car speakers, squealing tires, or the loud laughing of pedestrians walking past.

But eventually even the city sleeps.

***

Friday evening, we’ve been drinking
2 AM, I swear I might propose
but we close the tab
split a cab
and call each other up when we get home
falling asleep to the sound
of sirens

City Love, John Mayer

City Love

TLG made a policy that we could not be hosted in the cities of Tbilisi or Batumi. The demand was too great and they wanted to spread us throughout the country.

Mtskheta

Mtskheta

Mtshketa

Mtshketa

But they decided to make an exception in my case. (My host family in Mtskheta bailed on me, for goodness sakes!) I still would rather teach and live in Mtskheta, but with that said… I went to look at the home in Tbilisi and it was a no brainer. 25 percent of the 4 million people in Georgia live in Tbilisi. Where the majority of Georgia is predominantly agricultural and rural, Tbilisi is sometimes called the Paris of the East. After two years of seeing poverty and rural life up close, there are aspects of Tbilisi to make all that seem literally, like a foreign country. I had to take a bus to meet the father, Zura. (The family consists of a husband and wife, Mari. Mari’s mother, Lali and their 7 year old daughter, Anna.) We met on the corner of a busy one way street, Kazbegi Ave. He’s a very young guy to my surprise. We started walking to his flat. The first thing I noticed was it was a gated community with a guardhouse and needed a swipe key to get into the building. They live on the 1st floor (technically 3rd as there is a two story store directly underneath.) The apartment was spacious and modern. The furniture was not the typical style of most Georgian homes I had seen. This furniture looked IKEA inspired. In sweeping the living room, my eye caught a flat screen television, surround sound speakers, and comfortable wrap around comfortable couches. I noticed a Mac on the coffee table and an IPad on the side table.

Living Room

Living Room

DSCN6316

Kitchen

The kitchen had a full sized refrigerator AND a dishwasher. Better yet, it was a full sized fully functioning kitchen. I had never even seen a dishwasher in Georgia! They had three indoor, enclosed bathrooms. One has a Jacuzzi bath, the other a glass enclosed shower door. Super fast Internet. (Videos came up immediately!!!) So basically, it was a done deal. Zura drove me back to the hostel to pick up the rest of my things from the hostel. They are a two-car family and although the apartment has an underground garage, he has the only private single car garage of the building. As we are driving back to the hostel, he is pointing out the major roads and intersections so I can get my bearings. Little by little, he clues me into what he does for a living. He owns a variety of businesses and properties. As we passed different streets and neighborhoods he would say nonchalantly, “I own a flat behind that building”, or “I own that store over there.” Both of them speak English very well. HE trips on his grammar structure occasionally, and she forgets a translation occasionally, but I don’t have to slow down at all for them. They want me to stay with them primarily to teach English to Anna. She is in the second grade in a supposedly good British/Georgian private school, but knows little to no English. Challenge Accepted. Oh, oh oh… I almost forgot- heat radiators in ALL the rooms.

Tbilisi

Tbilisi

***

Some have told me the city will ruin me Some said the city is an ugly place The city has marred better men than me I let the city have my heart.

I thought the city gave me hers. This love was not meant to last.

I Still Love The City, But The City Doesn’t Love Me, Alex Gomez

In Which Sanchezi Returns To Sakartvelo

Flights were fine and painless.

Waiting for my flight to Istanbul in JFK, I overheard people speaking Georgian. It was a funny feeling. I had not heard it spoken for 2 months.

I gorged myself on in-flight movies and Turkish wine.

To add insult to injury, up until the morning of my flight, I had no idea as to where I was going once landing in Georgia. I knew I had a new host family in Mtskheta, but I had no idea how to contact or get to them. My fall back plan was to just go to a hostel and wait for further instructions.

Fortunately, they told me the plan to get to my new family.

BUUUTTT once I landed, the new plan was to go to the hostel for the night and they would get me to my host family the next day. Fine.

I came out of the airport to the familiar dance of taxi drivers trying to financially rape me. 35 Lari taxi ride or .50 Tetri bus ride? Hmmm…. Thanks, but no thanks.

Although I packed light for the trip to the States, I returned to Georgia with all of my camping stuff. So I wasn’t as mobile as I would have liked, but it wasn’t that bad.

On the way to the hostel I met a girl from Israel, Britt. She was traveling alone to Georgia for 2 and a half weeks. She had planned on going to a hostel named Friends, but as mine, Old Town Hostel, was closer. So we walked to it together.

Then I showed her some of the highlights around Old Town, got some food and headed back.

The next day I waited for the text that they, TLG, were coming to get me. And I waited and I waited…

Later in the day, they said that they were having problems with the host family. Stay at the hostel another night and sit tight.   …Okay.

Then I got the phone call from my former regional representative that the family no longer wanted to host me. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Nothing was working out.

HOWEVER…

She talked to a friend who lives in Tbilisi that was willing to host someone. The bedroom that I would be staying was not prepared yet. (It was currently an office, and they had to acquire the bed, wardrobe, etc.) and I would have to sleep on the sofa for approx. 2 weeks. I could go to look at the place and decide.

***

So hurry up and wait 
but what’s worth waiting for? 
So join the queue me and you 
wait in line it takes our 
time to be satisfied,

Hurry Up And Wait, Stereophonics

What Had Happened Was (or better know as) The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

So I had to stay in the States for an additional 33 days. And that’s not an easy thing to do on the salary of a Georgian teacher. Thankfully I had the support of family and friends.

My original goal was to work the first part of the summer in Ozurgeti, come to the States for at most 4 weeks, then return to Georgia and work the rest of the summer until school started. I had also left Ozurgeti with plans of moving to Mtskheta, the first capital of Georgia and move in with a new host family.

Well that plan was shot to hell.

The first news was good, a host family and a school was found for me in Mtskheta! The family consisted of a mother and her grown son who also worked in the school. Great!

But then I was asked when I would return to Georgia. (I thought all that was worked out.) I was told that my new family would not be returning to Mtskheta until September, so it would be best if I stayed in the States until then.   …Okay.

Closer to September I kept asking for return tickets to Georgia. At the same time, other friends in the program were asking me if I knew anything about the new Visa Laws. I didn’t hear back about either.

Then I received news that my host family would not return to Mtskheta until the 9th of September. Ugh. Okay.

When I still didn’t hear about flight information by the beginning of September, I started to get annoyed. Why are they putting so much unnecessary stress on me by waiting until the last minute? I was about to send an email saying as such, but they emailed me first. That’s when the bottom fell out.

Part of the reason was poor communication. Yeah, let’s just say that. But the second reason was due to not anticipating the changes and ramification of changes to the Visa laws by my organization here in Georgia.

Whatever the reason, I was placed in a difficult position. My options were (there were two other options, but as they don’t apply to me, I will leave them out):

  1. Return to Georgia on a 90-day visa. With this option, I could return to Georgia on a free visa at the border. But after 90 days, I would have to leave for another 90 days before returning again.
  2. Apply for a one-year visa. They said I had to do this outside of the borders of Georgia. And it would take up to 30 days to process. I didn’t want to lose the time of not returning to Georgia, but I wanted to stay for longer than 90 days.

I decided to apply for the year-long visa. And delay my return even longer.

It was such a depressing decision. We all wished we had been told sooner so we could have been more proactive. Ugh.

Then after applying and waiting, I learned that in addition to a 50 dollar (non returnable) fee, we also had to provide a slew of documents that were difficult to acquire from the States AND I had to go to Washington DC for an interview!

Too much. Simply too much.

I decided to do the 90-day visa. And plan for other contingencies accordingly.

Booked my flight out of the States for September 15th.

***

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
But that’s alright because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
But that’s alright because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

I Love The Way You Lie, Eminem ft. Rihanna