Signing Off

As this is the last post about my life in Georgia, let me summarize as best I can:

Georgia is a simple but complicated country. They are mostly a self-described Western culture leaning country, but they have deep rooted traditions and habits of Asian sensibilities. They are a developing country mostly due to the double gut punch of the collapse of the Soviet Union followed by the war with Russia over the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Their infrastructure is in severe disrepair and the social systems, i.e., Education, Health Care Systems, are underfunded and lack creative progressive direction. The political direction is still rooted in nepotism and the ‘old boy’ network. The two parties that wield power seem to be more concerned with punishing the other party or dismantling everything they did for the country (even of good and prosperous) than with the welfare and improvement of the everyday Georgian. Added to that they have the ever-present threat of Russia to their immediate north.

The majority of Georgia is agriculture based and there seems to be a subconscious, self-fulfilling prophesy to stay that way, even though it currently means a life of poverty. And even though EVERY young person I spoke to HATES the outlook of their future conditions should things not change, I think that, again, the culture of tradition supersede any push to change things.

With all that said, Georgia is a country steeped in history. It’s all around you everywhere you look. So many different cultures over the ages have left a footprint on this land. For Georgia to be so small, it has a very diverse landscape. A breathtakingly, beautiful landscape.

Georgia’s culture poses a double-edged sword for them. It holds them back in making progress in such areas like gender equality and gay rights. The unequal privilege that men enjoy in Georgia is staggering to witness. It’s so ingrained in the culture it has become institutionalized. And very recently the Georgian Orthodox Church itself endorsed physically violent methods to suppress the gay community from voicing itself in a public forum.

On the other hand, Georgian traditions regarding guests and their overall outlook on community and family is endearing and demands respect. To be conquered again and again by foreign powers, but still cling to their traditions of language, food, dance, wine making, etc., is nothing short of inspiring.

I have lived in this country for a short amount of time considering. But I have come to be an advocate for its wellbeing and growth. They are a warm and generous people. A people with a difficult and harsh past but are still quick to laugh. And with the right focus and a few breaks, they can be the envy of the world community.

There are no words to fully express the excellent opportunity I have had to experience this great country. I highly recommend that everyone come to Georgia anyway they can.

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Until next time, Georgia….

Kargad.

***

It was really nice to meet you, goodbye
It’s high time I quit wondering why
‘Cause I have lost all that I can from my side
And when you think of me again, no
I tried, I tried, goodbye

Goodbye, Greg Laswell

Jess: The First And The Last

It seems like ages ago that I first came to Georgia. I will forever love and remember my crew from that time, though. They are still like my brothers and sisters.

Jess

Jess

One of them, Jess, decided to return to celebrate Christmas with her host family. Jess is from Australia, which proves she made an effort to get back here.

We met up the morning she arrived, got some lunch and caught up on each other’s lives. It was soo good to see her again.

I met Jess the first night of arriving in Georgia (sans arriving at 4 am the previous night) in the recreation area of the Bazaleti Hotel. Jess was also stationed in Guria with me. So we rode on that first marsh ride across the country together not knowing what to expect. So Jess was LITERALLY with me arriving to Georgia and again as I depart.

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Love you, girl. Happy travels and surely we will meet again down the road.

***

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day.
When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May.

I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl.

My Girl, The Temptations

#62

I feel that this is an abrupt end to my time in Georgia. And the students’ reaction was testimony to that. We were definitely forming bonds and still getting to know each other. Here are some photos of the various classes and students.

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***

So I’ll taste every moment
And live it out loud
I know this is the time,
This is the time to be
More than a name
Or a face in the crowd
I know this is the time
This is the time of my life
Time of my life

The Time Of My Life, David Cook

Ksani

I was in a bookstore flipping through a photo book of Georgia looking for last minute purchases before leaving Georgia when I saw a picture of an amazing looking fortress perched on a mountainside.

Ksani

Ksani

I decided then and there that this place would be my last destination.

I got home and researched online where it was. Good news and bad news. Good news was it was really close. It was in the next region over. But the bad news was it was also in one of the occupied territories of Georgia; occupied by the Russians. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

I spoke to Zura about it and he said, “Oh yeah, Ksani. I was there yesterday.” What!?! Come to find out, Ksani is not as close to, i.e., into south Ossetia as previously indicated. Anyway, Zura said we could take a trip to see his summer home one more time and then go see this fortress.

Ksani is halfway between Tbilisi and Gori right off the main highway. Zura wasn’t exactly sure how to get there, so we meandered a bit. We got pretty close when Zura got a phone call. I told him to pull over so I could get some pictures. He did.

At this very spot was a sheepherder with him flock. Zura asked him how to get to the fortress and the man pointed to the dirt road immediately behind him. But he advised that we could only drive halfway, the other part of the road was washed out.

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He asked if I was Indian… Whatever.

He also told Zura that the fortress was nicknamed (roughly translated) “suck my dick”. Named so because even though conquerors laid siege to the fortress, there was a secret tunnel out of the mountain to the local river where they could fish and therefore feed the besieged population. This emboldened them to taunt them with the yells aforementioned.

Sure enough we have to walk the rest of the way. It was steep and dirty enough for me to wish I wore my boots. Without serious investment, roads have no chance here.

It was good to have Zura with me on this trip, too. He is a good guy. He always tells me he wants to travel and camp more often, but because Mari is pregnant, he doesn’t have the opportunity.

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We finally get to the top and it’s a beautiful site! I wish the weather were clearer, because the view would have been breathtaking. I highly advise anyone else to hike there and camp in the fortress probably during summer or fall. It reminds me of Weathertop in the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings- Fellowship of the Ring.

***

We Interrupt This Broadcast

This has been a bumpy 90 days.

Ups and downs mentally about my (our) ability to stay and teach in this country because of the new visa regulations.

When push came to shove, I decided to jump ship from TLG and therefore Georgia while I still had some leverage over my own future. Which means I will not be returning to Georgia after Christmas.

Which also means a new volume of my life is preparing to launch.

This is a super sad and emotional time for me as it’s not AT ALL what I expected or planned for my trajectory. It means picking up roots (tiny as they were) again and starting from scratch somewhere else.

But on the flip side, I am also excited to see what else this beautiful world has to offer and I offer to it.

I know this isn’t exactly a great explanation of what happened in detail. But it’s all I currently have the brain power to spit out.

***

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come

A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

 

 

 

Mac ‘n Cheese

We went to the supermarket called Goodwill. It usually has the most variety of things one needs to cook. I knew I wanted to cook macaroni and cheese. My other friends traditionally did not have mac ‘n cheese on Thanksgiving. Which is beyond my understanding and comprehension. No mac ‘n cheese on Thanksgiving? What!?! Well, I was going to fix that.

Fortunately for them, I had perfected my recipe before coming to Georgia. But unfortunately, Georgia does not have all the supplies I need.

And since Turkey is VERY expensive here, we decided to substitute with chicken. The only chickens they had was frozen or cooked. It would have taken forever to thaw, so I begrudgingly bought the cooked chicken. So, I also made chicken and dumplings. We had those dishes and green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, garlic bread, and pumpkin pie.

We spent almost an hour in Goodwill trying to decipher the Russian products looking for baking powder, chicken broth, etc.

A tradition of cooking for Turkey Day is to taste the products. When my friends nibbled on the chicken, it they said it tasted a lot like ham. And when I tasted it, sure enough… it tasted JUST like ham!  We were baffled and confused all through the meal. Why does it taste like ham? Maybe it’s not chicken…. what other fowl tastes like ham?

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Being away from home at such times is difficult for all of us. But being together, sharing a custom that we all know so profoundly was emotional and comforting.

I am thankful for all of my friends and family all over the world.

***

You better watch out 
You better not cry 
You better not pout 
I’m telling you why 
Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

 

Petra Fortress

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On the way to Batumi from Ureki, the driver stopped off at an old fortress that I had always wanted to visit. It is right off the road going to Batumi, but I had always been in a public marsh and didn’t want to risk waiting for another one to pass by…. although marshes to Batumi go by probably every minute.

Petra Fortress was built on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, by the Greeks around 500 AD.

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***

Oh, should my people fall
Then surely I’ll do the same
Confined in mountain halls
We got too close to the flame

I See Fire, Ed Sheeran

 

 

Training Day

TLG usually tries to have a training workshop sometime during the year. This training is for all of the native English speakers and their Georgian counterparts to get help on co-teaching and better methodologies. I think it’s a great idea, because the Georgian teachers need a lot of help with new ways to teach English to their students. I think it’s a bit much for the Native English speakers because most of them (us) do not have a background in education and the information they receive will not be returned to the classroom for long, because most volunteers leave after a semester. I use the trainings to see my friends again, and this training to be able to meet the new volunteers.

In the past, we had trainings in the east, usually near Tbilisi. But this year, now that I’m living in Tbilisi, the training in the West. It was held at a hotel at Ureki beach, 20 minutes from Ozurgeti.

It was good to see the new people. There were a lot of cool people in the group with interesting stories and great personalities.

The training sessions, for me, were descent. The lead trainer was a lady named Eve. She was working for an organization called Education Fellows. They send trainers all over the world to do what she does. Every time I go to one of these things, I think to myself, “I could do that.” So I talked to her and got some information. She, too, had a cool story of all the places she’s been in the world.

 

Irma

Irma

I was joined at the training by Irma, from my school. She is the most sheltered and bland Georgian woman I know. Bland in that she is afraid to try anything new. She doesn’t leave the house during the week. She leaves on the weekends to simply go to Church and back home. She doesn’t eat fruits, chocolate, or salty foods. If it doesn’t look exactly as it should, she won’t eat it. So to say the least, this was an eye opening experience for her.

Although she still held to most of her dietary restrictions, I think she had a great time meeting new people and doing new things. From her Facebook page, she seems to be having the time of her life.

***

I don’t want no other distractions
There’s too much here to see
Faint hearts or jaded reactions
Contraptions of history

You say it can’t be done
You’d rather die of fun
Get out of the way
For me for you for everyone
Forever is tomorrow is today

Forever is Tomorrow is Today, David Gray

Lights, Camera, Action

I love going to the movies. I’m pretty sure I watch too many. But going to the cinema is a cathartic experience for me. In last two years when I visited Tbilisi, I always pasted the cinema on one of the most trafficked avenues, Rustaveli. But all of the advertisements for the movies are in Georgian or Russian.

Now that I live here, I have since found a theater that plays movies in English!

So yesterday, I went to Amirani theaters to see Hunger Games- Mockingjay Pt. I. I was giddy with anticipation. To make it a total experience, I also got snacks, expensive snacks. Just like America!

The theater was a decent size. But it was a new theatre, so the seats were big and plush. Something different was the assigned seating. I don’t know how I feel about that.

The audience was mostly Georgian with a smattering of ex-Pats. And towards the end, a bunch of Peace Corps came in.

The movie was subtitled in Russian, but after a while the script melted into the background of my mind.

It was a great movie and a great experience. Gave me a comfort of home.

***