A Tale Of Two Schools

I left my schedule for my classes and where they are at home today.

My first class of the day was with (in my head labeled as) Teacher #2. Thankfully she simply whisked me away with her. She is a no non-sense teacher, but she gets results. Those kids are on point.

Second class, another teacher indicated that I was with her. Walking to class she told me she wasn’t feeling well; a headache, I think. When we walked into class, there were two students up front at the door playing musical instruments. And on the board they had written notes to us English teachers! It was a pleasant surprise and much needed for my co teacher.

Another positive note of that class was that because she was sickly, she allowed me to lead the entire class. (Not to brag, but I think she was impressed. Volunteers here don’t usually have teaching experience.) Up to this point, she had not done that. Class went relatively smoothly. And they at the end they serenaded us again.

I took this opportunity to take a few pictures. They bell rang so I didn’t have that much time to take a lot of good pictures.  I promise though, more to come.

One of my Fourth Grade Classes

 

P.S. The girl in the red shirt is one of the students I mentioned seeing in town this weekend.

Waiting for my third class of the day, I happened to meet the most intriguing young lady. (Kseniya, remember the vibe we got when we first met? It was like that.) I was sitting alone in the teacher’s sitting room, and she walked in, bold as day (as her friends cowered in the background), and says, “Hello. How are you?” She had a pretty comfortable command of English.

She invited me to go outside with her and her friends to shoot some hoops, so I meet all her friends and a group of tangent boys who I think were their counterpart friends. I later found out they all were in the 11th grade.

 

 

Today was the day that I was to join some of my co teachers in a volleyball competition with other local schools. Before going home, I got relatively good information on time and place.

2:30 I found the designated school, St Gabriel’s, and went in. There were two teams of students playing. But no recognizable adults…. only one other adult, actually. So I stood there awkwardly waiting for the coming storm of curious kids, trying out there English with me. And sure enough, first a mob of girls, then they were overrun by the boys. It was fun though.

I waited and waited. The student’s game finished, but still no other adults… none! They gym pretty much emptied out. I figured I was being stood up. Don’t know why, but I felt like Charlie Brown and the football.

A group of straggler kids invited me to play a game with them. We had the best time! I thanked them for allowing me to play with them and went home.

It was really nice to befriend a whole other group of kids. I will definitely be back.

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”  — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Cha-Cha Day!!

When I got home my grandpa was calling me to the back yard. I thought he was going to show me the final product of the new smoke stack. Once I rounded the corner, I remembered; TODAY IS CHA-CHA DAY!!!

 

Homemade Vodka Machine

You all know how to make moonshine, right? Same process, so I won’t go into all that.

 

Also:

This afternoon, Lado came home and felt the need to elaborate more on the Chacha process, which was actually enlightening. But we meandered here and there around the house chatting about this and that. I showed him an asked about a wet looking piece of tile in the ceiling of my room. Just to make sure it’s not going to eventually fall on my computer. He assured me that it was secure and resolved years ago.

When we left my room, my grandma told us to make sure the outside door to the living quarters was always shut. I asked why, because the other door on the other side of the corridor leading outside was still wide open. She said because the corn is drying, mice will come up and try to get into the house.

… You don’t have to tell me twice. But why not shut the other door too. Why? “They come up this way. It’s easy for them.” But there is a staircase up the other side.  “They don’t come that way.”  Okay.

But that reminds me of my rat situation( See- ‘Nightmare On My Street‘). I still here them at night (and sometimes in broad daylight). For the longest time I thought that maybe I was the only one to hear them, so I didn’t say anything. But Nika was in my room working on an English assignment and the rats must have had a falling out, because they were full out fighting. I could hear them, so therefore Nika should have been able to hear them. He didn’t twitch or move a muscle, he calmly kept on reading. Well, dang.

So bottom line, the rats haven’t infiltrated the room, although I think they are trying really, really hard. So until that happens, I just gotta play it cool .

 

 

“Every time I reminisce
Its sweeter than moonshine tasting like an apple pie
We were wishing and kissing and sipping that stuff
Sho’ nuff messing me up
Till I couldn’t tell the moonlight from the stars in her eyes I never felt so fine
Caught up in a good time between her and that apple pie moonshine
Apple pie moonshine”

Apple Pie Moonshine, Jake Owen

The New Smokestack

There is a water heater in the bathroom that’s rusted out. I think it is still currently working, but I’m not really sure. Actually now that I think about it, I don’t really know how we have hot water on demand. But the host dad had been telling me that they needed a smoke stack, because in the winter the smoke sometimes blows back in the upstairs windows and the bathroom.

So this past Saturday, we finally got around to putting it up. And when I say ‘it’, I mean a 20+ foot iron pipe. I was headed upstairs to read and catch my first nap of the day, when I looked out back and grandpa was making final preparations. Grandpa beckoned me to assist, although host dad said I didn’t need to. But I wasn’t going to miss this. I scampered upstairs to put on some shoes. Came down prepared for the next Georgian experience, and they did not disappoint.

First question you might ask as I did, “How are they going to get a 20+ foot iron pipe from the ground upright?” Good question. I looked around and saw a rope and a fairly thick metal wire attached to the pipe. We all (well, they) milled about a little discussing final procedure. Old men started arriving and I started to get more skeptical than I already was. I don’t know why I thought they were going to procure a piece of heavy machinery to assist…. because they didn’t. When a few younger men arrived, it was time to start the show.

*Let me apologize now for no pictures documenting the next events which I am about to tell you.*

My host dad scaled the rickety-assed home water tower, at least thirty feet up. Attached to the water tower was already an industrial sized pulley system. I can’t imagine how they got it up there. The idea was to attach the metal wire to the pulley and pull the a0+ foot pipe up. But it was not working properly. Another old, old man shimmied up the water tower to assist, but to no avail. As he was coming back down (I was in too much shock when he was going up) I just knew we were going to have at least one old man from a ladder today.

When the host dad was down, he took a smoke break, and everyone reconsidered.

Okay Plan B. Follow me with this. We decided to have five guys lift it and rotate in to continue getting height on the pipe. Once it was decently high enough, someone else would prop it up with a wooden ladder. Then we would push the pipe further up with the ladder, enough to prop it up again with yet another ladder. Then we would take the rope attached to the pipe and pull at it through an upstairs window. Then we would continue to shimmy the ladders further and further upright until the pip was at a 90 degree angle.

It worked.

It was a little crooked, so grandpa took a crowbar and levered it around. There were other daredevil feats of manliness but after all was said and done, by God, they did it! And no old men were injured or hurt in the process.

Georgia On My Mind

Today I ran out of minutes on my phone. Which meant I couldn’t text or call anyone nor could anyone call or text me. In a country where your lifelines are other English speakers, this was a huge problem. But as I live in a town, it was a quick fix. Just a jaunt to Main Street. Done.

On the way, I pass a restaurant which, I gather, is either rather high end (for Ozurgeti) or caters only to large parties. As I was passing, I recognized one of my 3rd grade students smiling at me. I waved and she initiated with the one-two combo of, “Hello. How are you?” I stopped and gave her the ol’, “I’m well! And you?”, which usually trips them up. But she then countered and retorted with the solid, “I’m fine, thank you!”

As a friend here commented, Georgia will at least have the politest English speakers.

**Real-time side note: Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia On My Mind’ is playing on my computer speakers. I want to turn it up and blast it. It feels like a massage. Even better if it were from a record player… **

Met my friends in town and Caroline was on a hunt for corn. In the supermarket, I saw the student that I tutor, Nika. He ran up to me with our notebook to show me that he had finished copying all of the letters I wanted him to work on!

Which reminds me of a story from Friday… actually two.  I am comfortable enough with my classes that I want to now reach out to high school students, especially since they are my original passion. So I’m starting to stop by some of the classes and speak more to them in the halls. Well I was standing alone in the main lobby and these two students slowly passed by. They slowed enough to where they could say, “hello” and try to engage in conversation. I said hello back, then asked their names. They responded with great diction, so I pressed further. “What grade are you in?” The one closest to me smiled and nodded in the affirmative, and walked away dragging her friend in tow.  Okay.

They circled back around and I asked a different way. Same thing… head nod. Walk away. Third circle…. they decide to get reinforcements of potential people who might speak a couple of more words than they do. Next pass… fail. And finally, on the fourth pass, they reach out to my neighbor across the street from where I live. She is comfortable enough with me to help work through the translation problems and set the other two girls at ease. And by this time I figured out how to mime what I wanted to say for them to understand. They were in the Eighth grade. Good. Communication transmitted.  Fifth pass… They asked to take pictures with me. Okay.

Second story. I was in my student Nika’s English class and the last activity was to get them to match the Arabic numbers with the English word for it. She called them up one by one. (The previous night we worked on sounding out colors and numbers.) Nika is not a strong English student in the class. As a matter of fact, he might currently be the least knowledgeable of English. But he was raising his hand, which I think shocked the teacher. She called on her, and my heart skipped a beat. He walks up to the board, takes the chalk and points to the word ‘eight’ and looks at the teacher. She nods in ascent. He then points to the Arabic number for eight, and looks at the teacher. She approves and he proceeds to draw his line from the word to the number! I did an internal happy dance. He then did a slow walk back to his seat, as if to say to the class, “No Big Deal”. But when he made eye contact with me standing at the back of the class, he runs up to me and gives me a hug.

He and I are going to shock the world!

(Back to today) Caroline didn’t find Corn.

The salesclerk behind the counter was a family friend, so we exchanged pleasantries. And a little way further down the street I saw a wickedly start English student who I have in the 4th grade.

We went up to my friend’s apartment with some beer and popcorn and huddled around a laptop to watch a movie.

I wanted to get home before dinner was served. Bebia was serving a new (new to me) dish; a homemade dumpling filled with a cheese-like filling. And I don’t say cheese-like to imply its imitation cheese. I say cheese-like to mean, its made with same cheese making process, but they do something different at the very end. And I’m not versed well enough in dairy products to figure it out.  Bottom line, I didn’t want to miss it.  So I came home and shot the breeze with Lado and his mom  and played with Nino until dinner was ready.

All that to say, I’m building community within my little town and it feels good.

“I want to live in the center of a circle
I want to live on the side of a square
I’d love to walk to where we can both talk but
I’ve got to leave you cause my ride is here.”

Home Life, John Mayer

The Secret

As said before, I have a pretty sweet set up here. A very comfortable house, with comfortable items, ie, television, couches, beds, delicious edible meals, etc. We also have two western style toilets, one upstairs and the other downstairs. The way the house is constructed however, both of them are technically outside. Meaning they are outside of the main living heated living quarters. So in the summer, they are really hot, and in the winter, they are really cold with no technology regulating their temperature.

In orientation, we had a question and answer session with some veteran members of TLG currently in the field. They gave us a lot of great relevant information, one piece of which surfaced just recently. The one thing they wanted to make sure we knew was to have a pee bottle for nighttime. They said that all the other family members will have one, but will probably neglect to tell you to get one. We will need one, they said, because in the winter when it’s crazy cold and dark, the last thing you will want to do is get out of a warm bed, dress and walk outside to use the bathroom (in a village, to an outhouse.) They said to use it, and discard the contents discreetly in the morning. It’s the unspoken secret of Georgia, apparently.

Well, for my particular situation, our bedrooms are all up stairs and lined together. On my side of the hallway is another bedroom, (actually a whole suite of rooms) that that grand folks sleep. And on the other side of the hall opposite me is the boy’s room. And beside that across from the grand folks is the parents’ room. Nino sleeps with and has a bed in their room. On the far end of the hall is another door that leads to the upstairs outside bathroom.

When I have to go to the bathroom, I pass all of the rooms and once outside, I have to pass the parents’ window. If the window weren’t there, I wouldn’t think twice about passing that way. But late at night or the wee hours of the morning, I get paranoid. I don’t want to… interrupt anything.

But it’s starting to get cold.  And I thought I was usually one to hold my bladder until the morning, I don’t know if it’s being in a new environment, if I actually did go to the bathroom late at night in the States and just don’t remember, or what. But whatever is going on, I find myself having to go late at night pretty regularly.

Hence the bottle concept came back to mind. But I still can’t wrap my mind around the concept. Peeing in my own room? In a bottle? What if I miss? Even hitting the porcelain bowl in the bathroom isn’t always 100%…. and it’s huge!

So I informally surveyed my #43 group to get their opinion. Here is a transcript of that conversation:

Sanchez: So has anyone pissed in a bottle in their room instead of getting up to go to the bathroom yet? I remember the ‘veteran’ panel during orientation saying it was a common thing. My host family hasn’t mentioned it (doubt they will), but it’s starting to get a little chilly in the wee hours of the morning. Not saying I’ve done it…yet. But it’s getting tempting.

Friend A: My family does it all the time, I can hear it from my room.

Friend B: No shame, i do it almost every night because its either that or get fully dressed and stumble 50 feet across the yard in the dark.

Friend C: I’ve been doing it since week 3 or 4. I like to fully immerse myself in the cultural experience.

Friend D: You’ll do it. Just wait for the snow.

Friend E: I use the pee bottle all the time, my host dad just pisses off the porch though

Sanchez: hahaha…

Sanchez: Then i guess it’s unanimous.


Friend F: Indoor toilets FTW!

Friend G: I just feel like a balloon all night and burst in the morning. Suck it in and man up…. also there are scary beasties out in the yonder dark!!

The people have spoken.

So I got my bottle yesterday. It’s a 1.5 Liter water bottle. Better be safe than sorry and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. This morning at 4:30, my bladder woke me up. I listened to see if I could here anyone else using their bottle. Nothing.

I couldn’t do it. Plus it wasn’t THAT cold out tonight. So I opened my door, and it sounded like I woke up a couple of people with just that move alone. As soon as I opened the door that leads outside, I saw the parents’ window, and again wished I had another option. Well, actually I could technically go the other way down the hall, outside and the down the stairs to that bathroom. But that’s sooo far away.

I held my breathe and just walked on the bathroom. Did my business and went back to bed.

Stay posted as the cold approaches.

“Winter is coming.” – Eddard Stark, Game of Thrones

So Excited

1. I received a package in the mail today from a friend in Turkey. She also happens to be one of the sweetest souls I have met in the past few months. Along with some emergency medications, she replenished my supply of Twix and Snickers!

There is no greater small, powerful joy here than getting a package in the post. First off it’s an event in itself. They require me to have my passport and sign in several places. They don’t leave it at my house. The post lady, Nino, hunts me down. Usually I’m in school. No matter which classroom I’m tucked in, she seeks me out. That’s a lady who loves her job…. maybe. Then all the stamps and the package wrapped with enough tape to decorate a high school semiformal (sorry, that’s an inside joke geared towards my student council peeps). Then the Herculean effort to get whatever it is out. Good times.

2. Today, my bebia called me down for late breakfast. Because of my diet, eating is nothing to look forward to. But today beside the basket of bread, cheese and tea was a plate of sausage!

“Is this for me?”, I asked timidly. She said yes, as long as I continue to take my pills. Done and done! Even though it was cold, it was a similar sensation to what I think I remember a What-a-Burger (local Concord, North Carolina chain restaurant) gave me. I couldn’t eat it fast enough.

What this also implies… I can drink Coca-cola again!

I’m back, baby!!!!

Greatest package scene, ever! A Christmas Story

“I’m so excited,
And I just can’t hide it,
I’m about to lose control
And I think I like it.
I’m so excited,
And I just can’t hide it,
And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know I want you, want you!”

So Excited, Pointer Sisters

Who Shot J.R.?

When I was young, I vaguely remember a nighttime soap opera on television called ‘Dallas’. It was based on, well, the city of Dallas. Specifically a wealthy family’s drama… think Housewives of Beverly Hills. This show was crazy popular. If you ever heard the phrase, “Who Shot JR.?”, it’s from the television show, Dallas. Everybody watched this show or at least knew the plot.

I am pretty new to the blog world. I never actually read them much before this whole Georgia thing. But once I needed to research where in the world I was going, I read literally hundreds of blogs. It’s an interesting world with very, very specific topics of interest or blogs about absolutely nothing at all. There are even blogs with just photos. But it’s when reading the comments that things take on a different spin.

The comments range from benign, supportive and informative to bat shit crazy. There is jargon to consider as well as types of commenters. As I got deep into reading in this world of blogs, I came across a type of commenter described as a troll. Just like the image the word conjures, the person so called was not viewed in a favorable light.

Internet Troll:  A discussion board technique where one makes deliberately inflammatory or offensive comments that all members must reply to.

You did NOT want to be called a troll. I thought it was pretty funny. But little did I know how pervasive or sneaky these ‘trolls’ really were.

Now that I’m in Georgia, it’s important to build a community. So with that theory, I  am a member of several Georgian English speaking message boards and Facebook pages. One in particular is comparable to a MTV docudrama. The characters are lively, passionate and varied in their interests and backgrounds. The only common thread usually being that we are all in (or have been in) this country doing the same thing.

There are approaching 1000 members to the group, but yet several characters have bubbled to the forefront. Most of the posts are very informative and beneficial or at least start out that way. But some posts spin into the realm of the cut throat days of Jerry Springer drama. Instant comedy! I literally say out loud, “OH, NO HE DIDN’T!!!!!”, at least every other day. And they are not afraid to call each other out either, civilly or otherwise.

I was inspired to write this post by that Internet group. Recently there were two posts that reached incendiary levels. But they were both fortunately defused by two outspoken members of the group (who ironically have ZERO love for each other).  They deduced that the drama was caused by a troll. They used their own versions of some Sherlock Holmes-esque techniques that sure enough showed light on the culprit as just that—A TROLL! Usually a non-native speaker looking for us to say disparaging things about Georgia or our experience here.

The drama continues…

“Now I’d like someone to tell me there is no drama in real life!”- The Count Of Monte Cristo