The Family

So a good friend of mine wanted me to post more about my host family. (Guess she was tired of reading about me…geez.) So here is a sketch of all of my family members and how we relate.

Nino.

Nino is the poster child of cutie pie. It takes a while for her to warm up to you. But when she does, she is super fun. She doesn’t eat. Ever. Even things you would think a little girl would like she doesn’t care for. Candy… nope. Pancakes…. nope. I’m confused as to how she is still alive. But she is. She occasionally tries to speak to me in the English she knows. And on special days she tries to teach me Georgian words for things. She is always sickly. Which makes it hard to be around her in the close way kids that age shows affection. And if she doesn’t like food, she goes into convulsions when she has to take medicine.

She is much younger than her other siblings, so she plays a lot by herself.

A secondary goal if mine is to teach her introductory English unbeknownst to her. She is already playing ABC and phonics games on my IPad. And she WILL be able to say “th” and “r” correctly before I leave this house.

Nika

Nika is for the most part a good kid. He has a good spirit. He is most loving to Nino and he forgives transgressions easily. He is a sensitive fella in that he cries a lot. But after a brief time, he comes back around as if nothing happened. He tends to always have a smile on his face.

He doesn’t like school and that includes English. He knows a little bit, enough for us to understand each other in a pinch. He is nowhere as studious as Lado.

His father says he is always asking for money. He also seems to be trying to get attention from his father a lot; hence the constant ignoring.

His father told me a story where Nika did not want to go to kindergarten and cried everyday. So he bought him a miniature car everyday as a bribe to get him to go. And everyday, Nika would destroy the car.

He is also sick all the time; mostly with the sniffles.  His father says its because he walks bear footed around the house. Maybe.

Nika is getting of the age where he thinks he should be able to do everything Lado does and is starting to challenge him. That’s making for very loud and aggressive arguments over everything from money to computer usage.

Nika wanted to play youth soccer recently, but his father didn’t let him. Don’t know why.

Lado

Lado is a moody teenage boy. He can be nice and friendly when he chooses to be, or he can be withdrawn and pensive. He is always calculating to make sure all situations are to his advantage, be it with his friends, family or otherwise. He has grand dreams and aspirations. He seems to be a very smart fella, and his school certificates seem to attest to that. His family has him going to several private tutors. That’s why he can speak English so well.  Lado doesn’t seem to go to school as regularly as he should, but he studies often and very hard. He is hell bent on getting out of Ozurgeti and going to University in Tbilisi.

He is not particularly nice to his siblings. He mostly flat out ignores Nika. That’s not to say he does not like Nika. Its just that Nika possibly gets on Lado’s nerves most of the time. Lado has a bad habit of ignoring a lot of people, family members particularly. I think he gets that from his father.

He has a girlfriend who was vacationing here in Ozurgeti this summer, but has since gone back to Tbilisi.  She was nice, and good for Lado. there is another chick that Lado is very friendly with, but I think she is just ‘boy-crazy’. I don’t think he has an abundance of friends. He has a handful of good friends that make an appearance occasionally.

He loves (as I think all Georgian youth) American pop culture. He eyes my music selections and clothing styles and preferences. Neither of which helps with my battle against vanity. He is always asking me about cars and his dream of building some muscle car from scratch.  Yeah…. do that.

I observe an entitlement air about him that I blame the culture more for than him. He seems to think that family should meet all of his needs and whims. Obviously the mom and grandmother will make sure that all of his domestic needs are met. He gets money whenever he asks. But what irks me most is he assumes he can take whatever amusement his younger siblings are playing with whenever he wants. Example, I bought Nika a yo-yo from the States, and as soon as Lado saw it, he took it to the protestations of Nika. Same with the IPad. He will come over while they are playing a game and take it. I don’t know if it’s a hierarchal thing, because Nika is starting to do it to Nino, too.

Eka (Host mom, Deda)

Eka is an intimidating lady. When she is angry (which seems to be often), she is a storm to be weathered. She, unfortunately being the primary woman of the house, has a mountain of house duties that never seems to stop. On top of that, she is very active in the community. So one minute she’s mopping floors, the next she’s dressed up to go to a meeting. Which I am aware of course, that a lot of women in America are doing the same thing over there. But a glaring difference (culturally speaking) is the men out of tradition never assist or are asked to assist.

But when she is relaxed and happy or amongst her friends, she has the most disarming smile. She is a ‘big boned’ women, so everything seems more animated than if other people were to do the same thing. She always has friends and neighbors coming to visit and hang out at the house. It seems we are the social hub. I rarely observe them going to other neighbors’ houses. But they could be doing so without my knowledge.

Her main inspiration for yelling are her kids. She yells at them to get out of bed, to come eat, to stop talking incessantly and shut the hell up, to stop playing computer games so much, to stop fighting, to do their homework, etc.

She mocks me for not knowing as much Georgian as some of my friends, but I will show her. She’s not really into learning much English, although it seems she has a good ear for languages.

Levon (Host dad, Mama)

He is a manager of a bank here in Ozurgeti. So he goes in early and returns home around 7 or 8 at night.

He is a kind-hearted man who loves his family.

He is driven to learn English as well.  He taught himself through Google translate before I got here well enough for me to understand him. He simply needs a little help now with verb conjugation and listening to an English speaker.

He is love struck by western culture, too. He always asks me to suggest websites to purchase clothes and technology. He bought his car from America and had it shipped to Georgia. (It takes a letter three weeks to get here.)

He laughs easy and he has a good heart. That alone endears me to him and his family.

Lado (Grandpa, Bebua)

This guy. We have what is called a love-hate relationship. I see him everyday first when I get home from school. I always say hey, he says nothing.

I can never do anything right, or good enough in his opinion. He yelled at me once for standing on the doorsill…. the doorsill!!!  He has spoken a total of three, maybe four English words to me. I know he has more in him.

He scoffs at me for eating my food ‘incorrectly’. For example putting my mushroom salad on the same plate as my kidney beans. Or eating my meat and potatoes before eating my soup. Or choosing to drink tap water instead of mineral water.  But then he surprises me all the time…

He’s the only one to go get fresh well water from outside instead from the tap.

Sometimes he jokes with me. I was talking on the phone in the driveway and saw him pull up in his car. The house is gated, so I thought I would be nice and open the gate for him. He stopped the car and got out, for what I assumed was to tell me I was opening the gate wrong. As I was holding one of the gate doors standing on the street side, he takes the gate door from me and shuts them both… with me outside in the street! That jokester.

He was extremely happy to show me his freshly chrome painted rims on his ancient Russian automobile.

He offers me fresh picked fruit all the time.

He’s always in constant motion. He wakes up early in the morning and is usually the last one up at night to lock all of the doors. He fiddles around the house doing little things here and there, or tinkering with his car.  He always has a suggestion to everyone of how to do something better or more efficient. When Lado needed help on how to make his pull up bar and where to put it, Grandpa was who he went to first. He is definitely old school.

(Grandma, Bebia)

She is the one who looks after me most; my diet and my health especially. She is a heavier woman, and I think it’s affecting her health. She is constantly checking her blood pressure and is on and off diets. She doesn’t seem old by any means, but I fear for her health sometimes.

She can cook really, really well. She grew up in a village, so she knows how to make all of the traditional dishes and the extras, too, such as Cha-cha, Churchkela, and Wine.  She keeps a sharp eye out for which foods I like and dislike. And she slowly introduces new foods to the table all the time.

She has her own set of friends who comes to visit pretty often. And they care for me and attend to my needs as fervently as grandma does. For example, when I returned home one day, I saw a family friend, and said hello. She said hello back and then started asking if I was taking my pills regularly still.

***

I love this family. There is so much support and caring. They make sure I am safe and comfortable. They don’t intrude on my privacy. When I want to be left alone, they oblige. We laugh all the time. They are ‘real’ even though I am here, ALWAYS here in their space. They fight and argue just like my family did back in the States. And even though there is a language barrier, we communicate the best we can.

“I have an excellent father
His strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother
Inside and out
He’s better than I am

I grew up in a pretty house
And I had space to run
And I had the best days with you

There is a video
I found from back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen
And you’re talking to me

Daddy’s smart
And you’re the prettiest lady in the whole wide world

Now I know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side
Even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
Staying back and watching me shine…”

The Best Day, Taylor Swift

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