#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

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

 

 

 

Skool Daze

I was asked a while ago by a cousin of one of my students from Oz, if I could come and speak to her University class. Yes Please!!!

We finally got the timing right and I went in to speak this past Friday. The school was Ilia State University and the class was a tourism class.

Initially she had asked me to prepare some visuals. But the night before she said it was fine to just speak.

I had been curious about the facilities of universities in Georgia. They don’t usually have a campus, as one would see in a U.S. university. The building are somewhat grouped together in the same vicinity. There are no dorms or housing facilities for the students. They have to provide their own housing which for most people, is a huge problem do to cost involved. Unless you know a relative who lives in Tbilisi that you can stay with, you probably couldn’t afford to attend school.

I also think that there is a cultural aspect to the housing situation, too. I think the idea of having females living alone in close proximity to boys is too scandalous a proposition for Georgian society.

There was another speaker from India who went before me. He spoke for a LONG time and i thought there wasn’t going to be time for me, but it was a 2 hour class.

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I spoke on my take of tourism as an American in Georgia. I think I did pretty well!

***

The medieval university looked backwards; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge. The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge. – Thomas H. Huxley

 

Teacher’s Pet

In Ozurgeti, I had the occasional private student. Mostly they were reserved for the Georgian English teachers. Most of the teacher took a full load of students afterschool to supplement their pay. It ironically made the students not care about their actual lessons in school. They put more time and effort into the time with tutors.

Even when I did have the occasional private student, the rate of income in western Georgia was soo low, that I practically did the lessons for free.

In Tbilisi, the demand is very, very high for Native English speakers. Tbilisi is like a bubble unto itself in Georgia. It is a very cosmopolitan city (as much as Georgians can be cosmopolitan). Citizens in professional jobs understand the importance of knowing how to speak English. The first thing my students in Tbilisi say for the reason they want lessons is that they want to be able to speak to English clients or something similar.

Even getting private students was a fluke. My host dad, Zura, is always thinking of business (money making) opportunities and one day offered to ask around if some of his contacts had need for a native English speaker. Within the week, two organizations wanted me to work for them. One would have been working with my friend, Pete. But because Anna doesn’t get home until late, the times were not working out for it to happen. Once TLG found out I was available for extra services, they put my name out, too. So now I get a constant inquiry of potential students.

Davit. Davit is an IT specialist that works with my host mom, Mari. He wants to learn English because he doesn’t like not being able to communicate effectively in English with clients. He can understand fine, usually. But he hates the way his delivery is jerky. He wants to be confident with a smooth, ‘conversational’ delivery.

Davit is a great guy. I have learned so much from him. He is very open and non-partial with Georgian history and politics. He also has a progressive outlook on life, which is refreshing in Georgian men. Davit is obviously shaped by the ‘dark days’ of the break with Soviet Union and the Revolution. He wants to protect his kid from that as best he can. One interesting thing he told me in a tangent conversation was about a culture nicety that gets lost in translation. Georgians don’t usually say, ‘thank you’ or ‘please’. Or at least that’s how its perceived by those that speak English. But that’s what gets lost in translation. Georgians, he said, don’t say it literally in their language in conversation but they use intonation to imply it. So since they don’t use it in their conversation, usually when they translate in their heads, it doesn’t happen.

Tamuna. Tamuna is a single mom that works for the Ministry of Interior. She is one of the students that I have to travel to. She is about 30 and works like a maniac. She, too, wants to brush up on her English to speak better to clients.

Tamuna is also a progressive minded Georgian woman. Which isn’t as hard to find as men. Actually, I can see my seniors from last year in Tamuna. Although she got married early, she didn’t let that hold her back. She doesn’t care about what others think, even her parents. That frame of mind allowed her to pursue a divorce. Both of those topics came up during a conversation about gender roles.

Nani and Layla. These two girls work together. Nani was referred to me by a TLG friend. They work together at a bank. Both want English for business reasons. (All of my students’ English is understandable, but they want it to approach fluency.)

Layla speaks slightly better English than Nani, but I think Nani’s vocabulary stronger. They wanted to have joint lessons. Which is fine by me. They are so fun together! And its obvious that they are the best of friends. They have a travel group that they are a part of that travels in the summer throughout Georgia. So whereas most Georgians haven’t even seen their own country, these girls have been everywhere.

Layla and Nani

Layla and Nani

The best part of having these private students is I learn so much from them about their thoughts, dreams, fears and ideas about the world and their country.

***

“I don’t know what he wants, I don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Don’t you get it? You walk to school every day with all these children who are normal. I can’t talk to my son! I don’t know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels. I can’t tell him that I love him, I can’t tell him who I am. I want to talk to my son! I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what the stupid doctor says it’s right or wrong. I want to talk to my son!”

Iris Holland, Mr. Holland’s Opus

The Three Ladies

After school today, I was asked by the oldest of the co-teachers, Tina, to come back to her flat for coffee (tea, since I don’t drink coffee). I wasn’t really in the mood for chit-chat, but I figured I needed to start bonding with these ladies. So off we went.

Tina lives very close to the school. Maybe two blocks from it. Standing in the doorway of the flat was Irma. I had forgotten that she was Tina’s daughter. Irma is 28 and has been teaching for 5 years. Tina has been teaching for 27, I think.

As we head into the flat, Tina, a chatterbox, is explaining the situation.

They, she and Irma live together. They had a much larger and nicer flat in the historic part of Tbilisi near the Cathedral, but it was deemed unsafe due to an earthquake. So they had to move to this one bedroom flat.

We huddled around their eating table in the room that was also their bedroom. It was a little awkward, only because I could feel that they felt awkward. Irma left the room to get the coffee, tea and cake. While she was (what I assume was fixing refreshments in the kitchen), Tina kept the conversation going.

Tina was born in a village in Khakheti. She went to University in Tbilisi but went back to the village to be a teacher. Her parents wanted her close by. Her father owned a flat in Tbilisi however, and that’s where she stayed during her university years. Soon, her father got a promotion and the family moved to Tbilisi. They bought the flat that was damaged in the earthquake.

She fell in love with a man she met at University, and had Irma. Unfortunately he had another woman in his life, whom he married. He and the other woman had a son together but they soon divorced. The man still didn’t marry Tina, instead chose to marry someone else. After that marriage dissolved, he finally came back to Tina and “said” he always loved her. She went to him for about 5 months. She said it didn’t work out because she was too stuck in her ways, and he wouldn’t choose her exclusively. She said he is the only man she loved or will ever love.

On that note, I noticed that the tea should be ready by this point. And when I commented on it, I heard Irma scrambling to get it. I’m pretty sure she was just listening in the next room.

Irma came in with the cake and beverages.

We continued to talk about politics and progress of Georgia in general. I appreciated the candor and honestly from Georgians who could express ideas in English. Zura is good for that, too, but I will talk about him in a separate post.

When Irma came in, the conversation turned to her. Tina has ZERO filter or shame. She accurately describes herself as the more progressive of the two. She explains that Irma has no social life. She comes home and watches Russian shows, and on weekends goes to church. …that’s all. She is afraid that she wont find a husband (due to lack of trying) and will not give her grandbabies. That’s when the room felt awkward again.

We talked about a guy that she is excited about. He lives in Turkey and they met and chat online. Her mom thinks he is fake, and not to rain on Irma’s parade, she did say some things to make me think the same.

The other co-teacher, Nino, came a little later. Nino is a whirlwind. She breezes in, lights a cigarette and falls into the conversation like she simply had just gone to the bathroom.

The conversation turned to the difference of living during the Soviet era and now, Russian relations, and all things political. It was fun and lively. Tina has a very fond memory of Soviet times and wishes it were still so. She frequently complains about conditions at school and in Georgia in general. From the way she speaks, she had a very good life during Soviet days.

I can tell that this will be a regular occurrence and once alcohol is introduced… lord help us all.

***

Their teaching style is (as any three teacher’s would be) totally different than one another.

Irma is a straight forward teacher. Straight from the book. Fast and furious. She hardly takes time to let the students take in the information or see if they have understood.

 

Irma

Irma

Nino is a very unconventional teacher. She loosely follows the book. She would much rather teach through discussions or doing things that interest the students.

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Nino

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Tina is old school. She likes to talk more than anything. In my humble opinion, she tries to teach too many things at once. For example, if she asks one student to answer a question, the student will never finish a complete sentence for interruptions from Tina. She will correct tenses, inflection, the meaning of their statement and add personal antedates all within the student’s answer.

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Tina

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***

The friendly little cottage belonged to three bears. One was a great big Papa Bear, one was a middle-sized Mama Bear, and one was a tiny little Baby Bear. That morning, the three bears decided to take a walk while their porridge – which tastes like oatmeal – was cooling. -Goldilocks And The Three Bears

IKEA Kids

Kids here take summer break very seriously. When they break, they BREAK. They do not want to do  anything  school related. I don’t blame them. It starts to heat up around 11 am.

TLG wants us to organize a summer program in order to get paid. But the problem is, again, the kids don’t want to do anything in the summer that even resembles school. So we have to scramble and beg the school administration to brow beat and rustle kids up or try to coerce the kids that love us the most to come to whatever program we have put together, using up valuable goodwill capital doing so.

This summer, I went to an NGO here in town and asked them if they had a willing group of kids in place already that I could hook up with. Fortunately, this NGO is in touch with the populations in Oz that need social services, old folks homes, orphanages, etc. My contact gave me the run down on one of the group homes and scheduled a visit.

I was a little nervous at first, because of the unfortunate stigma of orphanages in the States. But from what I saw here, the government takes great care of their troubled population. (Except for the gypsies. They roam the streets with seemingly no assistance.) The house was situated on a main road right along with the other private residences. Inside was pleasantly and nicely furnished. Actually, their furniture and household things were much better and modern than anything I had seen in other Georgian homes. From the kitchen to living areas to common rooms, it looked straight out of an IKEA catalogue.

I fell in love with the kids immediately. When initially meeting a new group of kids, I always have a phobia that they will ‘see through me’ and reject me. And although they sized me up at first, they took to me quite rapidly by showing me THEIR rooms and drawings. I was put at ease and knew we would work well together.

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Badri, Mariko, Kristina

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Badri

There are 8 kids at the home between ages of 10 and 16. I saw one of my 1st grade students there, but I had erroneously been told she was an orphan, too. Her mom is the caregiver. I decided to split them up into two groups for their lessons, which worked out great according to ability level. (With the exception of one older boy, Ruslan. He doesn’t know any English. So I will tutor him individually.)

 

Kristina

Kristina

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Badri, Mariko, Kristina

 

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Giorgi, Kristina, Mari, Resi

Resi

Resi

It’s a pleasant surprise to have a small group of attentive students all who want to learn. Today Mariko was perturbed that our time was up. I could not have fallen into a better situation.

***

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That’s Why I Want You To
Know

I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror

Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson

The Time Of Our Lives

I have been waiting for this day for a year now. MY seniors’ banquet. I knew some of the seniors from last year, Lado, of course. But I didn’t know them or as many as I do this year.

This senior group was one of a kind. Everyone said so, its not just me being biased. They have a high percentage of talent and beauty. Several of the girls are on track to be national dancers, they have fantastic singers, and I saw one of the boys on a national quiz show. They are loved by the younger kids because they are kind and inclusive (as opposed to last years seniors who were mostly jerks). They are light hearted and just like to be happy. So to be able to toast to them and dance with them was special for me.

I had to walk from my host family’s house to town in my suit, which makes me feel awkward. Imagine being dressed up and walking 20 minutes on potholed, dusty roads past pigs, nosey neighbors and dodging cowshit. Not fun. But on the way, I was stopped twice to take a picture with a baby.

The venue was changed from last year. So I didn’t know exactly where I was going, I figured I would get to town and see people. Which is exactly what happened.

They were gathered in the circle in front of the theater…. waiting. Eventually the seniors started trickling in. A speaker system was produced from the heart of the theater building and blasted music. They called it a flash mob, but it was in fact a mini concert by the seniors!!! It was so good I couldn’t stop smiling.

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Then they walked off like nothing happened onto a red carpet that just happened to be in the middle of the street to the restaurant. No Big Deal.

I gotta give them props. That was ballin’ status.

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Once inside the venue, they of course had to dance to ‘We are the World’. They the night was sprinkled with choreographed dances mixed with Georgian dances. (This is definitely residual from Soviet times, where EVERYTHING had to be rehearsed) After ten or so toasts and the rehearsed dances were finished, we all danced and danced and danced.

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Once the moms had some shots of cognac, they too started dancing. I was passed around like a top to first take photos, then to dance with them. Oh so fun!!

The food just kept coming and coming. I still can not wrap my mind around the abundance of food at supras. I KNOW that the idea is to overwhelm guests with food, I KNOW that, yet I am still always overwhelmed.

Of course my English Club girls were beautiful. They had a great time. Sofo and Megi had the foresight to bring a change of clothes. Sofo went a step further and had what seemed like multiple costume changes.

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I looked up and it was 3 in the morning. So I stumbled home, drenched in sweat, and went to bed.

My camera was not charged fully, so I was not able to get the amount of pictures that I wanted, but these hopefully will paint the scene. I ripped some from the Interwebs.

Lana

Lana

Sofo

Sofo

Tamuna

Tamuna

 

Theo

Theo

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Mari

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***

“Now I’ve had the time of my life
No I never felt like this before
If I swear it’s the truth
And I owe it all to you
‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life
And I owe it all to you”

(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, Bill Medley