Ten Seconds (or In Which The Ladies Of The House Takes One On The Chin)

Did I mention that Nino sleeps in a crib-like bed? Let’s go ahead and call it a crib. Don’t ask me why this is, as I can’t find the courage or appropriate reason to ask them myself. It’s no where near the ballpark of “Oh, you still breastfeed your five year old?”, but it still has a shadowy stigma. Maybe she’s prone to falling out of bed. Maybe she’s a sleepwalker. Maybe she’s a werewolf. I’m going to go with ‘prone to injury’.

There are all kinds of sharp and dangerous things laying around the house. The house’s  primary purpose is for survival; comfort is secondary. There is a steel wood burning stove in the middle of the dining room for goodness sakes. I preface this tale with that because it helps to explains the parents’ reaction At least in my mind.

Nino and I were playing a favorite game of ours, ‘pass the balloon’. It’s a way to get her to learn numbers. We alternate counting as we hit the balloon back and forth. Anyway, we are doing this as usual (now that I think about it… she’s a little bossy to me, too!) and somehow she missteps or falls or something. I hear (and see) her chin hit the edge of a banister- THUD!

I’ve been around kids all of my adult life, and therefore I’ve witnessed these occasions countless times. And I’m always amazed at the sequence of the immediate 10 seconds after. First is the point of impact to the body (nose, lip, eye, stomach, etc.) and the obvious sickening sound of said impact. Not only do you hear it, but the person experiencing it obviously hears it. But here comes the first odd thing. The injured person looks up and around with a look of, ‘Who just experienced that awful sounding injury?’ then ‘Oh, God… why are they looking at ME like that? Was that me?’  Followed by the slow realization that their (insert injured area) is starting to throb- a lot, then the cascading sharp, mind bending blasts of pain. End it all with the piercing, inconsolable scream. All in ten seconds.

No matter how many times I see it, it never gets easier. And tonight, it happened to Nino. In the aftermath, I saw a little blood, but she was immediately cocooned in the embrace and love of Bebia. I felt like it was my fault, but the family (after making sure her face wasn’t broken) returned to business as usual.

The host mom made pizza tonight. Correction- Georgian pizza. It was already out of the oven by the time I saw or else I would have made a plan to stop the mayonnaise blitz. Who in the world introduced this pretty much perfect food to Georgia only to have it mutilated by this abomination? Did someone play a horrible, horrible prank? Why have they not corrected the error? It does prove one fact; Georgians are traditionalist that view change skeptically. I think I’ll speak about the pizza more later on.

While sitting at the dinner table, trying to stomach my one consolation piece, the host mom was sitting near the dad and spoke pretty sternly to him; kind of with intonations of persuasion. He replies with a definitive “No, leave it be” attitude which sets her off.  Because Lado gets in on the conversation and because it gets pretty heated and loud really fast, I feared it was because she thought I injured her daughter and was asking that I be kicked out of the house.

But when the host mom left the kitchen in a fit of rage, the host dad tells me she had asked to get a job.

Ten Seconds.

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters, too

Daughters, John Mayer


Breathing It In

I forgot…

How beautiful it is living in the shadow of a mountain range.


I can usually decipher what someone is saying to me in Georgian, but I have little hope of responding in a comprehensible way.

That American showers should never be underestimated….EVER.

That the kids in my school think I’m equal to Jesus’ second coming. And on a separate note (done to all teachers) they all stand as soon as a teacher enters the room. That never gets old.

It’s just cold enough to be uncomfortable in my room until the heat is turned on at 8 pm.

That there is no such thing as separate checks here. The conclusion of every meal with multiple people is transitioned into a game of Ante Up, or better know as ‘Be generous but don’t get screwed’.

Favorite moments being back so far…

Eating lunch prepared by my Bebia (host grandmother) alone and quietly as she goes about her business working on the second lunch (hot lunch) of the day.

Teaching my favorite class (a fifth grade class) by myself. They have the potential to churn out chaos and mayhem, but instead they do all they can to make the class work. They interpret and translate words communally until the correct message is given to me. I love them!

Random, unsought hugs from Nino, my host sister.

Listening to the hard rain beat off the terra-cotta roof tiles in the wee hours of the morning and feeling a deep sense of belonging.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

My Favorite Things, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Daddy’s Little Girl

Today is a rainy Sunday. For most of the morning I found myself sitting on the couch downstairs reading a great book and being warmed by the fire. Beside me on the other couch were the host dad and Nino.

The host dad is loving and caring of his little girl.  He patiently humored her as she played made up card tricks on him. Then he helped her cook with her toy kitchen stove and pot set. Everything was salted and taste tested to perfection. A baby doll was invited to dinner also, but she had to be fed via the ‘choo-choo train’ method (you know how baby dolls are).  We had chicken and mashed potatoes. It was delicious.

“Momma’s waiting to tuck her in,
As she fumbles up those stairs.
She smiles back at him dragging that teddy bear.
Sleep tight, blue eyes and bouncin’ curls.

He smiles…..
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
There goes my life.”

There Goes My Life, Kenny Chesney

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 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 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 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


I grew up with two brothers. I’m the oldest. We are very different, but I love them both dearly. I don’t know if that’s the reason that I wanted to have a little girl when I became an ‘adult’. As time went by, I kind of left that desire/ dream pass by the wayside.

Maybe that’s why I’m so taken by Nino. She has taken over my heart. Everything so does makes me smile. She is cute and adorable personified.

Nino, with short hair.

Don’t get me wrong, she can be a brat. She never eats… ever! She cries to use the laptop, she cries when she has to have her hair brushed. She cries when she cant go somewhere with her mother or father.

The other day she blew me a kiss goodbye.

When I’m good, she’ll say the ABC’s. And she never fails to get me from my room when it’s time to eat lunch.  She tries to communicate with me often and sometimes asks for words in English.

What makes me laugh the most is when she tries to communicate but needs time to show me. I think she means to say, ‘wait’, but she continually says, “What!… what… what?  What! What…….. what!”

Reminds me of Dave Chapelle’s skit.

Dave Chapelle: Little John

Luv that girl!

Business Meeting

Yesterday, I woke up from my afternoon nap and had no idea what was in store for my evening. I have been wanting to just simply sit in my room and watch a movie on my laptop for FOREVER. But things keep coming up. My friend Caroline had previously mentioned going to meet an American that’s involved with education but not with TLG for drinks. But other than that, my evening was wide open.

So I went downstairs and hung out with the family and read some until Caroline called. Nino had been pretty sick for the past three days and hadn’t been eating. The family was super worried about her, but then, out of the blue, she asks for a plate of mashed potatoes! The family rejoiced! She was back to her normal cute self. But today she quickly went back to her normal pre sick habits of NOT eating much.

When Caroline did finally call, I headed into town to meet her. The town of Ozurgeti is situated right in the center of two mountain chains. The closest are the ones headed to Batumi (the other on the Tbilisi side).  Usually the near mountains are shrouded in mist, or at least as they have been as long as I’ve been here. But today, they were unclouded and crystal clear. It was like I was seeing them for the first time. They were awe inspiring and seeing them on this crisp fall afternoon…I immediately fell in love with Georgia all over again.

We not only met the one guy for drinks, but there were several others who met as well.  There was another TLG fellow who has been in the Ozurgeti region since October. There were two Peace Corp volunteers who have served a year and a half on their contract already. And then the non-TLG/ non-Peace Corp fellow. It was refreshing to meet not only another TLG person from another group, but also to actually sit down and talk with Peace Corp folks.

I have felt an underlying tension between the two groups, but I could never quite put into words why. We both are more or less here doing the same thing (I even was looking into doing Peace Corp, but didn’t see a Georgia placement). Maybe it’s because of the rocky past TLG has had with the initial start up of the program. Peace Corp is the well-respected older mature brother organization known the world over. And TLG is the spoiled, bratty, upstart younger sibling who doesn’t really know what’s what. Albeit, TLG has come a LONG way in terms of organization and screening, the negative residue of earlier volunteers can still be discerned from implied statements in various conversations.

So in meeting these two Corps members, it was good to get what their perspective was on Georgia and on TLG. They are great people and I look forward to spending more time with them and getting to know them better. They had great stories and I can tell they will be valuable resources to us ‘newbies’.

The non volunteer fella was most interesting to me because of his occupation.  He was sort of elusive when initially asked questions about reasons for being in Georgia and what he actually does. What I gained over the course of the conversation was that he indeed is an American. He has been here for three years with his wife and two kids. He has bought a house in Kutaisi. He works (sort of, currently) with a NGO that serves to help Georgian teachers learn how to teach.  That sounds right in line with my long term goals of staying in Georgia. That’s about all I got from him, as I had to leave early to Skype someone back in American. But I’m sure I’ll see him again in the near future.

It was a great meeting!  We even decided to start having a happy hour perhaps once a week. Which is something I love! It reminds me of my weekly ‘business meeting’ back home with Kozak and Dabbs. I love consistent community time with friends. It’s revitalizing and it grounds me.

It was a gold star day!



“What’s there to live for?
Who needs the peace corps?
Think I’ll just DROP OUT
I’ll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley’s floor

Walked past the wig store
Danced at the Fillmore
I’m completely stoned
I’m hippy & I’m trippy
I’m a gypsy on my own
I’ll stay a week & get the crabs &
Take a bus back home
I’m really just a phony
But forgive me
‘Cause I’m stoned”

Who Needs The Peace Corp?, Frank Zappa


First Grade

I loved my kindergarten teacher. Her name was Mrs. Dowdy. I think everyone remembers his or her first teacher. I don’t think I understood what crushes were back then, maybe I did, but whatever it was the emotion is very similar to what I would call a crush. I had to start school at an earlier age than most because my birthday fell so late in the year, October 6th.  I don’t remember ever NOT liking school or wanting to be anywhere else even at that young an age.

Today I had my first 1st grade class. They are little. When I say little, I mean little!  Part of me thinks too young to be starting school. On average, they were five years old.  I doubt they can even write their names (or anything) in Georgian. But they say, the younger you began a language, the better. So these little tykes are going to learn!

We started off with them standing to say present when their names were called. Most were very eager to do this. Some seemed bewildered like they were all of a sudden placed on a distant planet and didn’t want to make any sudden movements for fear of being eaten.

After this, we tried to get them to say their names, “I am ….”, when asked, “What—IS—YOUR—NAME?” (pointing to the student). Again, most picked up on it, while one in particular when asked, simply burst out in tears. I felt bad and awkward. But the rest of the class was just as bewildered. I think this show of emotion emboldened other girl to start crying unprovoked and walk out of class. Okay.

That’s when I found out that some parents (aware of their student’s disposition) stationed themselves outside the classroom door. The first student who cried eventually had enough and walked out too followed by the girl sitting behind him. When asked of the girl why she was leaving, she said she wanted to kiss her brother. Okay.

On with the lesson.

We next when over numbers up to ten. And then asked for a response, “I am (age)”, to the prompt, “HOW—OLD—ARE—YOU?”

Then to recapture their attentions, taught them to stand up and sit down, hands up and hands down.

They were as cute as teddy bears, but hard to keep their attention. One little guy couldn’t seem to get his stack of notebooks JUST right. And another group of students wanted to make sure their English books were still in their book bags… twenty times.

When we finished with that 45-minute class, the co-teacher and I both felt and looked like we had been a 6 round heavyweight fight.

Yesterday, I noticed that Nino wasn’t around. When I asked where she was, I found out she was at pre-school. Later in the day, I went with Lado to pick her up. It was right up the street, maybe four blocks. It was a pretty large facility. It seems everything in this country has facilities with much more space than they need. Nino was happy to see us, but would have been just as happy to stay. That’s my measure of a good daycare.

She has a habit, Lado says, of getting on and riding a hobbyhorse one last time before leaving.

“They call me ‘hell’
They call me ‘Stacey’
They call me ‘her’
They call me ‘Jane’
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name”

That’s Not My Name, The Ting-Tings