Saturday, February 8, 2014

My first day in Georgia

February 7th (6th in Hawaii)


I’m finally settling in for bed after three plane rides, a bus ride to the hotel, and some time getting to know a few of my fellow volunteers.

After being in airports or on planes for a day and a half, I guess I’m ready to go to bed. My body obviously hasn’t adjusted, but I don’t know that it’s on Hawaii time either. In truth, I lost track of my sleep schedule at least a day ago. Time just isn’t as useful of a concept when you’re practically traversing across it. 


We are helping ourselves to the buffet of fresh Georgian food the hotel is providing for us. Bread, cheese, chicken, soup, vegetables…it’s all real food, and it’s all good. I’m practically salivating when I sit down at the table, chattering on about how excited I am to dig in. As I take a spoonful of soup, I look up and catch a grin on the face of the young woman tending the buffet. I remember what I’ve read about the importance of being a good host in Georgian culture, and the pride or shame that comes with a guest’s level of contentedness. I take note of the fact that I need to be aware of my reactions, as they will be closely watched.

Another volunteer and I want some Turkish tea, but it’s sitting on a shelf to the side and no tea cups are out. I decide to use a bowl. She tries to use a glass cup, but the hot water breaks it in half. A few minutes later and an older woman is reprimanding the younger woman as they get out the tea cups and sugar and place it all on the table. Oops? We certainly didn’t mean to get her in trouble.

So when we pass her as we head up the stairs, I smile and say “didi madloba! Thank you!” to which she responds with a genuine smile, “Arapris!” and something else which I can’t make out.


After walking around for a taste of the city, enjoying a healthy dinner, and loosening up with card games and laughter, we are all tired. We talk for a while as people one by one say goodnight and retire to their rooms. Myself and another first timer, Matt, stay up a bit longer listening to an older volunteer named Phil recount memories from previous semesters volunteering with Teach and Learn.

We are warned and understand that we are not about to change the Georgian education system, or even our assigned school, in one semester. And in truth our job is not solely concerned with the education system. In our lessons and interactions, both inside and outside the classroom, we offer the people exposure to a new way of thinking. Soviet Russia is out of office, but she is still in this country. We have the opportunity to demonstrate-not to push, but simply to show- a new way of thinking about education and how it can actually be enjoyable. We can also present, however subtly, new ideas about society, gender roles, etc. For every adult who is stuck in the old ways despite their inefficiency, there are a dozen children and youths who have the opportunity and the desire to try new ways as they grow up and inherit their villages.


As I fall asleep, I day dream about meeting my host family, adjusting to my role in the classroom, and learning the language. Pictures of smiling Georgian children and tall, snowy mountains drift through my head. I hope I get along well with my host family and have a good working relationship with the local English teachers. Until orientation is over, so much of 2014 is still a mystery to me. I know I’m not guaranteed anything even close to easy, but I can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think I might just fall in love with Georgia. I hope she proves me right.

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