Monday, February 24, 2014

Teach and Learn Orientation, Spring 2014

As I write about my experiences here in Georgia, I must confess, I’ll be giving you a censored version. Yes, this is my story, but the other characters involved are real people who do not want their names or lives plastered all over the internet. At the same time, I’m not going to fabricate an experience which isn’t the one I’m having, and I’m not going to leave out many (if any) situations which I find integral to it. So those who read my blogs from afar will have to excuse my being vague at times; and those featured in it (should they even know English or someone who does), will have to excuse my honesty.

Orientation Training Week:

By just a couple days in, it feels like this my life. It feels like I know these 20 people, but not like I just met them. It feels like I’m subject to this schedule, but not like it’s something different. This just….is.

We are learning way too much Georgian in our language classes to remember, but I know that only those of us who make the effort to study consistently on our own will get past the basic tourist-guide-book phrases.

Our intercultural training and methodology lectures have some interesting info but can be very boring. It’s funny how sitting in a chair all day can drain you.

The hotel feeds us three times a day, and it’s all REAL food. Bread, cheese, and meat seem to make an appearance at every meal. Which is great, but does get monotonous. But oh well. We are told that there won’t be a huge variety of menu options in the villages either, so I suppose we might as well get used to it now.

We also explore Tbilisi in the evenings. We ride a tram up a mountain to a small amusement park. It’s covered in snow and abandoned for the winter, and in the dimming light it’s wonderfully eerie.

Another day, we explore a park. It’s modern and artistic, with the brick path coming up in swirling mounds every here and there. But at the back we find a very post-soviet feeling block of concrete. Like, seriously, it’s a huge concrete cube with many openings, including two huge circles on opposite sides, and slits on the floor through which we can see that the ground is far enough away to make for a deadly fall.

Another time I’m able to meet up with a skype friend I met online. Yes, he turned out to be a real 19-year-old Georgian university student, just like he was on skype. We walk a ways down the road and stop in front of a monument erected for those who died in the 1989 protests. His parents were there. They took part…saw the tanks, heard the chaos. It blows my mind to think about. The biggest protest I have been a part of was a counter protest when Westboro Baptist came to my uni. We stood across the road and sang happy songs at them.

On Valentine's Day, a bunch of us head to a bar/restaurant on the same block as the hotel for a traditional Georgian dance. When we get there, it’s almost empty, and although there are some young men with instruments, there is no dancing. We end up asking the waitress if someone can show us….and to our delight, a young man and young woman who work at the restaurant come dance for us. And then to our further delight, a guy dressed in a weird woman-suite (I have no other way to describe. Look for the video and you will see!) comes and joins the dance, and even dances with myself and another tlger. They give us a bottle of wine after 10 because we “won a game,” aka are the only people still there; and they light two heart-shaped lantern candle things. Already jolly from wine, all but the Irishman head to a club for some dancing. Its great fun, but we end up leaving when we’ve had enough of this local guy who seems to know English with the exception of the phrase “she doesn’t want to dance with you.”

The last note-worthy excursion is a trip to a local bar…the artsy bat where the stoners hang out. A VERY unique look at a VERY small part of Georgian society. I’m there with a few guy friends, and although I’m ready to go back at midnight so I can get up for class in the morning, they are in the mood to party all night. I can’t go into details for their sake, but I want to give you a taste of the real-life intercultural training we received that night by giving some quotes from people we met:

“I do NOT need a Georgian man. I know Georgian men. When I was seventeen, I was married to a Georgian man. He is in jail now. My father is a Georgian man. My brothers are Georgian men. I do NOT need a Georgain man.”

Here I will also note that in a culture where women are expected to be virgins until they are married, shooting for a one night stand may get you into an uncomfortable situation with a drunk girl who thinks she is your girlfriend.
“That was my mom calling me. She wanted to check on me.”

“At 2:30am? How old are you?”

“I’m 21. It’s just the way Georgian moms are. If I am with a friend of a friend of a friend, she will call HIM. And I am like, how the f*ck did you find me???”
”Weed grows wild here. You’ll find it everywhere. It’s really easy to get. But if you get caught, you can go to prison for 8 to 9 years.”
”I am traveling from Turkey. I translate for Greenpeace. But I just wanted to go out for a while. There are protests there now because the government shut off the internet. They claim it was because the people were using it to watch porn!”

So yeah. That’s over  a week of TLG and Tbilisi smushed into one post . I hope the pieces I’ve given you are poignant enough for you to get a good taste!

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