Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Riding the Roller Coaster

Sunday, March 30th, 6:00pm

I’ve spent the weekend in Tbilisi and now it’s time to head back to my village. My host father is a marshutka driver so I get on his bus. About halfway home, a rather sociable (and possibly tipsy) woman from my village gets up and starts dancing. She motions for me to join. The next thing I know, I’m having a dance off in a moving vehicle and at least half a dozen camera phones are pointing at me. Our audience laughs and claps us on and a couple of boys from my second grade class even bust a few moves of their own.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 1:00pm

I have a break during 5th period on Wednesdays. I decide to spend the time outside chatting with students who are gathered outside, also enjoying a class off. Among them is one of the high school boys who attends English club. But doesn’t really know any English. He tells the students some story about his friend’s belt, then tries to translate to me, despite not knowing English. He keeps motioning to his belt, but I’m still not getting the story. So eventually I make a joke out of it and cover my eyes and say “me mastavlebeli!” Meaning, “I’m a teacher!” Everyone laughs, except for him. He then proceeds to apologize profusely throughout the rest of the day. That was probably not my smartest move.


The Irishman has come to visit and my host siblings, the director’s granddaughter (who can speak English well enough to communicate with) and a few other kids walk us to an old house in the village that has actually been excavated by archaeologists, and then to an old tower and church in a cemetery. It’s all cool to me, since I’m an aspiring archaeologist myself and I love old broken stuff. But in conversation, I learn that the kids weren’t outside because they had a break. They were just skipping. Furthermore, the other teachers assumed I knew this. Don’t get me wrong, a couple of them yelled out the window at a couple of the high schoolers, but teachers yelling at students is exhaustingly commonplace in Georgia, so I had believed the students when they waved it off and said “oh, nothing.”

Thursday, April 3rd, 11:00am

When I arrive at school that morning, the boy who was telling the story about the belt is at the door. I at once try to confront him about the skipping class issue, and communicate that the teachers think I am a bad teacher because they think I was encouraging the students to ignore them.


As I prepare for English Club, he asks to speak to me outside of the classroom for a minute, and hands me a mislead (albeit adorable) letter that he made the director’s granddaughter write for him, apologizing again about the belt incident and explaining the story more fully, because he doesn’t want me to think as if he’s really rude and bad gue. And he is sorry for the yesterday’s happen and hopes the letter will give me the right opinion about him.

It makes me smile, but still…..it feels like my life is defined by language barrier right now.


The twins are turning eleven today. I’m at a table with them and a few of their friends. Some homemade liquor is brought to the table and we are all poured a shot. Yes, all. We take turns making toasts, but don’t worry, no one gets drunk. To their credit, one refuses refills multiple times just because he doesn’t like liquor that much, and another because he still has homework to do.

Everyone heads outside after dinner to watch the twins light heart-shaped paper lanterns. I’m still upset and frustrated by all of the misunderstandings from the past couple of days, but I force myself to drink this in. Because moments like these-seeing the light from the lanterns flicker over the smiling faces of my host siblings, running around with the kids to see if a lantern is going to land on the roof, and watching each drift further and further until it’s just another star twinkling in the sky-these are the beautiful moments. And they’re a lot easier to miss than the ugly ones.  

Tuesday, April 8th, 8:00pm

The weekend was kind of relaxing yet kind of exhausting. I went with some friends to the seaside city of Batumi. It was beautiful, but a couple of freshman at their first party got too drunk and needed a lot of taking-care-of. And by freshman at their first party I mean adults who should have known better. But I still got to see my friends and the sea. And was able to speak in English and have people actually understand.

And tomorrow I leave for mid-semester training, which means I get the rest of the week off from school, AND I get to see my friends.

But now I get a call from the director’s granddaughter, the one who speaks English. She was a friend and more or less the English life-line of the volunteer before me, and she understands some of the differences between American and Georgian culture. She warns me that some of the things she has heard the other children and teachers say don’t line up with her perception of me, and that my outgoing behavior is read differently by Georgians, especially in regard to the high school boys. And the one mentioned by name isn’t even the one I made the belt joke to.

Right, I thought this wall seemed really thick. I guess I should have realized it was actually two walls…language barrier AND cultural barrier. Of course.