Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Saturday, May 10th

11:00 am

I’m settling down on the 11 o’clock train to the portside city of Batumi, where I’ll enjoy the weekend with TLG friends. There are two of them on the train, but in the next carriage, as they bought their tickets before me. The other two seats in my row of three are occupied by a couple of guys from somewhere in the Middle East. Across the aisle are a couple of young people from somewhere in Europe. Between the guy’s blue eyes, the girl’s blonde hair, and something about a Norwegian sandwich shop on the guy’s shirt, I assume that they are from Norway.

The guys in my row aren’t impressed by my presence, but I’m definitely getting “we should talk at some point before the ride is over” vibes from the Norwegians. As I listen to their conversation, I keep hearing words that sound Georgian to me. I guess that happens when you are constantly surrounded by a language.

Eventually, our ice breaker comes in the form of light pelvic thrusting. On their part, mind you. I laugh when the girl makes eye contact with me while attempting the “moves” her friend is trying to teach her. She responds with laughter as well. And thus friendships are born.

Despite the blue eyes and blonde hair and the audacity to engage in pelvic thrusting in public, it turns out they actually are Georgian. But it doesn’t take long before I feel confident that they are not typical tradition-bound Georgians. And for the first time, I’m able to engage in nerdy conversation. With Georgians. I even mention Lord of the Rings Online and am met not with “Seriously, you play that?” but with “What do you have? I have an elf.” So impress. Much amaze. Wow.

11:00 pm

I’m with American and South African TLG friends and a Canadian we know from the hostel, walking around Batumi, looking for a place to hang out. We end up meeting with the Georgians I had met earlier at a pub that’s popular with internationals.

As modern as they are, they still follow through with a special tradition of Georgian “hospitality” and buy me shot of cha cha. And despite being an American 21-year-old, I’m a baby and only do half of it. Then some Turkish guy comes and starts hitting on me….then some Ukrainian guy comes and starts hitting on the Georgian girl….it’s funny how pub culture is so widely homogenous.  
I totally forgot to take pictures while there so please enjoy these googled ones instead. I'll try to post different ones if/when myself or my friends get some.

Photo from

Photos from Wikipedia

Thursday, May 8, 2014

But do I want to be one of the crazies?

But now I’m waffling. Is this really what I want?

Life in Georgia is hard. I mean, I have a great host family, and I have it good in my village compared to almost all the other volunteers. But that is a very relative “good.”

I am still surrounded by a constant gloom. A constant feeling of hopelessness. Because I know that even though I can help these kids speak better English than if I wasn’t here, it will still be remedial at best when I leave. With this education system, they have to take the initiative to study on their own if they want to succeed, no matter if I can give them a boost or not. And indeed, the students who can have even half of a conversation in English are the students who make an effort on their own time.

And if I go back, I can easily get a job as a sub in Arkansas. Still teaching. Still being a role model. Still encourage dreams. But with the exponential increase in effectiveness that speaking the same freaking language can provide. And with freedom over my own schedule, closeness to my family and friends, and with more opportunities to volunteer for archaeologists around.  

And I’ll also be able to make some money. Here we get a stipend, but saving is next to impossible. In the states I can live with my parents for cheap and save up for whatever adventure is next. AND because I’ll have some money, I’ll be able to have more choice about what that adventure is.

AND because I’ll have both more freedom over my own schedule and more money, I’ll still be able to travel and do cool things, if only in and around Arkansas. But it still might be more than I can do with my current situation.

I haven’t actually signed the new contract yet, so I can still change my mind…..

Anybody wanna give their two cents?

Am I one of the crazies?

I used to call them the crazy ones. To their faces, even. Jokingly, of course…but seriously. But I mean, after only a couple of weeks, most of us felt completely trapped. The language barrier keeps us from expressing our selves on a daily basis, and the cultural barrier is often there to stop us in our tracks should we get past the first.

And to make matters worse, our hands are all tied behind our backs as far as school goes. A bunch of adventurous souls wanting to make a difference abroad…and over half the time our Georgian co-teachers just want us to sit there and watch them lead the lesson, despite the fact that their methods of teaching have been tried and found lacking. And even for our English clubs and extra-curricular activities…organizing anything is a challenge when nobody understands anything you say.

By our mid-term training in April, I was confident that I wouldn’t be coming back for a second semester. I started dreaming up other possibilities for the rest of my year. I won’t be in my early twenties forever, after all. I should do more exciting things while I have this independence.

But then….

After training, I went back to school. Back to not being understood.

But also back to dozens of smiling faces rushing at me with smiles, stickers, candy, “I love you” notes with my name misspelled…anything to make me happy. How hard is it understand a child’s affection? How hard is to understand that as frustrated as I am, that affection is reciprocated?

And I went back to not feeling like I was making much of a difference.
But also back to ideas and possibilities that present themselves throughout the day and don’t ever fully leave my mind until it is asleep. I’m learning a lot about the problems of this educational system. I’m also learning a lot about what it needs. I could really make a difference.

And another semester seems like so long now…especially during this independent phase of my life. I mean, to spend a whole year on one thing….it’s a scary thought for me. But when I’m older, won’t I be happy that I stayed? That I came back and experienced the second semester?

So, what do you know, I became one of the crazy ones. I sent in my request to renew and was approved!