Sunday, November 28, 2010

Riding Solo

Over the past two weeks I've started to teach a bunch of classes on my own. The two main English teachers I work with, Nana and Nana, have been sick or had to go to Tbilisi so I've been left to fend on my own. The first few classes I had to do this for were quite exhilarating and refreshing. I was able to add conversational exercises and review games to the classes to really reinforce what we have been learning. So much of our class focuses on reading and translating that it can be really monotonous to sit through it day in and day out.

In my 11th form class I created questions on slips of paper and gave each student one. For example, "Where do you want to travel?" or "What did you do for you last birthday?" or "What was the craziest  you ever had?" It was great to get my students speaking and to really get to know them on a more personal level. I found out that Lasha wants to travel to Italy, and Tiko had a dream about singing on stage with Coldplay.

Another day I did the game "Two Truths and One Lie." They told me three statements and I had to guess what was the lie. Even the kids that can barely speak were able to play along! It went something like this: "I like to play basketball. I like the color blue. I like Michael Jackson." Hey, at least I'm getting them talking! 

I was able to handle the older classes on my own, including the 6th and 7th forms, but once I had to do 4th and 5th by myself I was a complete mess! I couldn't get the kids to stop talking and they just kept laughing as I became more and more distressed. I wasn't frustrated at how they were acting because they are just kids, and kids act up when the real teacher isn't around. I was more upset at myself because I couldn't communicate with them enough for them to really respect me. 

I left that day feeling really down, and when I came into school the next day I had the 5th form as my first class, and Nana my co-teacher was late so I had to get started on my own. However, I guess the principal gave them a good talking to after she saw I was upset the day before because they behaved like little angels! 

I'm just really thankful that I am just the teacher's assistant, and not the full on teacher. I really enjoy doing my own lessons and bringing a lot more color to the lessons, but its a relief to have the Georgian teacher there for backup. You never know what these kids are going to pull!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Big Fat Georgian ქორწილი

A few WEEKS ago I went to an engagement party for Lila's cousins, and this past Saturday I went to the wedding. Since I was just apart of a bridal party that took over a year and half to plan, the whole concept of putting a wedding together in a matter of weeks just boggles my mind. 

Nino and I headed to the restaurant around 6pm then we proceeded to sit outside the restaurant for 2 hours waiting for the bride and groom to make their special appearance. We kept warm by cuddling together and chatting with all of her crazy relatives. Also, as it turned out there were a few of kids from my school attending the wedding. They were somehow related to the bride side of the family. I swear everyone knows everyone in Samtredia! So as I chatted with Nino every few minutes we would get interupted by one of my kids screaming "TARA!!!" and then they would run away. It was adorable!

Around 8pm we finally entered the restaurant to loud Georgian music. There were two long banquet style tables that seemed to go on forever and that were already piled high with food. We sat down and waited for the bride and groom to make their grand entrance.

Chowing down on some Georgian grub

The toast leader drinking out of a horn!

As many of you know I love fashion, and well the bride's dress well she ummm yeah. I won't be too mean but basically she belonged in Texas circa 1985 at a debutant ball. It was bad. I also got a glimpse of her white leather goo-goo boots and black tights that she wore underneath. But she is a beautiful girl so that definitely made up for it! (Trying to be nice!)

Not taking a fashion tips home with me.....

After having food shoved down my throat by Nino's two grandmother's, aunt, and mother who all decided they wanted to sit near me, I was ready to dance. Nino's cousin Tamuna and I hit the dance floor and all of a sudden we were surrounded by all my little girl students. I had my own little posse on the dance floor. Then, the bride and groom pulled me in to dance with them and gave me huge hugs and kisses. They were so glad I was there! And also a wedding definitely gets more points when you have an American go-go (girl) there! 

Me and my dancers....We could give Lady Ga-Ga a run for her money

The Newly Weds (Hopefully ends better than Jessica and Nick!)

The next day the girls and I went to our first Samtredia football (or soccer for all you Americans out there) game. When we first got their it was a bit intimitating since almost everyone in the stands was male and they were also screaming at the top of their lungs. 

The Samtredia Gals at the football match

Go Samtredia!!

Two of my students climbing the fence haha

It was Samtredia v.s. Tbilisi so it was a big deal. We actually won 2-0! Everyone went crazy at the end climbing the fence and everything. The next day all my kids kept coming up to me saying 'I saw you at the football game!' and 'Do you like football??' I guess I better start learning more about football besides David Beckham is married to Posh Spice. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bebia Could Win Flip Cup Any day

After arriving back to Samtredia I made it clear to my family that I couldn't sleep on the dining room couch any longer. Between having to hide my things every morning to make it look like I wasn't living there and not having a bed I just was not into this situation anymore.

So last Friday I moved back into a bedroom in the second house. You have no idea how nice it was to just lay on a bed and read a book! My bebia (grandma) and mama (father) have been alternating staying with me every night. It was a little uncomfortable at first to be spending so much time with one family member, and especially two of which that can't speak any English, but in some ways its been really fun!  

Bebs made me feel right at home. She brought tea up to the family room and we watched GeoStar (Georgia's American Idol, which they are crazy about by the way) till late into the night. One night we were watching TV and she goes "Let me try on your glasses." I'm like "Ok." She puts them on and then hands me hers to try on. The two of us were then just staring at each other in each other's glasses and laughing. Haha. Oh what a night. 

Another night we had dinner down stairs in the kitchen. She poured us each a half a glass a wine. She did a cheers and said "Chemi go-go" or "To my girl" it was adorable. Then she proceeded to down the glass of wine and flip the cup over and said "DONE!" I couldn't stop laughing for 2 minutes. I really wish I could of caught that on video camera! 

My nights with my father have been surprisingly good. I think getting him a massage thing from Brookstone while I was in America put me on his good side. I'm not that close with him so I thought it was really strange at first that he offered to even stay with me. However, once he broke out the wine we were totally fine! 

On Sunday night it was pretty cold in the house so he goes and pours us each and full glass of wine. As we start drinking I start to feel a lot warmer and now I finally understand why Russians drink so much vodka! He then asks me how much my friends and I can drink and he goes "I bet Melissa can drink a lot because she is so tall!!" I start laughing and he asks "How many glasses of wine can she drink?" I say, (And not trying to make her sound like a lush) "5 glasses!" He is in shock. And he replies, "Call her up! She lives close. Have her come drink with us!" Mind you this was on a school night. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Its a Family Affair

My week in America was absolutely lovely, but of course like all good things, they eventually do come to an end. As my parents drove me to the airport I knew this wouldn't be as easy going back the second time especially since I knew what lay ahead, another 11 hour layover in Munich, Germany! 

My second layover in Germany wasn't as hectic as my first one with my friend Ralphaela. I definitely took my time getting into the city center, and just enjoyed the pleasures of a European city. I sat in coffee shops aka Starbucks (Hey, a girl has needs!) and just read my book for awhile. It was absolutely amazing. I wandered around lots of stores and then took a long walk to the English Garden. If your ever in Munich it is totally worth a visit. Its basically like the Central Park of Munich. I really came to Munich and America at the right time between the changing of the leaves and the Christmas decorations going up, it made me remember how much I love this time of year. I'm excited to see how Georgia celebrates the holidays considering their Christmas isn't till after the New Year!

Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten

A ball game that I remember learning about in French class!!! 

Nothing says Christmas like warm chestnuts!

I arrived in Tbilisi at about 4:00am, the same time that I came in in September. However, this was a lot different. I didn't have TLG staff waving me over or a bunch of English speakers to chat with, I was all alone. So with my Georgian-English dictionary in hand I went outside to get a cab. I ended up getting one for 25 Lari! I was so proud considering my friends apartment is pretty far from the airport. He did however shove my suitcases in the trunk and yelled "Police! Police!" and pointed in the other direction "We must go now!" I jumped in the cab and off we went. 

I made it to my friend Martina's apartment safe and sound. I slept for a few hours and then was awoken to find out that my ENTIRE Georgian family was in Tbilisi to come pick me up..well minus Bebia but STILL. Around 4pm they picked me up and after some awkward hugs and kisses we went off to the Tbilisi Zoo. Iraqli and Nino were so excited to show me the different animals. We walked around eating popcorn and staring at the animals behind barred cages. I felt like I was in the 1950s. I guess in America we have these "natural environment" areas that make us feel like were not really at a zoo so we don't feel as bad. After the zoo we hit up the mountain park and rode the ferris wheel! It wasn't as big as the London Eye compartments, but it had a TV in it! Crazy! The next day we hit up the biggest church in all on Georgia. This was the first time that I saw that tourists actually outnumbered Georgians at a tourist spot. 

The view from the mountain park

Nino and Iraqli being silly after our ferris wheel ride

The largest church in Georgia!

Nino and I inside the church

Then we were on the rode literally. I didn't even know we were headed back to Samtredia at first, and I had to spend 2 hours with Iraqli jumping all over me with no book, ipod, or anything until we stopped for lunch. By the time I got to the apartment I was exhausted! It was a long journey back to the Caucus, but it definitely did not lack in the excitement! 

The last few days I've spent around Samtredia catching up with my family and the rest of the Samtredia gals (we should really make tshirts haha). I did take a quick trip to a near by village to visit Lila's mom and dad. You would never guess with how many pictures I took how little time we spent there (like 25 minutes). I guess they weren't feeling the family time, hence the awkward picture. Got to love the Georgian smile or lack there of. 

Iraqli and his cousins getting some water from the well in the village

Cats playing in the beans

Lila with her parents
Even my family told me to take this photo...peek-a-boo

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Finding a Good Fit

I'm sorry for my lack of blogging over the past week, but if you are close friend or family member of mine you will know that I am currently in the States for my American sister Lauren's wedding!! Its a really exciting time for my family and I, and I'm so happy to be at home to share in all the excitement. It also doesn't hurt to enjoy American life for a week! 

Updates on my Georgian family, school, and life:

Before I left I talked to my sister Nino about my living situation. I explained to her that I feel like I don't have enough space, and I am not sleeping well on their dining room couch. I felt a little awkward expressing these feelings because Nino and her family have been SO kind to me. She totally understood what I was getting at and told me she would show me her family's third home. Oh yes, my family not only has one, or two, but THREE homes. Its kind of crazy. So we grabbed a flashlight and walked to another stairwell of our apartment building and walked to the top floor and there was my family's third home. Its a cute little apartment, but there is no running water and it was freezing cold. Not exactly the get away I was looking for. She said I could stay there if I wanted to since their second house is a bit of a walk. I told her that I would still like to try sleeping in the second house since I can actually have running water and a bed. Two things I have found are kind of essential to me living in Georgia. Its about a 30 minute walk to my school, but I think it might be worth it to just have a little privacy and an actual bed. So we will see how that goes once I get back!

School has been going really great! The day before I left all the teachers in my school pulled me into the teacher's lounge and presented me with a bottle of Georgian wine in a beautiful pottery type bottle and a ring for my sister! I was so taken back by their generosity and kindness. They were all so excited for me, and they kept saying "You need to bring back photos!!"

Before I left I also went to visit my friends in the Samtredia government building. I love sitting in on their English lessons. They are so passionate and excited to learn English. It has definitely motivated me to start working on my Georgian harder. There was a grant proposal sitting on Sopho's desk and I started looking at it. I told her that I would love to help her with grants and getting them money for projects for the community. She got so excited!! We had some communication problems like I could not find the Georgian word for deadline. So we decided to talk the next day with Nana at school.

The next day at school I went through the grant application with Nana and Sopho explaining each part. It was really frustrating at times to speak through Nana, trying to figure out what Sopho wanted to do with the grant money. I kept thinking to myself "Ahh, if I could speak Georgian this could be so easy!" The application has to been written in either English or Czech since its through the money is coming through the Czech government. I wish I could of done more to help them, but since I was leaving to catch a train to Tbilisi I couldn't stay too long. I'm looking forward to going back and getting more involved with grant writing and fundraising for the community. Nana talked to me about how the former peace corps fundraised money in order to redo the English room. I would love to find a way to raise some funds for my school. Its over 100 years old and is located on the other side of the train tracks away from the center part of the town. It does not receive the funding that a lot of the other schools in Samtredia receive. Most of my children's parents work in factories, sell products in the bazaar, or are simply out of work. Some of them have even gone abroad to Italy or Spain to find work since there is nothing for them in Georgia. 

 A hallway in my school

Girls walking to class

The outside of School 12

Its funny how things work out sometimes. I came to Georgia to make a difference and to help a community and I have definitely found this here at my school and in Samtredia. It is completely fitting that I am working at the school in Samtredia that needs the most help and love. I am excited to think of creative ways to help my school, my children, and the community of Samtredia.

Some very old posters hanging on the walls

My refurbished English room 

Well, I'm off to spend some time with my American Bebia, Mom-Mom. She is 93 and half and so excited to have me home for a week. I will do an update on my week in the States, after the wedding since I have an 11 hour layover in Munich!