Monday, February 28, 2011

And a quack quack here!

It was so great to return to school! I really missed my kids, and I think they missed me. Nana wanted to teach the 3rd formers different animals, so I had the idea of having them color pictures of the animals that we would teach them. 

I thank goodness that I worked at the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club before coming to teach English in Georgia. I see so many parallels everyday to the low income school district I worked in in the States to my Georgian school district now. My experience there helped me learn the patience I need to work through this experience. There were days when the internet didn't work or people wouldn't show up to meetings. Similarly, in Georgia teachers don't show up some days, and there is an extremely low amount of resources, which leads me to my animal activity.

I wanted to have the kids color in pictures of different animals and practice writing the different names, but of course finding a coloring book of animals would be impossible here. Instead I remembered a great trick from a co-worker at HBGC where she drew outlines of pictures and then made photocopies for the kids to color in.

I couldn't exactly make photo copies, but I could draw out the pictures each by hand and have the kids color them in. That's exactly what I did and they LOVED it! It was worth every colored mark on my hands! It amazes me how such a simple activity like coloring in animals could make the kids so excited to learn English. I feel like because we don't have a lot of resources there is less creative activities and more translation and exercises from the books. But even with such limited resources I was able to make learning the names of animals fun! 




What would a day with animals be without 'Old McDonald'? So I did a rousing performance of the classic farm song, and the kids just couldn't get enough. Were still working on it, but I know in a few months they will be able to make all the sounds of the farm animals!

Cute picture alert:

Nino carved mine and her name into our mchati (corn bread) fun!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bieber Fever and American Pop Culture in Georgia

When I first met my students they asked the usual questions like "What State are you from?" and   "Do you have a brother or sister?" But one question that has stuck out, and has constantly made me wonder is the "Do you like Justin Bieber?" question. Now, after spending this past summer teaching  a hip hop dance routine to Bieber's "Baby, Baby" song to the kids at the Hempstead Boys and Girls Club summer camp, I was well aware of the Bieber effect. However, I never would of thought he would of made it all the way over to the little country of Georgia! 

You would be surprised of how many of my students (well, mostly my girl students) who are madly in love with Bieber! They know all the words to his songs, and have memorized his dance moves. If my students are shy in class one day, I know to always bring up the subject of Justin Bieber. We played a celebrity guessing game in my 8th form class a few weeks ago, and one student had to guess who all the other students were pretending to be. Of course the first one to be guessed correctly was Tamera as Justin Bieber because everyone knows she's crazy for him! 

This madness for Bieber made me start thinking about American pop culture in general in Georgia. The most obvious is the television shows. There is a Georgian type Oprah, The View, The Late Night Show , SNL, Survivor and Friends just to name a few. They are all casted with Georgians and speak only Georgian, but they are most definitely influenced by its American counterparts. They even have an American Idol type show called Geo Star. And believe me Georgian families are just as obsessed as American families are. For a country that less than 20 years ago just created their first independent TV channel (post USSR) this is quite incredible!

The Late Night Show

Georgian Survivor (Tamara, the winner, actually works for my english teaching program)

Geo Star (Georgian American Idol)

Part of me is proud that American pop culture has made it all the way over to my favorite former USSR country, but at the same time it makes me wonder how much this effects Georgian culture. I know that Georgians are no where ready to give up their Henri Joxadze and Eter Kakulia (Ia Ia song) for Eminem and Rihanna. But I wonder sometimes if they are so caught up in copying our shows and music that they will end up not producing any of their own ideas. I guess time will only tell, but until then I will continue to discuss Justin Beiber's ever changing bowl hair cut and fashion styles with my 11th grade girls if it will make them speak English. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

No School. Again.

Its been over a week since I've set foot in my school. At first I was pleased by the free time, and even thought about taking a last minute trip to Turkey (that was shot down immediately by my three more realistic friends). However, now its just plain crazy! Between illness and the snow/rain that has been occurring lately, School 12 was forced to close (at least I thought).

Real Snow in Zestafoni (not like the snow/rain we get in Samtredia!)

All of February the Samtredia girls and I have been teaching to classrooms that have been more than half empty. There was one day I taught only three 5th formers and we just played hang man the whole time! Another time I taught five 3rd formers the 'Hokey Pokey' song as an unplanned activity and they LOVED it. Even though I was teaching much smaller classes I felt like the students that were coming were getting some well needed attention and review. Hey, learning 'left' and 'right' and 'shake it all about' are pretty important phrases to grasping the English language ;)

Then, last Wednesday, February 9th I walked into an empty 5th form classroom with just two backpacks and no children. I found out later the two children that actually came to school were put to work to collect wood for the teacher's lounge's fireplace (nope not kidding). I walked disgustedly into the teacher's lounge to just sit and wait two periods with nothing to do. Nana, finally came to school and told me that they were canceling school Thursday and Friday, and I could go home right then (11:30am). I said, " Well, I still have Vicka's 8th form class to teach today." And Vicka goes, "Oh don't come to my class. Only three 8th formers came and they are cleaning the windows."

Empty School 12

So after my lovely four-day weekend (see next blog), Monday I woke up and got ready for school. As I went into the kitchen to start making my coffee, Iraqli, stops me and says, "You have school? Look. Snow." (His English is getting so much better!). It was coming down pretty hard so I called Nana, and she said, "Don't come to school because no children will come." The same thing happened on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday, Nana told me to meet her at school at noon to catch up because she missed me (She's so cute!). Then like clock-work she called me around 11:15am and said I shouldn't come because its snowing again, and everyone is going home. This is the first time it occurred to me that we've probably been having school all along, and Nana just hasn't had me come in because no children have been coming. I definitely appreciate her reasoning, but I wouldn't of minded coming in at all. Even if it would of been just to teach one child! Granted, my school is a lot smaller than the other girls so my school probably took the biggest hit of low attendance. I just felt bad because all the other teachers have probably been going to school everyday, and I've been researching post-Georgia opportunities, and watching Mad Men. 

With all this time at home at least Bebs is letting me help her cook!
So after this realization you would think I would of definitely made an attempt to go to school Thursday and Friday despite Nana not wanting me to come. Well, my family finally got a doctor to come look at my foot on Wednesday, and he put me on bed rest for 4 days. Apparently, I tore a muscle in my foot 3 weeks ago, and then me walking on it didn't really help matters. So no school for me. This Monday I'm not letting ANYTHING, snow, rain, illness, or my stupid foot get in the way of my children. 'Tara Teacher' is coming and my kids better have been practicing their ABCs. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Walk On

Maybe its all those years of dancing on my toes, but I've been having some major foot issues since coming to Georgia. First, it was my right foot blowing up from bug bites (watch out spring, my Benadryl is ready to go!) Then, in Israel I twisted my right ankle while hiking through En Gedi. If you've ever hiked around there you could imagine the treacherous 'stair like' rocks I was climbing when I gracefully hurt my ankle (meaning almost fell on my face). 

Now, back in Georgia I thought I was in the clear, but nope last week the top part of my left foot started pounding with pain as I walked to school and around Samtredia. I was trying to brave it out, but after a few days of limping in pain I texted my host sister one night asking for our house address because I wanted to call a taxi in the morning to go school in.

I guess she took that as 'I am in deep pain and you need to help me NOW,' because she text me back saying "Tara. Father and I will be at house in 10 min. Doctor is coming. Wait me." This is at 11:30pm at night mind you. In less than 10 minutes they were there, and a few minutes after that I heard the sirens of an ambulance. Yep, they called the ambulance. No worries though. In Georgia an ambulance is more like a house doctor. Thank goodness too because I was not ready to brave my first Georgian hospital experience on account that my foot hurt.

I told them my issue, and within 2 minutes I was lying on my stomach getting a shot in my butt. I swear I've gotten more shots in my butt here than I have when I was a baby! And even better, it turned out the doctors on call that night were Melissa's host mom, and Iya's mom (one of Nino's best friends). So another plus is that the next time I'm sitting having tea at Melissa's house her mom will have a great image of my ass in her head!

I went to school the next day, but it was a mistake because all the children started realizing I was walking around like an old bebia (grandma), and the teachers kept asking if I was OK. Needless to say I spent the next two days cooped up on the couch in the dining room. It was great fighting over ways to help heal my foot with Bebia. I would put the icepack on, and she would take it off. I would take pain medicine and she would tell me the pills are what is causing the pain. Got to love Georgian medicine. You know I do!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From T-Rex to Georgian comedy at its best

This past Saturday the girls and I ventured into Kutisi to do a day trip to a park that claims to have dinosaur foot prints. After a 15 minute cab ride up a cork screw windy road we made it to the gates of the park. However we were quickly disappointed by the park rangers standing outside of the gates saying that the park was closed till April 1st. So we were a bit early. They asked why we hadn't checked online, and our response was, "We're in Georgia! When is anything ever online?!" 

We had our cab driver take us back into the center of town where we decided it would be a good idea to see if the newly opened opera house was showing anything that day. A manager of the theater saw us struggling with the doors, and let us in. She lead us through the backstage door and we soon discovered that we were watching the auditions for their first opera in the stage wings! We met the musical director who spoke beautiful English, and we exchanged email addresses so he would let us know when the opera would take place. You can't get that kind of service in New York!

We got a sneak peek of the brand new opera house!

After we left the opera theater we went to the Marjanishvili Theater to see if anything was playing (my host family's great-grand father built this theater!!). 

The Marjanishvili Theater

As it turned out their was a comedy show. We had no idea what it was going to be like, but we all thought it was worth a shot! After some ice cream in the park (yes, in January!!) we went to see the show, and to our surprise it was the Georgian SNL type show comedians putting on the show! We see these guys on TV ALL the time so it was really cool to see them in person. I especially love Georgi!!

The Georgian David Letterman type late night show host battling it out

Typical Georgian family dinner haha
Doing Georgian versions of 'Americano' and 'Waka, Waka' haha soo funny (sorry the videos wouldn't load!)