Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My 23rd Birthday...Georgian Style!

Last Wednesday, March 9th, was my 23rd birthday! Birthdays are huge in Georgia so I was really excited to see what would be in store for my big day. 

My birthday celebration actually started the night before around 11:30 at night. We had gotten back from Yerevan that day so I was completed exhausted. I had just said good night to my family and was crawling into bed when all the lights went off in the flat. Then, in walks Nino and Iraqli singing 'Happy Birthday' at the top of their lungs into my room with a birthday cake with huge sparkle candles. It was quite the surprise (but so adorable!) especially since I was half asleep haha.

The next day (on my actual birthday) my 5th form class started the day off by serenading the 'Happy Birthday' song as soon as I walked in the door. Gu-Ga, one of my 5th form boys, drew me a picture during class (which he shouldn't of done hah), but it was still really sweet. Then my 7th form class surprised me with a cute birthday message written on the chalk board, and several rounds of clapping and 'whoohooing' to celebrate my 23rd year. Also, the three English teachers I work with and another teacher that I've become close with gave me lovely earrings. 

Unfortunately, I had to leave school early that day for a co-teaching meeting in Kutaisi. It did give the girls and I an excuse to go to our favorite Georgian restaurant for lunch afterwards! We ordered all my favorite dishes. So-co da suguni (mushrooms stuffed with cheese), saladi (cucumber and tomatoes), and katopeli da so-co (mushrooms and potatoes). You can tell we've been lacking in the veggies!

When we got back to Samtredia my family had a little supra set up in the dining room for me. Nino, Iraqli, and Nino's friends decorated the room with balloons and signs. It was so adorable! The table was filled with yummy food, and a big pitcher of wine! 

Table all set!!


Nino and Iraqli made this day so special

These candles are illegal in the States! haha
My Bebs! (with the cake I couldn't eat haha)
My Boyfriend (our inside joke hehe)
After our festive meal it was time to get our groove on! Those girls sure know how to dance! Iraqli brought out his drum at one point and we moved to his drum beats. I was so happy that Nino's friends were able to come. They all speak English so well, and they are all so sweet! I feel like I've gotten to know them all so well from our little sleepovers and hang outs at the flat. They gave me cute earrings which I immediately put on to celebrate the evening in! 

Dancing the night away....
The day after my birthday, 5 girls from my 4th form class came up to me in the hallway with a bouquet of flowers, and homemade birthday cards! They said they had everything ready on my birthday, but I never came to their class (stupid meeting!) so they couldn't give me my presents. It was so sweet of them! I'm going to keep their cards forever! Never underestimate the power of a sweet smile and a card that says "Many Happy Retens!!"
Birthday cards from my students!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just get me to the church on time!!

Last weekend a bunch of TLGers and I took a trip to Armenia. A year ago I probably couldn't locate Armenia on the map let alone visit there so it was quite an experience. All I knew was that Armenia claims to be the first Christian state, and that the Kardashians and Cher are Armenian. So I could expect to see a lot of churches (which I did) and women that look a lot like Kim and Cher (which I did too). 

As we walked through the streets of Yerevan I could not help but notice the diversity of restaurant, shops, and people. I no longer felt like I was in a former Soviet Republic, but in a European city! The change wasn't completely drastic to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, but it was definitely noticeable. It was almost like a sneak peek into how Tbilisi would be in 10 years. We explored all different types of food including Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, and American style. We even went karaoking one night haha. I felt like I was back in NY!

A beautiful brand new church in downtown Yerevan

Yerevan's central square

Over the course of the weekend we were able to take several days trips to beautiful sights outside of Yerevan thanks to our marshutaka driver Roman, and Michelle's fabulous Russian language skills.

Geghard Monastery

Garni Temple

Echmiadzin (like the Vatican of Armenian Apostolic Church)
Armenian Genocide Memorial

One day we went to the Armenian Genocide Museum. This is a brand new museum that was created in order to educate people on the genocide of over 1 million Armenians that took place in 1915 during the Ottoman Empire or present day Turkey. It was an extremely moving exhibit, and it made me grateful to be able to visit Armenia and enjoy its people, places, and culture.
Noravank, set in a breath taking mountainous valley
Samtrediettes <33

Mt. Aragats in the distance

Were jumping for joy at Lake Sevan
Abandoned building...love the color contrasts