This brings me back to Georgia. When we first arrived, the "obscene" amount of money we paid for internet was able to provide unlimited internet access. The USB-wireless technology was released in 2007 in Georgia and limited in 2009 (still in the midst of an economic crisis). Their justification was that it was to model after companies like AT&T which limit bandwidth consumption on their 3G devices. While internet access is available in unlimited quantities with the land-line based DSL and cable internet providers, Georgian mobile companies, such as Magticom, may be making major money in the short term, but I don't think that the Georgian economy or people can support such an expense in the long haul. Of course, there's the actual cost, but there's also potentially lost innovation. In Georgia's developing economy, it needs all the innovation it can get.
I have found in general in my business-sense observations in the former Soviet countries, that there's this grotesque misconstrued version of capitalism. Capitalism in America does have its dark side, of course, but in Georgia for example, businesses and some people catch hold of all of the darkest side of capitalism and run with it. There was an article (most likely sure through Fortune Magazine) saying that Georgia is one of the best places in the world to start a new business. A friend of mine claimed that it's because there are no regulations. I'm neither here nor there on this, I personally think capitalism and a free market keeps things competitive, however, without the guiding hand of regulations and monitoring, dishonesty and (in some cases) corruption brew easily. Whether it be an individual language tutor charging outrageous prices for poor quality lessons in the capital or a private school like St. George's School in Vake (calling them out again) running a money machine and providing poor to no education at all. In general, people in Georgia think: if you pay more, it's better. To a degree, this also exists in America, but with the long-standing record of scams and scandals in the past, most experienced eyes in America can recognize this before.
On a not serious note, you've probably been wondering what's going on with me. :) Well, I have been continuing my IT classes in the IDP settlement, and today I'm finishing my last class. It has been a good, but challenging time. On the surface, my kids are normal Georgian kids, just like any other classroom. However, the trauma many of them and their families suffered from being uprooted from their homes and transplanted elsewhere with essentially nothing has taken and will take its toll. Some of the kids have told me to "go f*** yourself" (in English, ages 10 and 11) and another 10-year-old girl told me in Georgian to "go to hell" when I asked all of them to remain quiet. I think the parents in this settlement have this overwhelming sense of apathy towards parenting and their children's success. As a result, most of these kids have no idea about what respect for teachers or discipline are. I'm kind and encouraging, but tough love comes out when they misbehave. I started with 30 students. Through my "tough love" principles, I will finish this 3-month project with 10 or 11. The 10/11 that will finish are really good kids. They still misbehave, but I've been able to make progress with teaching them computers and about life. Next Friday, we are going to have an open-house/ceremony for the parents to come in and see their children's work, have refreshments, and students will be presented with certificates and a flash drives for completing the course successfully. The NGO liaison and someone from Peace Corps are coming as well to give it more officialness. The 10/11 students are really excited, and I am too!
One thing that really bothers me in the center I teach in is that there's an art teacher who teaches on the same days as me, yet he rarely comes. The children don't really have any activities to do and they look forward to any courses or classes. They wait eagerly for him to get off the bus with me and are disappointed when the bus drives away. Then when he will come some days, they are all excited and forget that he never came the last time. They are just so happy to see him and have something interesting to do.
I had a similar experience in my town when I was taking dance classes. The dance teacher commuted from Tbilisi, and he made the children feel bad when they had trouble learning the dance steps with a, "I came all the way from Tbilisi to watch this!?" I know there are aid workers in the NGO like the one I'm teaching through that are amazing, but it makes me upset to experience a neglectful attitude towards the emotional well-being of children especially and other groups that need the most support.
Ok, so I tried to steer away from the serious. Maybe this next try'll be more successful. :)
In the beginning of May, I went with my primary counterpart to her village in Eastern Kakheti for the "7-days after Easter Festival." I had gone the previous year, and having already met these people the year before, it was comfortable with so many familiar faces around. I took it easy, might have gotten some form of parasite (currently dealing with), and just overall relaxed. We went to "Nekresi" Church in the region of Kvareli (nearby) which was perched on the top of a mountain.
|Photo #24 - Nekresi in the Mist - A steep walk or short car ride up the|
mountain is worth it to check out this quaint church remodeled from the
|Photo #25 - Village Views in Chikaani - Just beyond this lush greenness|
lies Dagestan and Ingushetia. It's hard to believe how small (and beautiful)
Georgia is sometimes.
Then not too long ago, I went out to help the trainees with cluster mentoring in one of the villages. They had to create and implement lessons with a counterpart at the village school, and I observed and gave feed back, also answering any questions along the way that they might have. I stayed with a trainee I'll deem "Good Aura" (as she is also referred to by villagers). It was really good to hang with them. It was different from when I did cluster mentoring last year. The Georgian that I speak, which is by no means perfect, did evoke the sort of "Oooo - ahhhhh" effect I've witnessed before. And! it was a great experience. The town was cold and one of the trainees' host family members commented that the town is just cold in general, year round. However, it was beautiful. Take a looksy:
|Photo #26 - Village Views, Borjomi Region - An afternoon coming back|
after observations, I noticed the view. These are some lucky trainees. You
can't get much more beautiful than this for a training site.
|Photo #27 - 12b Banquet Entrance - As the banquet began, teachers were|
seated at one table, students at another, and parents at another. Teachers
cheered on the fancily clad seniors getting ready to take their seats.
My friend Nona is pregnant with her first child, and I was so surprised on the ride back from Tbilisi when she asked me to be the baby's godfather if I will be in Georgia. If she's serious, I would be thrilled. I have no god children as of yet, and it's such an honor to be asked to be someone's child's godparent, especially in Georgia, as it makes you a member of the family. She said in partial jest that anything her child does, good or bad, she can blame on me. I'll keep you updated on that front. She knows that she will have a boy, and her and her husband have decided to name him Saba.
ANNNND... finally. This past Tuesday, we finished reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and we had a chocolate potluck party and watched the film (original version) to celebrate. Everyone brought in something chocolate. I made m&m cookies and fudge. I think everyone had been so busy cooking their dessert that when it came time to eat it among all the other chocolate dishes, everyone felt nauseated. :) It was a really great experience.
|Photo #28 - Charlie's Chocolate Factory Party - Here is a glimpse of most|
of the dishes. If you'll notice, we did interrupt the chocolate with bananas
and Turkish delight to create some balance.