Wednesday, December 30, 2009

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne.

I had a unique experience last night. I have had the first dream in my life, that I remember, where I woke up laughing and not just once, but twice. I usually have off the wall dreams that are almost uninterpretable, such as Britney Spears revealing her greatest secret that she has changed careers from pop star to secretary or when one of the volunteers had a same sex life partner, and they did in vitro fertilization to have a child.

I don't remember what the dream was about, but how often is it that YOU wake up laughing? It must have been really funny, that or I'm losing my mind and edging insanity. I have been feeling really good lately due to being on vacation. There are some pros and cons, for example being around general parent-child disciplinary actions all day is a con, but spending time studying for the GMAT is a pro. This list goes on.

In other news I made the "Vanishing Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie" recipe. It was not as amazing as when I make it in the States, and I had all the right ingredients, but all the wrong measuring equipment. Something has been off lately with my cooking skills. I don't know what it is. Maybe bad mojo is messing with my vittles.... Anyways, my oatmeal raisin cookies, may not vanish unless I make a frosting for them tomorrow, because right now they are oatmeal-raisin muffin tops... Unfortunately not everything I make is amazing, and this is a learning process after being the first batch of cookies I have solely produced in Georgia.

I would like to give a quick shout out to all the mamas out there! For those that provide help and support to their children and children in general. I'm really a kid at heart! It looks as though this will be the last entry of 2009! It's been an interesting year.

Of course, there needs to be the obligatory New Year's Resolutions and goals for 2010:

1. I will try my best to have more creative activities in lessons for my students.
2. I will try to start meditating again.
3. I will try not to complain... as much. There are so many people that have everything in every way worse. I am so fortunate and grateful, I should not be complaining about anything or anyone. In place of complaining, I will try to provide constructive criticisms directly and where necessary.
4. I will try to be more proactive in my nutrition and weight gaining.
5. I will try to be a more active reader, so I only have to read something once.
6. I will try to go to bed earlier so I get more sleep, and wake up feeling more refreshed. It's all about self-control, baby. I should be in bed now, but it's not the New Year yet, and I told myself I'd publish a blog today.... which leads me to my next point:
7. I will stick to my word. Done. If I say I'm going to do something definitely, it will be accomplished. Too many times we lose track of what we say we will do, and as a result we disappoint others.

I think that's a good list. I know I'm not perfect, and I have a lot to work on to become my ideal self, both inside and out. In order to keep these things achievable, it's good to end there. Until next year, my sweets! It's been real.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ayo Technology!

So... I'll start off by saying it got really cold. I decided to plug in my heater into my extension cord, even though you aren't supposed to, but there's no heat or electricity in my room, so what's a boy to do? Needless to say, I'm out an extension cord, and I know now that heat is not possible in my current living situation. Again, I was reminded I am in a small town in Georgia. The reason for the melting of the plastic on the extension cord was decidedly because it was made in Turkey. I don't know, it was a first for me.

Other than that, it's been a pretty awesome day: sleeping in late, sparse rations, having the house free, and good company. In other news, Indian food in Tbilisi was great! I don't recommend getting the samosas though, they lacked a certain Indian quality to them. The butter chicken was my fave.

Afterwards we went back to an awesome suite at the Courtyard Marriott for a little social hour. I made a Christmas music playlist and we had gathered ingredients for a pretty decent eggnog. It was a great time with friends.

Lately I've been wanting to sleep a lot. I think this first semester was sort of rough. The spring will be even more busy, but I need my rest for it. Not to mention, the holiday season is coming. I'm so excited for my friends coming in March.

Anyways, so on Saturday, I called it an early weekend and went back to get some sleep in. I put in my shooting range earplugs and completely disconnected in a deep quality nap! mmm so good. It's sometimes difficult to get "peace and quiet" when you live in a compact 2 bedroom apartment with 4 other people and frequent visits from neighbors and relatives. Some technology items such as earplugs, thermal underwear, and certain electronic devices (ipods) are so uncommon that it's assumed you don't own them, or if it's made known the level of understanding for their use is not one that justifies another individual owning them. For example ipod. Unlike most Americans, everyone here uses there telephones as an mp3 player, so having a separate device for music is not logical. I can definitely see their perspective.

My mom in America sent me a snuggie. I was wearing it when everyone got home, and there was definitely an eyebrow raise or two. Also in lines of technology, I'm planning on getting a kindle to gear up reading for summer... Of course after my gmat prep is complete. If you have any hard feelings about the kindles, let me know. I'm open to constructive criticism on my future purchases.

That's all I can think of for now, until we meet again!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Testi da Satchmeli

It's on like donkey kong people! I have finished my reading for fun book, and now I'm gonna push through this 500 page 8.5" x 12" GMAT study guide. I am gearing up and will say that by August 6, 2009, I will take the GMAT. I will give the ETS and their affiliates 250 of my US dollars and with hope and dedication, ace this test!

I took the diagnostic test to find out what my problem areas were, and it turns out that Data Sufficiency is a weak area for me, who knew? For those unfamiliar with the GMAT, as I was before yesterday, allow me to enlighten you. It consists of three parts: analytical writing, quantitative (problem solving and data sufficiency), and verbal (sentence correction, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning). The writing section gets a score of 1-6, each section is out of 60, but the total grade is out of 800. In order to have a solid chance of getting into a good business program I need somewhere about 700.

In comparison to the GRE, this test actually makes sense and tests the skills you would need to be good at learning about business. So on my diagnostic test, I scored above the usual median of 500, of the 50th percentile at 61%. Pretty good for no studying or any knowledge about the test, I think.

We have three weeks of "vacation" from school where I will gear up for spring, burn through some pages in this book, and reallign my priorities and motivations. I've learned you need to create tomorrow to ensure its success. So I'm really excited!

On a side note, my host dad calls my phone to get in touch with my host mom, since she doesn't have a phone. So I was woken up to him calling, and her coming in to get it this morning. Then, he called again after she was done, she assumed it was for her again and just comes into my room as I'm getting out of my bed in my underwear to answer it. So funny...So in Georgia, it's known that volunteers will experience a lack of privacy, take this for example, but also it's a very conservative culture, and you don't show PDA when dating someone or walk around the house in your underwear. I guess this case was a privacy invasion win, and a conservative value lose.

Last night I made some Ghanaian food: Joloff Rice and Groundnut Stew. Both were my first time making it, so not the best, but definitely not the worst. Next time I make it, it will be on point, since I know now what I need to do. My host family conceptualized Joloff Rice as Azeri Plov and Groundnut stew as Lobio (beans) with peanuts... close but no cigar.

I am off to go to Tbilisi shortly for Christmas Day festivities! Love you all, and Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays if you are not observing Christmas.

PS- When I return from Tbilisi, I'll be kicking off some cookie making extravaganza: oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, sugar (with maybe some icing), and peanut butter!!! rawr.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Year of the Moxy

Today was a character building day. I am looking for an apartment with the help of many people in my community, and I'm not in a hurry, but if there's something available, it should be weighed as an option. I weighed one of my options today. I met the landlord and our amazing Safety and Security Coordinator came out to do an assessment. So originally the rent was $100, which is totally doable, however on the steep end given the stipend we are given to live on the same level of people within the country. It's roughly 167 lari. But after an inspection and very light but thorough critique, the landlord (who didn't speak Russian or Georgian) got frustrated and upped the rent to $200 aka out of my price range. For a mediocre apartment, it's definitely not worth it.

Then, the main event this weekend will be dinner with a small group for Indian. I really love these guys. Unfortunately, as it turns out we will not be doing dinner at the Peace Corps office for very valid and justified reasons. I think there's a movement to have it at the Nika, but my balloon of excitement about the whole thing is kind of deflated... it's weird, but anyways.

Let's see. Today I saw the Georgian comedy "The Trouble of Dorsipan" (or at least that's how I remember it). It was entertaining for me, but my host mom didn't think it was funny. *Let's a little more air out of aforementioned balloon*

My counterpart also it turns out was actually severely confronted for the grades she gives, aka fair grades especially for students who do no work and don't come to class. It's unreal, it got me really upset to see her so upset, so I requested a meeting with the director tomorrow, who is very supportive of both of us. One teacher whose student is in our class said that my CP is a wicked person and wants to hurt the students' futures, and then she proceeded among a group of other teachers that she would not give such low grades again at the end of this semester. This for me is unacceptable behavior and these teachers are wicked for making another person feel so uncomfortable. It drives me up the wall. I'm proud of my CP for the changes she's made professionally and am still excited to work with her. I'm also very fond of my director for her support.

So in good news, I wrote one of the current students in one of the Peace Corps fellowship programs I'm interested because she's in the program I'm interested in, she's a TEFL RPCV, and also she's an FSU alumna from the same program as me! So last night, I got her response, and she's so helpful! Time permitting and God willing, she said she will help me with any questions I might have. Her first email was such a treat.

Things I am grateful for: the S&S coordinator for all of her help, people in my community for their help finding a place, and the volunteers for their support. I'm all about the support baby.

So, that's all for me in the given moment! Until tomorrow...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

Hey Cool Cats! So passes another day. If I had to label my current mental state, I would say it is positive bewilderment. So far nothing too bad has happened, but just one filled with apprehension of something yet to come. Allow Lucy to 'splain:

1. There's a power strip for my room that is connected to another power strip. I don't know if I mentioned this, but my room is not wired with electricity. One power strip, in order to work effectively, must have a minimum of 220 volts, so there are brown outs in only my room. My family said they were going to wire it in September, but sometimes things run on more of a delay in Georgia.
2. There is a somewhat of an identity confusion and prejudice issue in Georgia, especially in the regions with more of a minority presence. For our first and only example for this entry, we'll look at my site. Unfortunately, because my intimacy with Azeris is not as great as I would like it to be, I really only see this from the Georgian side. Note: I know of course there are bad and good people in any group, race, ethnicity, community, etc. It is my opinion that human nature has more of a tendency to give attention to faults and negative aspects, and by no means am I perfect. For example, I cut hair of volunteers and myself. When this has gotten around town, I had one person today say that I should cut their children's hair because the only salons in my site are run by "Tatars" (an actual group of people, but used derogatorily in Georgia for any non-Georgian. I run into this on a daily basis, and its not just on a community micro-level, but also on country-wide initiatives for integration. It's really good that these efforts are being made, but the process will be slow after the fall of the Soviet Union. I for example among 3 other volunteers are specifically assigned to work in communities where these issues are present.
3. Many of the people I work with have strong personalities. One of the disadvantages of being driven to accomplish a goal is the sometimes result of being overbearing, or having the impatience to process something that doesn't agree with your same line of thought. I say this assertively. This is with anything in life. I'm so grateful to work with such motivated, high(and sometimes over-)-achieving people. This motivation will be what will help change this country, our country and the world (for the better I only hope), but it's still essential to stop and think, "How are/could my actions and words be perceived by those around me?," taking responsibility for any fault you have. I personally try to live these words true to myself as well. If for some reason I ever come across as a hypocrite to my own words, please just ask me to check myself.
4. I am on several committees, and I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I know it's important to be active, but one thing college taught me is to be active in areas that you care about; Your next employer will be more impressed by depth on a certain issue or project than by the breadth of the number of committees you were on. So far I'm heading the teambuilding development for the next group of volunteers; I'm a permanent member on the Volunteer Advisory Counsel and an alternate for the Women and Gender in Development Committee; I'm one of the schedule and curriculum development people for Peace Corps' volunteer teacher training initiative; and Finally, I'm heading the committee for my friend's language competition in her school (Luckily, a short-term thing, but still something nonetheless). In addition to teaching/grading, I'm going to be applying for a grant with my school, I currently correspond with a 5th grade class in Tallahassee (Love you guys!), and I just started an English club (per unspoken request of my students...long story). So I'm going to be prioritizing all of these things, and I think something needs to go. If you disagree, please let me know. They are all great opportunities, but there are only 24 hours in a day, and by no means do I want to burn out this early in the game. Granted: I'm pretty sure I could handle it, so this is definitely an internal battle...we'll see. At the end of the day, I still have time to read and spend time with my friends.

Luckily, I'm still in the Christmas spirit! I made latkes and applesauce today for my host family and me, so maybe I'm more in the Hanukkah spirit?

Also, this is a question to think about and one I, too, have been thinking about: What goes through your mind when you experience something that makes you really happy? How do you process it? Do you ever want to tell someone? If so why? Also, Why do you believe you (or someone else) might get satisfaction from telling someone else? If no one else existed to tell this event/thought/feeling to would it still be the same emotion?

Later Cowboy...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Little Drum

This new schedule of mine wears on the bones. I don't remember the past three days too well, other than that I was very tired. Today is Barbaroba or Saint Barbara's Day... I have never met a Georgian named Barbara... but the day I do, I will laugh.

In other news, I drank some bad compote last night. I almost Poughkeepsie'd in my pants...twice on the way home. It's awful.. It was so good, but it was mixed with some of the local water I think, most definitely.

So it's official! I'm in the Christmas spirit, which is so rare for me. Usually it's like it's another day. So I'm writing this blog to you live from my first English club. 0 students. They are all sick with h1n1 or river flu or something... but really today is a holiday, they should have just canceled school, in mah pinion.

I'm making pizza tonight and going to watch some anime my mommo sent over to me for Christmas! mmm... so delish. It will feel like a normal American day.. I think Thursday is now my favorite day. It's like a personal day before the weekend where I go somewhere, although not sure on my plans for this weekend yet.

I think also, this is going on around 1 week without any freakouts or culture shock... crazy. However, alas, I know all good things come to an end, but this may be a record as of late. I was up late last night looking into different grad programs. There's an MBA program abroad that's really competitive through duke, but you have to get sponsored by a corporation to realistically afford it.. as the tuition is 112,000 per year not including travel costs to each of the 6 international study centers... only in my dreams! But not to fret, I have some amazing realistic options as well.

I'm still learning my students names... eesh I know. I wish I would have been really aggressive with that in the beginning. But it's ok, still many of them don't know my name, and I'm only one new person. whew. I'm commonly called: Jack, Jason, Jennifer and sometimes they get close and will call me Jeffrey.

Anywho, may you all have a glorious day. Christmas is upon us! Stay warm, throw another yule log on the fire, and keep that heart of yours beating wherever you are!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poem No 1

Snips and Puppy-Dog Tails

A brown, bristle of fur
Crumples under Filth and Decay.

Soiled, greasy cardboard
Slung around castaway collars
Ignorantly bustle by,
Leaving you lying in inky smutch
Grudgingly halted
On the parking lot of Disrepair.

A replaceable runt.
Within the hazy gloom,
An unnatural soft sky-blue blank stare of lost hope
Frosted by Cold’s long finger
Casts itself on a passerby.

O Tannenbaum!

Gotta love them fir trees! As I lay nestled in my sleeping bag, I comfort myself with the Vince Guaraldi Trio's Charlie Brown Christmas album. It will very much be a source of calmness during my first Christmas away from home. Yes, I realize I'm talking about this, but unless you haven't noticed already, the twelve days before Christmas have begun! Prepare to be defiled by yet another source of holiday torture via my blog. You may say, "I shan't read this blog," in order to attempt avoiding the inescapable, but in the end you'll be back. Ok, enough with my threats and intimidation. I'm excited. Christmas is in the air. In one of my classes, there is a recording of silent night the student's listened to. If you have access to the tapes, it's unit 7 in the 11th grade's "New Wave."

It's probably the worst recording of Silent Night I have ever heard in my life. The student's laughed at it. I feel like the Christmas season encourages the embrace of jazz, and trust that I have been huggin up on it a lot lately.

One thing I would like to mention for a second is the Georgian news. They don't hesitate to show you anything! By that, and I know you were just starting to feel at inner peace, I mean they show footage of murder and crime scenes. There's no concept of media censorship to the extent of gore anyways. Then apparently, some mother sold her baby to an American couple for 5,000 dollars. First: how awful, and second, can we make Americans who want to adopt internationally look any worse. I just shrank in my chair as I heard the story.

Today passed in the blink of an eye but was very productive. I'll leave you there with a short one and take care!

PS- This post goes out to Paula, who is feeling ill. Much love!
PPS- (And you thought it was over... I decided to include an anecdote about firecrackers, since everyone else here seems fascinated by them) Ahem...
So I found out about the firecrackers from a news story on Georgian news. By firecrackers, they sometimes indicate approaching demolition-style explosives. The news showed kids faces that were permanently disfigured by them, and they didn't leave out any details. So having been made aware of the issue, kids began to increase the purchase and detonation of them in our school. I hear an explosion walking down the hall, and just keep walking. It usually comes from within the classrooms, however today a massive one was detonated in the hallway. It even made me jump. Then one male student in the seventh grade proceeded with a repetitive scream of (Vai me, deda! Vai me deda! Vai me deda!...etc.) Translation'ish: O my, mother! I'm like, "You're Georgian, you should be used to this, so cut the dramatics." Seriously, it's not a surprise. They apparently do this every year. I'm even used to it already.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Betty, It's Cold Outside

So rolls in another week. This past week flew by per usual. I was able to spend time with my friend Giorgi. :) They are really awesome. Then Christmas plans have solidified into an all-out Christmas dinner with Barb and Jim and a dinner at the Peace Corps office. I went to Ronny's on Saturday after our VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) meeting, and I have to say that after eating there I really like my pizza crust more. I don't know if I'll be able to view Ronny's the same way again. Then we went to Laurenoba for her birthday, also a good time. There was a creepster guy there who was drunk and behaving really inappropriately, and for the first time in my life, I can say that I would have done anything to protect the girls around me. It bothered me so much that someone thought he could do whatever he wanted, and in my opinion the fact they were American girls had a lot to do with it. I know guys anywhere almost can get touchy feely when drunk, but also the perspective here of American girls/women is that they are "easy" sex objects and once again not for all, but for some people. This perception comes from the higher level of conservativeness here comparatively, and as a result it is a short conclusion to make. Also, the patroni system here protects each other, and as long as I'm connected to my community here both of Americans and Georgians alike, I am going to try my best to make sure nothing bad comes to fruition while I'm physically present, especially.

Then, I would like to report that the eggnog was a success! I had like 3 glasses and didn't get sick, and so far as I know, no one else has either! I used Alton Brown's recipe! The store that sells cream here was out of it, but I just used extra milk instead, so it was like eggnog light. I made it for Giorgi and his family. There's a little girl Lizzi, who I've already decided to take home with me. She's really cute, and she liked the eggnog most of all. She likes me because I'm tall and foreign, and also because I know how to make "cocktails" such as eggnog. We didn't have the proper alcohol for eggnog, and hers was non-alcoholic for sure. I think she's like 7-8. I spun her around, played the hang game slaps with her, and tried to copy her every move for a little bit. When it was time for her to go, she asked me if I would be there again tomorrow. She said she wants to come over any day I'm there. She's very shy, and wouldn't leave my side after she got somewhat comfortable with me. When someone would say,"Hey Lizzi, come here!" She would say,"Erti Tzuti!" (One Minute) and ignore it. She's too freakin cute!

Then today, a group of us got some killer Chinese food. mmm.. so good. It's pretty cheap too, which is also a great plus.

Other than that, I'm going through the motions, making it happen. I'm pushing through an amazing book, and am getting the spring primed for what will be extremely productive: teacher trainings, a language competition, PST for G10's, WID/GAD camps, an English club, and hopefully a grant or two for my school!

That's all for now folks, will write you again soon! I know I need to get some more pics up for you guys, and I'll work on that! TTFN

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Risky Business

So, the next day, we all went to the Gelati Monestary where the greatest Georgian King David the Builder is buried. He was a big guy, and apparently also very humbled. On our tour, the guide mentioned that he wanted the people to walk on his grave after he died as a sign of humility. As soon as we were fired up to do some grave dancing, we were then informed he had been canonized, and walked on a Saint's grave is sacrilege. We were too late! We also went to 2 other churches. One used to be the biggest church in Georgia before Sameba and also before it was destroyed (the are rebuiliding it) and then we went to this other church, which pardon my cultural insensitivity, but I cannot remember it's name. Then, we had a good time and danced! We went home the next day and a highlight was that a marshrutka driver stole my headset for skype. It was on its way out anyway, but I couldn't believe that the driver stole it. When I confronted him about it, he got very defensive and then ran off into the bazaar. You would think, if he hadn't stolen it he would've shown maybe a little more concern. So I learned when the driver says, "Can I take that for you?" to say no and not to trust them at all. It was a low-cost small item, but still taught me an even more valuable lesson.

Then this past week has been like the first week of school again, my CP changed her schedule, and as a result all of the teachers' schedules had to change. My director is so nice. Then, it looks like we'll be putting together a grant to improve the English cabinet starting on Monday.

Also, I'm going to be putting together an English club 2 days a week, as I saw it had such an impact when I visited Manana. Other than that, this week has been pretty decent.

So hypothetically speaking, have you ever had a continuous spout of just horrificly blase food? That's where I am right now, and it kind of makes me hate eating. :( Are you starving? Yes. Do you want to eat some fooooood? Hellz no. I'll starve. I'd rather not offend my taste buds. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

So yesterday, my tutor read me the end of one of the short stories I've been reading to the end (I was reading too slow I think), and while I didn't understand every word, I got the gist and it was awesome! Love me some tutoring. In case you're interested it's called "The Basket with Pine Needles" by Paustovski. It's in one of his short story books. The main characters are Edward Grig and Dagni Pederson.

My friend Giorgi also taught me the Georgian card game, 5-card Bura and then a soccer championship game of sorts on the computer. I'm not good at either, but at least I play soccer on the computer better than I do in reality.

Then, let's see. I would just like to give everyone some advice. First, don't hit your kids. I hate seeing/listening to it, not to mention it's just bad parenting. There are better methods of parenting out there. Secondly, don't rush your kids unnecessarily. When they are trying to eat, let them finish. Maybe you should have planned your own time more appropriately so they would have time to eat. That's all for now, more on parenting later.

So my host mom and her friend Lea want to send my mom a package for the New Year. They had planned all these things to send, and said that I would pay for it, since I have so much money. I told them to go easy on their shipment inventory. Among the list was muraba (preserves), fruit leather, churchela, a 1 liter bottle of Georgian wine, a bottle of tk'mali and they still were brainstorming. I told them that 1 letter was 4-7 lari. They said that that was a letter, and THIS is a package. Exactly. So, as it turns out, 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) from Georgia to the States is 90 lari. 3 kilos is 150 lari. I am going to see about getting a different shipping quote from Tbilisi, but we'll see. Also, I'm thinking that since it's Georgian products and the mail system is not so reliable, some things might get lifted....

Also, plans for Christmas include 1)Sleeping in late 2)Going into Tbilisi and 3)Going out to an awesome dinner with Jim and Barb (maybe others). I don't know who's going to be in the country. There's a movement to go to Turkey, another group of people that are going home to see there families for the holidays and etc. Then two other volunteers were scheming a Peace Corps dinner the next day possibly, making it at the PC headquarters' kitchen. I really want to make eggnog, but there is a strong fear of eggs that resides deep within my soul. I would be cautious in the States to make it, but here is even moreso. We'll see, I'm definitely going to make it. Yes, I have looked for recipes for cooked eggnog, but there is an almost overwhelming motion to avoid it. Wish me and my organism luck!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Pimp My Peace Corps Experience

Hello! So it's been a while, per usual, but I have honestly tried to get a post up, and finally after a week or so, it has come. So this week, I have been able to and am still enjoying my "vacation" between trimesters. It has been amazing, and karma made sure to even itself before I left. Last Saturday, I was eating my breakfast when I was informed that at 3 o'clock, one of the men from the church would be over. I mentioned I was planning to shower and I think she wanted me to be appropriately presentable by the time he arrived, I guess so I wasn't walking around in my skivvies. So I get on my computer for a little face time on skype and told my friends I needed to pack and shower for my next day's travel. I think I started reading something and/or fell asleep, but by the time I became aware of the time, a few of the church leaders were in our midst. Note: I'm all about Jesus and God, but I shall also remind you these are the church leaders who can look into your eyes and see whether or not your soul is good, which would then be communicated to my host family. Needless to say, it was a little early for Judgment Day, so I stayed in my room. I figured, maybe they will leave soon. O! Was I wrong! They stayed for three and a half hours. During their visit, I was terrified to come out of my room. There were also some people visiting I didn't know at all. I did not recognize their voices. At first, the main religious leader was yelling about religion. I didn't catch it all, just a few words. Then, they began chanting, repeating after the priest and following with "Amin." This went on for quite some time and seemed somewhat like hell, fire and brimstone preaching. After their session, the main leader expressed his desire to meet me. I was like no way! My host mom said I was being rude, but I'm sorry, I have no interest at this point to meet him, especially after my experience at home. By this time, I still had not showered or packed. I ate dinner, showered and went to bed. I never left the house that day. I figured the week has to get better!!

Then, I got on my marshrutka to the west! I originally got out a marshrutka to Kutaisi, but then a Zugdidi marsh driver came and said he was leaving soon and I should follow him, and I'm so glad I did. His marsh was pimped out: it had all interior lcd lights, a full speaker sound system, a high ceiling, an LG flat screen tv accompanied by mini flat screens with a dvd player. This guy does not play when it comes to cross-country travel. All the seats were brand new, too. He had a funny sense of humor and drove fast, my kinda guy.

Then I met Manana in her city centre. The whole experience was just awesome. So in my time here I have observed 3 teachers, helped Manana with her classes and also in the Youth Centre she works in everyday from 1-7 and then I had a teacher training session on critical thinking for 22 teachers in her school. In terms of cooking! Don't even talk about it! Manana is an amazing cook. I've learned several things. I made American-style pizza that rivals Ronny's Pizza in Tbilisi. I don't know if it's Georgia-wide, but Manana taught me how to make 5-minute khachapuri. Also amazing is that Manana translated my whole teacher training. It was awesome. I had this whole powerpoint presentation made when we lost power. We took it to the bank and had to get permission from the bank manager, which was great because we got to meet him. Also this week, we went to one of Manana's students Museums at his house. His father collects old Georgian artifacts: daggers, swords, guns, alcohol, spears, and etc. His collection is very extensive and is looking at getting some historic recognition from the government. Also, his dad shared a 25-year old bottle of dessert wine with us from his collection. It was amazing! I couldn't believe that he shared it with us so freely. Then, Manana's neighbor's daughter, Teona, is a famous soccer player for the Georgia women's soccer team, and is so good that Switzerland is buying her. She will have to learn the language, but she seems pretty stoked about it. What an all-star week I have had! I have been able to see the sights and meet the people. Manana helped me find motivation in what I'm doing in Marneuli and I have some great ideas from her lessons and procedure not only for my counterparts, but also for my school.

Also, one more shout-out to Manana! She's awesome. My favorite story from this week was when we were talking about meat. I said I really only love chicken, and she said that she doesn't really like killing chickens, but if I want chicken she can kill one for me. She said it's sad and especially with all the feathers to pluck. She said that she used to have many chickens, but someone or something has been taking them out of her yard, maybe a hawk or something.

Also, there's a cafe near Manana's school that makes probably the best lobiani I have ever had for only 70 tetri per lobiani. Then today, we went to Kutaisi and took a look around, went to the bazaar and I got a new pair of boots. Once the bruises on my heels go away, I will give my evil shoes another chance. They are so beautiful, I haven't given up hope on them yet.

Finally, I have been able to read before going to bed almost every night this week. It's something I really enjoy, but never really get a chance to do. It makes me look forward to what the summer months will be like.

Tomorrow, we will meet up with a group of volunteers to celebrate LCF Ana's birthday! I'm stoked. We should also be doing some really productive sightseeing. Truly a treat. Another thanks to Ana and Manana!

Love you all!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I guess it must be a gift from God or something, Hi to the folks!

So you know when you come in, and everyone's asleep? And you try to be really quiet but end up making a ton of noise? That's the story of my life tonight. I was like a bull in a china shop. I was knockin crap over, drop things, stepping on every loud crack in the floor, accidentally slamming doors, da ase shemdeg (and so on in Georgian). But anyways, I had a great day! I get another week to break out of the mold that is the water-damaged wallpaper in my room, and I'm going to visit our TEFL trainer Manana! I'm super stoked. I'll get to see another part of Georgia and everything! I'm leaving for there on Sunday. Thhhheen, yesterday I had a Dinner of Champions: soggy, greasy potatoes, bread and water. O.K. so I lied, I actually couldn't take it as awful as it was, so I added a little peanut butter too. I'm so glad we had the volunteer celebration last week, because otherwise I might be in a bathtub somewhere with a razor blade. That was maybe more graphic than I would have liked, but you get the point.

So Peace Corps gives us the opportunity during our service to have not one, but two babies! Unless of course you are using fertility drugs or the twin gene runs in your family. That's right! The first trimester of school is over. I think I may be starting to show a little bit. We'll do another check-up after the second trimester. But seriously, our school has trimesters.

I saw Terminator: Salvation....and then I found a dollar! woohoo!

So I decided I was gonna have a fun lesson today in my ninth grade class. One girl comes in and she's like, "I'm sick, can I go home??" I ask, "Have you been to the school nurse?" She says," Ummmm.... I have a doctor at my house, so can I go?" I say,"No way Jose, sit down." She says, "I'll be right back." She never came back... Then another girl (same class) comes in, as earlier she had dropped her purse off. She said ,"I need to get my bag, I'll be right back." I said,"Where are you going?" She smiled and said,"Home," and laughed as she left the classroom.

Those kids really missed out, because we played a really cool game of Uno. That's right, I schooled those kids on that American classic card game. A special thanks to Johnny for the cards and to the folks at Matel for their ingenuity. I'll take Uno over having some laaaame illness any day.

It's cold.

So, Ben's host mom commented today that I have a belly and I'm on my way to becoming a true Georgian. Note: no one in my life has ever said I had a belly. I told Ben, "Maybe I'm not losing weight after all! Unless... it's a distended belly from malnutrition...." I don't hate it! Thank you for calling the Save the Peace Corps Volunteers Foundation, please leave your credit card number, expiration date, and 3 digit security code after the tone.

I'm grateful for the Peace Corps sleeping bags... They are my personal Jesus.

Dilemma: get up and eat some Churchela that's in my shoebox (secret sweets stash) and have fresh sugar on my teeth to rot away my teeth during the night, or.. go to bed with a rumbling stomach? I'll be right back...



After a few loud floor creaks, 1 accidental/nearly unavoidable door slam, and a little nip of bone-chilling cold, I'm now nestled back in my sleeping bag with two Churchela and a mug of water. Thank you host mom for filling up my water filter! BTW.. in case you were wondering what Churchela is, it's walnuts on a string dipped into a grape juice goo (for lack of a better word) and then dried out for a period of time. Very delicious. They call it: "Georgian snickers." I don't know if I'd go that far, but I do really enjoy them.

I'm excited for what tomorrow will bring to me. Possibly a feeling of freedom? Happiness? Dare I say, englightenment? Only the dear Lord up above knows. So keep those crosses tucked away, and I'll catch you on the flip side.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


First I will start off with a small rant:

Dear Aldo,
Why do your shoes not like me? I have many friends which love your shoes, and frankly I think most of them are ugly, but I'm glad your shoes make my friends happy. However, not only are your shoes ugly, but they are uncomfortable and kill my feet. Is that why a $90 pair of shoes was marked down to $30? They are completely flat and by no means accommodate anyone who has an arch in their foot. I find myself tripping over things, due to the lack of contour, and the soles are so thin I can feel every rock and pebble I walk on. The reason I chose them was that they are somewhat European and primarily easy to clean. When all is said and done and your shoes have worn out, I will have a permanent scar on the back of my heel from where your shoes cut it away, even wearing the thickest pair of socks.


Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I can tell you about all of the positive things happening with me. Really though, I love my Russian tutor, my new friend Giorgi, and their entire family. They are all great. It really is helping preserve and improve my Russian. Maybe someday, I can speak it somewhat fluently. Also, today I got to see a Fulbright scholar who was in Azerbaijan with Peace Corps and now is doing research on the differences between the minority communities and Azerbaijan. Annnd, I'm so greatful to have such a great director. She is truly awesome, sweet, open, and just, in general, great. I feel like any problem I have, I can talk with her about. Sometimes it's awkward, but not to worry.

Also, I learned the word for awkward in Russian. Georgians use it, which means they identify with awkwardness and awkward situations. I thought it was just me, but no. They feel it too = hilarious considering how many Georgians I have most definitely feel awkward. :)

Also, I'm greatful for heaters. While I cannot use my heater, because it is not economical, when I go to school, I am glad they are there. I noticed today that the younger classes love to tend the little wood-burning heaters, due to mild pyromania. So those classes are very warm. :)

With the light comes the dark. Let me shed some shadow for your information. My CP is ab not fab. She is truly a collusive person. She admits to completely fabricating her grade book as well. She either thinks she is successful in using me to reinforce her own laziness, or she is really extremely disorganized. I have not yet come to a solid conclusion on that matter. She was a no-call, no-show on Tuesday, and achieved nothing last week. She still had not yet implemented a lesson plan we designed together, as apparently the students were not there. This is not me talking *pardon my French* shit about her, this is fact. I keeps it real and am just telling it like it is. The work I have done thus far to counter her laziness has been in an effort to a) help the students and b)give her room to grow without feeling confined. I did choose her because she needs the most work of all the teachers in the school. And I've had all of these conversations with her, so it's not anything new to her or to anyone in the school. I like to think of myself as an open, communicative person in contrast to what may seem like a complainer.

All CP's aside, the sitch with the HF seems to be going better. I hate that I have to, for my own cultural integration and general self-preservation, include a fake factor to mirror the interactions with them. Fake it til you make it?

This week, and on a positive, I have yet to be called anything too inappropriate! It's the little things, what can I say?

I was at a supra for Giorgoba (on Monday) and managed to make some pretty significant cultural mistakes. For example, you are not supposed to wear a cross/crucifix that is visible at any point in time. Also, you are not supposed to wear a hat when making a toast (which is every time anyone toasts, and finally, it does not go down well, if someone proposes you make a toast and you fumble or refuse (due to lack of vocabulary and potentially having a foreign language complex). Other than that I was able to redeem myself with a good toast. *Thanks God!*

I also realized that I enjoy the black currant preserves (my favorite!!) because the texture/flavor reminds me somewhat of craisins!! MMM

Also disclaimer: I am grateful so much to have shoes. My old pair of shoes split wide open while I was playing soccer. I kicked the ball, and it was like my shoe exploded everywhere. So had I not had these shoes, my life would be even more painful. I am so grateful as well for the fact they were sent to me and as a gift. They are just painful, but I am still appreciative of them on a great level.

I have to get up early tomorrow to be at the school. There were several students who did not take the test. I gave 1 make-up session and no one from the 12a came. Then, they complained that they will not get points. They are very greedy for points. This of course is a complete generalization. The entire class is not as such. Anyways, they said they want to take the test, but they do not have the test books. So then, I said they should buy them. Then they complained they were too expensive, so I said that I will make my own test for them, and it will be free. Then they said it's too difficult and not fair. Then they asked when they could take it, I said either today at 3 pm, or tomorrow at 9 am. They said that this afternoon was not good for them and that the morning was too early. So I'm like: reality check *snaps twice* You didn't come for the original test or the test make-up session, you rarely come to class, you don't do the homework at all, and you are bitching (once again sorry) and complaining about what's convenient for you, as if I have not been accommodating for you at all. Then, I'm offering you two makeup times, both of which are in my limited "free" time and are inconvenient to me. Mari (my counterpart) also seemed like I was being unfair by her reactions. Give me a friggin' break people, you are ridiculous. And in the end, I'm still the bad guy, because I refuse to let them get a perfect 10 for doing nothing, but complaining about the work they never actually do.

Ok, I'm done, I had to put the lid on that last can of worms. Sorry for the second rant. It honestly came out of nowhere.

On that note, I will be in class tomorrow at nine to represent the interest of education and justice.

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Full Plate

Well ladies and gents, it has definitely been an epic fail for blog postings as far as November is concerned at this point in time. I apologize about the let down. We had a conference all week last week, and then the first trimester is wrapping up, so I have been grading tests and papers non-stop. As far as my job looks so far, it doesn't seem as though I'll be changing my counterpart. I put a lot of stress on her, so she said she wants to drop some of the classes that she doesn't teach with me. My guess is that she has been focusing all of her energy on our classes and feels lost or drained in the other classes. I wonder how those are going. But, as much as I've been advised to change from her, I'm going to try another trimester and see if I can get some more work done. Once she gets used to planning, I need to get her up-to-par on grading, because it's killing me. I budget around 10-15 hours a week just in grading, and I only teach 15 hours. Then I have 3 hours for planning as well. I hope the students are getting a lot out of it too.

So we had our conference in Bazaleti, which is a popular tourist location in the summer time, but was cold and windy this whole past week. Our room was facing on the lake, so we got all of the winds, which made it sound like our room was haunted. It was moaning the whole time, and not in a good way. Then by the time we left, there was even some snow/ice on some of the mountain tops. It's official! Winter is upon us.

So this past week, we did 2 days of intensive language and 2 days of safety and security. The language sessions for me were 1/2 in Georgian and 1/2 in Russian. The Russian teacher was so much better than our Russian teacher for PST, but draining due to all of the grammar review. Teo, our language and cross culture coordinator, newly returned from maternity leave, was also absent this past week due to what I heard was a death in the family. She organized a lot of the event, and is a pro at her craft. I have only talked to her over the phone so at this point in time, she is a phantasm. The security and such was fun, and then on Friday I led, among some other volunteers, a concurrent session on making American cuisine in Georgia. I felt that it was good, but could have been better, but I'll take the better elements of it with me and consider the bad worth a grain of salt or maybe powdered sugar would be better since its smaller.

On Friday night, we had a Thanksgiving dinner. Many volunteers made dishes or helped with the preparation. I made a last minute savory-spicy pumpkin soup, which was pretty good! It was great to preserve another American tradition.

I stayed overnight in Tbilisi last night and went for some McDonald's today and now I'm back with the host family. So as I was coming home, I smelled this awful chemical smell in the stairwell. I figured my host mom was just doing a deep clean. Apparently, the day before yesterday, there was a legit out of control fire in the apartment right underneath ours, hence the small. To quote my host mom, "I lost my mind." I am so glad I didn't lose all of my things in the fire. That would probably have prompted an ET... I can't imagine trying to replace all of clothes. I would have been left with only a week's worth of clothes. If it happens, I would have considered it was meant to be. They don't know what caused the fire. My host mom thinks it was an unattended cigarette. Due to the chemical smell, I feel like it might have been some form of a chemical/electrical fire, but I'm no firefighter.

So I'm in my room, wrapped up tightly in my sleeping bag. My host family finally gave in to the cold and busted out the heater. It's in the living room, so it doesn't exactly heat my room, but I will try and stay warm.

Tomorrow is Giorgoba, or the holiday for St. George. My host mom's sister-in-law asked me if I was familiar with the holiday, and I said yes. She didn't believe me. Apparently, I'm not only a satanist, but a liar too. I'm most of the time willing to admit when I don't know something, but when someone tells me I don't know, it immediately shuts me down socially and I become hostile and/or uninteresting. So at that point in time, I decided to unpack my things.

So to give you more information on Giorgoba. It's a very important holiday, especially in Georgia. St. George is the patron saint of Georgia, hence the name of the country in English. Giorgi/George is an extremely popular name. So on this holiday, there is a massive religious ceremony, for those that are religious, and supra to follow. You also celebrate anyone named Giorgi. So my host dad's name is Giorgi and so is my new friend. I feel so much more of a connection with my new friend, so I think I will celebrate with him. My family is going to the village tomorrow, featuring the woman who called me a liar. They also kill a sheep and boil it, and this is a tradition. They only boil it. So when I told my friend, he said jokingly it's very bad, but later not to worry, they will not let me go hungry. He is a great guy.

A really good outcome of the week's events was being able to meet the new US Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass. He is really down to earth, loves PCV's and wants to come visit each of us in our sites in the coming 2 years.

Also, we did further divy'ing up of committees. As you may have read, I was in PST elected to the TEFL position on the VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) but also was selected as an alternate representative for the WID/GAD committee (Women and Gender in Development). I really wanted to be on a committee that has a direct impact on the community and am very excited!

So, our school has only one more week, and then a week off, which I have some plans, but they just need to get finalized by Peace Corps!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

There's a she wolf in your closet

Playas and Pimps,

Coming at you live from Marneuli, it's the Jefferson Show! So while we were given cross-cultural training on keeping our conversation topics and behaviors culturally sensitive, I never imagined that some HCNs (Host Country Nationals) would do a few other faux pas' as far as I'm concerned. So this week at school, one lady flat out sad that Protestantism is a product of Satan. Hello, my name is Jefferson and I'm a Satanist. I send my best wishes to the underworld. Then, another teacher, as I was grading papers picks them up and starts shuffling through them looking for her son's grade. She didn't really ask if it was okay, but maybe she thought I just don't have the language skills. Unfortunately, she was disappointed that I had not yet graded it yet.

Most of the teachers at my school really like me, and I love them. They are kind, but you have to take the good with the bad. There was another teacher who was talking to another teacher shot off that the previous volunteer was better. Some view me as a nice smiling, happy person, while the teachers who don't like me see me as this cruel being out to spite their children's futures. I'm sorry if your son/daughter cheated on the exam, never came to class, and didn't do any of the homework, don't expect to get a 10 (the highest grade). Kids who get 8's, 9's, and 10's get medals, a somewhat Cold War method of recognition, also used in the US. These medals are very valuable. But needless to say, I keep it real. Luckily, my director's got my back. Sorry for that little, pardon my french "bitch fest," but it should give you and idea of the past several weeks for me.

I'm freaking excited that one of my best friends of all time and her amazing parents are coming in March, I'm going to a conference next week, and then after 2 weeks, I have a solid week of vacation, which will probably involve some form of a secondary project. I seriously cannot believe how long we've been in Georgia, and also how much longer we still have to go, and all of the adventures which still have yet to take place.

I may have mentioned this, but my amazing tutor gave me a series of volumes of poetry by Sergei Esenin, one of her favorite poets. I am going to try and translate one a day. This is the one I did last night from 1910:

"Here already is evening. The dew
is shining upon a nettle.
I stand by the road,
Which was leaning against the willow.

From the moon is a great light
Straight onto our our rooftop.
Somewhere a song of the nightingales
From far away I hear.

Well and warm,
Like in the winter by the wood-burning stove.
And the birch trees stand,
Like large candles.

And further down the river,
In view on the forest's edge,
A sleepy watchman knocks
With a dead thud."

What's interesting to me after doing research, and it reminds me a lot of Sylvia Plath, on some level. There's an element of the simple life with a presence of deadened calm, and the simple life was what Esenin became famous for. I think that I find a lot of calm in Russian, because it's not as foreign to me. It's all about where you can find sanctuary here in the good ol' GE, both physically and mentally.

I can say that I'm slightly positive above equilibrium, and I look forward to maintaining this for a few weeks. Also something that is crazy to me is the mental drive here. For example, when you go on vacation somewhere for 2 weeks, there is this crazy drive to see all the sights and soak everything up, live every moment like it's your last, and so on, and metaphorically this is like your sprint in running.

Then, I've done the study abroad thing, where the drive is a little bit less, but still there is a constant drive, knowing that someday you may never be back. This would kind of be like your 5k. Finish strong!

AND thennn, you've got Peace Corps. 2 years out of the country, out of your environment, away from your family and friends, and you are forced to learn the customs and language, and inevitably integrate those into your core. Do you get tired and quit? Or do you keep going? Where is the point along the way where you break and turn back? How many people pass out along the way? This is your marathon. Goal: to survive.

This experience is going to create, and has already, such an appreciation for a native environment and the US. To para-quote Lauren, "When I get back, I'm gonna be THAT girl. The obnoxious one who always is saying how lucky you are..."

So I'm spread out there, like unsalted butter over my community's hot frying pan. Will I enrich its flavor? Or will I burn, leaving a bad taste in your mouth as I smoke away?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I had a dream...

Ok so here's my crazy dream from last night.

Tom: This just in from Tbilisi: The Marriott on Rustaveli Street is on lockdown after a serial killer goes on a rampage. In a small factory town not to far from Tallahassee, FL, a mysterious man kills five people near the peanut factory. The nostalgic love of peanut butter may never be the same. Coming to the scene live is our news correspondent.

Reporter:"Hi Tom, it's been a rough morning as citizens of the Tallahassee Metropolitan Area are gathering to mourn the loss of these 5 people, some of which were women and children. Just over there to your left is the weigh station out from the factory where the five bodies still lie. Luckily we have a few eye witnesses who heard and were able to record the sounds of the people as they were murdered in front of each other." *Plays the sound file of people screaming*

Reporter:"Two attempted victims were able to escape. Let's take a look at their stories..."

Little Boy: "He made us play games and swim and we didn't want to, but he made us. Then he said if we didn't something bad would happen. My friend and me started to play a game and just kept running. I'm really tired now."

Reporter: "The two young boys, age 7 and 9, are now being evaluated and will be sent to mandatory counseling. Reporting to you live, back to you."

Tom: "So you were saying that it seems as though a lot of people are gathering at the scene of the crime. Could you talk to us a little about that. What are people's motivations for being in such a morbid place right now?"

Reporter: "Well it seems as some people have come out of legitimate concern for the families who are at loss right now, however, other people have set up grills and bonfires which also seems like they are here for the novelty entertainment value as though reveling at the scene of a car accident or train wreck. One couple even mentioned this could be something that could save their marriage."

*camera spans around the scene of cars and trucks parked on the grass in the night lit up by bonfires and crowds of people*

Reporter: "Officials are saying that the serial killer has announced he will commence another spree before fleeing the country to wreak more havoc abroad. The UN, the EU and the Black Sea Security Council are discussing possible options, as they believe Georgia among many countries could be a target."

Reporter: "We will be updating you as soon as we receive further news. News correspondent, thank you, Tom."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekend Update

Hello again friends,
Words cannot describe how awesome this past Friday/Saturday were for me. I got to spend some birthday time with a volunteer for his birthday celebration in Kvareli, as it was a birthday shortly followed by Ilioba. As mentioned, -oba is used for holidays, and so Friday-Saturday were Johnnioba and Sunday- Ilioba, representing Ilya Chavchavadze, a famous Georgian writer/poet. It was amazing. That's all I can say. I hope to get video up soon. :) Kvareli is beautiful and houses the Ilya Chavchavadze Museum and statue in his honor.

Also, I have been going through some continued culture shock, and I can definitely say that I'm looking forward to having more stability after the first 6 months at site. Or at least, that's how I feel at this point in time. Also, I'm in love with my SM's organization leaders. They are so sweet and kind-hearted and I love seeing them.

"The IST is next week", and I'll have you know those 5 words contain 10,000 leagues under the sea of excitement. It's gonna be tons of work, but a definite holiday from the daily grind, which I must say in accordance with Lauren, it could not have been at a better time! There's a lake we can swim in, even though it's pretty cold. I want to go swimming, but alas I don't live in Walgreens, I live in Georgia where the temperature would probably not allow for it without undue hypothermia.

Furthermore, I'm going to visit my PST host family this weekend, with possibility of a side excursion with aforementioned person(s).

I have a package in Tbilisi, hint hint, which I will probably get during the IST.

That's all I'm inspired to write for now, just wanted to give you a brief update. Also, if you have any ideas for Thanksgiving dishes, or ideas, hit me up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Climb from the Valley

Well kids and cats, it's been a real trip since last we spoke. On any other day, the wedding I went to would have been a blast, however unfortunately for me was not enthralling, in fact quite the opposite. The bride, aka one of the other English teachers at the school, was absolutely drop-dead smashing. Truly, one of the most beautiful brides I have ever seen, not to say I've seen that many brides in real life, but nonetheless pretty astonishing. It was Halloween, and I missed my friends. I had a terrible, awful, no good very bad week, as you read previously, and one of the wedding guests was just the icing on the cake. I am grateful that week ended. Amen, praise Jesus!

Then on Sunday, in a recovery effort, the marveloso Loreni incompliance with city-host Alisoni opened her heart to let a little of her sweet love out. I was tired, but felt better. I found out on Tuesday that I missed a phone call on Sunday that would have been an awesome time with my Russian tutor and her son, and my newest friend, Giorgi. As I was not quite back to equilibrium at that point, it was probably for the best I hadn't gone.

Because I've been having to explain grammar structures and so on, I have become slightly aware by the oddities in my own grammar use. (Maybe it will help me on the GMAT... *wishfully thinks*)

I decided tonight over dinner that Tuesday and Wednesday are my favorite days. Why? Russian lessons. While I love the Georgian language and am becoming somewhat proficient in it (meaning I can now survive somewhat), I have a deep passion for the Russian language. I love Russian literature, and as mentioned, my tutor also shares this passion. Her mother was from Russia. The city is difficult to pronounce, so I can't say I remember it. Also, her son, Giorgi is just fun to be around. I would say out of anywhere in Georgia, outside of my usual volunteer peeps, I feel the most comfortable. Also there, I have had the pleasure of eating black currant preserves. I know preserves are usually not something that floats my boat, but these are just freaking awesome! I think I ate the equivalent of half a jar of them just today. Also, from my tutor, I learned the word for impudent, the legend of cheese, and an artistic tale about the Strait of Magellan. Random, I know.

Then, highlight of tonight, was the awesome chocolate cake my host mom made. It definitely gave the snickers cake from my birthday a run for its money. Speaking of which, I want to say that I never gave the snickers cake a review. She worked very long and hard to make it, and I very much enjoyed it. :)

Then, just two nights ago, I talked to my mom on video skype for the first time since being in Georgia, and my host family got to meet her! Then, I got an email from my WWSP teacher, and I was so excited I spent something like 2.5 hours writing a long reply.

Did I mention I had six pieces of cake? The situation at school really hasn't changed much, but nonetheless, we'll see what the rest of this week holds.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

...Best With Lots of Butter

It has been an interesting past couple of days to say the least. It's looking like my CP will change as a result of a conversation with my school director, Asmat, and general classroom chaos. I haven't been making much impact with technical skills development. After a lonnng nap yesterday, I feel kind of like I'm starting back over again. This will of course depend on how next week goes, but if all continues on this path, I will have another 150 names to memorize, and another attempt to train another person. This is kind of like a theme with me: Gardabani, Traumaville, re-roll, Marneuli, limbo, chaos, re-roll. At least I don't have to change sites this time.

So what positive will come from this? I have faith at some point that I will be happy with my job. I can realistically finish Lord of the Rings today. I've been getting more sleep? lol. I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. After all, this is the most difficult job I'll ever love. Also, in theme of Halloween, I downloaded some new music. While it was a summer release, Shakira's She Wolf seems appropriate.

Also, the weather is changing towards the winter. My tutoring sessions have been going swimmingly, learning lots of vocab. It seems like there's really no time to study, but then again, I use Georgian every day. I've been feeling in a writing mood, so perhaps I shall publish something on her soon.

The weeks are peeling off the calendar, and our first vacation is coming soon. We also have our first In-Service Training (IST) in 2 weeks, previously called the "All-Volunteer Conference", but since we are the only volunteers, the name was changed.

Also, I shall be in attendance of a Georgian wedding party this afternoon. As I'm not sure if I mentioned this, Georgians have a 2-part wedding. The first is the religious ceremony and legal part. The second is the party. This is one of the other English teachers at my school's wedding party. She had her legal/religious ceremony earlier this year I believe. Most of the network of people I know will be there thankfully. My host dad works with her father, so he'll be going too. I am interested to see how this will turn out. It's kind of like going to a wedding where you know people, but don't have best-friend status with anyone there yet, so I kind of feel like an outsider, but you have to put yourself out there sometime. I feel like a piece of spaghetti being thrown at a wall, and I'm waiting to stick.

Love you guys!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keepin it REAL

Movie Review: Wit

An unturned stone from 2001 starring Emma Thompson and Christopher Lloyd. A "witty" docudrama about a British poetry scholar who gets diagnosed with cancer. This is a great movie to watch if your tear ducts need a good purging. A social commentary on hospitals and medical care/research meets an "allegory of the soul" in this must-see film.

Thank you to Mattykins for including that in my maintenance/birthday care package. :) Also major shocker: my counterpart came into our planning session today with a birthday cake, coca cola and presents for me. She made the cake herself, and it was so delicious. I was thoroughly surprised and grateful. For my gift, she got me Georgian wine horns and a mini-version of a stemless wine glass. They are beautiful pieces of pottery, painted on the outside. She has such a good heart, I just need to connect her to planning and she will be an amazing teacher. I have faith! Her birthday is April 29, so I want to do something awesome for her. Did I mention the icing on the cake was condensed milk and butter frosting? Yeah, totally not healthy, but totally delicious! :D

Also, I had a heart to heart with my twelfth grade today. They said the essay topics I assign are too difficult and they have yet to produce a writing assignment for any of the topics I have assigned in the past 2 months. So I explained that it's not me being spiteful, but rather that I want the best for them in their futures. If I can develop their minds, they will be equipped to go far in life. My main goal with my students is to give them a spark for each of them to excel. Also, I want to take away any limitations they have placed on themselves.

In other news, I had some good borsch for dinner. My host dad says it is good for your "organism". I know it means like good bacteria, but I can't help but worry about the possibility of parasites in my stomach. *looks over shoulder for parasites in attack mode*

I am continually amazed by how every day in Georgia is different: different experiences, different emotions, different levels of understanding or lack there of and etc. Good times all around! We have an in-service training in the middle of November for 4 days! I'm stoked. Even though it's gonna be hella jam-packed full of stuff, I'm looking at it like a mini-vacation!

One of my favorite things I have heard I just remembered from when we went to see Joe Biden from a USAID employee, "You know what the main difference is between embassy employees (contracted and otherwise) and Peace Corps volunteers? [It's that] they don't have dignity." It's so true... when interacting we just express ourselves in our real forms as ourselves. We've been able to come to terms that some of us take bucket baths and use squat toilets. What's there to be pretentious about? We keeps it real.


Monday, October 26, 2009

This Unit Not Labeled For Individual Sale

Dear Reese's Variety Pack,

Why do you haunt me? Why do you cry out to me from the darkness of the Aldo shoebox I am keeping you hostage in? You know I don't have running water and can't brush my teeth after eating you. Do you want me to have some gnarly teeth to go with my Halloween costume? I was just trying to have a relaxed day before you invaded my mind with your sweet morsels of Reese's pieces, peanut butter cups, and fast breaks... Would it be possible for you to use your powers of persuasion to help my counterpart come to planning sessions or perhaps to get my twelfth-A class to do their homework? I would be ever so grateful. This is my birthday wish. So go out into the world and spread your brown, orange, and yellow diversity!

With deepest regards to your chocolatey wisdom,

The feeling you get after a 9-piece nugget meal in Georgia... priceless

gwvrndbrdnsnzutnionfit, that is my made up word for how I would describe this weekend. I'll leave it to you to translate. Highlights and memories I will keep close to my heart: Friday night, while Andrew's eyebrow was still fully intact; morning pillow talk with some other volunteers; riding in a pimp marshrutka directly from my house to tbilisi; making pancakes and pineapple syrup with Paula (owner of Paula's Parlor in Boston, MA); getting some personal time at McDonald's later that afternoon while people watching; and finally skyping and facebooking with some of my loved ones.

In terms of food: the food on Friday was baller and a success, although I can't say I would ever make the fried crab roll things ever again. I'm sorry Paula Deen, that was an epic fail for a recipe. Luckily, 3 out of 4 were an amazing success that overshadowed it. Also, thanks to Barb's highly skilled bazaar buying methods, I had mushrooms for dinner, prepared Georgian style! I love that I have established myself in the kitchen.

In terms of musical guest appearances, Ingrid Michaelson made many an encore performance. So begins another weeks in Georgia! One of my favorite lines from I.M.'s song Breakable is something to the effect of our cracking bones make sounds. Her lyrics are awesome because they can be taken very literally and then also taken for the symbolic/implied meaning. With that line, sometimes we don't make sounds when we are hurt, but our bones make sounds when we are cracked. It's so deep! I'll prologue this with I usually don't care about lyrics as long as the beat is good. So it's good to be aware that we are all fragile people, and we should move around in our lives carefully knowing that at any moment one of us could break or shatter. Life is so special.

One thing I've noticed is how caring people from this region are. I was locked out of my house when I got back from Tbilsi and one of my neighbors offered me to come in, drink tea and wait until my family got home. I turned her down, but then my Director's mom came up the stairs and about had a fit I was by myself and especially sitting on the ground. Sitting on concrete definitely causes infertility in women, and I'm sure it's not good for men either. She waved me downstairs to my director house. My director's mom is so cute! She blows me kisses all the time, slow motion style, too. I have begun catching them in mid air. I have a growing collection. I might be able to auction some of the higher quality kisses on ebay...

Wish me luck this week! Read again soon!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Kitchen Zombies

After a crazy week of Peace Corps visits, both announced and unannounced, my host mom and I went to the bazaar. She accidentally left the list at home, so we bought from memory. Thank god we are making American dishes that I know most of the ingredients, so we only forgot one or two things. Then, after losing some carrots and greens on the taxi ride home somehow, we unloaded our goods. I began cooking and about 8 hours later I am still cooking for tomorrow. By cooking, I mean preparing to cook. I told my host mom we should have started yesterday, but o no it had to wait until today. Hand-making tortillas for 15 people is not enjoyable. I don't know how Mexicans do it, mad props to their entire culture. I love their food, but the grass is greener in Marneuli, metaphorically of course, Marneuli is a dry plain/borderline desert.

For the first time I made sushi rice for my pseudo crab rangoon. I love it so much! Thank you food network website! PS- I'm throwing people under the bus this weekend, and I will start off with my SM having never heard of a hushpuppy that wasn't a shoe company... yeah. Everything is going to be mega delicious! Also, my host mom bought 20 liters of wine. For 15 people. She must think we are lushes or something. Love my host mom. We throw catty sarcastic comments about each other and at other peoples' expenses left and right all of the time now.

The chicken just came out for the wraps, and it is beautiful. It has been marinating and brining now for several hours, so it should be delicious to boot. Also, a cross-cultural surprise was that while they sell traditional black beans in the bazaar, my host mom has never had a black bean in her life. She doesn't like most things that are black, and so I think she had been holding a prejudice against them. The good thing! is that she's open to trying new things.

I'm really excited to celebrate. Today was my SM's birthday. To him, birthdays are like any other day. I'm gonna work on that one. :) Once again, I'm so happy to have a SM. It really makes my life seem less foreign.

Also! So far I have gotten two packages, both of which I love to death! Even though, a new pair of shoes gave me a really bad blister... I am angry at them right now, but once the blister heals, I will give them another shot. I chose the worst time to try them out: from my house to my Russian lesson (25 minutes) and on the way in my cripple shuffling (I know it's not pc, but it paints a good image) I managed to rip a hole in one of the toes of my socks.

Ramble on! I'm looking forward to a great weekend of celebrating, as it's also Tbilisoba. Everything is working out just fine. 2:30 a.m., over and out!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You must be my lucky star...

So I am listening to Madonna's Lucky Star song, and I thought,"We are all mobile stars who are fueled by the light of others." What part of the galaxy will you find yourself in? Will you gather with stars about to burn out? Will you slide away from the other bright stars and fade away? or Will you be a beacon of light on your own for other stars wandering your way?

I just got done reading the exclusive, hot-off-the-presses, fall Peace Corps newsletter. The most interesting information I learned was that there will be a program in Sierra Leone. Self, being in Georgia is not so bad at all.

Also today, I was hungry and it was like a prayer, the lord took me to the teacher's lounge to find a beautiful spread on food. One of my favorite Georgian dishes is Mtchadi, corn bread! I prefer it without the cheese. On its own, it is reminiscent of corn bread meets fried corn dog batter. Delicious!

After I ate, I cranked out my criticismical red pen to correct some essays before heading to my Russian lesson. One thing about my Russian tutor, is that she loves the Russian language. In college, I learned the grammar structures and so far have used Russian as a basic survival language, so as a result, my expression in the language is not entirely there. So we'll be speaking and she has in two lessons, taught me more beautiful ways of expressing for myself. For example, instead of "peaceful night," I learned how to say, "I wish you to have pleasant dreams," literally translated. Also, by focusing on expression, it increases the intellectual quality of my language. She is amazing. I would say she is the first linguist I have met who has such a great passion for the language, which she is able to easily communicate. This is not to discount the education I received, but in the university, the level of education for learning a language is so far beyond basic comprehension that something is lost systemically. Needless to say, this is something I will continue to look forward to.

Also, in birthday news, I'm glad to say everything is falling in place. Regardless of how the cards fall, it will be a good time had by all.

Furthermore, the gas AND the light came back on today, which is how I'm writing to you now! Tomorrow, I'm going to do a test run on the tortillas for the quesadillas to ensure primo-quality! This goes back to my friend Danielle, god bless her! She said, "Good parties are the ones you create." It's true, while you can hope that someone else will make a good party for you, if you want to ensure its success, you also must put in a significant contribution!

Also, I thought of an idea for my school today. I think of a ton of ideas, but this one I'm pretty serious about, at some point in time. The grading system of our school is all done in one book for each class, as I may have mentioned. This means that there is one grade book for the entire 12th grade, for example and so on. So the books are left in the teachers' lounge and then teachers take turns writing down the daily assignments, test grades, and attendance. So this is what I want to do: I want to see what funding is available to get 5 computers for the teachers' lounge, 1 computer for the director, and 1 for the admin assistant/finance office. By networking these computers together and having excel spreadsheets for gradebooks, it will make inputting and calculating grades easier, more accessible, more accurate and overall better. There are many teachers who don't keep accurate records because it's just too much work/thought to calculate everything. The same thing would happen if it were like this in the states. Also, by having a computerized system later in time, maybe next year, the admin assistant could use the computer to create/edit students' and teachers schedule to make schedule design easier. Also, for the director, she could more easily determine class sizes and manage the teachers' work. Furthermore, all teachers have to submit each trimester's syllabus ahead of time. This network system would enable her and teachers to be aware of their goals and ease of syllabus submission. Of course, there would need to be considerable IT training for teachers, but the results of implementing this system would put this school on the upper/advanced track in relation to other schools in Georgia! My director is really open to ideas, which is also really good. Also I told my CP about the idea today, and she just lit up with joy.

That's about all that's new! Keepin it fresh, almost daily!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Birthday Goings On

Hey there, writing to you by candlelight from Marneuli right now! Luckily we had food in the fridge, because the gas is off too. You never know when the power, gas or water could go out at any point in time. Apparently, in the early nineties they would wait for the light to come like we're waiting for Christ's return. The term "light came" or "shuki movida" became popular as light became more regular. Everyone would cheer, especially the youngins. Apparently the power goes out a lot, especially in the winter time.

So it's on like donkey kong, my host mom is making her bazaar trip tomorrow to purchase some food for the birthday dinner on friday. It seems as though 1 or 2 folks are coming from the reaches of Kakheti, and I want to impress. It might go badly, but here's the lineup: black bean quesadillas, grilled chicken ranch wraps, hushpuppies, carrot salad, crab rangoon, and snickers cake. My host mom was pretty disappointed by the lack of Georgian dishes, but I figure I would like at least one day a year to go all out, not to mention I have Georgian food every day.

Asmat came today to observe our class. It went well, I felt really comfortable and everything. My counterpart and director were pretty stressed out, so I think they are glad that Peace Corps has come for this point in time. Now I am looking forward to the doctors doing their health inspection on Wed and also my new Russian lessons beginning tomorrow.

I don't think I mentioned this, but anyone who would like to come to this food celebration is invited. It's going down this Friday, and if there's anything you would like to see on the menu, let me know. Also let me know if you are coming. There might be the possibility you might sleep on the floor, but it will be amazing food. My host dad is supplying the wine. I wanted to have these amazing mushrooms, but my host dad swears that the mushrooms in Georgia are dangerous because their is no regulation of quality. I still feel that a good sautee could cook out any badness. Not to mention, I just want to buy white button mushrooms, which you would think would be obvious if they were bad. We;ll see though. I think my host mom is going to try and sneak some button mushrooms into the shopping cart.

So yes, please come, if you aren't busy of course. I'm going to try and get the word out tomorrow. I wish I had some good broccoli.

That's really all I can think of write now, sorry it was short.

Love ya'll snitches,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Welcome to my food-centric sitcom!

As the crackling sounds of hot pans of frying oil caress my ears, I am writing to you. I am starting to entertain the idea myself of having some sort of fry in the near future. I definitely want to incorporate hush puppies and ranch into it. I just returned from a very exciting weekend in Lagodekhi! I had a great time, spent time with volunteers and enjoyed the nature in Kakheti. Lagodekhi is famous for its hiking. We went for a hike up into the mountains where there was a beautiful waterfall. The temperature was about 70 degrees, the water about 50, as we are inclined to believe some of the water was ice melt from the snow we had in the northern regions during the cold snap a while back. It was sunny and me and my SM decided to take a dip. It was freezing! But all in all a good time. It also seems I am a spaghetti sauce master when it comes to having limited ingredients because that night we made spaghetti. I directed sauce production and Heather directed the garlic bread.

Also, an amazing feature of the weekend was transportation. Ben and I got a taxi from Tbilisi to Lagodekhi for 10 lari each there, and 8 lari on the way back! That btw is what we might call a "steal" because it is the same cost to take a ride on a cramped, hot, bumpy marshrutka.

In other news, I have been pathetically slowly reading Lord of the Flies. It's truly taking eternity to read, but I want to finish it so that I may begin my next literary adventure.

Also while in Lagodekhi, the lovely Ms. Paula directed two successful yoga classes. It was good to stretch.

Tomorrow, Asmat, our education program director, is coming out to observe me and my counterpart. The class she'll be observing is one of my tenth grade classes. I love my tenth graders. They are really bright and they make me laugh. They have an energy that is somehow lost between the tenth and eleventh grades. I did a madlib with them, and while it took a while to implement, they enjoyed it. We'll be sharing the ones they wrote tomorrow first thing in class.

Also, as I may have mentioned, I have been assigning writing assignments. I found this book of activities, puzzles, and quotes for learning creativity. This has helped me be more creative in assigning essay topics. The most interesting one so far was "my ideal school" and how they would improve their school. This is helpful for them and also for me, to get a better idea of what potential secondary projects I can work on. Of course, the limitation is the range of vocabulary, but the essays were so interesting! They take a while to grade, but it's enjoyable for me. It also makes me feel like I'm more of a teacher, especially since I'm not yet planning classes on a regular. My CP missed our session on Friday, due to babysitter problems, so she brought her son, and he is so cute I wanted to steal him. My CP had bought him an English book to study and he was drawing on the pages quietly and well-behaved during class with those big beautiful green eyes of his. One thing Dr. Marina had said while we were in the allergy clinic was, "Under the assumption that children are innocent, why do they get sick?" My response was that we have to suffer somewhat on earth so that we may gain appreciation for paradise. Would you agree or disagree with the notion that, in order to bring balance and happiness to your life on earth prematurely that you must suffer more than those who don't try given the difficulty of relieving this suffering? Food for thought. Not sure if it makes sense and not sure where it came from...

So there was the potential tonight for me to hang with my SM, but I was just tired, and its so good I didn't because as I arrived home, I was informed it was my host brother's birthday! I would have never been able to live that down had I missed it.

I was riding in the taxi back to Tbilisi today, looking out the window and felt a sense of nostalgia for a culture I'm not originally apart of. When I'm usually on vacation, I make the most of every moment, and my fear is that I will lose touch of utilizing every moment. Before we know it, this point in our lives will have passed us by.

One quote I love by Mark Strand, and one that has been a mantra of sorts the past two weeks is, "Each moment is a place you've never been."

Every week here has been completely different and new. This week I'm starting Russian tutoring which will recur every Tuesday and Wednesday which complements my Monday and Friday Georgian lessons. Where is this "free" time I heard so much about? I think also perhaps my tendency to overindulge on time could be affecting this, but at the very least I can't look back and say I regret losing or wasting any moment.

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can I get some cheese to go with that whine?

My Cute Host Parents :)

Hello everyone! Some highlights of the goings on in "Sakart-way-lo." I have been to the allergy doctor four times in the past week, so it's basically like I commute to Tbilisi. Luckily, I don't have to go back to her until January for a check up. It's been a long time since I've been to an allergist, and I was completely blown away by all of the advances in allergy technology which have been made since I was a kid. Here's a run down of all the tests: So they have one machine which measures the output of Nitrogen Oxide from your lungs, a gas which is apparently produced in times of an allergic reaction by something that sounds like xylophene. I had almost quadruple the amount of NO I should have had. Also, there's the IGE count in your blood, which measures how many allergic antibodies are present. My level there was three times what it should have beem. Then they did a nose swab and cultured it. The doctor explained that in your nose you have mast cells, and she saw that it was very unusual that my mast cells were degenerating. Also the xylophenes or whatnot were heavily concentrated in the sample. Also the microbial, bacterial, and fungal tests came back negative, which is generally an indicator of when you have a cold. SO! I was so happy to know that I know my body, and that I was right. Of course, that was just a small leak from my growing medical file in Georgia. Yesterday, I also got my flu shot. I am feeling awesome in terms of my health!

Now onto other matters! I am getting more and more excited about the future prospect of correspondence with the World Wise Program. My teacher just seems so awesome, I'm really looking forward to it. Then, hold the phone! My CP planned with me for the first time in her life yesterday! She is getting excited, because she said she was never taught any of the things I am mentioning. Also, on a note maybe only some language connoisseurs such as myself (I say that term loosely, as I'm by no means a pro), but given: there are 7 cases in the Georgian. When whoever designed the elements for teaching English in Georgia, I think they really wanted to connect the notion of cases to the English language. The other day my counterpart wrote instead of object prounouns, "personal pronouns in the objective case."

So that was boring. I'm excited I am planning with my counterpart now, even though it's only been one session. Asmat is coming on Monday to observe us, and the Fabulous Dr. Marina will be here next Wednesday to do a cleanliness and living assessment with the Peace Corps OMS (Office of Medical Services)'s health inspector.

Also my SM and I are booked on our social calendar for the next month or so. Today is also a national holiday celebrating the oldest church in Georgia (Mtskheta). Also, the ending for most, if not all, Georgian holidays is -oba. So today is known as "Mtskhetoba." Christmas is "Shoba" and then there are many Saints' days, St. Mary (Mariamoba), or at least I think the last one is right.

Then this past weekend, I went to Telavi. It was really a bad time. I went to a wine tasting, made peanut butter and also chocolate chip cookies, watched a movie on a projector, spent time with friends, celebrated Jim's birthday, and had fritada and french toast. Truly an awful time. :) When I was at the wine tasting enjoying swiss and gouda cheese, I just thought about the Peace Corps volunteers in Africa, probably happy to be alive and eat rice everyday. We are all truly fortunate to be in such a great country.

This is a sample spread of some of the wine makers and that terribly... amazing food!

This is one of the judges speaking, about to introduce the Minter of Economics

Ahh Fritada!

More to write later!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Funked out with a gangster twist...

Wah wah wahhhh!! You are entering the Debby Downer Zone... proceed with caution, and don't get stuck!

Ah so another day has peeled off of the calendar as a creeping feeling washes over me about CP planning. No matter how you spin it, being demotivated is not a good look. I myself am doing ok, but being around certain people who are as such takes a toll on your mental energy. I hope this week goes better than the last two on that aspect.

I have an appointment tomorrow in Tbilisi with Georgia's leading "allergologist" tomorrow to determine my asthma/allergy woes. In the past, I have traveled in Eastern Europe, but I have never lived in it. There has always been the "draft" or other worries about weather concerns, such as grabbing a jacket when it is a sunny 80 degrees outside. Last night I was told to put on pants; I was wearing thermal shorts, 2 shirts, a hoody, and socks. I said if I did that, I would get hot, and was then given a momentary silent treatment. It was really heavy. All is well now.

I'm looking forward to getting back on healthy feet. I'm nervous also about getting a good turnout for the FLEX test on Wednesday. My director really wants to have FLEX students and I don't want to let her down. I'll be helping proctor this exam with the American Councils, so I'm glad at least to be helping. If there is not a good turnout, there is also another test at the end of October in Tbilisi. Granted, I realize I am holding really high expectations for myself and my work, I realize other volunteers are still trying to sort out what's going on. Call me an overachiever. ;)

I cannot wait for birthday packages to start arriving!! It keeps me positive. It's like a little piece of America coming my way.

I graded a ton of papers today. One thing I don't know if is a modern method or just a difference of teaching styles, but teachers here as a whole don't collect papers other than tests, at least with English. So these students study for 9 years and can go that whole time mispelling words and having bad syntax. Also, for some students, they just give up and drop out. There is such a massive difference in minority classes between the 9th and 10th grades. It's like the light just turns off. I'm gonna try and keep the light burning bright, while fueling mine as well.

One volunteer and I had an amazing conversation about how important it is to be your own personal motivation machine. When times get difficult, you can't shut down. The work that we do here isn't physically difficult, but rather like a massive logic puzzle. Because many of the problems are systemic, those who are in the system aren't aware of them, and it's up to you to identify them, categorize them, and then develop a plan of action to create change, large or small.

While there are RPCV's (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) in country, there are not any current volunteers with whom to collaborate. Of course, there are pros and cons to this, but I can't help but wonder what the grass on the other side might be like, if it were here to think about.

Also, another good motivator is thinking about what I would be doing right now if I were in the States, not much in terms of playing towards my life's goals and dreams.

I'm dragging this on, if you couldn't tell, in an attempt to jump back on a positive track. I have been having increasingly better sessions with my Georgian tutor. We are still figuring things out and are on the verge of vibing towards language fluency! Ok, the last part may be a stretch, but it's better for sure. I still have yet to meet with the Russian tutor, but that should happen soon.

Back on the note of regulating students work through physically turned-in assignments, there are students who have been studying English for 8+ years who still don't know how to say "What's your name?" much less how to answer it. I don't care who you are, or how bad you are at languages, if I gave you 8 years to memorize that, I would hope you'd be able to learn it.

... so remember it's important to REGULATE!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Call me Young Wheezy!

Hello! Nothing gold ever stays...such is the frequency of me writing in my blog. I'm sure those who kept up on a regular were finding you had an increased reading load, but your break is up for at least today! Grab your ankles and sit tight on your toilet seats, it's going to be a messy ride.

Ok but not entirely. I just liked the way that was phrased. So the past two weeks have been jam-packed with all sorts of activities. I have been teaching up a storm, and it has been a challenge because of planning with my counterpart hasn't worked out as planned, but we are still positive about how this next week will be. I love my students and am slowly learning their names. I started watching Californication Season 2 with my SM. We've had lots of good times.

One night we made spaghetti, and it was really amazing considering the lack of ingredients. When we go to the bazaar and look for spices, often times we will inquire about certain spices which could be perceived as oregano or basil, but no the answer is that this mystery freeze-dried greenery would be good in tea. Unless Georgians/Azeris like oregano/basil tea, I'm thinking the bazaar doesn't have it.

Then today, I and my host mom with the shopping skills of my SM gathered and prepared a legit apple pie. For some reason unknownst to me, Georgia does not have molasses, and therefore does not have brown sugar. When I told my host mom about brown sugar she wondered if it was cocoa powder added to it, but as a substitute, I used really thick preserves added butter and sugar and then cooked it on low heat on the stove top to try and get a somewhat warm flavor. Next time I make it, I believe I will add slightly more sugar. The below picture is the fruit (pun intended) of our labor. Because this part of the world also does not have the pie pan in wide circulation, I used this pan and was short on dough and apples, but it still came out well.

Also, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with cooking because the means and availability of products and preparation methods are so vastly different. For example, most stoves are gas, some ovens are gas (no temperature regulation really) and then for those stoves that do have temperature regulation, degrees are in celsius. Then, when explaining all of this to my host mom, she doesn't know the cups/tbspns measuring, and instead knows the grams, mL, L and the like. So for solid recipes, I've had to translate ingredients and convert measurements for purchase. So far so good though, I'll of course let you know when I make a horrible mistake or miscommunicate.

Also! I got my World Wise School (WWS) Program contact information. WWS is where you can correspond with a teacher and classroom in the states to fulfill one of the mission objectives of Peace Corps: to educate and inform American people on a foreign culture, or something to that effect. And I'm pretty sure it was complete coincidence, because I had no preference and my home of record is in Tampa, but my WWS teacher is in Tallahassee!! I'm so excited to correspond with her and her class, 19 fifth graders.

Then one weekend I went to Tbilisi for one of the volunteers birthdays! It was crazy and fun. It seems that a ton of volunteers are fall babies, so many travellings ahead. My SM's birthday is on the 22nd of October, mine on the 26th and so we were planning on doing something the weekend between, and I want to for sure, but I'm not sure about the popular consensus, because Tbilisoba is that weekend between. Speaking of which, if you are in Georgia you are invited to whatever celebration will be. My SM's belief is that birthdays are just another day, but not so much for me. I think they are a huge deal, even though sometimes I'm really bad about remembering them. Also most Georgian holidays end in -oba (day of). So Tbilisoba is the Day of Tbilisi. It's a day where there is a massive festival on the street with food and concerts. I'm interested to see what it's like, but if it's not fun I almost don't want to risk having a bad time the days before my birthday. The reason why I have doubts about it, is because I've talked to a lot of Georgians, and the reviews I have gotten about it is that it's a loud, crowded, crazy boozefest. But maybe it's like how some Americans view Mardi Gras or something? I don't know. We'll see how it all pans out.

This is the birthday boy sporting his designer shirt featured from the 2009 Lauren Host Family collection:

My host family wanted to see pictures of them I had taken on my computer, but I hadn't at that point in time put them on my computer, and they were disappointed, because they want all you guys to know who they are! :) I told them that I was lazy.
This is my host dad and the two young boys are my host brothers. The other guy is a good friend and neighbor.

This is me and my host mom! :)

On the health front, my back was hurting pretty bad today when I woke up and throughout today, and then my asthma is flaring up really bad. I'm most likely going to Tbilisi on Monday or Tuesday to get an allergy/asthma diagnosis. I just want to be healthy!! I think in the States I was less conscious about my health in terms of illness perception, but here with time on my hands and developing language skills I place my mental energy on that concern. On a positive note, because of all the coughing I've been doing from the asthma, I think my abs are getting a lot stronger!

Also, I've begun learning Georgian dance! I am currently learning Acharuli (if you want to look it up on youtube, it's there) and am going to perform with my SM's host sister next spring for her graduation. I'm teaching her Ballroom dance, and she's teaching me Georgian dance! :D

Anyways I'm stoked, things are going well. I can't believe how fast time is flying by! Also, I will be writing a note on Facebook about an interesting event which occurred for our security meeting from October 1st!

Also, a shout out to my real dad, whose birthday was yesterday!

Love you all!