Saturday, September 19, 2009

Culture Shock Revisited

Hey there, so yesterday have been kind of level on terms of everything. I think this week and all of the things going on took a toll on me, so this weekend I will be resting.

So I know this is bad, but my motivation for doing new things in the community is obviously to help, but also to give me some new writing material. Sort of like one of those "create your own story" books. Will Mario go to the dungeon to save the princess (turn to page 96), or will he take a personal day and hope for the best (see page 185)?

So as I believe I mentioned, I was supposed to go to church today, but as I did not have a peaceful awakening from my alarm, I was not really feeling it. Last night my host mom geared my bed up for winter with an even larger, firmer, "more comfortable" pillow and a hella thick and heavy comforter that fused together with my sheet. Needless to say, it was a hot. Also, I had set my phone on my bed so that it was easy access to turn off this morning, and I'm a full believer in putting your alarm out of reach so that you actually wake up, however my phone fell into the crack of the bed onto the floor. I had to physically move the bed to turn off my alarm. Not exactly my ideal waking up situation, this was followed by a rice porridge for breakfast and a feeling of being rushed to get to the village in time for church and spend the day not understanding the language.

I'm very glad that on Monday I will start tutoring Georgian! I am going to shoot for 2 lessons of Georgian and 2 of Russian per week. When I speak in English everyone freaks out and tells me to slow down, but it's not entirely reflexive when they speak in Georgian to me. Also, I find myself in a minority in the minority community. I'm in an Azeri community in Georgia, but in a Georgian family and school. When I speak in Russian, I struggle because all day I'm thinking in Georgian, and when I speak in Georgian I sound horrible because I don't know the language. So everyone comes to the conclusion that I just don't have the language skills I need to be adequate in my community. When I speak the kids laugh at my Georgian and ask the teacher how am I going to teach them English if I don't know Georgian. Bah!

But at least I've identified my main frustration. I also recognize my honey moon period of being in a place that treats me so much better is coming to an end. Luckily, time is flying by, the weeks are peeling off! I'm also behind because all the other volunteers went through this site adaptation 2 weeks ago.

So as mentioned and for reasons given, I did not go to church today. I ate lunch with my host mom at 11:00 am before she left for the village, and she mentioned that people were excited for me to come and interested in me, especially the church leaders. She said the main church guy is the kind of person who can look into your eyes and know your soul. That is so freaking intimidating that I'm glad I had already backed out of going. I'm sure he's a great guy, and I'm all about religion, but 2 things: when I'm tired I don't want to have my soul judged by anyone who is God him/herself and then especially because any judgements would be passed on me in a foreign language.

LOL, and it's official my host mom, I love her so much, but it is a fact that she is a wrinkle nazi. One wrinkle on your clothing does not leave the house. I think it's so sweet that she takes my appearance so seriously, it sort of makes me feel guilty about my own personal upkeep and hygiene. I worry what she would do if I was actually messy or dirty.

The lessons I observed by the least competent of CPs crawled by. Watching paint dry would have been more interesting. The good thing is that she has a lot of potential to be an amazing teacher. She is just really de-motivated, and it's only her 2nd or 3rd year. I noticed that she has most of the classes with minority students, who compared to Georgian students have much lower self-esteem in regards to learning. While working with her will be my greatest area for impact and positive change, it will also be the most difficult.

After talking with another volunteer, I'm very glad none of my CPs beat, hit, or shake the children to maintain order in the classroom. Being a teacher is something that can be a huge emotional burden, probably stating the obvious, but challenges to work with include products of society and bad parenting (children). I truly don't blame any of the children for their behavior. I believe they all have potential to be good kids. And the teacher with amazing potential is just a product of training from the old education system in Georgia. I'm looking forward to the progress which will be made over the course of my service.

Right now, I'm listening to Mariah Carey, she's got some pretty uplifting and upbeat music, and later I will knock out season 2 of the Office. I'm already half-way through. I tried to pull it onto my computer from the disk, but it said it would take 400 minutes?? Not possible. So I'll just watch these episodes and get them back to their rightful owner!

Love you all! Can't wait until we chat again! Thank you for reading, those who are returners and those who are new, and also to those who have left comments!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amen to that Sister!

Hi, what's your name? How are you? Fine thanks, goodbye! <-- This was what the English class' kids of the third grade are learning at the good ol' school! The counterpart I observed today is a great teacher! She's only been teaching for a short period of time, but her lessons today I observed had structure, used the book, contained a variety of activities, were contained by her excellent classroom management techniques, catered by her amazing explanations and etc. And by a short period of time, I mean this will be her 3rd or 4th year! It's incredible!

After the lesson, I got back out to the "stadium" and ran around the dirt path created from being over-tread by other children. I ran alone and for 30 minutes without stopping and with sprints in between! My ipod had completely died, and so with ten minutes charge I was in business! I'm sure there are many people out there who could have done better, but on my standards it was an in-country personal best! My legs are sore from running as you are reading this.

After the lesson but before the running, I had a meeting with my director. I told her that I needed to find Russian and Georgian tutors, and she got the ball rolling! Apparently there is a teacher whose Georgian grammar is incredible and the Russian teacher from our school is very kind. Then I asked my director, with the help of one of my CPs, if she was on good terms with the directors of the other schools, and she said yes. Then, I asked her if it would be possible to meet with a few of them to talk about the possibilities and survey interest in applying for a volunteer, as applications for schools are out and due October 2. She then told me that there is going to be an all-directors meeting for the area soon, and I'm welcome to come if I'd like and talk with them there. I was thrilled!

Then post meeting with my director, another meeting date was established for our EAP (Emergency Action Plan) cluster to meet in Rustavi to discuss strategies, meet the police chief, and go out to lunch. I am still on cloud 9, and I realize this will sound strange, but I love meetings. Meetings give a sense of structure and progress!

Today was also my host brother Avto's birthday! My host mom yet again outdid herself with a fantastic banana and pomegranate seed cream birthday cake! Then after eating dinner and cake, the amazing Asmat called after I sent a text hinting of something exciting (director's meeting). We talked and because I cannot give too much information about Peace Corps without them being present, she will see what she can do in terms of possibly preparing me to be able to answer questions in the event they will arise. Just the possibility is exciting, as this would be a huge step towards change! I feel like it would also help unite the community as well. There are many cultural, ideological, relgious, and other differences amongst the people and yes, even the directors; but all can agree that having a volunteer in their school is a positive thing.

I have talked with my director also about the FLEX interest committee, for which she is also enthusiastic, and Asmat mentioned she will be having a meeting with American Councils of Georgia tomorrow, for which most likely promotional materials will be provided and then also she will email someone's contact information for possible tips on how to prime the students before the actual FLEX presentation in October.

I am so excited that things are moving along so quickly. I know this will not always be the case, but for the time being I am grateful. I feel like I am integrating well with my community, and it seems as though many, many positive things are to come. My stomach is feeling 100%, I am happy, all is well, and today is probably the highest point of my service in Georgia so far. I am so lucky to have such an amazing host family, director, school, community, and couldn't ask for better PC staff. God bless all of them!

Speaking of blessing, my host mom and host mom's brother's wife invited me to their village church on Saturday. Are you ready for a majorly horrible translation? I wanted to say I will be able to go if I will be free, but instead I said I will be able to go if I would not be too different. LOL I mean, both are true, but I would have preferred that the first intended meaning would have been communicated. The reaction was of concern, and they encouraged me in that we are all Christians in this room, and God does not discriminate against what kind of Christianity, so I should not be afraid or worried. Apparently, one of the pastors knows many languages, and some English, so if I need to speak with a man of the Lord, I should be able to do so. This was so kind and caring of them, even though I don't feel like I will take full opportunity of this generosity, just out of cultural difference, but nonetheless I appreciate it.

Also, as I have been observing almost every class, and every grade takes English at my school, I have met a solid majority of the students. As I was walking down the street after my run today, looking a hot mess, many students were acknowledging my presence. It's so good to feel appreciated in such a foreign place. All I have done so far is smile and speak what they may not understand, but it truly shows how far kindness can get you, as kindness knows no language barrier. I hope the other volunteers will open up their hearts to their communities as well, to be welcomed as the arms of people in Georgia are always open.

Ok, so enough of the sappiness. I love everyone, catch you later/tomorrow most likely!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's behind door #2?

Hello! It's a new day. My blog that was just published was post-posted after a computer crash and power outage from the storm we had yesterday. Right now it is also raining.

In other news: I wore socks last night to fend off the mosquito in my room, and they seemed to have worked! I am going to wear them again tonight and see what happens. There were so many bites, had there been scars, all of my aspirations to become a professional foot model would have been annihilated, and then of course would ensue the psychological counseling from Peace Corps in DC.

Today was a long day! I observed 3 teachers and a total of 6 lessons. Tomorrow, thankfully I only intend to observe around 3. There are 4 CPs (counterparts) and I am observing 3 of each of there classes a week, on top of the meetings I have with the director. I found out today that the FLEX program will be coming on the 8th of October at 10 o clock in the morning. My director is very excited, as we had 4 FLEX finalists last year, 1 of which actually is currently in Ohio! I'll see what magic I can work... I am thinking I will start, per suggestion of the amazing Asmat, a FLEX interest/development club of students who are highly interested in applying.

The classes I observed today were very interesting... Some of the classroom management techniques included stomping and yelling. The teachers said some of them are very bad students and other teachers said they are disruptive because of the first week. The largest class we had was 33 or 34 students, with the smallest only being around 12. There are many students who neither speak Georgian or English, as they are minorities, and it reminded me of the minority groups in the US that just kind of ride along the education system to get some blue collar, low class profession. Some people are very happy on this track, but it really upset me to see that most of these students will never have the opportunity to choose. It's not that they are lazy. The stereotypical, which we all know is not true, Azeri/minority student will start school, grade 1, and immediately be 5 years behind in language development for Georgian. They will not understand 50% of what they are taught their first two years. Then they are always behind two years and development low self-esteem for the duration of their education. I'm going to see what I can do to somehow relieve the gloom of this despondent situation.

In completely unrelated news: I now have a webcam, and am gearing up to open my own website for 24 adult shows. While I'm at school my host mother is going to run the loop I'll record the night before, and I'm teaching her the vocab so that the dialog shouldn't be too difficult. But really, I can now video skype, which I'm very excited about.

Also, after dinner I completely smoked both my host parents in backgammon. Ok, I'll admit I let them win sometimes... They said that I'm so lucky I should enter the magti (phone company) contest to win the new Mercedes. I feel though, if I bought the phone with PC money and entered the contest with PC money but gave the car I would win to my family... would that be a personal gain? PS- Profiting for personal gain is enough to get me my ticket back to the states ASAP. I'll leave that to the dull tools for brains committee to hammer out.

Now concludes another riveting day in the life of me. I know you're jealous! Til' tomorrow!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey Good Lookin, Whatcha Got Cookin?

To whom it may concern,

I have finished one season of the Office. My host brothers wanted to watch it with me, but due to a majority of the humor being in dialogue form, they didn't laugh nearly as much as I.

Today I went to school for day #2. I observed one counterpart (CP) who had been teaching the longest. You could tell that she had really developed her teaching skills, however, could have spoken a lot more in English. I'm almost positive I will be working with her on her 11th and 12th graders, getting them ready for the final exams. Then the second CP I was supposed to observe was no where to be found. The director was very busy, and the other did not know where she was. I have three other CPs who are more than eager and enthusiastic to work with me, so I left for the day. We'll see how the rest of the week plays out. I got the three other CP's schedules, and I am going to make a grid of all the classes and grade levels so that I may observe them appropriately for the next 2 weeks. I am to observe all CPs for 2 weeks and then make a decision on which CP and which grades I want to work more closely with. Our school is Mon thru Sat, so I'm going to try and work it so that I may have a weekend! Time management is what it's all about!

I have made it my goal to start cooking more with my host mother. I went with her today after class to the bazaar. It was my first time there. She asked me what kinds of fruit I wanted. We have apples at home, which I'm fine with, but I don't want to make her go out of her way to buy food for me. When we got apples, I told her that I love to make an American dessert with apples. Any guesses? Apple pie, hope I didn't give it away. So she is very interested in how to make American food and asked me for the recipe, but wanted it all in Georgian. So I went on Food Network's website, got Paula Deen's recipe and then transcribed it into Georgian, and also converted all of the measurements of cups and tablespoons into grams. Then I looked up how to make your own light brown sugar. It recommended 1 cup of regular sugar to 2 tablespoons of molasses. As I do not have molasses handy, I am going to try it with a really thick muraba juice, which is the syrup from preserved fruit. We'll see how that goes... I'm slightly leery about it.

Then today, we decided that strawberries would be a good fruit to buy. I helped take the tops off of them, sweetened them, and put them in the freezer for a short while for them to cool off. Then, after I got back from ventures chem sitematetan ertad (with my SM) my host mother surprised us all with a delicious chocolate strawberry cake, which after having been refrigerated was reminiscent of an oreo. :(

I was so frustrated with my physical condition, I tried to lift weights and could not only lift nothing but got tired quickly. Then we went for a run, shh.... don't tell Dr. Marina! and it was pathetic. So I went home ate dinner, rotted online and am now going to sleep. Until tomorrow!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Me Didi Dzma Var

Dear loved ones,
I wanted to let you know that due to the lack of followers and comments, I have installed a tracking software, so I know who is reading this. Surprisingly, I even have a regular reader from the UK! That's right, in an act you may have thought was keeping tabs on me has now been reversed. So I can tell you the beauty behind the device: it is called Google analytics, in case you too would like to keep tabs on who tracks their IP address across the cyber hearth of your blog.

Random rambling aside, I went to Paula's birthday on an overnight trip on Friday. She has a beautiful home filled with all sorts of plants. She slaved over the stove/counter top all day preparing tortillas to fry, salsa to dip, and 3 pizzas! SM and I will be preparing American foods for our respective host families as soon as this Wednesday!

Paula's is probably one of the farthest places I could have decided to go, four hours one way. I love you Paula! Because I sure as hell would have done it for only a few people in this world. Paula, I'll have you know is a talented flautist. She played a tear-jerking piece that night after a massive cake.

Speaking of cakes, as I love desserts so much. There is generally one or a small number of people in each community who are the "cake makers," and my host mother is one of them! :D Speaking of host mothers, her name is Riongeta. I asked her where it came from, and she said that she has no idea, that her mother just saw it in one of her dreams. I wonder what names for my children I can dream up...

I love any kind of rain, and it has been raining a lot here recently. Yesterday we went to where my host grandmother lives in Orjonakidze, I think I spelled that correctly? It is the most beautiful area! Another plus is that there is a school there, and so I'm going to look into helping the director apply for a volunteer, if that's possible. In order for a school to get a volunteer they must go through a very long and competitive process.

I also found out a few of the different varieties of grapes. My favorite so far is the Odessa grape variety, which tastes a lot like a concord grape. With the red grapes I was told not to eat the skins, as it is not good for your stomach? And then also my host father said not to eat grapes in the morning or in the evening for the same reason.

Today was the first day of school! One of the teachers was a DJ who sang a couple of songs. My director told me that she wanted me to say a few words in English, and then one of my counterparts could translate. I didn't think I had achieved celebrity status until my director told me she might cry while giving my introduction, but not to be worried. Before the director's speech there was a ceremony of singing and dancing. Then I said my piece, receiving a round of applause, and then the resource center director spoke and afterwards came up to introduce himself. He was the only speaker who spoke in Russian, which I understand, and when he came up he asked, "Who will be my translator?" before I was able to start speaking.

In terms of Russian, I have continued to speak in Georgian with only bits and pieces of Russian. My host mother thinks it's very good and when I met her family on Sunday, she told them I knew better Georgian than Russian so they wouldn't try to speak to me in Russian. LOL Today she said talking in Russian is "ar sheidzleba" (not allowed). Then some other Georgian phrases I want to implement into my vocab include "deda" (mother) but when used as an expression it's long like deeeeeeeeeeedaaaa! and then also "vai me!" You can even put them together as one long exasperation: Vaiiiiii meeee! Deeeeeeeeeeedaaaa! It can make you sound Georgian for like 2 seconds, or maybe just strange.

I think if you asked my PST host mother I'm not a picky eater. But to my current host mother, I am primarily due to the whole stomach issue incident a week ago.

Not a whole lot gets accomplished on the first several days of school, however, I have to give my director props! She had done all of the teachers schedules before school even started. Here's how it works: There are all of the classrooms and each is labeled with a number and letter: example 9a. Each number represents the grade and the letter is the class. The teachers travel to each classroom whenever there time with ,for example, 9a is. There are 2 sessions, from 9 am to 2 and from 1:30 to 7 pm. Classes are held Monday through Saturday, however one major difference is that students may only have each class 2 or 3 times a week. Each class is 45 minutes in length.

The director requires that each teacher submit to her their syllabus for each grade and subject before school starts. She is once again, so organized! Maybe on US standards it's what's expected, but generally for Georgian schools as a teacher on the first day, you don't have any idea of when the classes you will teach will be, nor what classroom they might be in. So thus far, I'm thoroughly impressed.

So now I'm chilling. Mary had let me borrow 3 seasons of the office, and they are haunting me as I have yet to watch them! Before the end of September it is guaranteed they will be back in Mary's care! (along with the Cook's illustrated magazines) Speaking of Cook's Illustrated, it's a great magazine! You should check it out for some really great tips and scientific explanations of how things are made!

On that note, I'm off to watch some of the Office!

Missing all 15 or so of you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Dear blog, you have been upgraded from a periodical to an actual blog! It's amazing, I can jot my thoughts in you and electronically defile you anytime I see fit.

Not too much new here in the big, bad little city of Marn, for that will be my shortened version to protect the names of the innocent via google search. Those pesky reporters always get in the way. I'm just picturing the entire cast of Scooby Doo as real-life reporters. We the volunteers are those meddling kids: we raze disorganization and corruption and pave the road of technical skills, protected by our "slippery when wet" semi-permeable dual-culture membranes, not unlike the amoeba that is aiding our group's weight-loss AS WE SPEAK. Sounds peaceful right? Good.

Yesterday I got to meet my site mate's (SM) host family. They housed another volunteer in the past who sounds like a real trip.

After the fried food incident, my host mom has been really sad because I have been eating cautiously and slowly until I reach a full recovery. I didn't tell you, but the first day, she was so worried she didn't eat dinner. Words cannot express how nice my new host family is.

Nothing makes me miss America more than: Let's take a look together shall we:

Nothing says good ol'fashioned parenting like this picture...

This just in: there is a mosquito in my room. Did I see it? no, but I know it's here somewhere. The evidence has been found upon my rousing from slumber in the morning. Two things I have grown to hate even more: mosquitoes and flies. The good news is: I have not yet seen a cockroach, however, because there is a word for it in Georgian, I am always vigilant in my day-to-day activities. So, there are noisy flies which can deafen any needle dropping you may plan to do and flies that like to land on your face while you are sleeping. It's their own cruel joke. For example, just this morning I had planned to sleep until 9 or 9:30, but at 8:30 Jefferson 0, Obnoxious Fly 1, and I woke up.

Nevertheless I'm here, in the clear, so get over yourself.


**Post-Disclaimer: My tendency to exaggerate + too much access to internet = formula to take my future blogs on the indefinitely-lacking-of-substance railroad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Georgia Knows How to Party, too

Ok, so the devil has officially claimed my soul. That's right... I succumbed to his/her will and purchased 3G internet. 45 GEL a month gone forever... It's a massive opportunity cost when you don't have a salary. BUT, I LOVE IT!

Other news, there was an earthquake! I thought it was a dream, but reality confirmed that the floorboards in my room actually were shaking! I'm very grateful I'm not in Racha, where the epicenter was, as some homes were destroyed.

My new host mother is an amazing cook, and if my stomach can digest everything, I am back on track for gaining some weight. In the tertiary circle of things, the girls are trying to see who proportionally can be the "Biggest Loser", reality show style.

Back to the food story, so I ate two large potato pies called Pirozhki and like four Ponchiki, ultra fried donuts. Just the thought is nauseating. They are very delicious, but I still have not recovered. After my bowels ejected the contents over the course of the evening, I have been full of nausea since. It was so cute when I came out of the bathroom, and my host mom was standing there. She asks sweetly, "Do you have diarrhea?" I respond, "Yep, a little bit." lol

I have been hanging out with my site mate and his director/counterpart on a regular basis since my arrival. It won't be the last time I say it, but I love having a site mate.

Also, on a daily basis around teacher planning before school starts, I have been playing so many games: dominoes, backgammon, badminton, chess, checkers, and a variety of card games (rumi, jokeri, bura, etc). In terms of checkers, I think that Americans have the wrong idea. The game is not so interesting for me in the states, but here they have some additional parameters which make it interesting for all ages.

Also, a really good showtime series I have discovered is Californication. All explicit sexual elements and drug use aside, it's a really great series. If you are unfamiliar, it starts David Duchovny and an amazing cast. So far there are only three seasons, so there's time to catch up! Not that my life in the states is represented by this series, but some of the emotional elements I was able to parallel, and it allowed me to realize that, yes, I am in Georgia.

Only like 98 more weeks to go! That's nothing! :) I'm excited for school to start!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Escape

So last we spoke, life was pretty difficult to say the least. Well, right after I finished the last blog I had no GEL left on my phone, and so I went on an excursion to the store which took the long road to the hospital. That’s right, I fell down the stairs. I fractured the 4th vertebrae from my tailbone and managed to permanently twist it. This took me out of Gardabani permanently, but not before my host mother got her opportunity to make a sale with the Gardabani doctors. Dr. Marina and all of the Peace Corps staff: Asmat, Mary, Rick, and Irakli worked arduously to ensure my safety and well-being, for which I am extremely appreciative.

I stayed in the Nika, the Peace Corps guest house, for a week and a half under the care of Jenora, a very kind woman with great social skills and sense of humor. I am so grateful as well to all of the volunteers and staff who made my life more comfortable with their visits and provisions of small but important comforts such as movies, peanut butter, and popcorn. ;) So far, two volunteers have been bitten by dogs, one eating for two with her stomach parasite (an amoeba to be exact), and one who received probably his first surgery out of country to relieve him of appendicitis. If a person interested in PC read that sentence alone, they may never apply, however, if they read on of how all aside not one, including myself, has ET’d (Early Termination) regardless primarily due to the incredible care and concern of PC staff, they may be even more eager to apply knowing how awesome being a volunteer truly is. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

So once again a triple infinity thanks to primarily, but not limited to, Irakli, Asmat and Mary I am now in Marneuli, a splendorous place filled with Georgians and Azeris alike. I am teaching in a Georgian school and living in a Georgian family. I also am very grateful to have a site mate, Ben. I have an amazing Director, Counterparts and faculty at the school. My family is so kind, hospitable, and hilarious to boot. My host mom reminds me of a much kinder version of Roseanne, though her name is not as easy for me to remember. My host father is a dispatcher for marshutkas, so it seems I will always be in the know. I have two host brothers, age 10 and 12. Also, my director lives directly below my room and has grapes which grow up the wall. So, if I would so desire, I could reach out and pick some grapes. A plus I am sure all PC staff and Georgians would be happy to know is that I have primarily been speaking in Georgian, and very little have used Russian at all. I am currently scouting out possible language tutors for both languages.

Hopefully all is well with everyone, and visualize that this blog is full of sunlight and by reading this I have given you a couple rays for you to use in the darker moments of any day. I love you, “and by I, I mean all of the staff at Peace Corps.” But really, I do. I am grateful to have anyone who reads this in my life. That is all!