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!