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.