Wednesday, December 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ayo Technology!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 25, 2009

Testi da Satchmeli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Year of the Moxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

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

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

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

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

Later Cowboy...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Little Drum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poem No 1

Snips and Puppy-Dog Tails

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

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

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

O Tannenbaum!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Betty, It's Cold Outside

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Risky Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 4, 2009

Pimp My Peace Corps Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you all!