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!