Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wandering in the desert for 40 days

So I look American, I don't speak any language other than English fluently, my clothes are "funny-lookin", and I'm a good foot/foot and a half taller than the locals, but other than that I fit in like another pea in the pod here in good ol' Joja. It really makes me feel bad about the times I fawned over foreigners in the States. The reality is that a foreigner has an entire country where they generally fit in. Recently, the celebrity status has been wearing on me. I get stares, catcalls, and an occasional rock or two thrown my way on a daily basis. Ok, so the rock was only a one time thing, it may have been thrown in my direction, but not at me, so I can't really count it officially. The benefits of my celebrity status include: free beverages (coffee, tea, etc.) almost everywhere I go, getting marshrutka rides for free, getting ripped off by marshrutka drivers, and etc.

Also, some movies watched abroad are seen in a different context. For example Disney-Pixar's "UP!" What a great movie! The movie should be called "down" as that's how it made me feel. Leave it to Disney to make me cry! But really, you should see it, it's a good movie.

If someone asked you every day what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what would you say?

Lessons I have learned:
1. Rice as primary source of food is not just for people on Survivor.
2. Following no. 1, a multivitamin in this country is essential almost year round. (Peace Corps provides this)
3. It is possible to only shower 1 time per week.
4. You can say anything with a smile.

So I found myself at an all women's supra last night. And I learned a few more:

5. Georgian women are warm wives.
6. Georgian women don't like "momma's boys." They like, and I quote, "A man who will tell you to 'Bring me this!' 'Cook me that!'" and etc.
7. Georgian women are tigers in the bedroom (not speaking from experience here).

It was a crazy time! It started off just me and another volunteer and volunteer's host mom and host sister. Then some female neighbors came over. Before you knew it, the wine got busted out and the women were smoking ciggies! Voi la! Supra time.

As I was the only man at the table, I was asked all sorts of questions and given tons of advice. Then they wanted to play the let the man guess our ages game. EPIC FAIL! It was short-lived. My first person to guess was my friend's host mom. I guessed 38. She was 31.

Then I came home, did some facebook stalking, and am about to shower. That is all for today!

Tomorrow I am going to pack for my trans-town migration. I'll have to do so discreetly so as not to stir any household emotions.

Good things going on: I worked with two of the English teachers on our school's SPA grant for 2 hours on Friday and we are on pace to getting this baby finished in time! I would like to make the first deadline in Feb, even though there's one in March or so for us TEFL folk (thank you for the info Paula and Krisanne!).

May positive energy wash over the shores of your inner minds. Namaste!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let there be light, peace and quiet

So, today after a strange dream posted earlier (see below), continued to be strange. So I fell asleep in my contacts, clambered out of bed, splashed some water on my face, ate breakfast, brushed my teeth and scribbled down some of the first steps for the SPA grant I'm gonna shoot to apply for.. eek!

So applying for a grant is a huge process and I feel that getting my cp to do a lot of the work (capacity building component) is like swimming in molasses: you would sink slowly and not get anywhere, not that I know what it's like, but it's how I imagine. I will be impressed if we make the deadline, and if not, we'll have a kickass grant proposal for the May deadline. We set dates over the next week to do some intensive work. Cross your fingers and pray. Then next Friday, we are going to Tbilisi to put together some prices. Later that day we'll do the budget section of the grant to be more detailed.

What else is there you may ask? Our small town will be graced by the presence of Mary and Frank on Tuesday. Mary is second in charge and Frank is the Caucasus Desk Officer for PC, but he's temporarily fulfilling an admin position. Peace Corps wants to show him how we live, so I'll be entertaining as well next week, which I love! They want to meet my current host family, and see where I'll be living.

So I have been holding an English club after school 2 days a week. I have tons of material for the students, but no students are coming... kind of a disappointment, once again slowly but surely wins the race!

So I'm walking home from school, talking on the phone, and this little girl says, "Hello!" and smiles. This is not uncommon, as most volunteers stick out as foreigners like sore thumbs, so it happens everywhere I go. I return hello and keep walking/talking. Then I notice the little girl looks at me adoringly and starts to follow me. She's a little too well-dressed to be a gypsy, not that there are gypsies in my town, but you never know, so I wonder how she must know me. Then she tells me in Russian to follow her to her apartment. I tell Barbara on the phone I have to follow this girl, as I have a hunch it's about my new apartment, and get off the phone. Sure enough, I follow her to my neighbor's house and meet my landlord there. How freakishly strange/cute is that?

It turns out my apartment had finished it's remodeling, I see bars on the door, and am completely shocked! We have tea, and my landlord said she was unable to get ahold of me via telephone, because I had written my number down incorrectly. It's not that I wrote it incorrectly, but she was adding in numbers on her own. Anyways, everything worked out! So she says let's go take a look at the apartment and see what else she needs to bring for me.

She opens the doors, and it was like a dream scene from an underbudgeted Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, minus the camera crew. This apartment was completely different. It blew me away! She had done so much work! All of the major flaws in appearance had been corrected, there was new furniture, it felt like a home. She had even installed the 200 liter tank for water, all it needs is the heater and I can have hot water! She improved the toilet, and it looks like I'll actually be able to sit on a seat! It's perfect, and I couldn't have asked for more, given the circumstances. There's not a refrigerator, but that may turn out to be this apartment's only short coming. I am blown away and thoroughly impressed with this lady. It seems as though I will be moving in on Monday! A new chapter in my life is about to open: the life of a single American male, living on his own! I will be footsteps away from the school. footsteps.

Mr. Sandman... You Know What To Do!

Hello all!

So I wanted to write a short entry for you before I have to go to school. All has been interesting here per usual. According to my director the repairs for my apartment are done, but when I went by yesterday, there were no bars on the door. Apparently that's only a little thing, however, it was the bulk of the repairs that needed to be done. We'll see when I'll be able to move in.

I had another entertaining dream last night. I was trying to analyze it, and there are so many levels in which it can be analyzed. The bottom line was a Georgian Love Actually, of course the central theme was about getting married vs. finding your true love. The message of the film (in my dream) was to propose when the soon-to-be bride was at her best or "golden." The last scene has the two main characters (myself and a no-name actress who strikingly resembled Fergie) together. The girl comes up to me with the narrator (making his first and last appearance) dressed in a flower-pot dress with arcing pigtails over her head. She says, "I'm golden," shining with a light overhead you might only see on Touched By an Angel. I propose, everyone is happy, and they lived happily ever after.

Then a clip of some show, possibly Entertainment Tonight: "After the break, we'll see what happened to this young couple happily living ever after, and after the happiness left their marriage."

O the webs we weave! Time to get ready for school! Time permitting, I'll continue my thoughts later today! Love you all!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Changes of Address

Ladies and Gents! Step right up (or send letters/packages to):

29A Vazha Pshavela Avenue

P.O. Box 66

Tbilisi, 0160

Georgia (Republic of)

That's my new mailing address! Note it, and spread it around to all your friends. The OLD address you may have had is now obsolete... . Of course, make sure you address future packages to yours truly.

In other news, the first day back at school was a bust in terms of attendance. As I was walking to school early in the morning, I was careful not to slip on the ice and mud mixture. I taught 1 out of 4 classes. It was freezing cold. The class's plant died over the three week vacation. It really made rethink my plant decorating strategy. I know now I need to also consider the frost resistancy of the plants I choose. Check.

Then today, my counterpart could not find a babysitter, therefore, we have not class today. I'm hella excited for the new trainees to arrive in April! To all of those reading this, know that I'm aware you're out there! *glares into the depths of my computer screen* Don't be afraid!

On Tuesday night I had a video-skype session with my World Wise Schools Program (WWSP) teacher and class! I have a classroom chock full of 5th graders in Tallahassee, FL I write to! I love all of them, and we got to "meet" that night! They are so adorable! Some of them you could tell were very nervous, but it went well. One of the parents of the kids made khachapuri (Georgian cheese pie) for the kids to enjoy after our session. :D I was truly touched. The mom had been to Georgia before and is apparently a world traveler!

Also, last night I got to hang out with my friend Giorgi and his family! I had not spent quality time with them in a while, and I left in the evening in really good spirits.

There's so many positive things happening in my life I need to be more thankful for! Giorgi's mom, also my Russian tutor, pointed this out yesterday.For a cheesy spiritual aside: I feel like God, fate, or whatever higher power is sending a sign for me to stay positive.

I went by my soon-to-be apartment yesterday, and I could hear my landlord and a group of people working on it! I'm gonna try and haggle for a refrigerator and try and talk her into installing hot water soon, too. There weren't bars on the main door yet, but the effort has been initiated. Who knew bars could bring a positive change? My Russian tutor told me that once I'm on my own, she's gonna give more homework! :D

Monday, January 18, 2010

That's the Jingle Bell Roccccck!!

Dear friends!

I am writing to you the first entry of the New Year! It only took a couple of weeks. Let me catch you up to speed.. (grab something to hold onto, it will be a doozy) So the past two weeks, I went to Tbilisi and am now vaccinated against H1N1! I'm ready for any viral attacks! Also, I greeted an amazing volunteer back from her globetrotting tour in the States. This past weekend, I passed the time with a couple of homies in Sagarejo and then a belated birthday extravaganza in the hidden village near Telavi. Other than that, I have done pretty much nothing. Granted: I have watched many an episode of Bleach (thank you!) I'm currently on 230/257 (yes, I started watching them before I left. And I've dabbled in some studying for the GMAT. I've talked to Monterey Institute for International Studies, and sent a couple of emails. I looked at a new place last week, and I will move out in 10 days, Inshallah. Most of this I've done from the comfort of my own bedroom.

Today, I have enjoyed a few glimpses of our snow/slush falling from the sky. Any snow is better than no snow right?

In other news, I've come to terms with my planning habits (slightly intensified in Georgia). I want to have an awesome costume for the next Halloween. Someone suggested Mick Jagger? I can't say I have the mouth for it, but we'll see. I'm open to suggestions.

Now I would like to take you on a mental tour of my new place. My favorite thing about it is the ample supply of windows. In my soon-to-be bedroom, the entire outer wall is almost entirely window-glass. Yes, it will be cold in the winter, but seeing as I don't have heat at my current place and it looks like there's a slight chance of snow in my room now, I don't think that should be an issue. Next, the landlord is currently in her "10 days" of remodeling. She's going to clean, bring in furnishings, install bars over the front door, do some electrical work, and re-wallpaper the entire apartment. She said she only needs 10 days... hmm

It's a one bedroom apartment. It has one bathroom and a kitchen. When you walk in the front door there's a very small foyer that connects to a hallway that leads to the kitchen (approx 8 feet away). The bathroom is on your right when heading towards the kitchen. Connected to the foyer on the left is the bedroom.

The flooring is red-painted wood floor panels. Nothing is new, but it's definitely livable. Things that are missing: hot water and a refrigerator. Also the water schedule is Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. When I saw the place originally there was not a fridge, but maybe she will bring one?? We'll see. The fact is: I am living in a developing country, and we all can't be so lucky to have water everyday, central heat and air, and all the modern amenities. Especially in Marneuli, people have told me that I'm too picky about what I want to have in a place of my own. I could take this place and make it work, or I could wait. I am choosing to make it work.

After I purchase a few items, I know it will be a place I look forward to come home to. An additional plus is the location. I'm 5-10 minutes closer to a marshrutka station, my school, and the stadium where I can run. Low expectations have definitely assimilated themselves, however, I am actually excited to be moving in/out.

I am most looking forward to having my own place, living somewhere somewhat quiet, and the imminent, soon-to-be eminent arrival of my kindle!! :)))

School starts on Wednesday. It's going to be a ridiculously busy, but amazing spring! Talk to you all soon!