On Monday, we had our usual semi-annual VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) meeting in Tbilisi. It was earlier than usual though, 10 am, which required me being at the marshrutka station to get to Tbilisi at 7:30, and waking up at 6:00 to be awake enough to put in my contacts for being up so early. In Tbilisi, I have never seen people move so quickly in the metro. I guess I’m never there in the early morning rush where people are trying to get to work on time? I didn’t think people rushed to get anywhere in Georgia… you learn something new every day.
I met up with an elven friend for lunch, who conducts teacher training workshops in my region through a US embassy-funded/managed program. We had wonderful discussions, and before you knew it, it was time to get back to my site. I almost missed the last marshrutka. Whew! Totally lucky. I was freaking out worrying if I had been stuck in Tbilisi.
Tuesday was pretty normal. I did a presentation for St. Patty’s Day for Thursday. The kids really liked it, and I gave out green shamrock bracelets (sent to me by my AMAZING class in Tallahassee! :))
Wednesday, I taught in the IDP village and returned to meet a PCV in town for a meeting with IREX the next morning. I have my book club (Currently reading: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) on Wednesdays, so we met and it went really well! Something seemed really odd to me though. You know how in college, people will stay after and talk with the professors about various things? Well, that’s now me after our book club! It’s very curious and feels strange to me, but I’m glad to be appreciated/valued on that level of respect.
St. Patrick’s Day threw me for a loop. We had our meeting with IREX to discuss civic education projects in several regions and our experiences with it in Georgia. Afterwards, getting to school, the students had skipped school for the day. I went to tell my director that I wouldn’t be at school next week on account of 2 conferences, and met 2 very different and interesting people:
1. Princess- That’s right. I met a princess. She claims to be the last remaining heir (granddaughter) of the lost Anastasia. She says she wasn’t contacted by Russian authorities until after the fall of the Soviet Union, but she has close contacts with Putin and various other political figures now. She was able to articulate every moment down to the times and explicit travel itinerary of what occurred after discovering that she was a princess. This lady could talk your ear off if you stayed around long enough. She
2. College administrator- She is the one who rescued us from the princess. (Is that really how it’s supposed to work?) It turns out she’s opening a campus branch for a professional skills college in my town. She wants me to teach there after I finish Peace Corps. She offered to find me a good apartment and pay me a fair salary. She wants to create an incredible reputation for the college’s English program. She is pretty determined, but we’ll see. It’s always good to have back-up plans, and I’m flattered by the offer.
We departed and later showed up at the center where I hold the book club for an afternoon viewing of “Matilda” (1996), to watch a movie based on another Roald Dahl book. The students really liked seeing the similarities in style between the two. Everyone was sporting their green, and they put together a small party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Then, they presented to me several bags of groceries from everyone to show their appreciation for me helping and teaching them. I was really touched and surprised. I don’t think anyone has ever done anything like that for me. Also, I have had a low balance on my bank account recently, as inflation prices have made some of the food products double, and I just felt like it was like God/karma/a higher power knew that and was helping me. I was wonderfully surprised. And so comes to an end, what was the best St. Patrick’s Day I have ever had.
Photo #15 - St. Patrick's Day Fiesta - While not too much, these goodies
made for the perfect St. Patty's Day snacks. Note: I love the walnut shaped
pastries on the far left. They are filled with caramel and sooo scrumptious.
Today, I taught computers again in the village. We had a new student join us, and he corrected my Georgian while speaking, and my little students (circa age 10) all jumped in and defended me. I teach in Georgian. It’s not perfect, but they understand me. The little kids are so eager to learn. I asked this group of kids last week what was something positive in their day and again later for my book club. Maybe half of the group answered that that class was the highlight of their day. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that before, and I’m so grateful that I am given an opportunity to offer a course/class/something that the students can look forward to.
So Monday is Novruz Bayram, the Azeri celebration of spring and the New Year. Novruz, as a Muslim holiday is also celebrated in many other countries. A famous Azeri pop singer, Manana, is coming, along with the Georgian and Azeri presidents to my town! They’re doing a sneak-peek at the new sports complex, funded by the Azeri government, along with celebrating this holiday. They have been trimming all the trees, repainting road markings and anything else that needs painting, and cleaning. Slowly, my town is getting a little facelift. I talked with one of my students, and I’m so stoked to possibly get a membership to this new gym, if it will be affordable!
Side note: An interesting misperception I haven’t thought about since I was a kid: hamburgers, in fact, do not contain pork. They are safe to eat for Muslims. :) I had to explain this to several of my Muslim students recently.
There is only so much time in a day, and I’m glad to say that I feel like I’m maximizing it. Happy Novruz to you all!