Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 1 - Yokohama

Today is the day!  We leave in about 2 hours.  A few taxi vans are schedule to take our group of 14 teachers from our TINY hostel here in Yokohama to the amazing Ocean Dream!


Silk Tree Youth Hostel -  Yokohama, Japan


This week in Tokyo has been intense.  We have been pulling 12-hour-days, training with other teachers, our CC's(Communication Coordinators/ Interpreters), Peace Boat Staff( including: web reporters, event coordinators, global university, and many many more).

We had the opportunity to meeting one of the original Peace Boat founders to hear about how this organization came to be:

"Bookmark and SharePeace Boat's first voyage was organized in 1983 by a group of Japanese university students as a creative response to government censorship regarding Japan's past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific. They chartered a ship to visit neighboring countries with the aim of learning first-hand about the war from those who experienced it and initiating people-to-people exchange."


How amazing to think that at the age of 23 these young men had the courage to deny the information being given to them by their teachers and their country, get on a boat, and find the truth from themselves.  Peace has grown and evolved tremendously but still keeps it's ultimate goal of people-to-people interaction.  The program I'm involved in, GET(Global English/Español Teachers) was implemented in order to allow people from all over the world to communicate with a common language.  Global English and Español are tools for communication - as simple as that.  We focus on teaching language for very specific tasks - not perfecting a certain accent or drilling for perfect grammar.

I'll go ahead and give you the very general run down for the first week.  We will be really really busy.  There is so much work that goes into accessing the students so they are in the right language level and with people who have similar goals.  This is also a week to start preparing our events(salsa!), get used to the workings of the boat, and design our curriculum as a team.  It's so much better than I could have imagined.

Date
24 - Board the ship in Yokohama, UNPACK!
25 - Safety drill, Welcome Party, GET(Global English/Español Teachers) Introduction to the participants
26 - School Network Orientation,  Teaching Workshop
27 - Global University (Japanese University students) English Interviews to access class level
28 - GET Interviews to access class level
29 - English/Español Open House (This is a function for all GET students to interact so we can observe them and break them into small classes)
30 - DA NANG, Vietnam!!

Ok, I hope this gives you a good idea of what's going on.  I'll do my best to post a new summary of the days at each port.


video
Love and miss you all!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Around the World in 80(ish) Days


I’m gearing up to start my next adventure in a few days – so, it’s time to get this very neglected blog up and running again to keep friends and family up-to-date.

I’ve just spent the last 4ish months soaking up time with family and friends.  Two months in Hong Kong with my big sister and the amazing ladies of Hillwood Rd.  Then two months with my parents, family, and friends back in the states.  These people are amazing.  They make me feel ‘at home’ – wherever we may be – and accept me for exactly who I am: a gypsy.

I leave for Tokyo this Wednesday morning!  From there I will board the 77th Peace Boat voyage and circumnavigate the globe in 85 days.  Feel free to check out www.peaceboat.org to see what this organization is all about.  I will be volunteering as an ESL instructor and also co-organizing the ships Salsa and Yoga Clubs. On top of that, the ship offers Spanish language classes and Peace Education.  This is pretty much my dream job. If only it paid and lasted longer than 3 months ;)

A very big THANK YOU to all my friends and family who have supported me through the entire process leading up to this great adventure.  Love you all!




Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The power of the written word

Dear friend,

Today, like every week, I received your letter in the mail. I read it before I could get inside my door. Actually, it only takes about 20 steps to get to my door so I opened it on the way and then just stood outside reading through it all before I could punch in my code. I left it out on the counter so I could read it again before it was added to the impressive stack you’ve helped me accumulate.

I’m lucky to have a friend like you who keeps a steady flow of snail mail coming my way. They’re never for a birthday or a holiday; just to say hello. You’re very diligent - I might even go as far as to say OCD. You’re letters are always perfectly addressed on the same crisp plain stationary. Now that I think about it, I pretty sure you have a specific pen for the ritual as well. They always start with the same simple greeting and end with the same formal salutation. But the content thereafter is always unique.

They make me laugh; they make me think; they make me envious of your story telling ability. I know I’m not the only one you write to. We’re not the oldest or closest of friends. There is never any romance. Your letters give me a little insight into your day or into your complex mind. Your letters are a joy!

I, on the other hand, am horrible at replying - sending out a few per month if I’m lucky. I’m trying though, I swear. My stationary is never the same. My pen sometimes dries up mid-thought. I send two or three at a time when I’ve forgotten to go to the post office for weeks on end. But I think you still enjoy them.

In your last letter –post marked from The English Channel- at the height of your story you came to the end of the strict two page limit and said “ I guess you’ll just have to wait until next time to hear the rest of the story,” and I know I will because you’ve successfully avoided the virtual news feed. The slow steady flow of information between us is comfortable and rewarding and it's how I imagine people felt in simpler times.

Though this letter is virtual, and not actually intended for you, I have sent out two written letters today. One is a week old; the other two weeks – and they’ll take another ten days to get to you. Oh well, the news will be fresh to you non the less. Enjoy!

Sincerely,

Your grateful friend

Friday, October 14, 2011

"You can dance if you want..."



On this particular night I found myself stranded in the bathroom, wearing my favorite royal purple, A-line party dress. It had seen me through countless celebrations without fail - until tonight. The side zipper busted wide open. There was absolutely NO chance of fixing it. My entire side, from armpit to waist, was exposed. I thanked my lucky orthodox saints that I wore a bra.

The culprit: a wedding, followed by extremely filling Georgian party food, more than a few run-ins with my favorite babua and his wine horn, a significantly expanded midsection and dance; lots and lots of dance.

I knew I couldn’t hide in the bathroom all night but it would have been nice. I was an out of town guest with nowhere to go and nothing to change into. I briefly considered going balls to the wall and showing my party fowl with pride except, I was exposing a little too much and the crowd of old men were a little too drunk. So, I opted to strategically wrap myself in a shawl. I also knew that despite polite refusal, turned to pleas of exhaustion, injury or illness, I would soon be back on the dance floor. After all, dance is the only way I know how to connect with a group of 50+ middle-aged Georgians and they’ve already seen that I’ve got the moves.

Save this one slightly uncomfortable situation, dance has always been a savior for me when living or traveling abroad. As a foreigner abroad, a constant battle is breaking down barriers between yourself and the locals and dance has been there for me every time. I try to find a social club or class everywhere I go. My preference is usually towards any local style of dance but when that’s not available, go Latin or ballroom (salsa, rumba, bachata, swing) – it’s everywhere, I promise!

No problem if you can’t speak the language since you rely mostly on physical demonstration. If you happen to have two left feet or just don’t care for dancing these same principle can apply for organized sports or learning a musical instrument but let’s get real – you won't have nearly as much fun at their after-parties. When you dance with people you can start to connect on a whole new level. At this point you are no long just a foreigner but peer.

Here is my list of top dance destinations. Some I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and others are on my wish list.

Republic of Georgia (check)

It couldn’t go unmentioned. Most of you are probably looking it up on the map and questioning whether it’s part of Russia. It’s not.

Georgian’s are die-hard patriots and claim to be the first to do just about everything since. They even claim to be the birthplace of Adam and Eve. They have an extremely rich culture that is based heavily in music and dance. It’s not just for an elite few(though done superhumanly by famous dance company, Erisioni) but it’s for everyone! No celebratory dinner is complete without the men of the table busting into 4-part harmony and everyone else breaking into dance. While each region has their own style, the man is generally parading around chest high in the air making wild expressions with his face and the woman is gracefully tiptoeing around him.

Erisioni: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjleqHBw_Zg&feature=related
Everyone else: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxFNQaeEdFo&feature=related

Mexico (check)

They’ve got a lot more to offer than ‘the Mexican Hat Dance’. If you’re in Durango or the North in general you’ll find the cowboys dancing a bouncy polka after a typical nights barbeque. Don’t let the name fool you. While on a road trip from Monterrey to Mazatlan my companions and I cut a rug with the locals just about every night. The polka is not joke. I’ve been polka-ed right off the dance floor.

Spain (half a check)

A country obviously known for Flamenco. Gorgeous flowing skirts you can whip around with attitude, little clappers or fans…not really sure. I totally missed that boat when in Barcelona last year. Still regret it but I kept busy making myself a regular at the salsa clubs, which were amazing, and also a little Brazilian underground club with leads me to my next wish list destination…

Brazil (wish list)

The dance that calls me there is not samba or bossa nova but a country dance from the northeast called forró. I fell in love with forró in Barcelona in a sweaty underground club that hosted the amazing group Forró Afiado every Thursday night. I’m convinced that every Brazilian living in Barcelona was in attendance because at any one time you could find at least five guys named Osvaldo. It’s a very simple, close-hold, low to the ground dance and just sways you into a half dream.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVpZiBBZmAo&feature=related

Sub-Saharan Africa (wish list)

Sorry to say that I am not nearly cultured enough to know the names for any African dance. There is just something about the stomping, shaking, and striding that I know I would absolutely love. Or maybe I’ve just seen Shakira’s Waka-waka video a few too many times.

Finally…

CUBA!! (wish list)

My heart has belonged to salsa for quite some time now and this is where I imagine it is the most pure.

Ah, the list could actually go on forever. At the moment I live in South Korea so I’m obviously dancing… salsa! Yes, I told you it was everywhere. My first performance with my current team was last weekend. Our show was a mix of salsa, cha-cha, rumba, and K-pop. Our venue: a German Brewery with a Bulgarian cover band in Busan, South Korea. The power of dance breaking down barriers once again.


photo credit: Stephanie Santana

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reconnecting

Let’s first address the mighty elephant(or should I say cow) in the room – I haven’t posted here in 8 months. I know, I have never actually been a model of diligence. You’re probably laughing at my stats on the right. Yea, 6 posts in over a year. Most people update their facebook/twitter more than that in a day.

To be fair, following up the tales of village life in Georgia is a fairly daunting task. Things are just a little less exciting when you don’t have militant-style swat teams showing up in the middle of the night or an 80-year-old woman crawling into bed with you on a regular basis. (Swat team story to come at a later date.)

Add to that, I’m not a natural writer. Words don’t flow out of me but sort of timidly emerge a few times before they’re brave enough to come out. They’re then usually sent back in, rearranged, edited, and given a permanent inferiority complex. Yes, we are still talking about the words.

All of that aside, I’m giving this blog another go around. Mostly because I’ve been living abroad off-and-on(mostly on) for the past 5 years and I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and a lot of self-therapy to tend to. ;) Ah, it already feels good to be back. Premature gratification? Absolutely. But what can I say - I’m an optimist.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Farewell

Sorry this is coming about a month and a half in delay! It must have taken me this long to process that I wasn’t going back. Not yet, anyway.

When I signed up to be in Georgia for one semester I knew that saying good-bye would be difficult. I’ve said my farewells to many amazing people in the past few years and it never gets any easier. In the end we press on with great memories and hope that we’ll see each other again soon. With Georgia it was very different. Of course I had many great memories but the chances of seeing any of these people soon (my Georgian family, teachers and students) are much slimmer. My last few weeks were filled with laughter and tears, singing and dancing, begging and crying, eating and drinking, second thoughts, fear and guilt. Now that I’m home the feelings are still fresh, I still don’t have a clear head, but I’m trying to make peace with it all.

First I have to say just how amazing my school is. After the initial hesitation to my leaving (cornering, begging, pleading and crying…mostly during class) all seemed to be slowly accepted and a grand send-off was planned in my honor. During my last week there were only two actual days of class. The other three were entirely dedicated to my farewell. Just a quick note to say: certain events which follow are only possible in a village school. Other schools have silly things like curriculums and police security called Manditors which would prevent such festivities.

The first day’s events blew me away. I was told to invite some friends and that each class would have a small performance or presentation for me. It was so much more.
I was locked in the library the whole day so it would all be a surprise; there were no classes. When the time finally came for the party to start I was handed a bouquet of roses and then blindly lead through the school to meet my friends who had just arrived by taxi. The entire school was gathered outside to greet them and bring us all inside for the big reveal. When we walked inside the floors and walls of the school were covered in chalk with messages to me. The entrance to the school was turned into a mini concert hall, music was already booming, the kids took their places, and my friends and I were placed in the front row.


As I looked across at my students I spotted my awesome 11th grade boys. They’d already recited Georgian love poems to me the week before and I knew they were planning to do the same today. Goga(one of my more eager students) gave me a wink, unzipped his sweater and reveled a specially made t-shirt underneath. It read “ I <3>

The 5th class began reading short excerpts about how they love me ☺ Giga, my favorite little muppet-voiced man, forgot his lines and started to cry. I took mental note to find and give him a big hug as soon as I could get away from my post. Then, Mindia (please see my last post for details about this wonderful boy) started off the show. He stood before me taking deep breaths and preparing for his big moment. On came the music and he sang… “Besame Mucho” with all the bravado of a true latino man. These past few weeks he’s been following me everywhere, staring unashamed , and proposing plans of how I might stay. As a fifth grade boy who doesn’t speak Spanish I don’t think he realized that he was singing such a passionate song (or did he?) but it was no genuinely Mindia I couldn’t help but love every bit.
Next, the 6th class came out and performed a few jokes that no one seemed to get. Nani and Nelly from the 6th class along with LUKA from the 7th class performed a traditional Georgian adjaruili dance. It was amazing! Then came more dancing! One of my 11th grade boys, who often travels around Georgia and Turkey to dance (and doesn’t care much about school incidentally), brought along two of his friends and put on an amazing show. When the music comes on it’s like someone flips a switch and every macho Georgian boy turns into an overly theatrical stage performer - just three handsome teenage boys tearing up the dance floor and every boy in the audience ready to jump in.

After that my 11th grade boys graced me once again by reciting Georgian love poems while holding forth small bowls of wine. Finally, Marissa and I got to perform the dance that took us way to long to learn and wasn’t nearly as impressive as the kids but of course everyone joined in at the end and it turned into a big dance party.

When I thought they’d done all they could do I was dragged back outside where there was a tree ready to be planted in my honor: the Stepa tree. Finally my friends and I were taken upstairs for a huge feast, lots of wine and tcha-tcha(all home made). I was so touched, emotionally exhausted from laughing, crying, ect and then I remembered…I was only Tuesday. I still had four more days of saying goodbye...or good-buy.



Here are some highlights from the remainder of the week: - Wine chugging contest with my 10th graders. - A cake fight. - Boney M dance party. - Wine chugging contest with my 11th graders. - Dressed in traditional Georgian costume and forced to learn a new dance in 10 minutes. - TV Crew appearance in the village. - Surprise! I must perform this new dance in traditional clothing for the TV crew. - Wine chugging contest with my 12th graders.



As for saying goodbye to my family - it wasn’t any easier. Of course I had to go back to the village and say my farewells to Bebia Natela. In our last few days together we did a lot of cooking. She new I wanted to really get a few of her famous recipes down before I left. She surprised me by cooking up a recipe I’d made for her: my great-grandmother’s Mexican fideo. Of course she’d given it a few of her own Georgian modifications.
After a quiet dinner Bebia brought out her little guitar and told me to dance! We’ve been doing it every time I stay there since she discovered there is someone willing to listen to her music (the teenage boys have long given up). At night we share a bed and she reminds me that the piss pot is just outside the door if I need it. Still, no thanks.

The next day we go out and pick a huge sack full of mandarin oranges for my train ride. A group of us will be boarding the night train to head to Tbilisi. Mari comes to pick me up and take me to the apartment where I’ll finish packing and get ready for our farewell dinner. As we drive off, bebia hands me a rose through the window and tells me she loves me – we’re both crying – Mari rolls her eyes.

Since I’ve been home I’ve been fortunate enough to skype with some of the family and quite a few of my students! Sounds like not much has changed, the family drama continues. The best way to describe my time in Georgia would be that it was intense. I feel so fortunate to have had a look into their lives and live as one of them for a short time.

Here is the recipe I jotted down for Bebia’s delicious Khajapuri. It’s present at every Georgian gathering and was almost always present at our dinner table. Absolutely delicious!



Georgian cheese bread

Dough(prepare at least 1-2 hours before you would like to bake the bread):
5-6 cups of flour bebia’s palm full of yeast (~ 1 tbsp)
3 tbsp melted butter
bebia’s palm full of salt ( ~ 1 tbsp)
light cooking oil

In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt. In a small tea mug mix yeast with a dash of salt, sugar, small spoonful of flour mixture and add about ¼ cup of warm water. Mix well and let stand in a warm place(next to the wood burning stove is perfect) until it begins to bubble and rise. This will late about 15-20 minutes. Slowly add small spoonfuls of the flour mixture and more warm water to the tea mug and let stand until mixture rises to the top of the mug. This could take another 15-20 minutes.

To the flour mixture add yeast mixture, melted margarine, a sprinkle of oil, and room temp water (start with about ¾ cup and start to knead add more until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers. Bebia just poured straight out of the pitcher until dough was completely combined but still quite firm). Knead dough for 2-3 minutes then make a clean ball, sprinkle with flour, cover and let stand for 1-2 hours.

Filling:
~2-3 cups of paya’s cheese broken up into small chunks
*A soft mild cheese like mozzarella works really well in place of Bebias freshly made cheese. Just make sure you buy the soft balls of mozzarella (NOT shredded) and then break them up. If you don’t have mozzarella you can try a mixture of other cheese you like. I’ve done a mixture of feta and shredded white cheddar that turned out really well.

Roll it out:
Bebia made your bread in two different forms: one big circular loaf and small individual diamond shaped. The former is more traditional and the latter is fun for when you want to throw in extra components to make them all a little different (ex: apple jam in half and cooked, seasoned potatoes in the other)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F with rack in the middle.

To make the large circular loaf (this recipe will make 2-3) tear off a large fist full of dough and roll it out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Then place a large fist full of cheese right in the center and spread it out leaving about a ½ inch border. Now gather ends together bringing then up and over the cheese squeezing excess dough into a topknot. At this point it will resemble a very large Chinese dumpling. Finally press down or roll dough outward until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Now just poke a few holes, brush with egg and melted butter mixture and pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. If you’re feeling particularly guilt free go ahead and slather more butter on top as soon as it comes out of the oven. Don’t worry, bebia would insist.

Let cool slightly so you don’t lose all of your delicious cheese then cut it up like a pizza and enjoy in mass quantities with lots of hot tea and seasonal fruit. Tchame, tchame – Eat it all up!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm back!


Hi! It’s been way too long since my last update. Over 2 months! I don’t know why I put it off for so long and now I feel overwhelmed with all the news I should be posting here. So much has happened with my family and fun adventures around the country and I’d love to rant on about it all, but first I should probably mention how school is going.

School! Yes, I’m actually teaching. You’ve probably forgotten by now. I think most of my Georgian family and friends did. When the day finally came I was a little shocked anyone remembered I was supposed to be there. But sure enough, there we went, down the gravel road, on a minibus, and on to school.

Chitatskari School has approximately 160 students (1st-12th), 25 teachers, and about 5 rotating mascots (a few regular stray dogs, cows and pigs). The school has definitely seen better days – about 15 years ago. In the early 90’s the school was used as a base for the military during some kind of civil war. The damage: windows broken, walls knocked down, leaving the back half of the school off limits and the front half just barely functional. I have no idea why there haven’t been any efforts to properly rebuild it since. Then two summers ago, the building took a Russian bazooka to the front. Luckily, this only left a small whole that is actually pretty minor in comparison to the back end of the building.

To my surprise, none of the students seem to mind. They run up the stairs, effortlessly jumping over the half crumbled stairs, flinging themselves up and around the corner on an iron railing that could completely detach at any moment. It seems to be a theme in this country that about 50 percent of the time things simply don’t function and it’s completely normal. So, the students share books and provide the chalk; teachers bring in jugs of water since there is no plumbing anywhere in the building; a local baker stops by to sell rolls everyday because of the lack of a cafeteria; everyone dresses in layers as the weather turns cold (or use wood-burning stoves).


I only have 5 weeks left of teaching. I cannot believe how fast the time is going! I’ll go ahead and introduce a few of my favorite classes to you:

The 3rd Class

The boys: Nika, John, Lexo, Lasha and Shotiko

The Girls: Mari, Nino and Ana

This is their very first year of English so we are starting from the very basics. This semester is all about listening and speaking with very little writing involved. The boys are a handful right from the start. During the first week I had to break up numerous fights. Most of them end with one boy being kicked in the groin, falling to the floor crying, and then lunging at the ‘groin kicker’ with death in his eyes when he finally regains ability to walk. Luckily, this only happens during break time when the whole school turns to madness (kicking, screaming, hair pulling, etc) and none of the teachers blink an eye. On the whole they are a pretty decent class. Participation is high and I’ve successfully converted their screams of “MAS MAS MAS!” to “ TEACHER TEACHER TEACHER”



The 4th Class

The boys: Beka, Luka, Giorgi, Erekle, and Sergo

The girls: Lika and Keso

I love this class because they are all about my stupid song and dance routines. I was absolutely shocked one day when Beka, a rather grown-up looking 9 year old, stood up and the beginning of class to perform a song and dance I’d taught them the class before. He’d memorized and PRACTICED at home to the point of robotic delivery. When he finished he simply sat down and gave me a nod.


The 5th Class

The boys: Mindia, Giga, Mako, Tedo, Irakli, Nika, Beka, Beka(2), Saba

The girl: Nino J

Something magical happened when this class was put together. These students are the highlight of my day, everyday, even when I don’t have their class.

Nino is my little helper. The only girl in the class but she can hang with all the boys. Everyday before she leaves she simply says, very matter-of-factly, “Teacher, I love you” and kisses me on the cheek.

Mindia – oh, Mindia! Only 12, but he looks about 17 at about a foot taller than the rest of the class and with a fully sprouted chico-stash. Every move he makes is with purpose and pizzazz. His arms wave about emphatically as he speaks. During the second week of class he came up to me at the end of class holding out his backpack and motioned that he MUST show me what was inside. He pulled out a rabbit by the ears. “My pet!” he says, then with one elegant motion he’s out of the classroom dancing down the hallway. Every day he tells me I’m beautiful. The other day, after someone had informed the students I would only be staying until December, he pulled out his hanky, mimed crying into it and then ringing out the tears. He also, often breaks into traditional Georgian song and dance. Bless his soul for keeping me constantly entertained.

Then there is Irakle. He has the most adorable perma-smile I’ve ever seen. No less than 5 times a day does he walk past my room, stop to give me a huge grin and then keep on walking.

Giga is the hardest working student in class. He is also one of the smallest and has the voice of a Muppet. He still has all of his baby pudge and I just can’t help but grab his face and squeeze his cheeks. He best part is he doesn’t mind at all. He just smiles and say, “What?” in his squeaky little voice.

The whole class is so upbeat and uninhibited I can’t help but be in a good mood.


I also teach the 6th, 7th, 8th and 11th classes. More stories about then to come!

Finally, I’ll introduce you to my amazing co-teachers. Mari and Tamrico are pretty much the best company a girl could ask for. Although our teaching styles often clash we’ve found ways to work together and they’ve adapted to a lot of the communicative methods all the volunteers have been asked to help incorporate.

They are both in their early thirties and have known each other since they were in University getting their degrees in English language. They are both Abkhazian refugees who were forced out of their native cities I the early 90’s, the year they both graduated high school. Abkhazia is the most northwest region of Georgia, bordering the black sea and Russia, that is now occupied by Russia and off-limits to Georgians. They tell me stories about how beautiful the cities were, full of life, days by the sea. Then how they were forced to leave their homes, possession, and lives their families had worked so hard to build and haven’t ever been back. Their beautiful cities were destroyed soon after they left and many people were killed. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like.


Tamrico is a spit fire! She made it impossible not to love her from the very start and has ALMOST convinced me to stay many times. She tall and beautiful and breaks all the rules wearing jeans to school instead of a skirt or dress pants. She is passionate about her family, her homeland, her religion, and having fun! Most days, school seems more a medium for us to get together and have a good chat rather than teach a class. She will actually stop a class when a good discussion topic occurs to her. “Steeeeeph!” her eyes light up, she shoos students away. “ Let’s give them some exercises. We have to talk!” I’m lucky enough to have the in about family and school drama. I’ve gotten to know her family and friends and even witness some of their most life changing moments (I will most likely write about these after I leave here). She always wants to know about my friends, my family, and my plans. After school she takes me around to second hand clothing shops forcing sweaters and turtlenecks over my head and proclaiming, “Steeeph! You must buy it! Ugh! ” She has planned out a Georgian life for me more times than I can count. Down to how I will meet my Georgian husband, how I will wear my hair on our wedding day, and my conversion to Orthodox Christianity.


The first day I met Mari she was so nervous she was shaking a little and her voice went up an octave. She had been teaching English for 7 years but this was the first time she’d spoken to a Native speaker. But it didn’t take us long to get into a good grove. Now we have at least once really good laugh a day, sometimes to the point of tears, and then get right back down to business. Mari much more traditional than Tamrico, doesn’t break so many rules and she runs a pretty strict classroom.

Some days feel much more productive than others. Our resourced are scarce and the preparations for this program were definitely lacking. It’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished anything here more than taking a little relief off of the teachers. I’m definitely open for suggestions on resources or methods I could leave behind to keep them moving forward.