Saturday, December 1, 2012

The End in Sight

Today was December 1st. I welcomed in December by dancing, trying, in fact, to keep up with a professional Georgian dancer, surrounded by about thirty clapping Georgians, feeling foolish but having a fabulous time!

It's fitting that I begin the last stretch at a massive supra, with the people who welcomed me to Sagarejo, indulging in my favorite bit of Georgian culture - dancing. My poor stomach still complained this morning from the huge amount of food intake, but I shrugged it off to catch a marshutka to Tbilisi, where I met a friend to go Christmas shopping!

I was proud of myself for at least holding my own with the dancing last night. In this past month, I was proud that I know my way around Tbilisi metro, that I got my hair cut on my own in the city, that I plan and run some of my own lessons.  Today I was proud that I caught a marshutka from Tbilisi, alone, by hailing it from the street, able to read the Georgian alphabet quickly enough to find my town name as they drove by. A few months ago I was terrified to do that very thing.  I felt I had come a long way.

Then I came home and threw a small temper tantrum to myself because sometimes I am tired and I don't like certain cultural differences and all I want to do is sit in my PJs and watch Elf and eat Mac & Cheese!

 Living in a culture where the good manners you were raised on are turned on their head, in a language you don't really know, with no fellow foreigners nearby, is hard. It's hard the first few weeks and often it's hard during the last few weeks.

Here, a chart of difference in manners:

Western                                           Georgia
Stand in Line/Wait your Turn                                          Clump/Use Elbows
Stick to a Schedule/Plan                                                    Go With the Flow 
         Respect Personal Space                           Hug/Pinch Cheeks/Pat Bottoms 
   Respect Privacy                             What is privacy? Come hang out with me! 

This isn't to say Georgians aren't polite. Everyone I've met has been kind and patient with me, and, by their standards, very well-mannered! I'm simply not accustomed to not having/being told a schedule, having my bottom patted by neighbors, or needing a strategic plan to get to the ATM.

Three more weeks folks! I've begun sifting through my belongings, trying desperately to figure out how to carry home four heavy, clay drinking horns I was given as well as the homemade wine I have been promised.

Here is probably where I should tell you the life lessons I have learned and goals I've accomplished.
Let's look back over my goals, written in September!

Realistic Goals

  1.  Go to the Black Sea - Did it, as you know from here
  2. Hike in the Caucuses Mountains ---- Did it too, though not as much as I would have liked....
  3. See Folk Dancing  (They dance with knives!) - Never saw professional dancing, or the knives, but feel like that was fulfilled in our interactive dance off last night! 
  4. Actually teach some children some English - I'm proud to say I have, at least a little. 

Gigi learned the word turkey! 

  1. Write everyday - I don't think I've done this, though I've come close!
  2. Be able to hold a basic conversation in Georgian (past "how are you?" and without help from hand signals/broken English)  --- Depending on the person, yes, I can do this! Though my grammar will be bad and the conversation is still short. 

Slightly Less Realistic Goals Due to Scheduling Conflicts: 

  1.  Go to Armenia --- Yes! At least, to the capital of Yerevan! Post to come soon.
 2. Read all those classic books I have on my Kindle - This was definitely unrealistic, especially as I keep adding more (they're free!). But I did read Anna Karenina

I also just finished Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson. It's a fantastic book if you want to learn both the ancient and recent history of Georgia and to get a feel for the culture! 

One of my favorite quotes: "'Ho! Ho! Ho!' he cried. 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' that wonderful Georgian affirmative that turns all agreement into laughter and Christmas, with just a little undercurrent of policeman."  (Don't you love it when books describe an experience you had?) 

It is strangely sunny and warm this weekend, much welcomed after weeks of rain and intermittent gas outages leaving us with no heat or hot water! I went for a walk on my usual route, going past the house of a special needs girl in my 2nd grade class. As usual she ran up to me, grinning and speaking rapid, incomprehensible (to me) Georgian. She hugged me tightly around the waist, giggled at my Georgian and asked when we would have English class again. "Khval! Tomorrow!" I said and she laughed in excitement. She doesn't have an easy life, this patarebi (little one). Her clothes are torn and her face often dirty. I could say something trite about being here to help her, but realistically, I've made no real change in her life. I know the 2nd grade teacher is working to get her into a special school in Tbilisi. People with more know-how than me are providing her with relevant help. 

It makes you feel small sometimes, this ancient and wild country of Georgia. It makes you feel small, all of the little bright eyes of your students, each with their own story, own problems, own happiness and tragedy. I think I've excited some of them about learning English. I know I've given concrete help to my very busy co-teachers. I know that some students are more engaged now because of my efforts. But in the end I am just the "Amerikelli" who takes long walks and dances at supras. I am not so proud as to think, in my mere 3 months here, I have changed my entire school. Still, I think I have changed a few little minds when it comes to learning. 

I am planning an end-of-the-year English tournament and have been excitedly getting my prizes in order. (Flashy notebooks, pencils, markers, and even some bouncy balls and silly putty!) The last big hurrah! I'm so excited to see my students faces when they see the prizes!

 I'll miss my students. I'll miss (some of)the food here. I'll miss the music. I'll even miss supras. The sun is setting and I'm feeling nostalgic. Can you tell?

Three weeks sounds like a good amount of time to me right now. I'll be sad to leave but ready for home. Back in the States, I'll whip out my drinking horns, put on some Georgian tunes, and hold my own little supra!

Some highlights via photo form of the last three months! 

Riding in a donkey cart and taking part in the grape harvest

Visiting the gorgeous Kazbegi

Going to Signaghi, and taking pride in my lovely region of Kakheti. 

Being tamada (toastmaster) for the first time at a mini-supra

Ice cave in Mestia

Learning traditional dances

Attending what feels like a million supras 

Embracing my alter-ego of Shy Georgian Girl

Attending a Georgia vs Fiji rugby game!

Seeing hundreds of beautiful, ancient churches 
(I'm a sucker for them, and Georgia has plenty!)

Observing a chicken sacrifice 
at the church of St. George here in Sagarejo.
(We ate the chicken afterwards.) 

Here's to finishing strong and to savoring every moment! Gamarjous! (Cheers!) 

No comments:

Post a Comment