March 18, 2011

Oh by the way…

(It’s possible this is now just an attempt to pull out the win over Em and Andy. But let’s be honest, if we were judging based on amount of actual content, they’d have me beat.)

So, have I mentioned I live 3 km east of the Black Sea? I meet other English teachers in Batumi—which is right ON the Black Sea—a few times a week. I think visual is all that’s necessary here:

This is Mark. He's teaching English in Chakvi, another "suburb" of Batumi.

Advertisements
March 13, 2011

Amiko turns six – Now he’s a katsi (man)

Yes, that is the pig's head. Yes, I ate that pig's brains.

(I wrote this a few weeks ago and am just posting it now…)

Maia’s brother Amiko turned six years old over the weekend. In Georgia, that means all the relatives come to town for a big feast—the traditional suphra.

As a peskily consistent figure in the home, I was of course welcomed to the table. It was quite the experience. You can see in the picture some of the food that I ate. But more and more food came out as the night progressed. And at some point I ate some of that poor piggy’s brains.

Amiko and his friends had their own mini suphra, complete with Georgian toasts. But their feast was limited to khachapuri and French fries.

During the evening I met a lot of new family members. I also found two Georgian men willing to marry me. Well, they found me. I hope that I effectively declined, but my communication success rate is pretty low here. Time will tell…

We’ve been eating leftovers a million times a day ever since the feast and it seems like different family members stop by each time the food comes out to help finish it off.

Before the feast...

...and after.

February 28, 2011

Sachmeli – food

This is the kind of khechapuri that comes from Adjara - the region I'm in. It's a bread bowl of butter and cheese with a raw egg thrown in for good measure.

I won’t deny there’s delicious food here. And I’ll be implementing a strict diet immediately upon my return. But for now…

If I’m buying my own food in the States, yes, I can be fairly picky. But as a general rule, I eat what’s placed in front of me. Somehow, someone else putting the effort into cooking makes food more delicious, too.

But ohh the things I’ve eaten here. Pig brain, pig feet, miscellaneous gelatinous cow parts…

We eat bread and jams and salami and cheese for breakfast with tea each morning. After classes I eat in the dining hall at school. I have a meal of soup and some other major grain or pasta or potato dish. Sometimes fish. There is a basket of bread at every meal. It’s usually held in your hand through the whole meal, almost like a utensil, for dipping and scooping.

When I get home, depending on…well I haven’t quite figured out what determines this yet, but there might be another similar meal.

And pretty much without fail there’s another tea time around 11 p.m. or later. It also involves bread and cheese and meat. And if I’m lucky, more jam. Jam is by far my favorite Georgian food right now. All of the food is local, too. And most of it is made by the women in the house. Gemrielia!

This is what happens when you order a Ceasar Salad.

This is 'chai' time. Evening tea. With meat and bread and cheese and if I'm lucky, jam.

 

 

February 25, 2011

Tovli

Amiko and friends enjoy the snow.

It snows here and I love it.

Within the South Carolina-sized country I’m living in, there is quite an array of climates. I happened to be placed in the one considered “subtropical.” If you know me well, you know that’s not really ideal for me.

But like the rest of the world, Batumi’s having unusual weather, or so I’m told. And it keeps snowing. And I still love it. The past three days were rain and snow free and that’s the longest streak I’ve seen since I got here.

Did I mention I love it?

 

Before

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2011

Lunch Room

My main man…

One of my favorite Georgians so far is Aleksander—one of the two cooks at the school’s dining hall. (So he’s only around every other week.) Every time he sees me he shouts something, waves his arms and salutes me. And he’s taken to bringing me special snacks. He even cooked me an extravagant meal the second week he worked. And he and I have toasts together a few times a week.

My co-teacher told me that he was once married with five children. Three of the children and his wife were killed in an electrical fire in their own home. I’m finding that almost everyone in Georgia has a story of loss, if I get the chance to hear it. But knowing Ali, this one breaks my heart.

And another man, too…

The woman with the qkhava cup is on Ali’s kitchen team. She’s also very sweet to me, and one morning she saw me playing with the dregs of ground coffee left in my cup and asked if I wanted my fortune read. Um, of course I did.

The good news is, I’m going to marry a bicho kartveli kargi (good Georgian boy) who is very strong. He’s going to take me to his home in the mountains and we’re going to be in love and live a wonderful life together. But. My mother will cry because I will not come home. (Sorry, Mom.)

So, once I meet es bicho kargi, I’ll let you know when the wedding is.

(Lots and lots of Georgians have already told me that when I fall in love with a nice Georgian boy I will not leave Georgia. Weird, how they all seem to know my future…)

February 9, 2011

Skolashi

Some of the 10th form. I guess you're not supposed to smile in Georgian photos.

Yes, I do teach actual students in a school also. Not just Maia (that was my 18-month-old host family member, Maia, for those of you who asked).

And it pretty much puts a huge halt to the lesson when I whip my camera out, but I did it. For YOU. And then they asked for my signature. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m kind of a big deal, it turns out.

So you can now see my 7th graders and the 10th graders in their classrooms. Students stay in the same room all day, the teachers move every period. Both of the pictured classes have a lot of students who put a lot of effort into their work and like to try to talk to me, which is often a better way to learn than their textbook work. Or, I can offer them more through conversation anyhow.

I co-teach with Darijan, whom you can see in the photo of the 10th graders. She and I have the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders. When I have free periods I go with the other English teacher, Tamriko in the 4th, 6th and 8th grades. We’re in the third week of school now, and the schedule continues to shift here and there, but I imagine we’ll settle into a somewhat regular pattern by next week.

7th form.

As close to candid as I could get.

February 5, 2011

I’m the best teacher ever.

Just a little look at my teaching skillz (and/or the “creative” ways I use my free time). (P.S. Deal with the formatting issues. I don’t have the patience to re-upload the photos, which seems to be the only solution when this alignment issue arises.)

First, Maia was only interested in her Turkish sweet bread.

But then she had a few lessons with me.

I taught her everything I know.

It's been an invaluable experience for everyone involved.

January 30, 2011

Some surroundings

Some more photos…

My host-father Amiran and his daughter-in-law (/host sister) Manana in front of what they told me was the president's home. But the president lives in Tbilisi, so I'm not really sure...

Amiran and Manana and Tamila shopping for a fur coat. Tamila speaks a bit of English so they brought her along to help me shop. I bought a turtle neck because I was not, apparently, dressed appropriately for the cold.

This is what I see from my bedroom window. Note the young mandarin trees growing (Dad).

This is my laundry. Basically all the clothes I brought to Georgia. Well, minus a few skirts. Clearly, way too many colors.

January 27, 2011

The photo version

Interesting thing happened–I found a cord in my family’s computer drawer and it seemed to fit my camera. It’s got a lot of tape on it…like maybe it was broken and reconnected at some point. It took a few tries and a lot of wiggling, but I got some photos. Enjoy.

This is what I see walking home from school into my driveway.

(L to R) My host mother, myself and co-English teacher in front of my school. Yeah, a pink coat in this culture was the wrong choice. But, let's face it, I'll stick out no matter what.

My host mother graciously allowed me to assist her while making the famed Georgian cheesybread- ketchapuri.

And this is the finished product. My host brother, Amiko, helped eat it.

January 25, 2011

Language Lessons

Let me just start by saying, for those of you who are visual people (I know, I know, that’s the entire Google generation) I have bad news. I lost my camera cable. And can’t imagine locating one in Sarkatvelo any time soon. Pictures for now are not going to happen. You can stop reading now (coughMelaniecough).

But I’m going to post anyhow, because I know my grandparents still love the written word (!!) and I am soon going to forget how to form complete sentences in English if I don’t at least talk to myself/the internet world. Here goes.

From what I’ve gathered, in the Georgian language, when you want to express how you feel about something—a food, a person, a country, a shot of Russian cognac—you have two options:

1. Me miqvars. – I love it.

2. Me ar miqvars. – I don’t love it.

Now, obviously, I know about 12 phrases total in this language, so please take that into consideration as you weigh my sweeping generalizations. But in our brief Georgian classes, our desire to use other adjectives/verbs—“like” primarily—was met with complete dissuasion from our Georgian teacher.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because I’m having such trouble expressing myself to my host family, my co-teachers, the other places I find myself as I go with the flow in my new life. I’m very much concerned about using the wrong phrase and finding that I’ve scorned my entire host family for years to come, or something horrible like that. It took me a good 20+ years of speaking English to master the nuances necessary to describe my feelings about things with just the right, careful combination of honesty and politeness. (e.g. Q: Do you like my new haircut? A: You have the most beautiful hair. It looks great parted on the left side like that.)

But where like/dislike and love are concerned, I feel like I’m sort of safe on this issue in Georgian. Because all I know how to say is that I love it! And I am not lying when I say I don’t love Russian cognac. Or tch’a-tch’a. Plus I think my facial expressions say it for me.

But I also like what this says about the Georgian people. Politeness is ingrained into their everyday conversations. Hospitality is their number one concern. Putting other people’s feelings first is expected. (Again, sweeping generalizations.)

The point is—Isn’t it amazing what language says about a culture?

Wow, I guess I did just talk about my feelings. I want to describe where I am and what my family and school are like, but I’ve got so many great pictures to do that for me! That you may never see…:) Sigh.

The basics: I live about 40 steps from my school. My host mother and father Oruli and Amiran have a son, Irakli, and he and his wife, Manana, live here also. As do their two kids, Amiko and Maia. Amiko is turning 6 on Feb. 18 (my mom totally conveyed that to me with motions and a few numbers. Take that not-speaking-the-same-language!). Maia is like… 2. They’re all very kind and feed me all the time and have a big, beautiful house and have a European toilet. 😉 My mother and I made ketchapuri together tonight. For meal number five. Or six maybe…

I work here. I’m teaching ages 10-19, all with varying degrees of English skills. The kids thus far are a bit starstruck and so I can get away with stumbling through lessons. I hope to establish a rhythm after a few weeks.

Actually, my experience can be described pretty well by Rhonda in this NYTimes article. Though I wish the Times’d asked me to write my own piece. 🙂 I’m willing, if anyone is wondering.

I’m going to bed now. Day three of school tomorrow. And then I think I’m going into Bat’Umi to see a new baby…some relative of my host fam. I’m excited.

I love all your comments, by the way! Thanks for paying attention.