Tuesday, August 31, 2010

3 Flights down, 1 Orientation to go!

Hello all! We officially arrived in Georgia last night around 5:15 pm.  We had incredibly smooth travels, which is always a relief.  No delays, no running from gate to gate, no stress! I met up with 2 other girls in Chicago and we had the same flight itinerary, so it was nice to have some company during the long layovers. We actually had some exciting news after boarding our overnight from Washington to Amsterdam… They had overbooked the back of the plane and needed a party of 3 to move up to Business class.  Lucky for us, we were chosen!! It was sooooo nice.  3 course meal, comfy pillows, a down blanket, reclining seats, the works! I almost didn’t want to get off the plane! After landing in Amsterdam we flew to Tbilisi.  When we arrived, we were greeted by TLG staff and a BBC reporter, ready to interview several of us.  We were forewarned about receiving some media attention, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we saw after we got our luggage (which all arrived as well thankfully!).  We walked out these revolving doors and there were people everywhere – just looking at us! It was relatively quiet, just lots of people and lots of video cameras, tons of Georgian media ready to interview and tape us.  It was pretty funny because they would gather round, but not say much because many of them don’t speak English, so we would just start to ramble about why we were here, what we’re excited about, etc. Quite the welcome I’d say! At that point there were about 24 of us, we were the first leg of this orientation group.  Within the next 2 days, there will be 92 teachers total.  There are already 2 other groups spread about in Georgia and I believe there is 1 more coming in a couple weeks. 

We all came straight to the hotel to settle in and rest a bit before dinner.  We had dinner at 9 pm, which I’m learning is fairly normal for Georgian people.  Everything is simply later.  Today our meals were scheduled for 10am, 3pm and 9pm.  I’m excited for my body to adjust to the new time change, both so that I can sleep normally and not feel hungry all the time! It will be nice when I don’t wake up at 3:30 in the morning feeling like I’m ready for the day to begin! 

Today has been relatively quiet because we’re waiting for other teachers to get here before we start the bigger aspects of orientation.  We’ve somewhat been told not to leave the hotel because we haven’t had our ‘safety’ lessons yet.  Apparently Georgian drivers are pretty awful and don’t really care about pedestrians…so they’re nervous about us attempting to cross the street.  It sounds quite juvenile (not being able to cross the street), but it’s sweet that they are taking such good care of us.  So far, I’ve only witnessed wonderful hospitality and excellent food and company! It’s great to get to know other TLG staff from around the world.  There’s lots of people from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.  Just to name a few… 

Tonight we have more meetings and more food.  Hopefully I'll be able to share a bit more about what we'll be doing then! Right now, I'm just very excited to take part and observe some of the rebuilding of this country.  After listening to our TLG staff leader share a bit about the country, she referred to the country has being put through great turmoil (which it definitely has) what with many people attempting to conquer the small country throughout times.  However, I found it encouraging that she was so hopeful for the difference that all of us teachers have the potential to make.  It seems like our purpose here is to show school children that there is life outside the Russian influence.  As one can imagine, Russia is a very, very touchy subject here! 

Well, I think that's all for now :) Off to go eat some lunch! 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ready, Set, Go!

Hello Friends and Family!

As many of you all know, tomorrow I am embarking on quite the adventure! I will be spending the next 10 months in the Republic of Georgia, teaching English in a k-12 school while living with a host family.  This is through a government sponsored program and the Georgian Ministry of Education called Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG).  Greenheart Travel, an organization based out of Chicago is coordinating most of the logistical information with TLG, which makes my life much easier!

My last week has been an absolute whirlwind and nothing like I imagined, but I think that was just a good preparation for the next 10 months! I didn't actually find out that I was leaving early Sunday morning from Chicago until last night... We've been waiting all week for the Georgian government to send us our flight itineraries and they were very much on their own time schedule. I was thinking my flight wouldn't leave until Monday or Tuesday, so this Sunday morning, 8:43 am flight was a bit much to wrap my head around! I'm now frantically running around, attempting to get everything ready after being out of town for a family funeral.  However, I am a firm believer in the phrase 'Everything happens for a reason,' and 'Everything will work itself out - because it has to!' So, I'm just trying to take things one step at a time and focus on the exciting adventure in front of me, rather than the fact that I desperately wanted these last few days to say goodbye to friends and family. 

I should tell you a bit of what I know about what my time will be like in Georgia.  I honestly don't know a lot - meaning I could be placed in a small village, or a bigger city.  I will find out when I get there.  This had made packing a bit of a challenge - but oh well! I do know that I will be in the Imereti region, which is in Southwestern Georgia, about an hour inland from the Black Sea and the touristy coastal city of Batumi.  It is also about an hour from T'bilisi, the capital city where we will have orientation for a week when we first arrive.  In Imereti, the second largest city, (the country's capital for a brief period of time) Kutaisi will be close to wherever I am located as well.  This is comforting because if I ever need to exchange more money, find internet, etc, I will have a big city nearby. 

For those of you that are curious, the people in Georgia speak Georgian (many also speak Russian), but I will be learning Georgian.  It is one of the oldest languages in the world and is really quite beautiful - it's also quite difficult! I'm looking forward to learning it, but I know it will probably be one of the hardest things I ever do.  The language barrier is extremely intimidating, but I've heard so many wonderful things about Georgian hospitality so I feel the two will balance each other out. 

I'm sure there are many, many more things I could share, but for now, I'm going to go eat some breakfast and keep packing! I will have my laptop over there and will most likely have internet (for sure at school and probably at my host family).  Feel free to email or skype me! Love you all and I can't wait to see you next summer!