Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1 month down - 9 more exciting months ahead!

It's crazy to believe that 4 weeks ago, this past Sunday my Dad and I woke up at 3 in the morning to drive to Chicago to catch my early morning flight.  This has been a whirlwind of a month, that's for sure! 

Well, let's see, where to begin?? This last week didn't seem to be filled with too many exciting things, but there were some highlights.  After finally recovering from an awful cold, I'm feeling more myself, which I am so thankful for! Last week, I didn't go to school on Tuesday or Wednesday, Thursday the kids laughed at me and told me I sounded like an old woman because of all of the coughing I was doing...but then Friday was an excellent day! And here's why: After being somewhat frustrated with how Georgian school is operated, I decided to finally do what I felt like should be done, instead of sitting there, observing and becoming more and more frustrated.  In my 9th grade class, I have 4 boys that literally sit there and do nothing the entire time because the English material is way over their heads.  They hardly know their letters, so it's ridiculous to expect them to be able to participate reading a text in class.  So, on Friday, I just asked if I could take these 4 boys out into the hall and work with them.  To me, this idea seemed completely normal, but let me tell you, the look these boys gave me was absolutely hilarious.  I went right outside and sat down on the floor and motioned for them to join me.  A couple sat down, and 2 others knelt, as if they feared the floor.  Sure, it was a bit dusty, but not a big deal.  However, I was wrong.  In Georgia, it's a HUGE deal for a teacher to sit on the floor! One teacher came out and made one of the boys go get me a chair.  I kept trying to say I was fine, but sitting on the floor is just simply not acceptable.  The director of the school saw me and gave us the strangest look, then ushered us into a nearby classroom that she opened up for us.  

Once we got passed the craziness of finding a location, I was able to work with these 4 boys to just see what they know.  We practice writing letters, recognizing them, putting letters together to make words, etc.  It's just crazy working with 14 year old boys, but doing activities that I did with my 1st graders while student teaching in the states.  But, what was amazing, was that these boys completely changed personality wise in front of me.  They were smiling, laughing, participating, even helping each other.  While the language barrier is definitely there, they are patient with me and we had fun acting things out, trying to understand each other.  I can't tell you how refreshed I felt after working with them.  For the first time since I got here, I felt like I was needed and that I could help make a difference with some of these kids.  It made being here for the next 9 months seem much more manageable.  I've known for a while that teaching is all about ups and downs, but it's those days, when you have the ups, that make it worthwhile to go through the downs.  I also bonded with my 5th graders while we were learning the names for wild animals.  I've been trying to think of a way to make these classes more fun, but it gets difficult when you have very limited resources.  So, as we were learning the name for monkey, I began to act out what a monkey does and so on for each wild animal.  The kids were laughing, Nino, my teacher was laughing, I was laughing, it was just great! In Georgia, laughing doesn't seem to really have a place in the classroom.  School isn't about having fun, it's about reading the books and answering the questions.  So, it was GREAT to laugh a bit and show that we can still have fun while learning.  

Let's see, we have another American in Samtredia now! Michelle's college housemate, Tara, joined us in our wonderful little city! It was great to meet her and I'm really looking forward to many adventures of the 4 of us! I met up with her and Michelle on Saturday (Melissa was off bouncing around in Batumi with her family) and we showed her around the city a bit.  Then she took us to see her house where we randomly ran into her family! It may not sound like a coincidence, because it is her house, but Tara's situation is a little different! Her family has a house and an apartment in the middle of the city.  We thought they were all at the apartment, but then they drove over to the house! It was wonderful to meet another kind family and be taken under their wing.  A few exciting things about Tara's home/family are:

1. Her 12 year old brother plays the Georgian drum and is super talented.  And, he loves to play for people :)
2. She has the most adorable Grandmother who bakes her gluten free bread and loves to make us food whenever we're around.
3. They have a TV where you can change some Russian channels into English! Hello BBC and CNN!!
4. They also have a piano, that's in tune!! AND her dad offered to give me music to practice. 
5. Her father is quite the jokester and loves goof around at the dinner table.  
6. They make their own honey and have lots of delicious food in their backyard! 

We are all so grateful for all of our own host families and it is is so wonderful to go visit each other and feel loved and taken care of, all the time! 

Sunday, my family and I went into Kutaisi.  Sadly, the computer charger that I bought in Kutaisi during orientation week fried...so we went back to the city to see if we could find ANOTHER one.  Super unfortunate, but not as big of a deal because Cici let's me use her computer whenever I want.  Having my computer is simply a comfort thing and a convenience.  Sadly, we did not find one, but when we went and met with some relatives of theirs, Cici's uncle (who speaks a bit of English!!!) told me that he knew someone that should be able to fix my original hp charger.  So, we'll see what happens. I'm hopeful, but I'm also realistic.  Luckily, Tara is going home for her sister's wedding in about a month, so I'm sure my parents could ship a new charger to her house and Tara can bring it back then! For this reason, the blog posts have pretty much gone down to a once a week endeavor and it will probably be a while before I get more pictures up... sad day. 

The rest of the day Sunday we went to Galeti Cathedral and another beautiful church...that I can't remember the name of.  There is something incredibly special about my family touring these churches on Sundays.  I absolutely love it.  Hearing the history and the stories from Cici is so special - I wish I had a tape recorder so I could remember all the details that she tells me. 

Oh! Lela and Mikheli also bough a new electric stove!!! It is sooo beautiful and it makes me want to bake cookies! Next on the shopping list, a new shower.  I'm pretty much pumped for that one as the other day I had to kill a GIANT jumping spider in the old bathroom.  Mom, you would have been proud. 

Also, Michelle and I have been craving peanut butter.  It is impossible to track down in Samtredia and our small jars that we bought in Tbilisi are pretty much empty.  So, yesterday Michelle was discussing this with her host mom and they decided to make peanut butter! I missed most of the attempts, but when I showed up yesterday, they had finally nailed the recipe!! We ran out and bought more peanuts (right as the market was closing) and made a huge batch!! So, this morning, I happily enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich and yogurt for breakfast.  A lovely change from bread and cheese, or bread and meat, or bread, meat and cheese.  After a year of this homemade, delicious peanut butter, I'm not sure if I'll be able to go back to good 'ol Jif!  

I'm not positive what my plans are for the weekend quite yet, but I'll either be heading to Tbilisi to visit some friends from my orientation group, or heading back to Batumi with Tara to meet some of her friends from her group! Stay tuned...

Love you all :) 

**Cici's computer doesn't have spell check, so I apologize for any typos...


  1. Em - you are such a great writer! I love reading about all that's going on in your rad new foreign life. Love you! - Rach

  2. Emily,

    It was so exciting to read about the four boys and the response from them when given some attention. Nice to see you stepping up to make a difference. At the Expo this week the keynote speaker gave 4 business fundamentals that I think apply beyond business: 1) You must have communication move to connection (relationships), 2) Selling must move to positioning (people must want to do business with you), 3) training (how and to do) must move to education (why and to be), and 4) Success to Significance. You did all of these by your teaching of these 4 boys, you became significant in their lives. Congratulations! Look forward to hearing about your continued travels and new friendships. Hope you have made some peanut butter cookies and thrown in some chocolate chips. lyl Dad

  3. Hello :)
    Sorry, I couldn't find you name on your profile info...
    I found out your blog today. It's so exciting to read such interesting stories. I'm Georgian, from Tbilisi.
    The story about you and 4 boys who couldn't understand English was just AMAZING! I remember my English teacher, who was Georgian. She was a young and joyful girl, who made a lot of fun in the classes. It was kind of strange for us, because most of the teachers were very old, gloomy ones. So, it's my young and joyful teach's merit that I LOVED this language. She changed our minds to the good and happy mood...

    So, I can exactly feel now what those 4 boys feel about you. I'm sure they DO LOVE you and will remember your name for their whole life. That's simply amazing :)

    Wish you the success and all the best.