I am currently writing you from Samtredia, a small city of about 20,000 about a half hour west of
. I arrived here yesterday after my host family came to pick me up at our training site. Let me tell you, all of us TLG teachers had dropped our expectations extremely low so that we could be prepared for the worst. Possibly no running water, no internet, no one who speaks English; all things we all wanted, but knew we may not be fortunate enough to get. I feel so blessed because I have all three at my new home!! Kutaisi
I was picked up by 4 people: My host father Mishikal, my host mother, Lela, my host sister, CiCi and the director of my school, Katuna. Cici, is 16 and she speaks really great English!! (side note: the meeting reminded us all of a high school dance – all the Georgians on one side of the room and the meek, scared little teachers on the other! Both sides just staring at each other, wondering who they are going home with…) Cici has been such a life saver as neither her parents, nor her grandfather (who also lives at home) speak any English. From what I can tell, she is the best English speaker in the school, besides the two English teachers themselves. However, as easy as it is to just speak English with Cici, I really want to be able to talk to Lela and Mishikal, so I am more motivated than ever to keep working on my very poor Georgian skills. I won’t always have Cici around me to translate!
Immediately when I arrived, they showed me my room and gave me a tour of the rest of the house. My room is wonderful. It’s between Cici and her parents and has 3 doors, opening to each of the respective rooms and the hall. Upstairs there is also their grandfather’s room, a formal dining room and a large great room which they never use. However, in the great room, there’s a piano!!! I was so excited when I saw this, I almost cried. Not being able to play the piano was something that I was really going to miss this year, and being able to play will be a little piece of home that I can have with me, anytime I want! Right outside the front door, there’s the new bathroom. They are still in the process of getting it all ready. Inside, there’s new tile flooring, a washing machine, new sink and a wonderful western toilet! You have no idea how excited I was to see 1) a western toilet and 2) a toilet that I can actually flush toilet paper down!!! We were not so lucky at our orientation site. In about a month the new shower will be ready as well.
Downstairs, there is the old bathroom where we shower for now. Outside, next to the bathroom, they do their cooking so that insects don’t get inside the house. I’ll be curious to see how cold it is in the winter and whether or not they still do all of their cooking outside. Downstairs there is also an eating room, a living room (with a tv) and another family room. For the most part, we hang out downstairs because it’s much cooler.
Like I mentioned before, I feel so, so very blessed to be with such a wonderful family, in such a nice home. My mama (Georgian word for father) works for the police and my deda (Georgian word for mother) is a teacher at the school I will be working at. I feel incredibly safe here, especially since my father knows everyone in this town! In
, there is something called the Patroni system. It’s for females to use to keep them safe. For instance, my father is my Patroni, as well as several of Cici’s friends. All I pretty much have to do is say that I am a guest of Mishikal’s home or friends with Tato, and I’ll be able to ward off unwanted attention. When men hear that, they know that there are other men looking out for me that will get them in trouble if something were to happen. It seems pretty foolproof to me!! Especially with me father being a cop! Georgia
In Samtredia, there’s not a whole lot to do for entertainment, but we’ve managed to fill our time so far! Last night, we went and walked around town and headed over to a park where many of the teenagers hang out at night. Cici joked that because there’s nothing to do in town, people just go to the park and talk…every night! I told her that sounded just fine to me, so we headed out to meet some of her friends. It was hilarious because as we were walking, I ran into the 2 other girls that are also staying in this town from TLG. Melissa was walking with her host brother and Michelle was with her host sister! It was so wonderful to see a familiar face amidst all of the Georgians! We all live fairly close to each other, which was a really nice surprise. We’ll be able to travel together, which will be much more convenient.
I met several of Cici’s classmates last night. In
, class sizes are very small and you are literally with the same 20 or so people for all of your schooling. For this reason, classmates are very, very close. I asked if people ever start dating their classmates and Cici gave me a shocked look! She told me her classmates are practically like brothers and sisters, and she could never imagine liking one of them. Watching them interact together, I could see this was the truth. Tato (Cici’s classmate) was very protective of Cici, and in turn protective of me. It was sweet to watch. We walked back late at night and it was comforting to know that we were very safe, even in the dark of the streets. Cici walks this road every night and everyone knows her. Granted, I think it will be a while before I do it myself, but it’s comforting to know that eventually, I’ll be able to roam around freely and not have to worry about anything. Georgia
Today, we went and visited the school. It is about a 15 minute, easy walk from here. I met several teachers, but not the English teachers. I will meet them on Monday. After a tour of the school (where every teacher told me that they liked me and that I was a good girl – after knowing me for a good 20 seconds…) I had a brief meeting with the director where we talked about who I would be working with. It was nice to wrap my thoughts around everything before actually meeting the English teachers, that way I can think about what I want to do before meeting them. Students used to begin learning English in 2nd grade, but there was a new law written that they now won’t learn it until 5th grade; though I haven’t figured out why. So, in this new program, I will be working with 1st graders, once a week to simply expose them to the English language. I will be talking to them, playing games, etc., just to sort of get their brains ready to learn English. Then I will spend the rest of my time teaching 5-7th grade English. This is definitely going to be a lot different for me as I’ve spent most of my time with 1st - 4th graders. However, I think it will be really good for me to experience and I’m sure I will learn a lot about this age. I’ve heard great things about the teachers I will be working with so I am very excited to meet them!
After touring the school, we went to the Market to pick up a few things. I live very close to the Market, which is super nice. Later today, we’re going to meet some of Cici’s friends and check out the swimming pool. Apparently it’s very clean and nice! Our schedule has been very relaxed before school begins, which is nice. Mishikal wants to take Cici and I to some old churches in the next couple of days, so I’m excited for that outing!
Well, thanks for sticking through with me to the end of this blog post – I feel like there are still so many things I could tell you, but I should let you get back to your lives!! Keep me updated on your lives as well, I’m so curious to hear how you are all doing!! Miss you all dearly!