Wowee! It's been a long time since I last blogged, sorry about that. I blame my inability to stay healthy. Last week, my stomach was not happy with something that I had eaten and of course, right after recovering from that, I caught the cold that had been running around my house. Currently 3 out of the 5 inhabitants our home are sick with a slightly different version of a cold. It's been somewhat entertaining, but slightly tiring. I am just looking forward to a time when I am healthy and 100% myself. I feel like my family has had yet to see me that way since I arrived. I found myself longing for my good 'ol American health care system and a doctor who understood exactly how I was feeling and what medicines would help me. However, plus side on the Georgian medical system - it's fast and cheap. I saw the doctor at 9, I was in and out within 10 minutes and my 9:45, I was home, in bed with all of my medicine already. The 3 different pills I was ordered to buy were all of 6 Lari and 40 tetri (about the equivalent of $3.50). Impressive, right? Let's just hope they help! I'm going on an excursion (a fancy name for field trip) with about 15 high schoolers and 5 other teachers, including Cici and my mother, this weekend. We're going to the city of caves which is about 6 hours away from here. We'll be able to do some great hiking and exploring. Even Cici and Lela haven't been there before! I'm very excited and want to be at the top of my game for it.
Enough complaining. This last week has been very busy, filled with the starting days of school and a weekend getaway to Batumi, a touristy city on the coast of the Black Sea.
I'll start with Batumi and work my way backward. On Saturday, Michelle, Melissa and I all headed out bright and early to catch the 8:00 Marshutka ride to Batumi. It took about 2 hours to get there and it was quite the experience. To help you understand, picture this, a small 13 passenger mini-bus, filled to the MAX with 20 or so people. Some people sitting on other's laps, some standing in the aisles, some standing in the doorway, with constant shuffling around at each stop. Marshutka's are a very common form of transportation and are super cheap, hence the reason so many people use them. Luckily, M, M and I got on at the first stop and were able to find seats, all next to each other. We also never had to move because we were getting off at the last stop! Worked out well for us. We arrived, safe and sound and relieved to be able to move our legs!
During the day on Saturday, we roamed around the city, had lunch at a nice sea-side cafe, stuffed ourselves to the max and took in a little culture by going to the local art museum and then sneaking into an international movie showing. Apparently it was the weekend to go to Batumi because we ran into tons of other TLG volunteers along the way. It was great to hear everyone's stories from the week and once again, I was very grateful for my placement. Some of our guy friends were relocated last minute to the Adjara region in the southwest part of Georgia. Many of them are not happy with their living conditions, so I feel incredibly blessed to have what I have.
Dinner was a wonderful experience. After searching for the perfect place to eat, we found this hole in the wall place that looked adorable and rustic inside. There was a small party at one table, but the place was otherwise empty. The owners took us under their way and with Michelle's Russian knowledge, and a waiter's broken English, we ordered the most amazing meal of our lives! The night was complete when our waitress got us all up to dance with them. It felt so great to let loose a bit and dance to some fun Georgian music with our new friends. After that we met up with other TLGers on the rocky beach next to a beautiful boardwalk and caught up. It was incredibly relaxing and a lot of fun! I was reminded of how much I love really those really long conversations when you're just starting to get to know a person. So great! After a late night Saturday, we slept in on Sunday and happily awoke to the sun shining!! Because the day hadn't been very nice on Saturday, we decided to take full advantage of the sun and we grabbed a quick lunch, threw our swim suits on and set off for the beach! For those of you that really know me, you know I LOVE laying out and improving my tan. I was in heaven on Sunday. We literally stayed at the beach from 12-5, reading, listening to music, chatting, swimming in the Black Sea and enjoying the day. Instead of taking the Marshutka back at 2, we decided to splurge for a taxi, figuring that that it was worth it to spend the day in Batumi. Well, I think it was, but we all learned that nothing ever goes as planned. A trip that we thought would take an hour, ended up taking 2 and a half hours due to road construction and a taxi driver who meant well, but didn't exactly know where he was going. Michelle and I were talking on the walk back to our houses about how Samtredia already felt comforting to come back to and we both really realized that this was our home for the next year. It's funny how things hit you at the strangest times.
Ok, changing topics a bit...school in Georgia. Well, it is a whole lot different than school in America. For starters, it beginss at 9:00 and I am usually done teaching by about 1:00. Classes last about 40 minutes, or until whenever the director decides to ring the bell, and then there's usually a 10-15 minute break between classes. It's a much more relaxed atmosphere, but at the same time, it's crazier. Kids run around everywhere and aren't told to slow down or be quiet in the hall during or between classes. I tried to tell a little boy to slow down when he nearly ran into me and he just gave me the strangest look. Probably because I was speaking English, but also because I don't think slowing down is a concept he's ever been introduced too! Anyway, students seem to get away with a lot more here, in terms of many of them not having books for class, or just coming and sleeping through class, or coming and literally doing nothing. Teachers tend to refer to them as 'naughty boys' and simplify their needs by saying that they are so far behind that there isn't anything they can do. It's just hard to watch. After talking to other TLGers, it sounds like this is common throughout all Georgian schools. Lesson planning and prep is also very different. My teacher and I briefly go over what we're doing the next day, but for the most part, she just does whatever is in the book and then makes things up during the middle of class. Our director does not require lesson plans to be turned in or any sort of long-term goals to be written. This would be unheard of in the states.
Melissa, Michelle and I were all chatting about our school experiences and Melissa pointed out that it seems as though teachers teach to the highest in the class. Once one person gets it, they move on, instead of making sure that all understand it. This creates a very large achievement gap among the students and is the reason that so many students are behind in the upper grades - they never got in in the first place and then got so far behind, the thought of trying to catch up seems so impossible, that they give up. It's hard to watch. I have to work hard to remain optimistic in school because it seems like there are so many things to change, that I too, find myself wanting to give up. Funny how life works like that... I have enjoyed working with the older students a lot more than I expected to, though, so that has been really great! My 5th graders are soooo excited to learn English and LOVE saying hello to me in the hallways. Middle school boys seem to be the same here as they are in America, while they also love saying hello to me, they enjoy adding, 'i love you!' and running the other way. Makes the world seem much smaller when people act so similarly, when they live so far apart.
Well, speaking of school, I should go look at our books and plan a few activities for tomorrow. I'm praying that I'll have my voice back! Love to you all :)
Oh, and here's a link to my facebook album of pictures from my trip thus far! http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2023754&id=1177410562&l=962bf45217