Friday, December 01, 2006

At the Lanchkhuti Language Competition, hosted by my school. Lots of volunteers came in to act as judges and it was really cool. After the competition there was a concert, and these girls are some of my 8th formers dressed in traditional dance costumes (Nino, Nino, Mary, Mary, and Nata, my host sister.) Nata placed 3rd in her age division I am proud to say. It was a really fun weekend, everyone stayed at my house for the night and I finally got to show off my awesome host family. The general concensus was that I may indeed have the best host family in Peace Corps, and who am I to argue...

This is my first host family on swear-in day. Tamuna, Marika, me, Soso, Baby Seth. Tamuna cried all day which was sweet at first but then kinda ridiculous. I look kinda was really hot in there. Baby Seth hung out at my house all the time so they kinda felt like his host family too.

Soso is still my hero because he destroyed a birzha defending my honor... it's a long story.

My summer camp crew in Lanchkhuti. We had the "English Olympics," and the competition was fierce. Team "Black Roses" and team "Sunrise" competed tirelessly and ruthlessly for 5 days in events such as hangman, draw your alien, football, dodgeball, and pictionary...It was intense, but the Black Roses came out on top. My host sisters are in the picture: Nata is the one in the pink shirt behind me, and Ana is the girl in the red shirt kneeling front row center. The other grown up is my main counterpart and one of few actual Georgian friends, Lela. She's awesome.

So it looks like my last blog entry was on August 2… That’s unacceptable. I will try to be better in the future but, in my defense, my internet access is not exactly reliable or convenient; so when I have access I usually just have time to send out emails and try to get some vague idea of what’s going on in the world outside of my lovely Georgia, and within Georgia for that matter. But I apologize to you guys who’ve been checking my blog only to receive no news. I do have lots of pictures on my facebook account because the pics load a lot faster there than on this site, so if anyone wants to look there, be my guest!

I have been in my permanent site for 3 months now and I honestly still don’t have much to complain about. I mean, my school kinda sucks sometimes and we lose electricity with every gust of wind or raindrop, but if that’s the extent of my Peace Corps woes, I’d doing okay.. My family is WONDERFUL, I lucked out again just like I did with my training family. My parents are great, they are very enthusiastic about this whole situation but they constantly remind me that their house is my house now too, and I can do whatever I what. They’re always saying, “Rogorts ginda paigi, rogorts ginda!” Whatever you want paige! My mother works and my father stays at home. But amazingly, he is not your typical Georgian male. He cooks, very well actually, cleans, takes care of his daughters and me, reads, helps his daughters with their homework, knows lots about history and America; so basically, I’m not convinced that he’s actually Georgian!! I have 2 sisters-Nata, 13 and Ana, 11. They both speak some English, kind of a lot actually, especially Nata. They are incredible girls, they’ve been teaching me some Georgian dances, which are way harder than they look and, apparently, I am hilarious when I dance because they both laugh at me. A lot. My parents don’t want me to speak any Georgian to the girls; they only want me to speak English because they want their English to improve. My house is really nice; I have hot water, an indoor toilet and a shower, so I’m REALLY lucky!

Lanchkhuti is only 30 minutes from the Black Sea, so it was unbelievably hot and humid when I first got to site. I think it was around 100 degrees for the first almost 3 weeks I was here, which feels a lot hotter when there’s no AC or shuki (electricity) for fans. Basically I just sat around and sweated for a few weeks. But then the weather actually really, really nice for most of September and October despite a few week-long rain storms. The weather just turned cold a few weeks ago, but it is freaking cold in my house! There’s really no such thing as insulation (that’s one more on my list of things I could introduce to Georgia and make millions) so the only warm room is the one with a petchi, the Russian word for the wooden stoves everyone uses. It’s basically a small fireplace except the smoke blows out a small hole in the wall. This room stays really warm, but it’s freezing in my bedroom. Last night I slept in: longjohns, sweatpants, sweatshirt, beenie, wool socks, my sleeping bag with a comforter and wool blanket on top. I am told this is normal. Hopefully I’ll soon be getting a little gas heater for my room. But pretty much, for the next 3-4 months, I’ll be spending all of my time in the petchi room with my host family. It’s not such a bad thing since my family is cool, but as a girl who likes my privacy, it’s sure to get old sooner or later.

I had a summer camp for English students at my school a fe and it went really well. I called it the English Olympics, divided the kids into 2 teams, played games using English and sports and I kept track of the points all week. They really got into it…Georgians love competition!!!! I had them create a team name and flag. One team called themselves “The Black Roses” and wrote “the rock star team” on their flag! It was really funny! I was really impressed with several students’ English and I’m looking forward to working with them. I’m getting excited about the school year and coming up with lots of ideas for clubs and secondary projects at my school. One thing I really want to do is start an English newspaper at school, but unfortunately I have to wait 6 months to start any secondary projects. My school really needs an English library, so my biggest project by far will be putting one together for them. So if any of you know anyone looking to donate books…give them my email please!!!

My school started at the end of September and it’s going pretty well. The first day of school here is a HUGE deal, lots of parents come and there’s a brief ceremony to get the year started. I was introduced and had to give a brief speech. For the first 2 days of school, the kids gave me standing ovations whenever I entered their classrooms!!! I felt like a rock star. Kind of a lame rock star, but still... The classes asked me lots of questions about myself and America, and a lot of them speak English very well. I have 4 English teachers to work with, and they have all been very eager and friendly and seem pretty motivated to work with me. I was surprised to learn that I only teach 3 days a week because all of my counterparts teach at other schools as well, but that gives me more time to work on secondary projects so I think it’ll be a good thing once I really get started on the work.

I have decided to teach 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th forms. School can be really, really frustrating sometimes…it’s just sooo different. There’s no attendance policy (not really), the schedule of classes changes constantly, and cheating is a MAJOR problem in Georgian schools. But I have lots of wonderful students, my counterparts are very cool and competent for the most part. It’s basically impossible to make much headway in the first semester because it’s just sort of this tornado of confusing (and nonsensical) scenerios that in no way resemble American schools. Such as, “We won’t have 5th hour today because Tiniko mastavlebeli (teacher) has brought food and wine to celebrate her 3rd grandchild being born.” And then when you walk into the teacher’s lounge, a huge supra has suddenly appeared! Amazing! Then a few weeks ago I attended a birthday supra for one of my 2nd form students after school. These kids are 7. One of my favorite students, Irakli, pours himself a glass of wine (his mother’s sitting right next to him smiling, “He loves wine” she said) , stands up and recites a toast to his classmate just like a grown man, then bolomdes (means “till the end”, which is what people say when they want you to drink your whole glass in one chug) his glass.

Ok, so that was a quick little update and hopefully the pictures will fill in some more of the gaps.