So we’ve been told not to be critical towards the program in any media that could be quoted (another volunteer’s blog was quoted in an online feature), and though I doubt anybody outside my immediate family frequents this site (Hi, Grandpa!), I should probably heed the word unless I want to shipped back to the States or taken to the “rehabilitation camps” (I’m messing with you guys). So there will be no outward complaining towards TLG or the education system in
Tertmet’i – Speaking of which, I won’t be overly critical of Misha here, basically because I have no real reason to be. In fact I should probably be singing his praises while spewing anti-Putin propaganda. Without Misha, I probably wouldn’t be in
The monastery in Martvili that dates back to when men were still men... or something like that
Tortmet’i – But just because I think so, doesn’t make it so with all Georgians. First of all, I don’t know what a majority of Georgians think about Misha; hell, I haven’t even seen an approval rating. But I know what my two little dzma (host-brothers) think. Anytime the President is shown on TV, Luka (12-years old) looks at me, shakes his head in disappointment, and mutters, “Saakashvili, stupid.” It never gets old, which is why I always point him out when he’s shown on TV flying a plane over
Ian's little host-brother Luka; don't let the cuteness fool you, he's an absolute monster...
Tsamet’i – Some readers have expressed their need for more Babua Rezo (my host-Grandfather if you’re a first-timer here at GNJB). But I really don’t have all that much to tell besides what we already know; he works early in the morning, naps in the midday, and spends the rest of his time sitting on the couch in the eating house ripping cigarettes. I did notice today that Rezo lacks a ring-finger on his right hand, while only retaining half of his pointing-finger on the same hand. I can only assume this was the product of a farming accident. Actually come to think of it, not too many men in Bandza have ten workable digits; there’s either a stub here or there, a finger pointing the wrong way (something similar to what we see in football before the trainer snaps it back into place), or they have arthritis that cripples the entire hand (which makes for some awkward handshakes). Other than that, Rezo keeps out of my way, which is, I believe, because he thinks I’m either lazy or a big pus… or more likely a combination of both.
Totkhmet’i – I don’t consider myself lazy here, but I could see how someone might. I spend a lot of time in my bedroom either reading or writing, other than that I’m running to the river, tchame (eating), at school (now, but not for the three weeks preceding the start of school), or traveling to meet up with fellow volunteers. Other than actually teaching, there’s little I do that a man like Rezo would consider productive. I may be overanalyzing the situation as I just remembered that Rezo sleeps half the day, but nevertheless I do feel a bit useless at times. Especially during this time of year, which is when many are the busiest on the farms (I could try to act like I know what they’re busy with, but let’s just save myself the embarrassment, call myself a no-nothing city slicker, and move on with it). Even the boys are put to work during this time despite the start of school; after getting home, they eat, digest, and then follow the rest of the family off to the crops down the road until dark (and when I say dark, I mean dark).
Ian's other host-brother Tsotne and myself; Tsotne, unlike Luka, is a real sweatheart
Tkhutmet’i – Which kind of puts me in an awkward position. Would I like to lend a hand? Yes, of course; not only to feel like a meaningful part of the family, but also to be able to say, “Yeah, when I was twenty-five, I was sharecropping in
The shavi khvino (black wine) making process at the family farm
Teqvsmet’i – Getting back to the men of Bandza, I may have a new GNJB celebrity that could take over from where Rezo left off. The Physical Education teacher at my school is my new Bandza hero. The fist time I met Murmani, I thought he was one of the other teachers’ Babua (Grandfather); he looks that old and decrepit. But no, he’s the man that must whip the young people of Bandza into tip-top shape. He’s probably seventy years old (or more accurately, he’s probably fifty-five but looks like he’s eighty-five, I just went with the in-between), he might weigh 120 pounds (I can get used to kilometers, but forget about me using kilograms… and fuck stones), he’s got arthritis in his right-hand, and he has a hearing-aid. During our first school meeting which basically involved our principle speaking to all the teachers for about an hour, Murmani sat in the corner reading the paper (which is all I ever observe him doing) until for a reason I’m still unsure of, got into a shouting argument with Donaldi (our principle with the least Georgian name I’ve come upon) for five minutes straight, after which he got up, bummed a cigarette off another male teacher, and then sat by the window puffing away. Murmani: the P.E. teacher who looks two steps from the grave, isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with our principle, probably can’t grip any sort of sporting equipment, and smokes in the teacher’s lounge. Talk about a role model. The best part is when he tries to talk to me (he doesn’t speak a word of English and most of his Georgian is incomprehensible); all my co-teacher Tamari can translate is that Murmani is looking for a good Georgian woman for me. I can’t wait until he introduces me to his eligible forty-five year old granddaughter.
The sunset near the coast of the Black Sea
Chvidmet’i – Whenever I visit other places in Samegrelo (the region in which most of the volunteers from my group are placed), meet other Georgians (mostly other volunteers’ host-families), and tell them I am in Bandza, even if they don’t know where Bandza is, they laugh. Most of the people in Senaki, Martvili, and Abasha know where Bandza is because it’s at the crossroads between those three towns and another town called Khoni. They snicker even louder. I always thought it was mostly because they’ve seen the town and how Podunk it is. But recently, even another volunteer laughed when I told him I was in the
Tvramet’i – But honestly, I love Bandza. I love the people. I love the quiet. I love the river Abasha. I love the simplicity of it all. All of that isn’t to say I don’t get bored or need to get away every now and then, but overall, I really do enjoy it here. As I’ve said before, it may just be the honeymoon period and talk to me in two months (especially as the weather gets worse; I met a boarder policeman on a marshrutka the other day who spoke good English and all he had to say about Bandza was that it gets really cold there in the winter… great). But the simplicity is one of the main things I cherish about this place. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to put myself through work on the farm, or maybe it’s because I just finished reading Doctor Zhivago and feel a bit whimsical about the countryside, but I’ve always been a city person and always thought I’d be one, and though I wouldn’t exactly go back on that just yet, I now see the allure behind “going to the country.”
Lasha in the midst of adding sugar water to the green grapes, which will eventually make terti khvino (white wine)
Tskhramet’i – In much shorter form, this is what I tell my students when they ask me what I like most about
And boom goes the dynamite...
Otsi – I finally found out what my host mama (father; I know it’s weird) Lasha does for a living; he works on the farm, that’s it. I’m still not sure how he affords private school for his kids, a Mercedes Benz (I kind of understand that as almost everyone here has a Mercedes), and internet, but the way Luka described it today, he does nothing all winter when there’s no work on the farm. All of this came out during a conversation we had about Lasha wanting to learn English. I had previously wrote about how the volunteers can pay back the families that take them in and feed them for free; one of the ways of going about this was to help their children with English (think aupair; only use English around the kids type of thing). But recently, I realized that more than anything, Lasha wants to learn English. I guess it was kind of short-sighted at first, but it’s become clearer and clearer that Lasha loves America, wants to visit the States with his family eventually (he’s asked several times about plane ticket costs), and would like to know some English to get around when he does go. So I told him that during the winter months, I would give him English lessons. I guess it’s something to keep him busy, and myself busy as well. Or it’s a way to make up for my neglectful farm work. Who’s the asshole now?
The immediate aftermath of the birth of a new baby bull on the farm... kind of gross
Sorry for the length of the post (and the length of the individual bullets; I know some of these probably felt like you were reading Plato, minus any sort of philosophical genius), but I really had the creative juices flowing today combined with a lot stored up between birthdays, funerals, Tbilisi, and the start of school.