A look back at the mountains of Samegrelo after a long day of hiking in the foothills. Now I understand when someone told me before I came that the views are reminiscent of Colorado
So I’m going to try something a bit different in this post. Instead of restricting myself with bullets, I’ll just write until I’ve exhausted the topic (or I’m tired of writing). Recently, I’ve felt myself filling space just to reach a quota of ten points, and though I think at times that’s led me to stumbling upon some fairly healthy realizations, for the most part the expectations have made writing feel like more of a chore than a joy. So we’ll see how this works, but it should make my posts briefer and more to the point, which may feel like dumbing things down a bit (more Dan Brown than James Joyce), but since this here ain’t no democracy, there’s little you can do about it.
I was discussing charity with my students today during our weekly English Club (I really need to find a better title, as the current one is a bit bandzi [lame]). I was trying to explain Movember while also raising the idea of starting our own charity at the school (I told them that we had to establish a goal that would be useful [new chalk boards, a community garden, cleaning up the school grounds, etc.] and not what some of the boys suggested [TV-satellite and flat screens]). I’ll let you know how it goes (I told them to come back next week with some ideas), but a majority of the EC members are clever girls (in Georgian English, people are not smart or unintelligent, they’re clever or stupid).
During the discussion, I brought up the term volunteer, which I think is an exceedingly useful word in
This is a group of guys who hang out on the main drag in Martvili and play nardi all day long; this picture was taken at 9 in the morning and they were out there at 9 in the evening
But I ran into trouble when I told them that our program refers to us as volunteers, even though we get paid. It wasn’t that they didn’t get it; it was that I didn’t get it. I stood at the front of the class for a second trying to figure out how that made sense. When I was first reading about the program and coming to Georgia, I was a little startled at how little the monthly salary was (I will not bring up how much it is; if you’re really interested, you can find out on your own). But after I got to
I’m hesitant to say I live like a king here, but compared to my fellow teachers, I think that’s a fair statement. I make much more than them despite the fact that they have families to worry about (most of them are women whose husbands work, but that doesn’t take away from how little they make). If anything, they’re the volunteers.
This is where I'm heading when I die, supposedly.
So, needless to say, I’m hesitant to refer to myself as a volunteer, although if you’ve noticed before, I usually refer to other members of the program as “fellow volunteers.” I think it’s a term I picked up from TLG, since that’s what they call us in any official communication. But again, I wouldn’t call any of us volunteers. When my Mother and Father met in the early-eighties as Visa Vista Volunteers, they were much more deserved of the title, since they made next to nothing and had to pay for their own housing (my Mother at first shared an apartment with another volunteer for $80 a month). My parents were downright poor then, while right now in
Quite often, Georgians have asked me why I came to
Fellow TLGer Darryl, Temuri (random Georgian kid), and myself outside the entrance into the Monastery at Balda
All of my fellow TLG members have their own reasons for coming here, but a majority of us fit the same mold: mid-twenties, college educated, but with little idea of what we want to do. A few of us like to joke that since the program is funded mostly through foreign financial backing (read:
I have little idea of what I want to do with my life, but if I had any aim at all in coming to
Saw this kid at the tolerance concert held in Senaki; he was fifteen at the most, but had a better Mo than me... Oh yeah, Donate!
But here’s the twist. Many of my fellow TLG members only signed up for the six-month contract (and really, it’s more like a four-month contract [mid-August to mid-December]) or they had originally signed the ten-month contract but opted to reduce it. Everyone has their own reasons for this (I don’t know specifics, but if I were to guess it’d be frustration, better opportunities, or just being uncomfortable and missing home), and I’m not about to pass judgment or disparage my colleagues.
Again, I can only speak for myself, but three months doesn’t seem like a long enough time to really make any significant change or impact (school starts in mid-September while we are flown out in mid/late-December, making it just over three months of actual teaching). My mother has been working abroad for the past five years, and on her first assignment in the African country of
A nice shot from my Saturday hike up from the Balda Monastery showing off much of the Samegrelo flatlands in the distance
Now there are definitely some differences between our circumstances (my Mother gets paid a whole lot more, while working under intensely pressurized conditions), but I have the same concerns over leaving early. But really, what it comes down to is why I’m staying rather than why I’m not leaving. There’s two glaring reason, with the first being that I have nothing better to do. I know that sounds like a really bad reason, and maybe it is, but the other presentable options don’t seem nearly as interesting. I could go back to graduate school, but experience always beats education in my eyes. I also might be able to find a better paying TEFL job somewhere else, but I’m not in massive debt and therefore have little monetary motivation. Most important, if I do go elsewhere, there’s no guarantee I would like it as much as
Saw this in the hallway at the school in Senaki; hey, at least they're using the language (plus I learned a new Georgian word)
Which brings me to the second reason, I love it here. I really am convinced that the place I was looking for when I bought a one-way ticket to Firenze this past summer was here in
I doubt I’ll stay in
This was the bonfire they had outside the school in Senaki immediately following the tolerance concert. Some of the students were jumping over it, which would normally be cause for alarm, but in Georgia it's just chalked up to boys being boys
Prologue: So I guess that was kind of similar to my previous posts, as I went from charity to volunteering, to contracts, and right back to my love of