Tuesday, November 30, 2010


In true Thanksgiving fashion, here is a picture of Lasha doing something old fashioned and manly: choppin' wood.

This horribly busy month of Movember is almost over (oh yeah, remember to MOnate while you still can!), so I should get back to more regular posting when the relaxing month of December roles around. Although I head off to Southeast Asia for four weeks on the 20th, so I don’t know what I’ll be doing here during that excursion. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, as promised, here’s a list of things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know Thanksgiving is over, but deal with it.

Teachers – Mostly I’m thankful for teachers everywhere, as now that I’m finally a card-carrying member (at least to some degree), I understand how much of a thankless and rough occupation it is. Particularly, I’m thankful for my fellow teachers at the Bandza School, who don’t resent me despite the fact that I make more money while doing far less with little experience to back it up. I’m especially thankful for my wonderfully understanding co-teacher Tamari, my fearsome dance instructor Vephkhvia, and the ever-watchful Soso (who told me last week that Coca Cola causes cancer; I didn’t know how to respond in Georgian with What doesn’t cause cancer?)

Hospitality – The word that defines Georgia. I’m thankful for my host family in particular (which I’ll get to later), but also to all the other families who have provided a roof over my head and enough food to supply a small army. Particularly Ian’s host family in Martvili who has never hesitated to force khatchapuri down my gullet and wine down my throat. Dato and Lali are like my second host-family here and I’m thankful for that trait of hospitality they share with the rest of this country. Just last night I was given another taste of Georgian hospitality. I was in Martvili trying to watch the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match that started at midnight, but when Dato’s satellite dish couldn’t get the channel that the game was on, he drove us over to his friend’s house to watch the game at 1 a.m. Then when we left after watching Barca put on an absolute clinic, the host gave Ian and I each a bottle of wine. Only in Georgia can you invite yourself over to someone’s house in the middle of the night and leave with a gift.

Autumn – I don’t know if this has to do with global warming (also known as man-bear-pig), but the weather in the past two months has been incredible. I’ve always loved Fall, which specifically comes from growing up in Pittsburgh, where the only season you can really appreciate is Fall (Spring feels like it’s only two weeks long, Winter sucks, and Summer is just three months of miserable humidity). But the weather in Samegrelo for the past three months has only reinforced my belief that Fall is where it’s at; with the brisk but light air, changing of the leaves, and clear skies that have reminded me just how wonderful Autumn is.

BaNdza – Say what you want about Bandza (and not many people say much because it’s pretty non-descript besides the name), but it’s my home and I love it. The village has accepted me into their community without hesitation and as long as I’m here, I never have anything to worry about. I can’t walk to town without being bombarded with gomarjoba’s and rogora khart’s.

SaaKashvili – Despite humoring Lasha by responding with boghzi when he yells out Misha’s name, I’ll repeat in saying that I don’t know all that much about the man or his politics. All I do know is that I wouldn’t be here without him. There’s a reason all TLGers are referred to as ‘Misha’s Teachers’ throughout Georgia. So despite Lasha’s attempted brainwashing, I’m still thankful for Saakashvili.

Students – Some more than others of course. But in all seriousness, they’re all good kids. I’m especially thankful that they are patient with me being impatient with them. I’m also thankful that at such a young age, they already understand that things will get better with time.

Georgia – This is a given, but just to reiterate, I’m thankful for everything this small but incredible country has afforded me so far. But I have a feeling it’s just the tip of the iceberg I’m talking about. Here’s to hoping my last six months will be just as memorable as my first four. I’m also thankful for Sakartvelo giving me something interesting to write about.

Ira – Special thanks to my host-mother Ira, who, as previously mentioned, does everything for me. Without her I’d be lost, sustaining on a diet of chips and coca-cola, constantly wearing dirty clothes, and probably sprawled out dead at the bottom of an empty pool somewhere. She is incredible.

Volunteers – Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t use this as a term for my fellow TLG teachers, but it fits too well in this spot not to be used. I never thought I would make this many good friends so quickly. There’s a reason I never get homesick, and that’s because I’ve got friends in Georgia that make it tough for me to ever feel complacent. Thank you all for your constant help and support; I’ll be missing a ton of you who are leaving in December, although I feel as if that won’t diminish the friendships we’ve built since we were packed into that dorm in the ghetto of Kutaisi. We’re a motley crew, but I wouldn’t trade you for anything.

XI Class – By far my most enjoyable class (it’s actually a shame I only get them twice a week). Even if I am convinced that two of my students show up high to class (the only two kids in school with long hair), they still enthusiastically participate. I’m especially thankful that all of the girls do their homework, which also gives me a chance to heap guilt and embarrassment on all the boys. Mostly I’m thankful to know that whenever I teach this class, I’ll never have to raise my voice.

Nino’s – I’m thankful for our program group-coordinator Nino who did everything in her power to prepare us and put us in a position to succeed; she still remains a good friend (despite her incorrectly comparing Bandza to some heaven on earth Utopia and leading me to some initial disappointment). Also for my music instructor Nino and her putting up with me and my once a week attempt to learn a musical instrument (plus taking time out of her own schedule to fix my family’s piano at the house—a painfully tedious undertaking); she doesn’t even get mad when I laugh after she says now you must do it with no mistakes. And finally for all the Nino’s at my school, who unlike all the boys named Torniqe, are the picture of perfection and good behavior.

Gabunia’s – I can’t beat this drum consistently or hard enough, but I am so thankful for my host family and everything they do for me. They’ve given me so much while I feel as if I’ve given so little. There’s no request they’ll turn down and no extra mile they won’t go to make me feel as comfortable as possible. One hell of a family. I really can’t do it justice in words.


  1. this one is the funniest, nicest and kindest tlg blog i've come across so far. Just keep up the good job :)

  2. Thank you for such a nice blog about Georgia.
    I'm from Georgia, but I've lived to US for years now and I really appreciate everything you guys do there.
    Your enthusiasm is so admiring.

    Thank you for caring about my country.