Thursday, February 3, 2011

Return to Bandza, Student Confessions, & Ravenous Wolfs

A statue off the main highway in the middle of Georgia

So it’s been a busy few weeks since I got back to Bandza. I’ve been slowly adapting to the weather (quite different than tropical Southeast Asia; although not nearly as frigid as I expected), the living situation (everyone huddles into the small house [also known as the cooking house] from where the only heat on the property is emanating), and just getting back into the swing of things. I’ve also been spending most of my free time traveling and catching up with friends in other parts of Georgia. And finally, one of my Christmas gifts from my mother was her old Kindle, which (if you can recall) is something I sorely needed and, now that I have one, keeps me more than occupied.

One of the more problematic issues during my short return has been internet access. As the entire family migrated to the small house, so did the computer. Add to that the fact that it’s winter, there’s literally nothing to do around the property, and Lasha discovered the wonders of Tetris; my computer access is few and far between.

But this isn’t an excuse, because, as always, I’m typing these pointless thoughts on my laptop only to transfer them later. I’m only saying that the time between when I finish a post to actual publication may be even more prolonged than is custom (I had the second part of my Thailand thoughts waiting for almost a week). So if you don’t see a post in over a week, no need to worry, I’ve got plenty on the way.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting few weeks of re-acclimation to Georgian village life. When I first stumbled back onto the Gabunia farm, I walked into the small house only to find a basic makeshift infirmary for the family. Lasha and Luka were both infected with some sort of virus that resembled Chickenpox or the Measles, which was apparently sweeping the Martvili district (or so they told me; I have still yet to hear anyone else mention this).

Something I haven’t brought up before is Georgian’s affinity for iodine. Behind Nabeglavi and tchatcha on Georgians’ list of favorite medical remedies is iodine. They put it on anything and everything (see the Chris Rock joke about Robotussin [or as he calls it, ‘Tussin]). When my friend Ali fell in a manhole (so she says, I’m still convinced it was a pothole), she resembled Smurfette for a week since her host-family insisted on dousing her in iodine.

But back to the family mash unit; Babua Rezo was also laid up with some sort of bulging disk coming from his upper groin, which he—much to my delight—showed me. Reziko was still in Tbilisi waiting on Bebia Lela to return from her European travels, so the only healthy family member present was Ira. But more that the haggard physical appearance was the household mood—outward misery. After making my grand reentrance, no one could muster a slight smile or even fake enthusiasm. Not that I need some sort of glorious welcome upon return, but it was as if I were returning from just another day at school, and not a month of travel.

To make things worse, I made a frantic retreat to Bandza so that I’d be there for the first day of classes (before I left, I was told we restarted on Thursday, January 20th by all of my colleagues), but when I showed up to class the next morning (getting only a few intermittent hours of sleep in my near freezing room, which is unfortunately in the giant unheated house [I immediately went out and bought a space heater, only to find out that I couldn’t use it because it sucked up to much electricity; probably should have asked before I spent the 50 Lari on it. Who needs a space heater? Hardly been used]), there was no one there but the janitor, who told me that class started on Monday.

So it was definitely a bit of a sober homecoming. While sitting in Bandza over the next few days waiting for school to start or my friends to return, I was momentarily second-guessing why I returned in the first place, or at least why I didn’t ask to be moved to Tbilisi (as many of my fellow TLGers mandated in order to return for the second semester). But those thoughts were reactionary, fleeting, and above all foolish.

Now that my friends are back (sans my buddy Ian who is living it up in Krakow, Poland amidst tall blonds who don’t have the hereditary uni-brow curse), school starting up again (a busy man has less time to think about what to bitch about), Reziko and Lela returning (which, in addition to Luka and Lasha’s improved health, has brought more warmth and energy to the farm, if not a bit of chaos [what do you expect when you cram seven people into a 400 square-foot room]), and most importantly, I’ve had numerous encounters and experiences within the few days I’ve been back that has reminded me why I love this place. Here’s a small taste:

Erti – When I asked my students what they did for New Years, a vast majority of them (primarily boys from age twelve to eighteen) told me, “I drink much wine.” This confession basically told me three things: 1.) I’m one hell of a role model; 2). I need to work on the past simple use of irregular verbs; and 3). Georgia rocks.

Ori – But it gets better. In my once weekly English club (optional after school meeting, in which I try to prepare something a bit more interesting than grammar points and vocabulary), I planned a lesson around Auld Lang Syne (less formerly known as the song played right after the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve), which included them singing the chorus and then creating their own New Years’ Resolution. Some of my more admirable students pleased me by pledging to “become fluent in English.” But I was knocked down a few pegs when one of my year XI students showed me his promise to “stop smoking hemp.” At least his grammar was correct.

Sami – And to top it off, while typing this, my family was watching the news and one of the lead stories was about a wolf in Zastephoni who has ravished a few farms and killed an unprecedented seven sheep. I have a feeling that as we sit, there’s a scene going on right now in Central Georgia that is similar to the men of Amity gearing up for the shark hunt in Jaws. On a related note, there was a two-headed cow born in an adjacent village.

I can’t make this stuff up.

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