- You know that old riff how the Eskimos have 100 words for snow? The Georgians have a thousand words for yogurt. Every time Iamze brings some new milk product to the table, I point at it and ask “rdze?” which is milk, and she says, no, it’s mats’oni, or whatever it is. There’s drinkable thin yogurt, medium-thin yogurt, medium-thick yogurt, yogurt porridge, milk with rice, cold milk with rice, butter, thin warm butter, thick warm yogurt, thick hot yogurt with chunks of old cheese, etc.
- Things to be grateful for: our school has four walls, a heating system, blackboards in every classroom, enough books for every pupil, enough pencils and notebooks for every pupil, enough instant coffee and cookies for every teacher, enough chalk for every class, enough teachers to specialize in different subjects, chess sets. My gut reaction to such a place was “my god, what a fucking dump,” but it’s amazing what sorts of basics you grow to appreciate.
- This morning I opened the drawer at our desk. Normally I store my markers in there, but I thought, dammit, I haven’t explored our resources proper. Neither Lela or Teona was at school yet. I’d gotten in a little early to do lesson planning. Inside was a treasure trove–comic books, handwritten practice dialogues, scripts, tests, notebooks, flashcards, a notebook full of teaching ideas, hand-drawn pages from a graphic novel beginning English version of “Gulliver’s Travels.” All bore the same stylized “CH” in the upper-right-hand corner. “Lela!” I asked when she got in, “why didn’t you tell me about all this stuff?! It’s great! Was this from the last English teacher?” She sort of shrugged.
- My family has had three Americans living here already who trained them on how American privacy works. Georgians are very very social people, which is great for me, but sometimes I need to retreat and hide from people with whom I wriggle through bilingual verb conjugations to explain where I’m going for the weekend. We were warned in orientation that Georgians wouldn’t understand “personal space,” and that they may try to follow you into your room so you’re never alone. Not true with my family. Either that, or they’re really not curious what I do in here anyways.
- Last night it was windy. It was unbelievably windy. I hardly slept because of the howling caucasus wind. In spring, beyond the melt-and-freeze phenomenon familiar to many anchorage dwellers, we have to take our drying laundry inside at night, because otherwise it will be blown away. Did I mention? Every has a washing machine. Nobody has a dryer.
- Lessons are getting better. Both Lela and Teona respond more to my insistence that I know what the hell’s going on in advance. Teona’s in my boat—aside from being her first year teaching, this is her first job, ever. She’s more willing to curl her lip and admit, “I don’t know.” So neither one of us knows, which is great. Lela has two years on her and is a little more set in her ways. This is curious, because her ways are to yell at the kids and then complain about how much she wishes she were not a teacher. Lela is also the one trying to marry me. Teona is married. Whew. Though Maga, the Kartuli teacher, is a total fox. Hopefully she’ll catch my side-eyes and we’ll have some “intercultural exchange.”
- After days of trying, I finally managed to call Heather in Malawi. We mostly laughed and asked “is this real?” She heard the calls of my roosters. In Malawi.
- We made a big Class Rules poster and I had Lela and Teona translate my instructions to the class. “What are some ways you can respect each other? No right or wrong answers.” A kid piped up, and Lela translated for me, “He say, we do not quarrel and always believe the teacher.” This was the most popular answer.
- I shower here, contrary to popular belief/desire. We have a small wood-burning water heater at home. I take a hot shower at least once a week. It’s nice.
- I feel like a wobbly baby horse, still sticky with amniotic fluid, standing up for the very first time. This job is SO HARD. Besides the language barrier, and the goats in the bathroom, I have no idea what I’m doing. Every single day. Also it doesn’t help that the teaching philosophy here is “ignore the weak.”
- Case in point: One of my sixth graders, Lugzani, hung out near the woodstove my first two weeks. Nobody talked to him, Lela never seemed to care that he never participated. When I asked him to answer a question one day, the other students all told me “No! No teacher, not Lugzani! He cannot!” I finally started to ask him to take out his workbooks like everyone else—and he’d usually smile and say “Sakhlshi.” As in, “I left ’em at home.” So I let him borrow one of my pens, and have him share someone’s book. “What’s the deal with Lugzani?” I asked Lela one day after class. She started giggling. “He’s very stupid, yes?” I was aghast.
- Pleased to report that Lugzani brings his stuff every day now.
- Last year, the students kept an owl trapped in the attic of the school.
- Maga wants me to direct Midsummer, in Georgian, for the ninth graders this June. Hell yes. Lots of time to earn “extra credit.”