Life Begins

I’m finally settling in here in Telavi, putting down shallow roots and exploring the city and regions around it. Things haven’t exactly calmed down, but the everyday absurdities have become less exciting. The small inconveniences become less frustrating each day, but the landscape and people continue to capture my attention.

The apartments I live in are nearly at the bottom of the hill on which Telavi is built. If you can picture a large complex of relatively small soviet apartment buildings, you probably have a reliable image of my neighborhood. The roads are something close to paved, but everything is in walking distance anyway. My room is cozy and much nicer than the worst-case scenario I’d prepared myself for. It’s on the fourth floor, so I have an amazing view of the Caucasus out my bedroom window. Just today the first snow of the year dusted the highest peaks, so it seems that winter is arriving, though school began only one week ago.

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Last monday was the first day of the school year here in Kakheti. I had no idea what to expect, and still don’t really know what’s going on. The level of chaos in school rivals that on the roads, and as far as I can tell, rules don’t really exist. There’s some kind of hand-raising in a few classes, but shouting is the most effective way to make yourself heard. I can’t recall exactly the number of punches I’ve seen thrown in the halls between classes, amount of missing plaster and paint, or year in which some classroom management techniques became illegal in Oregon. I’m going to see how thing simmer down as the year progresses before making any harsh judgements, but for now I’ve got a big list of suggestions, some of which I’ve already mentioned to my co-teachers, who are friendly and open minded.

When I’m not in school, I’m learning Georgian, going for walks, meeting with other TLG-ers, exploring Kakheti, and doing as the Romans do, which here includes lots of eating, chatting on benches, and meandering around the parks and squares of the city. It’s a lovely pace of life, and I’m so happy I have such a lovely host-family and town.

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“The village” is the Georgian term for countryside, and most every family has a house there, usually where their relatives lived in generations past. On Sunday, we went there to harvest figs and beans, and to walk around a bit. We walked up the adjoining hill to find -surprise!- a seventh century church and neighboring villa, quite unmarked and unattended. What would be touristed and marketed in America is backyard commonplace here.

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Outside of Telavi is beautiful as well! Last weekend we (Kakheti volunteers) went to Tsinandali, where we visited a wine cellar and museum in the historical home of local hero Alexander Chavchavadze, who brought many european methods and tastes to the region. The house and garden were, as most things here are, a surprising mix of orient and occident.

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I returned yesterday from another adventure, an accidentally overnight trip to Sighnaghi. Traveling by marshrutka, mini-busses that follow a general route and schedule, is endlessly entertaining, if a bit confusing at times. From Telavi to Gurjaani, for example, one of the seats was occupied by a live (and very calm) chicken tied up in a plastic bag full of clothes. Also, you have to ask about marshrutka times, as nothing is written down. And sometimes, they stop running at 3pm on a Saturday.

Luckily, tourist information offices here are great. They can’t give you maps on anything but a regional scale, but they can usually point you in the right direction to sights, or more importantly in our case, guesthouses. I’d definitely recommend Dodo’s for a 10 lari ($7ish) bed, if you’re ever accidentally spending the night in Sighnaghi, and want a host as nice as the town is beautiful.

Because I’m terrible at remembering my camera, you can look here for photos; it’s every bit as amazing as the pictures. We stayed in the house with the purplish-blue balcony. The nearby covent in Bodbe is a major attraction too, as St. Nino, the woman who brought Christianity to Georgia, is buried here. The only lines I’ve seen in this country were at the holy spring here, where people waited patiently to get baptized, and less-patiently to fill up massive jugs of water to take home.

Now that things will be smoothing out at school, hopefully I’ll be able to update more often. My goals for the coming week:

  1. Learn more Georgian! The language is so hard, and I’ve tired my alternatives of piecing together nonsensical sentences or not expressing myself at all.
  2. Bring my camera everywhere.
  3. Introduce some educational games, which are virtually unknown here.
  4. Buy appropriate teaching attire (I’ll talk about this in a later post).
  5. Learn to hang laundry out the fourth-floor window without dropping it.

Until next time!

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4 comments

  1. #1 sounds like a big one. Hope you’re seeing progress. Do you know how to say, “What are you doing?” and “What is that?” Those are the most important questions for language-learning.

    1. I am finally seeing some progress, but it’s still quite tough. Tense markers tend to be infixes, which makes them especially hard to distinguish in rapid speech. And yes, “ra aris es” and “ras aketeb” are my main conversational points, though the most important phrase has been “thanks, but it is not possible,” a handy catch-all for declining the absurd amounts of food and drink offered to guests.

      1. Wow! That’s all it takes to refuse food and drink? Georgians are known to be ruthless hosts 🙂

        Good job on language! Just do like a child: keep asking “why?” till they make you shut up.

  2. Gerry La Greide · · Reply

    Love your goal list LOL. Looking forward to seeing your teaching attire
    . Hanging the laundry reminds me of Thailand, although I didn’t have to hang it from a fourth story window

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