Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Are You Surprised That I'm Proud of You?

In the last few weeks I have been working with a young, second-grade student to help him practice reading. He has such a difficult time that we must break down each word letter by letter, and re-hearse the same word several times in a row. Sometimes, I can see that he is embarrassed to read in front of his classmates.  But he has been so persistent and I can see he is improving, so today I told him that he did a great job.  He said "madlobat" (thank you) and looked at me as though he was surprised  I said he was doing well. I was saddened to see that surprise.  And I wonder if many people praise him just for trying so hard.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First Round of Pictures

The glass bridge is called "Hidi Mshvidobisa." The closest translation in English is "Peace Bridge." It was just built recently in 2010 to connect "Old" and "New" Tbilisi.    The golden statue is on top of a massive pillar that marks "Liberty Square..." or "Tavisupleba Moedani" in Georgian. 

Post: Kissed By Strangers

Friends and family usually meet each other and sometimes say goodbye with a kiss on one cheek.   This definitely seems to be the preference over shaking hands or just giving each other a hug—which is what I’m used to seeing in the United States.   But I’m learning that it’s also the case that people might kiss you on the cheek even if you have just met one another—although I think this depends on whether or not they decide if they like you….so the first impression is important.   

I generally think of myself as an affectionate person, but I have to say that being kissed on the cheek by several people I’ve only just met has taken some time to get used to. I always appreciate the gesture, but I’m never expecting it when it happens.   So I either fail to return the kiss in a timely manner—meaning  it is extremely out of place when I try it—or it is uncomfortable for both of us because I don’t give the kiss back at all.   

During my first week of teaching, one of my co-teachers walked up to me after our students ran out of the room cheering for the bell, she grabbed my arm, told me she liked my teaching, and then kissed me on the cheek.  But this all happened really fast. 

 Step-grab-“I like your teaching”—KISS—goodbye.  

 The kiss caught me off guard, meaning I didn’t say anything back to her before she walked out of the classroom. 

Lately I’ve been improving.  I managed to meet two Georgian women who invited me to spend time with them last weekend.   They also kissed me on the steps in front of my school, but by then I was expecting it and actually saw it coming.  But there are still so many combinations in my head about how to return this greeting; I’m still not sure I’ve got it right.  I can’t tell if you’re supposed to actually kiss the person on the check or if you’re only supposed to kiss the air.  Am I supposed to kiss them and hug them at the same time or is this too affectionate?  Maybe the kiss AND a hug is only meant for family.   And  am  I allowed to give more than one kiss?  I’m pretty sure I’ve been kissed more than once.     I’m sure it sounds really ridiculous that I have to think about it so much….but that’s the funny thing about living in a brand new place.   I’m actually not overthinking it.   I should probably figure it out.  

On the up side, I’m meeting new people. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Post: What is Peanut Butter?

My little host-sister has been my life line in Georgia.  She speaks English well enough that she can translate the jist of most conversations, so right now I"m pretty dependent on her to help me figure out what's going on.  She is hands-down one of the most energetic kids I've EVER met, and she keeps me laughing.  We usually eat meals together, and yesterday I picked up a piece of bread-- (eaten with practically every Georgian meal--often times it is bought from bakeries instead of supermarkets)-- and I asked her if she had ever eaten peanut butter.  I am a huge fan of peanut butter, but it is definitely not a thing in Georgia.  She asked,

"Peanut butter, what is this?" 

I knew she was familiar with the word "sauce," because sauces are very popular with Georgian foods.  So I tried to explain to her,'s like a sauce that you spread on bread (using my piece of bread and an invisible knife as props).  And it tastes like peanuts.

"Oh!" She said, "I know this, but it's not butter." 
"No, it's not butter, you're right."
She told me, "It is cheese."

I'm still not sure if my host sister has tried peanut butter or not. 

Post: My Host Father is an Ex-Police Officer

My host father has recently retired from the police, and his history as an officer shows through in most of the things he does and many of the things he says.

Just one example:

One morning after breakfast, my host Dad tried to teach me how to shoot a pistol.  This was happening in the kitchen.  (He at least took ALL of the bullets out and put some kind of safety lock man).  He tired to show me how to hold the gun, how to aim with the gun, and how to pull the trigger without losing control, and the refrigerator door was our target practice.  My host father can't speak English and I can't speak Georgian, so you have to imagine this happening with absolutely no verbal communication except for the word "NO."

Pretty soon my host mom came into the kitchen and started talking rapidly in Georgian.  I did not understand right away that she was actually scolding my host-father for bringing the gun into the house, so I tried my best to show her what I had learned that morning:  I held my arms out in front of me and put my hands in a gun formation to show her that my host-father had been teaching me how to aim-- so she continued to scold him, and then I finally understood what was happening.  He just laughed.

Post: You Must Call Me "Deda"

I promise to write a post that talks more about my students and what it has been like teaching here in Georgia, but first I want to give you this small story about one of my co-teachers.
Last week was my first full week of teaching.   Completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of students and classes.  Completely exhausted every afternoon after school.  (I enjoyed it anyways, but I have some work cut out for me!)   My schedule was given to me written entirely in the Georgian language….so I spent the 10 minutes between each of my classes  wandering the four floors through SCREAMING children trying to find my next room assignment (clinging to my phrase in broken and poorly pronounced Georgian:  “Where is” to help me out—which was only sometimes successful).   
By the middle of the week, culture shock had gotten to me pretty strong one day.  But here was my help--  
After my classes were finished on Wednesday, I stayed in the teacher’s conference room because it was silent.  I was expecting all of my co-teachers to leave because they also seemed exhausted, but one of them, Marina, just sat in a desk—doing nothing at all.  I guessed that she wanted to speak with me, so I picked the desk right across from her.   When I had first met her during my training, my initial impression was that she didn’t like to smile.  But now she began to ask me about my life and host family in Georgia, how I liked the classes, whether or not I was feeling tired.  She spoke quietly but everything she said seemed deliberate.   She kept asking me, “you see” as if to constantly reassure me.  She began talking to me about Georgia’s history and told me that the people are, most of the time, incredibly generous.  But, she also warned me not to trust everyone.  She was definitely smiling for me now--  insisted that if I ever needed help, I must ask her.  “From now on,” she told me, “You must call me Deda.”   
Deda means “Mother” in Georgian. 

Post: Cheesy Bread

An extremely popular food in Georgia is called “Khachapuri,”  which is basically VERY cheesy bread. Baked with layers of a cheese and egg mixture. It’s sold at practically every corner.  I think it’s delicious. 
At our orientation during our first week in Georgia, all of the upcoming English teachers were given basic Georgian language lessons.  Back to elementary school, basically.  There was a cafĂ© across from our hotel, and I wanted to try out some basic phrases.  .  As far    I mapped out this tidy little dialogue in my head.  I would say, “It’s nice to meet you….how are you….I am from… have a good morning….”
But by the time I walked in I was extremely nervous and felt so out of place that of course I blanked everything.  All I could remember how to say was “cheesy bread” and  “My name is Tashia.”  Since the very kind shopkeepers  (3 women) kept prompting me to practice speaking….. I just kept saying these phrases over and over again.  Needless to say, they sold me the cheesy bread.   As far as I could tell, the bakery was owned by a family, a daughter, her mother and grandmother.   I felt like an idiot, but thankfully they were gracious enough to teach me some new words.   Now I know how to say “shakari,” --  sugar.