The food is awesome. It’s not that its just all that unique, in fact its just your basic veggies and meat, but the herbs and freshness are just awesome here. I sat down to lunch on Saturday to this conversation from a visiting sister and brother-in-law. “We have brought you a traditional Georgian dish prepared by our mother-in-law for you. It is made with cheese and corn and called ghomi.”
I’m looking at this flat, white, cake like thing and all of a sudden all I could think was, ‘did you say corn?’ That’s right people. Georgians have GRITS! Now, they aren’t the kind granny used to make, but grits they are. I popped the first bite in my mouth and that was all it took to confirm that yes indeed, Georgians make grits. My exact response was not understood by anyone since it was in English and spoken rather quickly, but I blurted out, “Hot damn! Traditional Georgian alright! The only thing you’re missing is the butter and pepper.”
If you can imaging making grits, putting them on a plate and letting them cool and harden just a bit then you’ve got the idea. I’m going to try and convince my host mom to make some one time and then try to step in mid way in the process to keep her from messing them up. They just need more milk, butter, salt and pepper, which apparently has not occurred to them over the last 2,000 years. Thank God I’ve arrived.
Saturday was a good day after a long week and I was glad to have a relaxing afternoon at home. We had some other good food and some awesome domestic beer. It was a lite beer that is produced with some local fresh spring waters. I didn’t really care though after me and my brother-in-law consumed 3 liters between the two of us. Afterwards, I kicked his ass in some dominos which apparently he’s pretty good at. 350-215 anyone? Boo-Ya! Score one for Uncle Sam!
Also, I learned that when drinking wine, you toast to things you love. When drinking beer, you toast to things you hate. Let’s just say that many a politician was toasted on Saturday. I even put one up for ol’ Gov. Mark and his cheating ass.
Technical training is going well. I feel like I remember a lot of the information about the teaching aspects from the last go around and I’m excited about finding some community development projects to work on. I won’t know exactly which areas to target for those projects though until I reach my community and do some site assessments and community needs analysis.
The country is beautiful, which I’m sure I’ve said before, but its worth repeating. We had a huge lightning and rain storm on Saturday night after a few days of some rather intense heat. It got up to around 96 here on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was cooler and that was nice since Sunday is our one day off every week. But, with that comes hand washing clothes which I am insisting that I do myself rather than letting my host family do it for me. I need to get back into the habit and it gets annoying not being able to do things for yourself. By the way, that is some back-breaking stuff there. Try being bent over for about half an hour picking up and scrubbing wet clothes. Oh well…
My language training is not going too well so far. I am not picking up Georgian very quickly due to several factors. One, my teacher is in an extreme hurry for some reason and is not very attentive when it comes to questions or student’s learning needs. The program also seems disorganized since we are learning a lot of grammar and not a lot of functional language. I can tell the difference between dative and possessive case, but I can’t go to the market and ask about prices or products, nor have I been introduced to basic transportation and directional language. Two, my host sister speaks English very well and insists on using it at home, so there are no force factors to make me learn. I don’t mind this so much since I think it will do her a lot of good to interact with an English speaker more than it’ll help me at this point. And the third factor is just my host family environment. I have a one year old living here and he cries from the time he gets up to the time he goes to sleep. So when it comes time to do some homework and try to study… cry, cry, cry. I felt like I was on the edge this past Friday and was damn near ready to scream. I spoke about this with my host sister on Saturday and we’ll see if it produces any results.
There are three things I hate being woken up by: Babies, Roosters, and Dogs. One of these three things wakes me up every morning, no matter what.
I have an extreme sense of isolation at times and I had forgotten how tough this transitional period really is. This past Friday was really rough and this weekend has not proven to be all that much better, but I have relied on my old mantra of getting up every morning and facing whatever it is that’s thrown at me. I had to remind myself that I’ve only been in Georgia for just under two weeks, even if it does seem like two months at this point.
Did I mention the squat toilet and only showering three times a week? I did? Ok, enough said about that then.
The only other downer this week was when I talked to one of the training directors about mail from the US. He said it is very unreliable and that it can sometimes just be neglected all together. He told a story of getting a Christmas card in May and I wanted to puke. I did hear from my mom this week, so that was cool. It’s always nice to just hear people’s voices and say hey.
THE ALL AROUNDS:
A few of the other volunteers are leaning on me just a bit since I have some experience with dealing with all this new training methodology and the transition in general. It’s kind of nice at times because it takes my mind off my own issues and makes me feel like I have some importance in the group. Our Education trainer is funny though because when she asks a question that no one knows the answer to she just looks at me and waits on me to answer. I generally do, but I try to wait as long as possible to make her sweat and to see if anyone else wants to take a shot at it. Most of the time though everyone, including myself is exhausted by the time we get to technical training in the afternoons, so nobody is in the mood to play these training games and do group activities. Ah Pre-service Training, how I have not missed you. But, I will say this, the staff here is great and they are very organized. I have no complaints there.
We had some cultural training this week and that was interesting. This is a very male dominated society and while women are held in high esteem, there are some downsides. One is, I will not be able to form ANY kind of relationship with women in this country. Not friendship, nothing. Which is weird since I have a lot of female friends in the US. The reason behind this is that there is no such thing as male/female friendship. Men and women interact only if they are related or are on the path to marriage. Engagements here can last as little as a few days before people get married. And, since I don’t plan on getting married to a Georgian woman, I guess I’ll have to find my niche with the men and try to avoid what apparently is a problem here of being at a men’s party, getting drunk and being dragged to a brothel. No thanks! I’ll pass on the crazy Georgian hooker-fest. The other is being at a men’s party and having to explain to a village elder why you don’t want to marry his daughter or any of his relatives. Awkward!
Men and women eat separately (most of the time), socialize separately, and do not in general make eye contact in the streets. Men can drink and smoke. Women are not supposed to. For men it is expected that they’ve had sex before marriage. For a woman, sex before marriage can bring shame to the family. The only time it is acceptable for men and women to interact is in the presence of family members or in a professional context. And if you’re a single guy going to a woman’s house, you had better believe they are planning your wedding the next day. Wow! This really makes me wonder why they stuck me with a family of only women and a brother-in-law who only comes by once a week. This whole dynamic brings new meaning to the phrase, ‘Just Say No!’
The other major thing I’ve noticed is that Georgian drivers are Crazy! The line down the middle of the road is merely a suggestion and in fact the road itself can sometimes be bypassed in favor of a better route. Just a word of caution to pedestrians, look left then right, then left, then right, then left and then… RUN!
Oh, I’ve picked up another A name for myself. In Georgian Andrew gets shortened to Andro. Not pronounced like the ant killer though. More like Aun-Drro. I’m not liking that one to much just yet, but we’ll see if they use it all the time if it grows on me.
As of now (Sunday afternoon) that’s all I’ve got. I’ll try to come up with some more for you soon. Oh, and yes I did hear that Michael Jackson died. Hmmm… Oh yeah! In case you need another reason to make fun of Kevin Costner, he’s doing commercials on this side of the world. I just saw him the other night doing a long spot for Turkish Air. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for other celebs doing spot work for extra cash on Eastern European TV.