So let’s see, I guess I’ll start back in November. The weather was really cold in November and I was really paranoid that this was going to be a very cold winter. We got a lot of snow during the month and it seemed like the sun was never going to return. Luckily, it did and so far this winter hasn’t been that bad. I am just so thankful to be living in a place with heat and hot water this year. Thanksgiving came and went without any real Thanksgiving feel to it. I did go out and meet up with all the Peace Corps volunteers and staff for their Thanksgiving feast and that was awesome. The volunteers did a great job of getting all the food prepared and it was a great meal.
Did a lot of ‘soul searching’ in November too. Just trying to figure out what it is that I want in life and where it is that I want to go. I feel better after doing that and I’m actually happy with where I am right now with myself and what I’m doing. There are some things I’d like to work on and improve on, but that will be a process that is going to take some time. No decisions on what will happen after the school year as of yet though. I’m leaving my options open and we’ll see what life brings my way.
By early November I was in full swing with my school and really getting to know how things were going to work there and how my students were going to pan out. I’ve got to say that I’m 50/50 on my students at this point. Most of them are great and really motivated to improve and learn. However, there are quite a few that just seem like they could give less than two shits about anything. I get it. I understand that school is not the most exciting thing in the world and a lot of kids have no desire to be there, but I really require the bare minimum from them as far as simple respect for me and their fellow students. I have a few kids who are not only learning nothing but are making it harder for their classmates to learn as well. That shit just pisses me off. When I was out in the village it was a given that every class was going to have a few kids that were going to be a problem. I guess I just expected more from a private school in Tbilisi. It’s not all bad though like I said. I have a lot of fun with some of my students and there are some of them that I feel can really go a long way if they stay motivated and focused.
I was also by this time settling into Tbilisi and getting into my routines. I’ve got to say that while Tbilisi is really nice and a decent place to live, the social scene sucks. A lot of that is just cultural in that people hang out with the people they went to school with or they are married by the time they are 20 and starting families and are not therefore out in the social scene as much. It’s just really hard to go out and meet new people that are interesting and that you’d want to hang out with on a regular basis. I went to this one party that was super cool and met a few people, but other than that it hasn’t been all that exciting. The expat parties suck and hanging around with other Americans here is just strange. A lot of them make a whole lot more money than I do since they work either at the Embassy or with banks and finance companies. And, with that it seems comes a completely alternate reality of what Georgia is. They live, work and shop in one district and have no idea about the realities of Georgia outside of their little bubble. They also have no interest in hearing about it either. And don’t get me started on the fraternity culture of some of the younger expats that are here including a small contingent of US Marines who are at times an embarrassment to their country. Overall, I’ve just been unimpressed with the social scene here; that’s my point.
December was a long month and it felt like school would never end. Luckily I got a nice break in the middle of the month and took a weekend trip to Armenia with a group of Georgians. It was a fun trip and I got to see a lot of really cool old churches and meet a few new and interesting people. I was really lucky to go and while it was a very long and tiring weekend, it was a lot of fun. Yerevan is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be and it is a really well organized city too. I was really shocked at how easy it was to navigate on foot in a city that I’d never been in before. Armenia is the butt of a lot of jokes here in the region (it’s like the Alabama of the Caucuses) and I give you... Cigarette in a Pipe Man!
Like I said though, there were some awesome churches there...
My uncle (father’s brother) Richard died and that was some hard news to take for all of my family. He had been battling with cancer for a while and had been doing better but he took a fairly quick and dramatic slide before passing away. I was glad that, from what I heard, he was able to see everyone in the family before passing and get all of his affairs in order. He wasn’t old at all and it’s really sad that he wasn’t able to live a longer life. Also, both of my grandparents are having some medical problems as well and that is also very sad news because having a child die is hard enough without going through your own problems as well at the same time. Hopefully both of them will be able to recover as well as possible and be around for years to come.
But, as the Georgians like to say on the fourth or fifth toast, with death always comes new life. My friends Liz and Rett celebrated the birth of their third child this month. So congrats to them and hopefully Rett will be scheduling his vasectomy sometime soon. Hahaha. Sorry. Also, my cousin Jennifer had her second baby which was adopted by my other cousin Dayonna. Kind of strange but also really cool. But, for those of you that don’t know the Kendrick family, that phrase really sums them up; ‘a little strange, but super cool.’ I’m glad that all are well and healthy and I hope they both have long and wonderful lives.
Christmas was a lot better this year from the previous two here in Georgia. For one I didn’t have to once again explain what Christmas was and why it’s so awesome to my Muslim host-family and I was able to have brunch. I searched all over the city and finally found maple syrup so I made French Toast, sausages and mimosas for myself. I was amazed at how much maple syrup costs though. It’s so cheap in America I guess because we don’t import it but I got a tiny little bottle of it for about the equivalent of $9. Totally worth it though.
Also, at school I was able to do some Christmas projects with my kids for once. I had my 4th graders write Christmas poems since we’d been doing poetry a lot this semester and then make Christmas cards for their parents. It was fun. The younger kids are a lot of fun sometimes because some of the stuff they come up with while learning English is just hilarious. Anyway, here are some pictures of my 4th graders and their cards and one of my favorite card covers.
One of the girls in these pictures is named Nini and one day I was feeling a little low and not all that happy to be at school when she came up to me and gave me a card she had made for me. I'll type it out here exactly as it was written for full effect:
for Mr. andrew (picture of a heart) -Nini: I love you Mr. andrew. you are best ticher is the world. I love your leson. you are tiching wery interesting. I love you and your leson. you are my lovely ticher. (another heart) -x- :) Let's just say my day was a lot better after that. Too cute!
I did make a trip back out to Muganlo for my host-dad Akif’s 50th Birthday! There was boiled sheep to be had, but thankfully there were also other options as it was his birthday and there would be many guests. I think my count (could be unreliable as it did get hazy after midnight) was 25 people there for the festivities. And that is without my host-brother Aslan, his wife and their baby who were in Azerbaijan. Needless to say the night went on till the wee hours of the morning and the next morning picked right back up with my least favorite “breakfast supra” that lasted till after noon. I hate when a long night of drinking Georgian wine is followed up with a long morning of cha-cha and tequila. Oh, yeah. My host-dad decided to break out the bottle of tequila I had given him after we had put down two liters of cha-cha before noon. I warned him, but he didn’t listen. At least it tasted good on the way down. My drunky host-cousin got sick and had to leave after the tequila to the sounds of Akif and I laughing at him. So wrong on so many levels, but we were having a blast at this point. After a few hours I did manage to make my way back to Tbilisi and crash out for about 12 hours. Muganlo is like the Twilight Zone to me now. Every time I go back there my mind is spinning with thoughts of, ‘how in the hell did I live here for two years?’ But at the same time it has that nostalgic element to it as in when I see one of the kids beating on something with a stick I just think, ‘ah that little shit, he’s just the same as he always was; how cute.’ However I was not wax poetic about my trips to the outhouse. If you have the money, why not just build an indoor toilet?
So really I’ve got to say that this winter so far has been fairly uneventful. I did find a bar near my house that has a couple of Belgian beers on tap so that’s cool. Too bad the food there is Georgian. Oh well. I tried to convince the manager to get wi-fi in there but I don’t think he wants to turn it into a café style bar but keep it as a restaurant. I can’t blame him I guess because if you’re going to get Georgians in there you have to offer them what they want and that’s more of the same as every other place has. More Georgian food.
A couple of funny stories for you:
So there are people that will wander around the residential districts and sell random things such as fruit and vegetables. They will carry their products or have them in a car and just yell out whatever it is that they’re selling. When I’m out on my balcony I can sometimes here them and I don’t think much of it because it seems completely normal. I can even see that working in America to some extent. Have a mobile farmers market much like the ice-cream trucks come around and sell fresh produce. But the other day I was out in my balcony and I saw this woman down between the buildings with a cart loaded down just yelling out, “Brooms! Brooms! Brooms!” For some reasons I could not stop laughing at this. The absurdity of walking around all day yelling out “Brooms!” was enough but the idea of seeing that in America was something I could not imagine. You have to understand that a lot of Georgians use these crappy straw brooms that wear out in a few months so there is a need for them to be replaced, but all I could think of was seeing this scene in Anywhere, USA. As if I were sitting there one day reading a book or watching TV and hearing a lady yell out, “Brooms!” and immediately jumping up with the thought that, ‘you know what? I really could use a new broom about right now.’
Anyway, I had a stellar string of crap days this past week. One, my door has been broken for a few months now and I’ve repeatedly told my land-lady that it needed repair because the locking mechanism was busted and that the key would eventually break off in there. She is a rich lazy ass woman and never made so much as an attempt to do anything about it. So the other day as I was locking the door, sure enough the key snapped off in the lock preventing me from either latching the door or locking it. I called her and she asked if it could wait till tomorrow. I told her no, since I could not leave my apartment with a door that would not latch or lock. So she sent a man over to look at it. He got here at about 7pm, naturally too late to do anything about it that day. He said he would be back between 1 and 5 the next day. (I’m guessing “locksmiths” in Georgia are like the cable guy in America).
This was how I ended up securing my door while I waited on it to be repaired. Crack security that is.
He did eventually show up and get the door fixed telling me that it would cost 70 GEL ($45). I told him to take that up with my land-lady since it was her door and her problem as I had reported the problem to here over the past few months. He asked me to call her since they were friends and naturally could not discuss such matters of business and money. (???Georgians!!!). I called her and she told me that since I had broken the door, it was my problem. Naturally I paid the man. But, I hope she realizes that whenever I move out of this apartment, that I’ll be taking that lock with me. Why should I pay for an improvement to a place that will stay here after I’m gone? I think that since I paid for it, it’s mine. Now I know that I’ll have no use for that lock, but the satisfaction of throwing it in the dumpster on my way out will be worth the 70GEL.
After the lock fiasco, I was sitting around that night and started feeling really poorly. I don’t know if it was something I ate or what but my stomach was all cramped up and I was not feeling good at all. Needless to say I got zero sleep and was up and down all night visiting the toilet. I eventually just moved to the couch around 4am and laid there till about 9 when everything seemed to be over. Now you know how after you’re sick you just want to change out of your clothes, wash them and just be over the whole incident right? Well that’s what I did. And, after I had made my coffee I felt the need to have a smoke and just stand out on the balcony with my morning cup of Joe. Hold on. Where is my damned lighter? I looked everywhere for it. Couldn’t find it. Then I hear this loud clanking in the washing machine. Oh no!
So I really can’t think of anything else to update you on at this point dear reader. We’re about to enter that dark period of the year between the Super Bowl in February and Opening Day of Baseball in April where the sports world goes dark. I hate Basketball, so I guess I’ll have to read those two or three books I’ve out off for the past few months. Not such a bad thing I guess.
I’ll try to make a better effort to update you more regularly on what’s going on with me on this side of the world over the next few months. Until then… Peace!