Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Week of Training RECAP

It seems like more often then not, people are telling me to start a blog. Let me tell you this much, I totally thought of starting one too but I was and still kind of am against it because I have to censor my thoughts to SOME degree. But I figure let me just do it so that I don’t have to tell the same story over and over again.

It’s been almost a month that I’ve been here. WOW. I can’t believe that time flew so fast! I figure this “post” will be extremely long since I have to catch people up on a month’s worth of juicy, juicy gossip. Not so much but let’s get started.

I am currently in school right now, waiting for second period to start so I can go and teach some grade 1 kiddos “whats your name”, “my name is” and “nice to meet you” for the 3rd time.  I can see how working with children can be frustrating but thankfully I’ve been blessed with a hell of a lot of patience and I do not mind repeating and singing the same thing over and over again. Please note—and it’s an important note… I sure do have a lot of patience but not when it comes to stupidity. You can’t get mad at a child for not “getting it”. I will get annoyed with an adult because they “should know better.”  I love teaching so much (granted its just the beginning but it seriously doesn’t even feel like work). It is so much fun and the kids are so active and excited that you are there.  I figure I take this time to start this “blog” < why do they even call it a blog—bullshit log? Boring log? Anyway… onto the recap.

I left Toronto on Monday, August 29th more or less at midnight.  The flight over was great. FLY TURKISH AIRLINES FRIENDS—they do it right ;). The man in front of me was reading “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom and I totally tapped him on the shoulder and told him he would LOVE IT. We then started talking a little bit and he recommend that I read a book by Paulo Coelho – at which point I take the book out of my bag and go “this one?” and he’s like YEAH YOU WILL LOVE IT! (thanks Shobs for the great suggestion) I’ve started it but can’t seem to find the time to just… jump in.  He worked for the UN in Iraq and was in Toronto visiting his children that are going to university here… or rather there.  The lady sitting next to me was nice.  She was from Ethiopia and she was also in Toronto visiting her daughter.  She worked as a principal in a school in Ethiopia.  She had never travelled before so she was a touch confused with finding the gate, so once we got off the plane I helped her find her way and she offered me a teaching job. HA! Unreal. You fully know I have her contact “just in case” < cue laughter from all the Fazooli’s staff.

While I was in Toronto I was planning on exiting the airport in Istanbul (seeing as I had a 7 hour layover) and exploring the city—but by the time I got there, it was already 5, by the time I would get out of the airport etc it would be 6 and then it would take about an hour to get to any place interesting. Mama didn’t raise no fool friends, I have NO BUSINESS in Istanbul after night fall without knowing a word of Turkish.  Not to mention all the horror stories I read about cabbies. True or not it freaked me out so I spent my layover walking around, and drinking water.  The gate was finally revealed and off I went in search (kinda) for other TLGers. *pause* TLG is the company that hired me (Teach and Learn with Georgia)—they are the company responsible for training me and placing me in a school and with a family.  So I get to the gate and I see… about 10 or so people sitting in a circle and I’m like OH that’s for sure them and I’m like… oh man, I really don’t want to sit over there – everyone looked so lame. They might as well have been singing “kumbiah” and sharing granola bars.  But loneliness and the need for other human interaction took over and I sat down too. We exchanged names, ages and where we were from. To my surprise I was the only Canadian in the group; everyone else was from the States (a theme that seems to be following me around here in Georgia).

We got to Georgia at 2 in the morning or so and were greeted by TLG with big smiles and name tags.  Lord knows I love the name tags!  We got to our hotel around 3.  Once we got there we were asked to give the hotel receptionist our passports (two people at a time) – this is how the roommates were assigned.   I was roomed with a 23 year old girl named Clare from Iowa.  After we had both taken a quick shower we bonded over the uncertainty of our future. In retrospect, I wish we had recorded that conversation as it would have been so refreshing (NOW) to hear all our worries—it feels like that night happened years ago.  

My first day in Georgia consisted of a medical test, TLG checking papers we were asked to bring (criminal record checks, diploma etc) followed by a group meeting outlining our rigorous training schedule for the next week.   Do not drink was repeated over and over again.  There were 66 volunteers in our group.

The week honestly felt like it lasted a life time and with the gruelling scheduled, jet lag, overall lack of sleep and explosive diarrhea the week DID last a life time.  The week consisted of 3 hour long Georgian lessons which were helpful for the first day—and then got extremely difficult to remember anything after the first day. So I’m glad I got to learn, hello, how are you and I’m fine but let me tell you this much—conversations get REALLY stale if you can’t get past the introduction.

Story time—I hate “recapping” people want juicy gossip.  So our lunch breaks lasted 1.5 which gave you enough time to leave the hotel and wonder around a bit then get back for more classes. One lunch 4 of us went out (Clare my roommate, I and 2 other morons < they came, I didn’t invite them) **see how politically correct I need to be about not saying names.  Anyway, we went out to buy power transformers as everything we brought from back home was sizzling and overheating… and I really don’t need anyone giving me shit for that comment. I’ve been to Europe before and I came prepared with a power transformer that was HUGE and weighted at least 10 pounds … IT BLEW THE FIRST DAY. Bla. So we go out to buy some adapters and while we are in the store we ask the sales lady where we can find some nice cheap authentic Georgian food. So she’s like wait here… my boss is coming and he will take you.  So all of us had heard about Georgian hospitality but this was nuts.  This man dressed nicely comes out of the store, tells us to get in his car and that he will take us to a restaurant.  Trust me folks, I was like mmm this sounds really sketchy but I figured if I could hitch-hike home alone from the Romanian/Hungarian border in the middle of the night in a huge truck—I could survive anything this Georgian man was gonna throw at me considering the fact that there were a few of us going.  So off we go, in this mans car but he literally only drives 3 minutes, pulls over in front of this… “house” that is going through construction I’m talking about a new door being welded on and the floor all cracked up inside.  We go in and they take us into a room in the back of the house and a woman appears (that’s when all my worries flew out the window), the man then says something to her, gives her 50GEL and leaves.  5 minutes later she is busting out the most delicious food ever.  We finish our lunch and walked back to the hotel just in time for our cultural lessons to begin.  2 nights we went out into Tbilisi after our long training days to explore, other nights we stayed in a relaxed.  

Going into this we didn’t know where we would be placed.   We just knew we were going to Georgia—the issue here is that you have no idea how to pack as people near the Black Sea have a completely different climate compared to those by mountains.  Being in a city is hella different than being in a village.  So I came into this going I am going to do everything in my power to not end up in a village.  I have been to Romania in the winter and I know what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night, have to get fully dressed to combat the -30 degree weather and then go outside to take a dump. NOT FUN. I did not want to deal with that. Period.  So all throughout training I am dressing like I am 30 minutes from going to a high end office—high heels, hair done, makeup—the whole nine yards.   I was under the impression that the training co-ordinators were also the lovely ladies that were placing us.  Every chance I got I would slip in how much I would like to end up in a city (the bigger the better).   It’s the last day of training and my heart is literally in my throat because we are finally finding out were we were placed.   Herta Bolgar  is going to  “Zestaphoni”. Zepstaphoni… zestaphoni where the hell is that? I remember thinking as all the blood felt like it was draining from my body. I quickly run to my room and look it up on the Internet. It’s a town in the middle of nowhere.  I felt devastated but after finding out it was only a 3 hour train ride of Tbilisi I felt a little better.  I was so annoyed. Why was I dressing up like a diva fashionasta for the past week! It turns out that the person that was placing you was an outside TLGer that has no clue who you are.  I felt like my future was being decided by a person drawing names out of a hat. 

Lunch rolls around and Kathryn (a girl I had become good friends with over the past week) comes up to me and goes “oh man, I’m so jealous you got zestaphoni. I got Rustavi (the closest city to Tbilisi).  We totally got what the other one wanted. I wish we could switch.” I literally heard a heavenly choir.  I almost jumped through the roof. I left the lunch room with a mission, to find anyone of our training co-ordinators (that WAS NOT the head trainer) to run a hypothetical situation by them.   

Let's rewind a few days now. While I was in training (day 2) our head coordinator asked if I could be in charge of collecting money for the people that wanted to buy the phrasebook -- this little book that is in Georgian and English (very helpful as it has words and everyday phrases in it). Everyone was given one the first day but if you wanted to keep it you had to buy it.  So because I was in charge of this money collection, I got nice and close with the girls that organized the training. Mama didn't raise no fool my friends. 

They said it shouldn’t be a problem but they would tell us if we could switch or not in the morning—the same morning everyone is packing and being shipped off to their new lives.   Our last night in the hotel was bitter sweet.  Everyone was happy training was over with but we would miss the people we started to rely on for stability.   The morning came quickly and as we all stood nervous in the lobby of the hotel I was informed that the switch went through and that I would be placed in Rustavi.  I was on the brink of tears.  The weight of the world felt like it was lifted from my shoulders as my life in Georgia was just drastically altered.

30 minutes later, I was in a taxi Rustavi bound.

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