Tim in Georgia

This is a blog to chronicle my experiences in the Republic of Georgia as a Peace Corps TEFL volunteer. *The views expressed herein are mine and are not necessarily those of the Peace Corps or the US Government.*

25 December 2006

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone.

Today is "American Christmas," as I'm sure you're aware. It feels nothing at all like Christmas to me. There is no snow, no commercialization, and no Christmas carols (my students awkwardly singing Jingle Bells excepted). But then again, "Georgian Christmas" isn't until January 7th, so maybe these things will arrive later.

I had a very interesting food experience this weekend. I was back in Sveneti spending some time and while there I carved a pig's head and ate it. Pretty fatty, but also very delicious.

The semester ended on December 8th (I found out about this on the 6th, just to make sure that we didn't have time to issue a final exam), so I had to assign grades with my counterpart teacher. Giving low marks is not traditionally done in Georgia. "But Tim, we should not give low grades. If we give low grades then the students will have low grades. And nobody wants low grades." And how. Maybe you should come to class more than twice, then. Or if you're in the tenth form and have been taking English for five years, at least learn the alphabet. Anyway, there was some bickering as to whether low grades should be given, and in the end moderation prevailed, meaning nobody got what they wanted and the students were on the verge of tears. (Rao? I got a 8 (out of 10)? But I almost got 50% on the test!) Anyway, I have written a syllabus for this next semester (actually we're on trimesters, which nobody informed me about until the first semester was over. Funny, that.) so hopefully that will help (wow, an actual printed sheet of paper! Tim, I had no idea you cared! I'll show this to my parents at once!).

Winter is here. It's not horribly cold (yet), but my diet has changed considerably. Gone are all forms of meat (save the pig's head feast in Sveneti) and most fruits and vegetables. In the winter we eat soup. And then, for variety, we eat soup with leaves in it. Oh, and mandarins, which grow abundantly in our yard. I once at 22 of them in a day and got "mandarin thumb," meaning that my mandarin-peeling thumb was yellow for about a week from the acid found just beneath the rhind.

Unlike most Georgian families, mine does not make their own wine. Instead, we produce our own vodka (and not the ridiculously disgusting gas-can tchatcha that many families make). It's far better than that. It almost has a pleasant flavor. And, it's not unbearably strong (only uncomfortably so).

I leave for Turkey on Wednesday, which I'm really looking forward to. I exchanged some lari for Turkish lira at this hole-in-the-wall exchange place in Tbilisi today. I knew that Ataturk was big in Turkey, but my god, he's huge. Turkish money is monstrosly large, even larger than the ridiculously sized US dollar. I had much trouble fitting it into my wallet (and even so, it rises up above the rim of the wallet (and therefore the edges are ragged), making me look like that guy who saves his McDonalds drive-thru receipt from five years ago because he harbors illusions of one day keeping track of his expenditures). But, the money itself is polychromatic and quite beautifully illustrated. And, Turkish currency includes 1 lira coins, so of course I fell in love with it instantly.

I'm also glad that I've decided to start learning Turkish in the summer, relegating Russian to an alphabet that I can pretend to understand when pressed. Its alphabet dogmatically resembles English (thanks, Ataturk), it is easy to understand, and it has only one irregular verb! And, did you know that Turkis grammar is so logical that it serves as the grammatical basis for Esperanto, the artificial lingua-franca that, for reasons of foolish linguistic pride, never took off? Well, now you do. While English is immensely illogical, Georgian clinically insane by comparison. I'm really looking forward to getting started.

I fear that if i write more I will begin to become interesting and comprehensible, so it's best to quit while I'm ahead.