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.*

22 June 2007

One Year Anniversary (Part 2)

So, what have I actually been doing here?

That's a very complicated question. I am still teaching English. Well, not currently, it's summer vacation. But usually I am, 5 days a week at my school. I also taught 2 days a week at an NGO in Batumi, but that has ended now as well. I'm not sure if I'll pick that back up again in the fall.

I do various other things in my community as well. I host an ECO club, which promotes environmental education and conducts some trash clean-ups in the community. Additionally, I am involved in a larger ECO projet, which conducts 6 week-long camps in locations throughout Georgia over the summer for Georgian youth who participate in ECO clubs in the villages, towns, and cities.

I also conducted several teacher trainings over the past year as part of the Teacher Training Project. One of these took place in my village, and I also conducted two others in Ozurgeti and Chiatura. An average of 20 Georgian teachers of English attend these trainings and each volunteer presents 3 sessions about various topics relating to better and more communicative teaching methods.

My friend and I are writing a new textbook for beginning English students. It will be the first textbook written in both Georgian and English by a native English speaker. So, this is what will occupy most of my summer.

I've written 3 grants and all 3 have been approved and fully funded. So that's cool.

I have also read many books. Just to amuse you, here is the list. They aren't exactly in order.

1. A Voyage for Madmen
2. Angels and Demons
3. Vagabonding
4. The Kite Runner
5. The Best American Sports Writing: 2002
6. Life of Pi
7. Georgia Diary
8. The Best American Non-Required Reading: 2006
9. How Soccer Explains the World
10. The Bureau and the Mole
11. High Fidelity
12. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
13. Blink
14. The Perfect Store
15. Linguistics: an Introduction
16. A New Religious America
17. Emotions Revealed
18. The Mother Tongue
19. The Cassandra Compact
20. The Bourne Supremacy
21. The New International Dictionary of Quotations
22. Georgia: a Sovereign Country of the Caucasus
23. Notes from a Small Island
24. The Culture of Fear
25. Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door 1999
26. Icon
27. Skinny Dip
28. Digital Fortress

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20 June 2007

One Year Anniversary (Part 1)

Sunday was my one year anniversary in Georgia. A lot has happened in this past year. Pluto is no longer a planet. The crocodile hunter died. James Brown, Anna Nicole Smith, and Jerry Falwell also died. Italy won the World Cup (this may be news for those of you in America). There was fighting in the Middle East. I learned a new language, found myself in four different countries, carved and ate a pig's head, rode in a Soviet army jeep, and taught small children how to speak the most ridiculous language in the world.

I have been sick (with fever) for 2 of my 368 days in Georgia. I have had funny facial hair for some greater number of days. I'm greatly disappointed to report that I look exactly the same. I gained 15 pounds over 9 months and then lost them all during April and May. I have learned that sunflower seeds are an acceptable full dinner, that sitting on cold concrete makes women sterile, and that, just like in Hamlet, wine must be drunk to the bottom of the cup, not sipped to enjoy. Unlike in Hamlet, and to the disdain of livers everywhere, this custom is more honored in the observance than in the breach.

I have hiked to the top of a mountain translated as "Pig's Snout," said a word that begins with 8 consonants, and realized that the phrase "she is pretty ugly" confuses all of my students. I've taught what a mullet is, what pigtails are (my female students apparently don't like the name in English; none of them wear pigtails anymore...), and the word "unibrow." I have become famous beyond my wildest imagination. I have signed autographs, kissed babies, appeared on national television, posed for photographs, and recorded a top-selling single. And only one of those isn't true.

I have become an expert on nearly everything. Who can fix televisions? The American. Who is the school's expert on Georgian geography? Inexcusably, that's me as well. Who knows whether or not eskimos are human? Right here. Is Africa a city? I'm your guy. However, despite all of these things that only I know the answers to, I have indeed gotten stupider. For those of you who have met me I'm sure this is hard for you to believe. But, alas, it is true. My English has gone from bad to terrible. I have completely forgotten my Spanish. I recently played scrabble and almost lost to a non-native speaker. I cannot answer any of my students' questions about America.

Q: Who is Britney Spears dating?
A: Justing Timberlake, I think.
Q: Do you like [insert recently popular singer here]?
A: Who?
Q: Does it rain a lot in America?
A: Well, it depends. In some states...(my students interrupt)Tim, this answer is taking too long. Tell us about Britney Spears.
Q: Tim, what is a P.I.M.P.?
A: Ummm...
Q: What does "smack that" mean?
A: It means high-5.

So, America, this is what we are exporting. I just thought you should know.

I will post part 2 of my one year anniversary post, which might actually be funny, sometime later this week. It will also include the things that I do that might, at some point in the very distant future, convince someone to give me a job with a real salary. Like the time I ran into the Black Sea that one night in January wearing somebody else's clothes...

11 June 2007

Pigs Using Chinese Toothpaste (and Joe Cocker)

*EDIT* Due to "questionable" content, this portion of the post has been redacted. *EDIT*

And now, since I apparently have nothing better to do with my time than to idolize Joe Cocker/The Lovin' Spoonful, I wrote a short update about my life coinciding with select lyrics to Summer in the City. I'm sorry.

Hot town, summer in the City

Summer has struck, and it's really warm. The temperature has been pushing 90 for weeks now, and I like it. And, however newsworthy this might not be (it's June...wow, time goes sort of quickly...), the City has undergone a lot of changes. And, by the City I of course mean Batumi. Batumi is gearing up for summer. The topiaries are out, and they are shaped like dolphins. I don't quite understand this, as I have yet to see one of Batumi's vaunted dolphins this year. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. But also, all of the stuff is going up along the beach. Straw huts, endless beer bars, and old women selling hot corn. This is taking place in Gonio as well. I find it nearly amazing that the City and Gonio spend so much money gearing up for a 2 month tourist season. Apparently it's worthwhile though. Call me ignorant (you wouldn't be the first), but in the States I never really noticed the changing of the seasons. Sure, I noticed the temperature changes, and that snow came in the winter, and that I liked summer a whole lot better. But the length of the days always seemed very constant to me. Sunrise and sunset didn't mean anything; there were always streetlights and headlights and everything was always light. But not here. Georgia is amazing in that way. In Gonio it is light from 5am (or maybe earlier) until 10pm (or maybe later). And I know that we are approaching the summer solstice and that Gonio is slightly (just barely slightly) further north than Chicago, but I had no idea that the change would be this drastic. We are experiencing 17 hours (or more) of daylight each day. I haven't slept for more than 7 hours in 3 weeks, and I think this is a result of it being light all the time. I think the white nights in St Petersberg and elsewhere cause seasonal insomnia. But then again, I could be wrong.

Back of my neck gettin' dirty and gritty

I don't bathe very frequently. That mysterious and repugnent smell every morning? It's me. It floats over the ocean and invades your home. [On a side note, my blog got over 100 hits last week. You people need to find something more productive to do with your time. I've always wanted to be the leader of a cult, but this wasn't really what I had in mind...] But, I've finally been able to exercise with regularity. Rock climbing, walking up my mountain in the 90 degree heat, and being chased by rabid dogs have gotten me in terrible shape, which is quite an improvement for me. But, exercise makes me much dirtier than usual. Sorry about the smell.

Dressed so fine and lookin' so pretty

Fashion in Georgia makes me laugh. Socks and sandals? Not a problem. Blue and black? Perfect match. Same shirt as yesterday/two days ago/last Monday/last time you went out? It'd be criminal not to. And that's just Peace Corps Volunteers. But Georgian-Georgian fashion is humorous in a very different way. I particularly enjoy footwear. Stilletto heels? All the time, on dirt roads with more potholes than flat parts. My favorite though are the boots that are alive. These boots come up to just below the knee and have what appears to be a live animal inhabiting them. The fur attached is so...much, so fluffy, so FULL OF LIFE that I am fully convinced that the boots ate the feet which inhabited them. As for me, I don't own Georgian footwear. I wear the khakis and a polo to school everyday, rotating my shirt once the smell of it wakes me up. When not at school, I wear as little as is socially acceptable in America, and sometimes less.

But at night it's a different world

Nightlife in Gonio is at present nonexistent. But, that will soon change. In case you've been living under a rock for the past year, Gonio has a seasonal nightclub called "Arrogance." It is only open during the summer, and even then for only about two months. But, the signs are written only in English and I don't think anybody that's been there knows what the name means. I've yet to go to a Georgian nightclub, but I think it would be a highly desirable cultural experience. I will update you about this later. In Batumi, the nightlife is beginning to exist. There are light-up palm tries in one of the parks and along the boulevard. These artificial trees, of course, sit next to real palm tress and street lights, making both features of the artificial light-up palm tree irrelevant. But, then again maybe my taste in city beautification isn't as developed as it should be.

Go out and find a girl

Hmm...I don't think they were thinking about Georgia when they wrote this song...