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.*

17 September 2007

Doctor! Doctor! Give me the news!

After over a year in Georgia, Peace Corps found it prudent to send me to the doctor for a mid-service check-up. As many of you may know, I have a less-is-more approach to doctors. That said, this experience was sublime - the best I've ever had. In and out in 25 minutes with only one skin invasion, I promptly thanked the doctor and came downstairs to write this blog. Medical service in the Peace Corps is excellent in my opinion, not bothering me when I am not sick and being always availible for those who are.

Relatedly, I want to alert you to a peculiar problem that I have experienced since coming to Georgia: increased chest hair. For a more advanced discussion, please read Ryan's blog entry regarding this quite disturbing form of "personal growth."

Very unrelatedly, school started on Monday. Like in the U.S., the first day of school in Georgia is definately missable. I arrived, kissed everyone for an hour, and then we all went home. But, it will get better, I'm sure. I'm piloting the textbook that my friend and I have been writing, which gives me some extra motivation on days when it's lacking. I have also received word that the internet at my school will work more often than once every two months this year, so I might be blogging with increased regularity (gasp!).

Finally, I have been devouring celebrity magazines recently since they are availible and written in English, and I can happily say that I don't miss America very much at the moment.

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09 September 2007

My Telephone

I have a confession to make. I'm in the Peace Corps and I have a cell phone. My phone and I recently went through an only-in-Georgia adventure. Let me explain...

First of all, I love my phone. There are many reasons for this. The two main reasons have to do with my digital fixation. I am constantly doing something with my fingers. This usually takes one of two forms: writing a text message or flipping my phone around in my hand.

So anyway, I've become really good at text messaging. I even won a contest. Also, I abbreviate constantly. Since every character counts (dont wanna b charged 4 2 msgs!), I dispense with my moral objections to abbreviating and do it with abandon. Despite my love for my phone, I drop it constantly since I am constantly playing with it. My phone is rock solid. I've dropped it on concrete, rock, four day old bread, and worse - and it doesn't matter! My phone is impervious to collisional damage.

Aside from my digital fixation, I love my phone because it's nice. It's nicer than any phone I ever had in the USA. It has more of the useful features (flashlight!) and fewer of the useless features that I never use. The only drawback is that none of the 25+ ringtones sound like an actual telephone...but that's another rant for another time.

I know my phone intimately. Blindfolded, I can perform practically every necessary function on my phone. I know where its messages are, how to make it become silent (if only my students were as easy...), and how to set my alarm. My phone doesn't have the physical beauty it once had, but I think that it has gotten better with age. Sure, all of the numbers have worn off, but now the keypad is a bright and brilliant white, a symbol of how I keep my sanity. There's the discoloration at the top, a reminder of an instance when I was having such a good time that I couldn't successfully keep my soda bottle upright. There's the small dent missing from the corner, the one that only I know about, that makes me smile every time I see it because I know that I'm the only one. This has been the most exciting and interesting year of my life, and my phone has been with me through it all.

My life turned upside-down two weeks ago. I killed my telephone. We were on the beach. I was texting. I put the phone in the pocket of my swimsuit. Time elapsed. I neglected it. I didn't enquire to its whereabouts before I flopped around in the sea for a good 20 minutes. I drowned my telephone.

The realization hit my like a kick in the face. I tried to resuscitate my phone. I took it to the phone doctor. But it was dead. I had killed it.

I went home and I was in shock. My fingers texted but there was no phone in my hand. Sometimes I thought I heard it ringing. I felt false vibrations in my pocket, but when I reached for it it wasn't there. I did not take it well, the drowning of my phone.

I retreated to Tbilisi, to Georgian cell-phone heaven. I figured that, since I love my phone so, the best place to find its replacement would be in cell phone heaven. And I was right. This was the best place to find its replacement, but no suitable replacement could be found. My phone is too old to be sold in cell phone heaven. I mourned.

I went back the next day and bought the child of my phone, the newer, "upgraded" model, a supposed improvement on my Nokia 1100. It turned out to be more of the red-headed step child, the brat that is nothing like its parents. It texted differently, it was not as sturdy, and it lacked a flashlight. Depressed, I paid too much for a lesser product (although I did buy the cheapest one on offer) and went home.

I was very hesitant to use my new phone in public. I was embarrassed by it. I texted less frequently, and with more mistakes. I yearned for my old phone. I would happily pay twice the price of the newer model for the old. But this was not possible.

But, nothing is impossible in Georgia. You simply must look at it from a different perspective, and, in my depression, I was limiting myself to an American viewpoint - that if I couldn't buy my phone, then there was no way to obtain my phone. But in Georgia this viewpoint is most absurd. There had to be a way to get my old phone.

Yesterday I saw a man talking on my old phone. I went and stood next to him and pulled out my phone, trying to look busy until he finished his conversation. He did, and then I started talking. Then he started to think that I was insane. I offered to swap phones with him. I told him all about my new phone. It's only two weeks old, and it's the newer model of the phone he was currently using, which he bought over a year ago. And I would do this trade for free. At this point he laughed at me. But I didn't care. I insisted that he try my phone. He called his friend. He wrote a text message. Everything worked. He was confounded. Then he realized that I might just walk away at any moment and literally threw his phone into my hands. We put our phones into other languages, swapped SIM cards (so we wouldn't need to change numbers) and that was that. I felt like a million dollars.

So, after I swapped phones with the man on the street, he invited me to his house to have a supra. I was in a hurry and couldn't go, but I really wanted to go and hear him tell the story of the crazy American who came up to him speaking Georgian and wanted to trade him a new, "better" cell phone for his older, "inferior" phone.

And another day in Georgia came to a close...

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