Tips for prospective TLGers

Posted on May 13, 2011 by

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Ever since my blog has been put on the TLG (Teach and Learn with Georgia) blog, I’ve had a few people send me messages asking me questions about the programs, life in Georgia etc. I don’t usually like giving advice but I understand the anxiety people feel before heading off to somewhere so random, so here are my very subjective and personal tips:

  • Don’t over-pack. You probably won’t be in a shack somewhere and probably won’t need a lot of things that you think you will need. Georgia has pretty much anything you will need and if not in your village, you can probably find it in the nearest city.
  • Don’t under-pack. You will probably have down-time and if you’re as restless as I am, you will need something to keep you busy. Personally, I’ve been studying for the LSATs and has kept my mind from becoming numb with boredom. If you’re goal oriented it might be a good idea to study for something or just have any goal (e.g. reading all the “Twilight” books, reading all the Marx books, training for a triathlon…) for your stay here. It can keep you going when you’re having bad days.
  • Expect bad days. Bad days will happen. Some days you will be very homesick and some days you will wanna choke your students and some days you will almost die in a Marshrutka. Expect bad days and know that they will pass.
  • Speaking of expectations… manage your expectations. Neal wrote a great piece about this on his blog so I will just reiterate his point: manage your expectations before you get here. There will be many things that you won’t have like back home and there will be some problems or issues. If you don’t build up too many high expectations you will find yourself being grateful for the smallest things like a hot shower, crossing the road without dying and toilet paper.
  • Take what people tell you with a grain of salt, including this post obviously. Everyone has a different experience in Georgia depending on their location, school, host-family, personality etc. Some people hate the whole thing and end up leaving early while others fall in love and move to Georgia. Like everything else, your experience will vary and if you manage your expectations there is no reason to worry about hating it here. You won’t.
  • Talk to Georgian men. Another thing you should take with a grain of salt is what you will hear about Georgian men. Yes, some of them are sleazy perverts who wanna rape you. So are some Catholic priests and some college professors. It’s life and some people are bad. Use common sense and you will not miss out on what may be some of the most interesting and friendly people you’ve ever met.
  • Speaking of common sense…It seems like everyone thinks they have common sense, probably cause it’s supposed to be “common”. Walking alone drunk at 3 in the morning with $1000 in your pocket is not common sense. Winking at a guy you are not interested in is not common sense. Telling people that their country is retarded ain’t common sense. You know better. Use your knowledge.
  • Be flexible. If you’re like me, a control freak, you will have to work on that before you get here. That or you can use your stay here as a learning experience about letting go of too much control and possibly becoming a zen master. You can’t completely control your students and you can’t control the marshrutka driver and you can’t control when the electricity or internet or water are available. You don’t speak enough Georgian to explain yourself in some situations and sometimes you just have to let go and take what you get. It’s ok, you’ll be fine. If not you can always have some chacha.
  • Don’t drink too much chacha. Or other alcoholic beverages for that matter. This is more of a personal opinion so again, grain of salt. If you like to drink then Georgia is the place for you, particularly if you are fond of moonshine (chacha). Nevertheless, there is no need to get hammered and throw up and act like a silly. You not only embarrass yourself but also other people who feel that they are ambassadors of their countries and would like to represent them well. Deal with your alcoholism before you get here or hide it when you’re in public.
  • Complain. If you’ve read my older posts you’ll know that I’m a big fan of complaining. If you can’t complain in Georgian start a blog, or call other TLGers or punch a puppy (please don’t). When you know that others are more miserable than you (or at least just as bad) you will feel much happier. It’s a fact.
  • Have your money ready before you get off the Marshrutka. If you don’t, the driver will get mad at you and curse you out in Georgian and bury you alive. Ok I exaggerate about cursing you out but still, just have your laris ready. Trust me on that one.
  • Pack stretchy pants. Need I say more? If you know that you’re prone to weight gain when your diet revolves mainly around starch and fat, be realistic and plan ahead. You can wear your new fat rolls proudly when you get back home, as a badge of pride, and as evidence of the endless food-gasms you will have experienced in Khatchapuri-land.
  • Enjoy yourself. It might be hard to find joy in life when there is no Starbucks or 3G or dive bar around, but you might get something good out of that. Mingle with the locals, let them feed you beef liver and tell you jokes about Svanetis. Travel around the country (and out) and feed stray puppies. It might be worth it.
  • Email me. If you have more questions or can’t figure out if you’re ready to quit Starbucks/soft toilet paper/canned PBR, contact me and I will be more than happy to answer your questions. No sarcasm I promise.
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