Group 31

Posted on January 21, 2012 by


Today I got to go to a panel for group 31. (Bonus – check out what one of the new volunteers in Group 31 has to say!) Basically, every orientation (except, apparently, the one on September 30th, 2011) has a meeting where five or so TLG volunteers come in and talk to the new group, tell them what to expect, give them sage advice, and render unto them the collected wisdom of having lived in Georgia since time out of mind. I’ve been itching to do a panel since my own orientation, but due in part to my unique circumstances (i.e. not having a host family, living in Tbilisi) I was not invited to do a panel last year.

So now that I’ve done the host family thing (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) I reminded our most excellent orientation coordinator that I was now eligible and begged her to put me on the panel. I think that when I pinched the skin of my neck between my thumb and forefinger in the Georgian gesture for “pretty please” that was the last straw, so she laughed and agreed to give me a call.

Last night I sprained my ankle so getting ready for the panel was an exciting adventure (getting my swollen and bandaged foot into my work boots took some doing) and getting to the hotel was a less exciting adventure (I just called a cab) but I made it, and a little early. I ran into one of my former coteachers, who is spending her time off teaching Georgian to some of the new volunteers. She was very happy to see me, although she pointed out that I have gained weight (I can’t help it, every time I go to New York I gain fifteen pounds, which I then fight to lose the whole rest of the year. That’s what happens when you gorge yourself on pizza, bagels, and delicious American desserts for the better part of a month).

Group 31 – I almost can’t believe people still count, although the volunteers seem less attached to their group number than we were in the single digit days, and mostly seem to refer to their groups by date – has 58 volunteers. They asked us questions about daily life, things to do, school, teaching, discipline, and interpersonal relations. Many were very interested in the logistics of renting an apartment – rent, utilities, internet, etc. – which is unsurprising, and I was happy to help.

Overall, the volunteers seemed a little tired, but they definitely also seemed very positive and excited, and, most of all, very well prepared. I remember in my orientation week most of us felt completely at sea even during our panels and adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude towards a lot of the stuff this group seemed to know about already, so I’m guessing that the ongoing work TLG has been doing to improve orientations over the last year has really been paying off.

Most of the volunteers will be going to West Georgia. We told the Kobuleti folks how lucky they were to be in what is widely regarded as the best beach town in Georgia (sorry, Batumi, but your beaches are made of rocks). A few will stay in Tbilisi. One will go to beautiful Telavi (I don’t know why, but I just love Telavi).

After the panel, many many of us went to the Taglaura next to the hotel. And here’s a great tip – Almost no taxi driver has any idea where the Hotel Bazaleti Palace is, but everyone in Tbilisi knows Taglaura, and so if you want to get to the Bazaleti (say, if you’re a new volunteer going into the downtown area on your night off) you can just tell the driver to take you to the Taglaura in Ortachala. Works every time (I’ve only tried it once, but I’m confident). Taglaura featured some great Georgian music and some hideous Russian music, and lots of people dancing, and good food, and is one of the only places in all of Georgia that serves dark beer, so overall I tend to enjoy my time there.

When I was at Bazaleti the first time, we didn’t go to Taglaura – we were sort of afraid of it. We could hear that it was loud, and we had been warned away from eating out and talking to locals, so we just used to sit and stare at it from the hotel porch. We remarked on the fact that there seemed to be lots of families going there – parents and their children would emerge from the place starting at around 11 or 12 – but we never realized that it was actually just a regular restaurant.

So overall, a very good night. I enjoyed paneling and hope to do it again. Our orientation coordinator seemed to like what I had to say and invited me back to do the next one, which I imagine will be in another two weeks or so. I think the volunteers enjoyed it too.

Anyway, welcome, group 31!