First Impressions.

Posted on February 19, 2012 by

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Readers, I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of anticipation that comes with the unknown. The slight quivering of your knees, the flip-flopping of your stomach. And the hoping! The wishing that things will go well, that you won’t mess up, that you’ll be well-liked, that everything will work out….

This is how I felt as I got out of the car, grabbed my bags, and glanced nervously at the two faces before me: my new mother and sister for the next 5 months. Despite the fact that suspense had been holding me hostage for the past few weeks–and so strongly for the past few hours!–the warm smilies and friendly kisses quickly subdued my nerves. They grabbed my bags, and we made our way through the front door of the red brick house. The following moments moved all too swiftly to accurately record– the walking up the steps, the steady flow of questions, the opening of the beautiful, white, french doors to my room, setting down my bags, being led downstairs to the kitchen…

But here my memories refresh themselves, and the details come pouring in. The first thing that strikes me is the sharp contrast in temperature between the stairwell and the kitchen/living room. It’s warm in here. Qati, my new little sister, leads me to a chair and sits me down. We start speaking in English, and I immediately learn a lot about her. I’m a little skeptical about her age, though, when she tells me that she’s only 13, as she looks much older. To test this I ask, “Do you work?” Her face contorts to a puzzled look and she replies, “No! I am but a child!”

At this point, my host mother, Irma, brings in the food. A lot of bread, beans, coffee, tea, and wine. She has also prepared a chicken especially for me. Explaining to her that I’m a vegetarian is more heartbreaking for me than for her, I think. I feel so guilty. My host mother doesn’t speak a word of English, and I but two words of Georgian. So Qati translates, and I answer the questions about my family, which food I prefer, how long I’ve been in Georgia. The phone keeps ringing; it seems as if all of Kutaisi knows that I’ve made my arrival. At one point, my host mother says something to Qati in Georgian and gestures to me. Qati turns and says, “How old are you?” I reply, “22.” Qati and her mother discuss this fact and then Qati looks at me again and says, “My mother says that you are a child, and while you are here you will be her daughter.” This sentence wards off all the anxiety that the warm smiles and friendly kisses of earlier hadn’t, and I fall completely in love with my new family, home, and city.

The next few days pass quickly. I am overwhelmed with the feelings of immediate love, friendliness, and hospitality. The idea that Georgians are the most hospitable people on earth is a rumor I’m happy to defend. In order to have a better understanding of my relationship with the school I’ll be working in, I meet with my two co-teachers, director, and regional representative. All four are welcoming, helpful, and eager to answer and questions I have. At the school, all teachers go out of their way to assist me, even walking or driving me to and from school (I have since insisted that they stop). The students, while a little rambunctious, are sweet and starving for my attention. I’ve never felt so well-liked.

The city is old and beautiful. I had the opportunity during the snow days we had to explore its streets and buildings. While it’s not nearly as modern as what I’m used to, the delicacy of its careful architecture and handsome sculptures tell a story of adoration and appreciation for citizen, city, and country. This charm is worth much more than a western toilet.

I’ve only been in Kutaisi for a little over a week, and already I am considering extending my contract and spending the next year here. That’s the impression this place and these people have had on me: that I’ve found a home that’s worth enjoying for awhile.

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Posted in: Host Family