Lasting Friendships

Posted on February 25, 2012 by


I drifted in and out of a jetlag-induced sleep while two girls chattered away next to me, giggling.  A wide-rimmed Peruvian fedora covered my eyes and a thick, russet beard covered my chin.  I awoke briefly when the flight attendant brought me a tray of food and tried to join the girls’ conversation.  They were laughing and enjoying each other’s company when I turned and introduced myself to the nearer of the two.  It happened that they were two close friends from Texas and that they would become two of my best friends.

TLG is a lot of things to a lot of people: a chance to teach abroad, professional development, an opportunity, an escape, an adventure.  One of the lesser-advertised benefits of the program, however, is that it thrusts you into a group of like-minded people who are going through the same trials and tribulations at the same time as you.  It wasn’t until I was part way through Georgian language lessons at Orientation Training that this began to dawn on me.  As we all struggled to wrap our voices around letters like ყ and წ, I made friends with a German and a Malaysian at my table and was quick to add their numbers to my shiny new phone.

Over the course of the semester, Group 2 spent a couple of weekends together every month.  First there was Rob and Ashley’s Georgian Wedding, followed by an epic Halloween Party in Zugdidi’s Movie Theater, and an American Thanksgiving in Martvilicomplete with American Football and a home-cooked Georgian-American Suphra!

It was even televised for the local channel! And yes, we all chose to dress that way.

When we weren’t together, we often called each other to chat, to gripe, to moan, to advise, and to laugh.  TLG provides all of its volunteers with corporate cell phones that can call each other for free!  I can’t count how many times my friends and I hit the 30-minute automatic disconnection.  Through thick and through thin, our fellow volunteers were our constant source of support and comfort.  As we learned to navigate Georgian transportation, communicate in sign language, and adapt to a wide-range of living conditions in a developing country, we grew closer than I would have possibly imagined at the outset of the program.

During our second semester in Georgia, the bonds of friendship strengthened and I found myself spending all of my free time in the company of a German law student, an Irish architect, a Texan nutritionist, a russophile Michigander, a pair of musical Canadians, and others from countless countries and backgrounds.  Only a program such as TLG could bring such a diverse group of people together and bind them in lasting friendship.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and though I remain in Georgia and with TLG, most of my friends have moved on.  But you know what the amazing thing is?  When it comes down to it, none of us has moved on and none of us can move on.  We have shared so many extraordinary experiences together that it’s impossible to move on, try as you might.  And you know what else?  That’s the best part!

My TLG friends are now placed around the globe and in seemingly out-of-reach countries.  We have returned home to the US, to England, to Australia, and to Canada.  We have continued teaching in Hong Kong, in South Korea, in Turkey, in Mexico, in Albania, and in the Czech Republic.  We have begun working and studying in Norway, in Morocco, in Germany, and in Georgia.  We have not lost sight of each other.

We see each other on Skype!

We see each other on 9 hour layovers in Munich

We see each other in the apartment we share!

And we see each other on Vacation!

And so it was that I found myself visiting two chatty, giggly girls in Hong Kong.  As we shared a bottle of Georgian Wine (a Christmas Gift courtesy of President Saakashvili) and reminisced about our adventures in Georgia, I realized fully what an impact TLG had made on my life.  Yes, I began to learn Georgian and saw many of the sights the Caucasian country has to offer.  Yes, I impacted my students with new and exciting teaching methods and my American English.  Yes, I grew more adventurous and independent.  But maybe most significantly and unexpectedly of all, I built friendships that last and created memories with my friends that will never fade or disappear.  Were this the only benefit of being a TLG Volunteer, I would still be forever indebted to the program that introduced me to the people I now count among my best and closest friends.

გაუმარჯოს მეგობრობას!