After living in Kuwait where it was very difficult to get to know Kuwaitis, I came to Georgia with few expectations of meeting and becoming friends with many if any Georgians. I didn’t give Georgia enough credit; the people here are, overall, amazingly friendly. I have found Georgian friends in the most unexpected places – at work and while tutoring.
As police teachers, another woman and I were sent a police escort from Tbilisi to Zugdidi. Even before meeting my host family, I met the Deputy Police Chief and the Police Chief’s assistant, Tamuna, at the police station where I would later start work. She explained a bit about the job and said that if I had any questions or any problems with my host family, I should not hesitate to talk to her. In essence, she was more of the go to person than TLG for me.
As I started work, Tamuna was in the classroom helping translate for the first few weeks, so I saw her as often as I saw my students. In addition, we went to lunch together at a nearby restaurant every day after classes. I soon learned that Tamuna has a different outlook on the world than most Georgians I have met. She also speaks English fluently which allows us to talk about issues I would have never thought a Georgian woman would be willing to discuss.
We exchange ideas of each others’ cultures, ask questions most would be unwilling to discuss without judgment, and she helped me through some hard times with my first host family. She is supportive on my not so great days of teaching, and I look forward to our lunch dates every day. After a month or so, I started realizing that Tamuna and I weren’t only colleagues, we had become friends. I don’t know what I would do without her; she is definitely a key factor in my Georgian experience.
A few weeks ago, an opportunity presented itself to tutor a Georgian man. I almost turned it down but am very glad that I didn’t. It turns out that he is a 28 year old man working for an Internally Displaced People NGO called CHCA (Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti).
As I am preparing to enter an International Development postgraduate program in England, I find international NGOs fascinating. There couldn’t have been a more perfect match in a tutor and student. He is preparing to travel to England to present at a conference involving IDPs worldwide, and I am helping to prepare him for his 10-day English immersion experience.
He is quite open-minded and willing to discuss a number of subjects that I am certain most other Georgian men wouldn’t be willing to discuss. He has turned his back on societal pressures to work at a better-paying job, simply because he wished to do something else with his life. He is dedicated to his job and finds satisfaction in helping others which is something I very much respect. Though we have only known each other for a few weeks, I see us becoming good friends.
Having friends like these is what creates lasting bonds with a country. With only 6 months to experience a country, I did not think that it would be possible to make friendships like these, but it is possible and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a closer look at Georgia through the eyes of Georgians.