I extended my TLG contract! Here’s why.

Posted on May 19, 2012 by

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The other day, one of my third graders (one of the four Giorgi’s in that class and about a hundred in the school) asked how long I would be staying at their school. “Until December,” I replied, causing the classroom to erupt in cheers and “Yessssss!”’s. I initially signed up to volunteer with TLG for two semesters (so, okay, the title of this post is a little misleading), with the intent to change locations (probably to Tbilisi) after my first semester of service. However, I have decided I’m staying right here in Gurjaani, Kaxeti, until December, and here’s why.

– My school is excellent. I love my students, and my three co-teachers are lovely. (And, I’m finally beginning to be able to tell the Mariamis, Salomes, and Ninos apart!) I feel like my students are making progress with English, which is heartening. At the very least, they can all greet each other and talk about their families. Baby steps.

– I can’t imagine leaving my host family. They’re fantastic—everything I could have wished for, and more! It will be hard enough leaving in July to visit my American family and friends for a month, so leaving for a longer period will be brutal. I’m not looking forward to that…

– The Teach and Learn with Georgia staff is extraordinarily helpful and supportive, and very attentive to our needs and requests. My regional representative is fantastic, and has always been readily available to answer any questions, translate, or negotiate with school issues. (Luckily, I haven’t had any major qualms with my school—but I know if I did, Irma would be more than willing to step in and help.) In addition, the main TLG office provides volunteers with a wealth of information, ranging from reminders to wear bug spray and sunscreen to news about expatriates’ safety and security.

– I feel like a real, accepted member of the Gurjaani community, and people recognize and welcome me here.

– I’ve learned enough Georgian to get by in simple social situations, which is really nice. [However, I evidently appear to be Georgian, to some people—enough so that I’ve been mistaken for one. One day, some of the other teachers in my area and I were together, and a man approached our little group, came straight to me, and started speaking at me in rapid Georgian. I was so astonished that I couldn’t respond in any language, let alone Georgian!] I feel like, if I moved to Tbilisi or another of the big cities where English is widely spoken, I wouldn’t learn Georgian as quickly. Here, I’ve learned it out of necessity.

Why else am I staying?

Is it for the excellent wine? The world-renowned fruit (I’m super excited for when the peaches, apricots, and plums are in season here—right now, everyone’s harvesting cherries and strawberries. I think I’m going to explode of fruit consumption.)? The gorgeous weather? The close proximity (about an hour and a half marshrutka ride) to Tbilisi? The awesome view of the Caucasus Mountains?

All of the above, and more. I can’t begin to describe how excellent my experience has been so far, and how head over heels I am for Georgia. Maybe I’ll stay here forever! (Or, at least until December.)

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