Okay that may be a little premature but I come from a drama background, and well, it doesn’t get more dramatic than that. I have a little over two weeks left in საქართველო (that’s Georgia to the people playing at home). That means one last weekend with my host family and one in Tbilisi. Did I get to do everything in Georgia that I wanted to? No. Not even close really. I am ashamed to admit I was a bit of a miser and homebody, but my host family was so great I always felt guilty about leaving on the weekends. I also did not bring a good hiking backpack so I didn’t have a chance to make any woodsy excursions while I was here. So what did I do during my 5+ months here?
So far I feel I have successfully advanced the study of English language in my school. I think my students understand better and are farther along than they would have been without my being here. That isn’t to say that my co-teachers aren’t good teachers–in fact they are quite good–but I bring some imagination and, of course, a great Southern accent to the teaching team. I have become famous for my games and the kids constantly beg me to play one in class. I also feel that I have increased my host family’s English and have also shared our cultures with each other. I have now cooked for them on a couple of occasions, making red beans and rice, fajitas, and tacos. I have been able to sample the breadth of Georgian cooking while I was here, everything from tolma, badrijani, khinkali, mtsvadi, sashlik, lobio, satsivi, ghomi, and shotispuri, to the various khachapuris and namtskvaris.
I have spent a lot of time in Batumi, by far my favorite city in Georgia out of the few I visited. It’s on the Black Sea, it has a great feel to it, and it is beautiful at night. You can take a day trip to Turkey from there or go lay out on the pebble beach. I’ve been to Zugdidi twice, and loved it. Zugdidi is a very international city due to the EUMM field office there. Tons of ex-pats to get your English language needs met in any accent you want. Just last week I had dinner there with a Georgian, 3 Swedes, 2 other Americans, 2 Brits, an Irishman, and a French woman posing as a Brit. It was a great night and the company was excellent.
I’ve been to a few historical places in Georgia. Vardzia, Khvertvisi Fortress, and the Green Monastery all made it into my time here. Vardzia was amazing. The Green Monastery was nice and peaceful. Khvertvisi was quick because it started to rain and we all ran back to the bus but it seemed pretty cool.
I’ve made long-lasting friendships and I will be very sad if I never see my host family again. I know I have a place to stay here if I ever come back and they are more than welcome to stay with me anytime they like. I’m trying to convince my host brothers they need to go to university in the States. You know, to perfect their English, not because that means I could see them more often (lies, LIES).
Looking forward, I have no idea at the moment how my time in Georgia has really shaped me. Hopefully, I will remain grateful of the small things like a hot shower every day, free public restrooms, the large variety of food, and how you don’t always have to speak the same language to enjoy another’s company. The word “hospitality” has been redefined in my head, and I am a Southerner where we are renowned in America for our hospitality. These are the things I hope to take with me back to America to make it a better place.
I hope I have instilled in my host brothers and their schoolmates more than just a better grasp of the English language. I hope I have broadened their minds to a world outside of Georgia. I hope they will open their minds to social issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and religion as they continue to define themselves and become Georgia’s next leaders. Finally, I hope that TLG as a whole makes a lasting, positive impression on Georgia and our respective nations. That it helps us all, as we grow together as a global community, accepting our differences with grace and joyously embracing our common ground.