Goodbyes

Posted on June 18, 2012 by

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I’m starting to get used to goodbyes.

As a TLG volunteer just rounding out my second year, this is now old hat. The friends I’ve made over the past months will go their separate ways – some back home, some to other countries, some to their summer assignments in Georgia. Most, I will never see again.

That’s teaching abroad. You’re thrown together with strangers for a year, and the friendships you develop are short and intense and interesting. The brightest flames burn quickest. Those people whose every blog post and facebook update I hung on last week will be the people I stop following next week. Their pictures are no longer of Georgia, but of their hometowns and their friends and families and old haunts, and I will know that I have let them go, and I will push them out of sight because I do not want to dwell on that which I no longer have.

This is sad, and bittersweet, but I am growing used to it. This will be the fourth time TLG volunteers have gone their separate ways – two winter breaks and two summer breaks since that hot August morning when I first touched down in Georgia – the fourth time I have said my goodbyes to those who would not return. I’ve seen career expats – wanderers who have taught English in several countries before – and for them, this has become almost routine. You learn to attach differently when you adapt to the life of the wandering teacher – the peripatetic pedagogue, as I like to think of those of us for whom teaching abroad is a lifestyle rather than a vacation.

I will be staying in Georgia for a third year – my contract extension has been approved – and so I can look forward to two more such goodbyes. My plan was initially to move on from Georgia after a year or two, to do Korea or the Middle East, to take my experience and go to a higher-paying gig. Something about Georgia just keeps me here, though.

Part of it is TLG. I have watched the organization grow, seen mistakes made and fixed, and ultimately come to feel like the part I play here actually matters – not just in running the blog, but in making suggestions, in giving feedback, in sharing my ideas and trying to help others share theirs. I feel deeply invested in the program, and I want to see – not just read about, but see with my own eyes – it continue to grow and thrive.

And to a certain extent, the same factors apply to Georgia itself. I want to see where the country goes. I want to be here when those Wendy’s branches open up, and when the students we’ve taught English to grow up and staff them, and the other foreign restaurants and the tourist attractions and the posh shops on Chavchavadze, when taxi drivers and vegetable sellers use English numbers instead of Russian ones when speaking to foreigners, and when the term deposit bank account I opened with an 11% interest rate gets big enough to buy me a nice spacious summer home in the mountains of Kakheti.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not quite ready to say my goodbyes to Georgia.

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