Paying it Forward

Posted on September 23, 2012 by


I have been in Georgia for a month, and I have been sick three times.

During my orientation, everyone was physically adjusting to their new environment. Stories of people continuously getting up in the middle of night colored morning conversations over toast and coffee.

My worst case of illness occurred on the second day of orientation. Having only received my cell phone hours earlier, I called the TLG Medical team. By 5:30am, I had a translator, a driver, and a doctor’s appointment arranged.

The first doctor, with whom I had an appointment, was late to the office that morning, so the driver and translator took me to the next available clinic. Georgian doctor offices in Tbilisi are interesting. The way people drive on the roads is the same manner they form lines at the doctors. Aided by the translator, my doctor requested that I have an ultrasound completed and an IV inserted. According to other volunteers’ experiences, these are typical Georgian medical practices. In the end, I decided to opt for an at home treatment of six medications rather than the simple IV.

My experiences at the various clinics have taught me several things. First, it made me thankful for the prompt response from the medical team. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinent to our jobs, my visits have shown me the importance of a shared language between speakers. As a volunteer, I face language barriers on a daily basis; however, the translator was able to communicate my symptoms in a manner that I could not. Since then, I can hardly keep track of the amount of Georgian people who speak English and have helped me when I am lost, angry at a taxi driver, or too ill to comprehend my surroundings. Therefore, if at times you get frustrated this school year, think of your students as future Georgian interpreters for tomorrow’s TLG volunteers, tourists, and other English speakers.