Eka Memanishvili has spent many years abroad and knows how difficult it can be to live as a foreigner in a strange land. The life experiences she gained while studying for three years in France make her uniquely well suited to her role on TLG’s Non-Academic Team. Since she joined TLG in August, 2010, Eka has been the Non-Academic Assistant, the Tbilisi RR for Non-Academic, and now the Non-Academic Coordinator.
Hello, Eka! How are you today?
Hello Raughley, I’m fine, how are you?
I’m well! What do you do at TLG, Eka?
I’m the Non-Academic Coordinator but before that I was one of the Tbilisi Regional Representatives and even earlier I was the Non-Academic Coordinator’s Assistant.
Okay, and what are your current responsibilities at TLG?
So, my current responsibilities are to find schools and host families for volunteers, to place the volunteers, and, after that, if they have any kind of problems in the host families or in the communities, we help volunteers resolve the situation!
How has the transition from being an RR to being a coordinator been?
It was not very hard for me because I have been with TLG for two years, so I know a little bit about each department and I know everything that is happening in TLG. So as for the Non-Academic Department, I was the coordinator’s assistant and then I was the Non-Academic Tbilisi RR and I was already aware of everything going on in the department, so that is why it was not really hard for me.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I cannot really describe the “typical” day because you never know how the day will turn out! (laughs) I guess one of the main things is to monitor and support the regional representatives. Also, if the volunteers have any kind of problem, I have to solve or help them to solve their problems.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite aspect— (pause) I think that my favorite part of my job is helping people. When you know that there is someone who really needs your help and you can do something for them. When you know that somebody has nobody here and is alone in a foreign country and you are the only person he or she can rely on.
On a related note, I understand that you have studied abroad; where and for how long?
I studied in France for three years and it was amazing experience for me.
I was only 19 when I first left (laughs), so it was really exciting. It was my first time being without my family, just living alone. It was also my first time being abroad. I was in an international school and I had a lot of international friends there which was really new for me.
What has been the Non-Academic Department’s greatest accomplishment?
I think the greatest thing we are doing is the just to assign the right person to the right family. I mean, when we are going to the host families and inspecting them, we get a sense of who they are and what kind of volunteer would be the best fit for them. And when the volunteers arrive here and we have all the information about who the volunteers are, then the greatest thing is then to assign the right volunteer to the right host family.
Okay, great. How do you think TLG has been received by Georgians, especially by Host Families.
At the beginning it was a little bit strange for them. The terrible thing was the first impression that many families had at the beginning of the program. They thought that American teachers were coming to Georgia to replace Georgian teachers in schools and it was kind of a shock for them. But then, they realized that these people are here to help Georgian teachers, Georgian children, schools, the community. So then it became a little bit (laughs) I mean, they changed their mind very soon. I think when we placed the first group and they started living and teaching in the schools, those first groups of volunteers were able to just change people’s minds very quickly.
If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be, and why?
Oh! (laughs) Mmm! Oh, I don’t know (pause). Maybe, I would be a (pause) orange?
(Laughs) I don’t know why, but it was the first thing—
Because it can be sweet and sour at the same time (laughs). I can also be both at once! (laughing) It depends on the situation!
How has TLG impacted you personally and/or professionally?
Personally, I think that as it is my first real serious job, I became a more serious person. I’m very motivated now. I’m not lazy (laughs)—I never have been, but, still, I’m more concentrated on the details and I know how to work on a team. I now know how to communicate with different types of people. I believe that everything I have right now, I got from TLG.
Okay, just a couple more questions here. What is Georgia’s best tourist site?
Georgia’s best tourist site? Maybe Kazbegi. I don’t know (laughs) maybe I’m just saying that because I went there with TLG volunteers! But this place is really great. I mean, if you are in Georgia you just need to see it.
Use three to five words to describe Georgia.
Georgia? (Pause) Mmmm. (pause) I don’t know, “orange?” (laughs)
Okay, and last question: What is your favorite kind of Khatchapuri?
My favorite kind of—Oh! (laughs) This is the best question! My favorite kind of khatchapuri is adjaruli. But you need to go to Batumi and only eat it there if you want to have the real taste of khatchapuri. (Laughing) Thank you for this question!
Thank you for this interview!