In training week we are presented with a lot of worst-case scenario situations and, of course, how to handle it. By the time we were waiting to meet our host families, I was preparing myself for the worst, girding myself for battle, as it were. I arrive at my school to find they had a TLG volunteer before and everyone was excited I was there and very supportive of me. And my house has an indoor toilet, hot water, and internet! We have a washing machine! My pillow is amazingly fluffy! My co-teachers buy me chocolate!
I had been mentally preparing myself to living in a manner much different from in my Washington, DC apartment and perhaps for disagreements with my co-teachers. Of course, Sagarejo is very different from DC, but my housing situation is quite comfortable, and the only argument I had with one of my co-teachers was whether or not birds and snakes are animals (they so are! And anyway, if they aren’t, why were sharks included on her animal list?) I feel so lucky that I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop – maybe we’ll lose electricity for two weeks or the horde of chickens will turn on me.
Sagarejo is in the Kakheti region, where the hills are rolling and the grapes (and wine!) are plentiful. My first impression of Sagarejo was that it is rather yellow. The town hall is yellow and most of the shops and buildings on the main street range from canary to muted beige. Sagarejo itself is a town of a little over 12,000 people (according to Wikipedia, that is). Since we live near the town center I’ve never ventured out much further to see the extent of the town, but that extent doesn’t appear to extend very far. Where are all of these people hiding? My own neighborhood, the park, school, the shops, town hall, all of it is so small and compact. I have deep suspicions that around fifty people are crammed into each home. In my own house it took me a rather long time to figure out who actually lived there and who was a neighborhood child that was left in our living room.
I was at first a little disappointed to be in a town rather than a village and to miss out on activities such as seeing the harvest or watching my family make bread (we buy it from a shop). However, I was somewhat mollified when I found that the cows were herded down the gravel road I live on nightly. Also, there was a techno dance party in the park, something that would likely not happen in a village and an experience I would not have wanted to miss (they bring their toddlers. Start ‘em young!).
Really, I’m spoiled. Yes, there are some holes in the floor in school and apparently no electricity on the upper floor (or maybe it’s a plan to toughen the kids up somehow). No, no one will give me a schedule. And yes, I still have no idea exactly what is happening when I am told to get in the car so we can go somewhere. But after hearing of many a TLG experience in remote areas and after teaching in Peru, I actually feel bad that I’m not roughing it more. I think I’ll volunteer to help herd the cattle, or kill the next chicken. The roughest I’ve had it is at the supra when I am forced to keep eating until I see imminent death via khachapuri.
I ran into some English speaking tourists, passing through Sagarejo from David Gareja. After our initial shock of hearing other English speakers, we had the usual mini-interrogation. They asked me what I was doing here and I said, “Oh, I live here.” Weird. I do live here. Three months counts as living, I think, and not just a stopover. At my next supra I will raise a glass to Sagarejo, my yellow, grape-smelling new home.