I arrived in Georgia earlier this year in February. I was placed in Khashuri, which at the time was one of the coldest and most demanding places I had been considering I had never seen snow, let alone experienced a winter that cold.
You may be asking yourself why I’m telling you about something that has already come and gone, but I’m getting to that, just give me a minute. I am now placed in Batumi (Injalo to be exact, a little village just 5 mins out), having replaced friends of mine at their old family who I had got along with very well the last semester when I had been there to visit.
Point is, I am now in a new city, with a somewhat new family, entirely new village, new teachers, new students and as far as I am concerned, a whole new everything. So I think I am going to write as if I am on two sides of the fence, the new volunteers point of view and the volunteer with one semester under his belt unfazed by some of the splendor which is Georgia.
Let me begin by telling you about the new experiences that I have dealt with being a new old volunteer…..yeah yeah, I am that guy who says corny things like that.
I flew into Batumi from Tbilisi using that new FlyGeorgia plane that they have got. If you have the cash and you’re not in the mood for long trips, it’s the way to go, 30mins and you’re in Batumi. Anyway, so we come out of the airport, and here I am thinking that I’m a smart “donkey”, that I know Batumi, and everybody else should know that too, but nope! The minute I stepped out the airport, there I was looking at a Batumi taxi driver, angry as hell because he was trying to rip me off…..and then it hit me. As long as I was going to be in Batumi, I was not a volunteer but a tourist.
Everything felt new, as if I was seeing it for the first time. I was not a visitor anymore; I would have to learn the bus routes, the taxi prices to fight for and which numbered marshutkas go where. I felt that when I left Khashuri to go back to South Africa for the summer break that I was bored and tired with Georgia, but being in a new city with a different type of people and new things to learn, I felt invigorated again, as though it was the beginning all over again…….. I felt EXCITED!
I met my new teachers, was introduced to my new classes and told that I have to teach at School No.28, which has two different locations 3kms apart. Yeah, it’s crazy, but an awesome kinda crazy because one is massive, and the other is tiny and the dynamics are completely different. A story for another day I’m sure.
So I had to now establish myself in this new school, create new relationships and so on, but it is so difficult, as I am struggling to not compare everything to my last school which I loved so much and a school whose first volunteer was me, whereas I am the third at this school, so the novelty has worn off. It is difficult, as I feel that our novelty factor is and will always be our biggest weapon for motivation and curiosity for some of the different aspects of teaching we would like to introduce. So far it’s okay at my new school, it could be a lot better, so stay tuned as I will let you know in the future whether this novelty factor that I speak about has any substance, or it’s just my own laziness that I need to quell.
Now the challenges of being the old dog who has gotta learn new tricks. In other words, the volunteer who has the experience of a teaching semester in Georgia.
Firstly, I realized that I am completely comfortable with being stared at by Georgians who have yet to see a black person with their own eyes, pulled at by the homeless and being expected to hold as much alcohol as a keg, as it is of course a measure of my masculinity…hahaha! I got used to that very quickly, and kinda missed it at times.
Then I had to meet the family as a new member of the family and not a guest. Share more intimate information with them so that we could get to know each other a whole lot better, and that’s when one of my biggest fears had become a reality……
I was to be compared to my friends Nathan and Taylor, who had stayed there before. My likes, dislikes, routines….etc.
I realized a long a time ago that your best friend when being in Georgia is finding your ‘own’. Everything is a lot easier, a lot simpler and a whole lot more fun when you stop trying to fit but instead, you find your comfortable space with your family, your school and everything else in between. I had found my own, and now its time to do it again.
In the end, I am an old dog learning new tricks with the hope that the new experiences, people and old learning curves will all contribute to a fantastic new semester with fantastic new adventures. Yeah, this is one of those feel good stories, hahahaha!!!
Live. Laugh. Love