Hailing from Lithuania, Renata has been helping Tamara with Orientation Training since February 2012. With a BA from the University of Vilnius in International Relations and Political Science, an MA in Nationalism Studies from Central European University, and having spent a semester abroad in Turkey, Renata is especially qualified to lead Intercultural Training!
Renata, what were you doing prior to working for TLG?
Well, I came to Georgia two and a half years ago. In the beginning I started learning the language and doing some research. I had a research grant from the Heinrich Boell Foundation to do some research here in Georgia connected to international relations and political science, which is my background. I was also writing some articles as a freelance journalist for newspapers in Lithuania about what was going on in Georgia and the region. At the same time, I was participating in NGOs. Back in Lithuania I was a member of one NGO and a volunteer for ten years. I did lots of trainings and summer camps and academies and a lot of projects there and I helped organize one youth exchange project here in Tbilisi. So, back in those days, I had more—kind of, free time where I could do a lot of different things.
And how did you get involved with TLG?
Well, I was looking for some real job. You know, (making air quotes) “real.” I really wanted to do something involving interacting with trainees. I had some experience in training and I thought that I could learn more about it. I saw some advertisement for TLG so I applied and I came here. And I stayed! And I like it!
Excellent! What are your responsibilities here at TLG?
Well first of all I am responsible at training. I am Tamara’s assistant so I help her with everything that occurs at training, and with preparation, and also with writing reports afterwards. Anything I can do to make her job easier—she needs to coordinate the whole process so I try to take care of a lot of technical details. Also, I conduct intercultural training and I try to improve it all the time, think what could be better, what could be more accurate—I’m always reading some literature about it, and so on. At the office I am involved in different projects like providing on-going training for the TLG staff and organizing some projects for the staff members to bring them together and to learn some new things and improve ourselves.
What is a typical work day like for you, say, during training?
Oh! During training? So, we wake up very early in the morning. We come to the Bazaleti hotel around nine o’clock—well, before nine o’clock because at nine we usually start the training. We have to prepare all of the rooms and see that the hotel people have arranged everything that needs to be arranged and see that all the speakers and teachers and trainers have everything they need. All day long I attend the trainings or the sessions and see that everything goes well. And if somebody’s missing I call them and ask how they’re doing, check that they’re not sick, that they don’t need anything. And then if there is intercultural training I conduct that as well. And answer all questions and solve any problems if they occur. Training days are usually busy days.
Sounds like it! If you were a volunteer, what would be your favorite part of orientation?
Oh! Well I do hope intercultural training! (Laughs) But I think that I would really like the first day, when you have just arrived and you have this introduction meeting and you see everybody gathered in the room. You get to meet them, you get to know them and after that you are kind of left alone to just communicate and chat. I think I would like that.
How does your family feel about you coming all the way to Georgia semi-permanently?
Oh that’s a tough question! (Laughs) Um, so I have a Georgian husband and I moved here because we decided to get married. My family really liked him, but it’s hard for them that I live so far. So they hope that someday we will come back. I don’t know if it will ever happen, maybe, maybe not. You know in Georgia it’s hard to plan (laughs), but we keep in touch. I think it’s a little bit difficult for them because of that. But Lithuanians love Georgia, generally.
Has your family come to visit?
They all have been here. They all have been here at least once and I think they will be coming more.
Great! And how has TLG impacted you personally and/or professionally?
Oh! Well, it actually has impacted me a lot. I have learned quite a lot about preparing a whole training in a systematic way, foreseeing all the little details that need to be there, that need to be in place. And I also learned a lot about responsibility because we are responsible for these people during their first week in Georgia and they’re quite sensitive to what they hear and what they experience. Because that’s their first impression—it’s how they start their whole volunteering service. Yeah, I think I grew quite a lot during this half a year.
What is your favorite animal and why?
Hmm. Well I like pets, but not dogs (laughs). No, dogs are okay, but there are better animals.
Such as—well I have two favorite animals, generally. Horses and cats.
Why horses and cats?
I love horses because they’re very sociable and very friendly to humans and to each other. It’s very easy to make a connection with a horse. Plus, they are beautiful. And I love cats because they are so independent and they have their own character. And it’s possible to bond with a cat, but they choose who is their master; they do not just obey everybody.
Which group of volunteers is the best and how can the next group top them?
Are you asking me to tell everyone the number of my favorite group? (Laughs) The best group of volunteers is one who comes really prepared and interested and who are eager to leave training—but not so eager that they won’t listen to what we are telling them., because the things that we tell them we say because they’re important and based on the experiences of previous volunteers.
What is your favorite style of khatchapuri?
Well, actually, khatchapuri is the only Georgian meal that I can make myself. But my favorite would be the one with the cheese on top as well. Megruli.
So Megruli, or Renatuli?
I haven’t tried to make Megruli, so maybe I should!