Love for a place

Posted on October 4, 2013 by


In my first post of the new school year I’d like to introduce myself. My name’s Matthew Pizza. I’ve been with TLG since October, 2011. Starting this month I’ll be managing this blog, which entails editing posts, directing content, communicating with contributors, and writing lots of posts. I look forward to providing a range of content, from teaching advice to travel guides, photography albums to host family stories.

When I came to Georgia two years ago I never imagined I’d be here this long. But something about the country seduced me, and I went from counting weeks to months to years. I spent the majority of my time in a village near Dmanisi, living with the same host family and teaching at the same school for twenty-one months. I’ve traveled almost everywhere in Georgia except Batumi. I’m not a fan of beaches.

The highlight of my travels has been Svaneti, where I hiked alone from village-to-village for ten days. I found the Svans to represent the greatest traits of the Georgian nation as a whole: an indefatigable warmth toward guests, an affection for family members and loyal friends, and a boundless love of drinking and eating.

Now I’m living in Tbilisi. I’m still teaching, too. For the first time in almost two years I’m the new and mysterious foreign teacher. The endless questions I fielded back in 2011 about my family, my favorite things, and my culinary experiences have returned, reminding me of the inherent curiosity and exhausting exuberance of Georgian children.

One question that frequently stumped me: “Why are you in Georgia?”—the implication being that Georgia is a developing nation with frequently difficult living conditions. Why would an American or Brit or anyone from a rich country come to Georgia to teach and live? Often an older pupil would ask, wondering why someone living in America would surrender a high salary, a Chevy, a quiet house, and shopping malls to come to a Georgian village where the supermarket is inside a rusted-out train car and the school is heated with wood.

At first I’d trouble with this question. But now I know: I’m here because I love it. It’s that simple. A person’s love for a place has no logic—it’s only defined by feelings, experiences, and a certain terroir or atmosphere. Georgia is more than the sum of its parts. All of it combines into something that far outweighs the difficulties, something magical, something that I want to be a part of.

Mount Ushba, taken during my trip to Svaneti last May

Mount Ushba, taken during my trip to Svaneti last May