Matthew Pizza is a Minnesotan and unabashed Italian-American, which means he enjoys deli meats, The Sopranos, and enunciating his sentences with “ooohhhh!” He’s believes St. Paul is superior to Minneapolis and thus the rightful capital of the Gopher State. He loves pizza so much it’s his middle name—well, actually his last. After graduating university he spent a year working for one of the federal government’s more bloated agencies, then called it quits after deciding to teach overseas. Despite the pay-cut he’s found that life in Georgia is meditative compared to the rush hour mornings and high-stress afternoons of a bureaucrat’s cubicle hovel. He’s been in Georgia since October 2011, first living in a village near Dmanisi for 20 months, then moving to Tbilisi and taking over TLG’s official blog. You can read his tangential ramblings on his personal website: matthewpizza.com.
Benjemi Barnard (Interviews with TLGVs) is a South African who packed her bags and moved to Georgia in May 2012. She studied journalism at the North West University’s Potchefstroom campus before focusing on news stories for a variety of newspapers. As a true journalist, she always carries a pen and paper while consuming litres of coffee. She enjoys talking to the chickens in Dmanisi (Kvemo Kartli), reading a range of different books and shouting at the referee in Afrikaans during a rugby match.
Engela Claassen (Georgian Food and Wine) looks like a Georgian girl, but is a sassy South African. After studying toward a BA in Language and Culture and working in the hospitality industry, she decided to leave small town South Africa behind and embark on a new adventure. The requirements were simple; new people, new language, new alphabet, and TLG fit the bill completely. An inhabitant of Senaki, Samegrelo-Zvemo Svaneti since September 2012, when she isn`t in the classroom, she is either reading a book or on a bus, going off to explore all that Georgia has to offer.
Nick Drozd (Georgian Language ) moved to Georgia after getting an MA in philosophy at the University of Memphis. His blog georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever – a pithy mix of amateur linguistics, semi-professional philosophy, and funny pictures – has been described by some as “the driest of all Georgia travel blogs.”
Daryl Fernandez (Stories about/ Interviews with Georgians) is a history, literature and music buff, who came to Georgia on a plane one day and decided that it was as intoxicating and culturally magnificent a country as any he’d ever been to before, (including his own dear and native Canada). He is a graduate of the University of Toronto at St. George campus, where he studied European History, with a particular interest in World War One politics and heroics. Since coming to Georgia more than two years ago, to the province of Samegrelo, Daryl has tried to become fluent in the Georgian language while exploring a bit of the Orthodox traditions, the music, the dances, and Megreli hospitality. He remains hopelessly devoted to his village school and to the teaching of English as a second language to this day.
Leah Quinn (General) has been called a kargi gogo so many times it is now the only personality trait she can identify about herself. She used to spend her time doing yoga and lying in bed with her sister’s cat, but nowadays you’re likely to find her trying to make her host brothers exercise, as she is the self-proclaimed Richard Simmons of Imereti. She used to live in the State of Georgia, and recently graduated from The University of Georgia with degrees in Religion and International Affairs. She enjoys keeping her family and friends from back home in a low level of panic through her Tumblr Peaches and Babushkas.
Kacie Rahm (Georgian History and Culture) is from Bellingham, Washington, USA. She recently graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a personal blog about Georgia at http://georgiawashington.wordpress.com in addition to her posts on “Making a Difference.” She lives and teaches in a village in the Chokhatauri district of Guria, where the weather has stayed surprisingly warm through the winter months. She passes the time by blogging, reading whatever English material she can get her hands on, sitting around the pechi with her fabulous host family, and watching “The Wire” on her laptop.
Jackson Tse (Photography) likes to play outside of his comfort zone, create music videos in his head while listening to songs, and accidentally interrupt meetings while exploring new buildings. Armed with a camera and still learning to use it, Jackson snaps what he sees and hopes for the best. Having just graduated with a bachelor’s degree, Jackson is trying his hand at international education. You can see more of his work (and contact him) at http://jacksonwctse.wix.com/travel.
TLG Blog Alumni:
Sabrina Badger grew up in Carson City, NV, and over the course of getting a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame and an M.Phil in Russian and East European Studies from Oxford, she has studied in the U.S., France, Russia, and England. After working in Washington, DC, for two years, she decided to do something completely different and traveled around the Black Sea for a month and a half and then spent two months farming with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). She has been teaching with TLG since January, 2012. You can read Sabrina’s personal blog at planestrainsmarshrutkas.blogspot.com.
Shawn Basey joined the TLG team only recently. He first came to Georgia years ago, after fleeing the dull life of a desk jockey federal investigator to become a Peace Corps volunteer. He spent two years helping at a youth center in Kvemo-Kartli, teaching computer and English classes to teens and young adults. When the cold chill of winter set in, he finished his first novel and taught himself to play accordion. After his tenure in the Peace Corps, he set about traveling through Europe with his squeeze box, playing at parties, bars and on the street, wherever he could to finance his travels and
carousels, meanwhile taking furious notes – in the form of a blog at www.saintfacetious.com – to contribute to his second novel. He then landed in Kiev where he again picked up his teaching trade, focusing this time mostly on adults. After a brief accordion wielding stint in the United States, he decided to return to the Caucasus and join the TLG program, thinking this would be as good a place as any to continue his burgeoning writing and accordion careers.
Sid Bittman came to Georgia in January 2012, after graduating from the University of Colorado, where he studied International Relations and Russian. His favorite foods are lobio (often called haricot, here in the Republic) and chicken wings. He can juggle. He speaks English like a native, can discuss politics in Hungarian, and can do stand-up comedy in Russian. He can order cheese and bread in Georgian. He’s most looking forward to adult mediocrity, and is thrilled that his beard has finally come to fruition.
Mikkela Blanton graduated from South Utah University in 2010 and began working for the American Civil Liberties Union before moving on to Hartford, CT where she was an assistant director for a left-leaning third party. After 1.5 years working in politics, she decided to apply for TLG to make more immediate positive impact on the world through teaching. Her interests include, but are by no means limited to, hiking, biking, running, skiing, reading, politics (specifically civil rights and the labor movement), and world affairs.
Nathan Bourne, who arrived in Georgia in August a few months after graduating from The University of The South where he studied Russian, Philosophy, and Environmental Studies, lives in Guria on the coast of the Black Sea. He has a deep passion for the writings of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Aristotle, and St. Augustine, as well as for plant identification and temperate deciduous forests. He currently spends his days hoping for reprieves from the Gurian rains and opportunities to explore new places along the Black Sea coast and in the nearby hills, and is looking forward to nothing more than the arrival of a whole new world of the spring flora from the Colchic forests of the coast to the alpine meadows of the Caucasus Mountains. His musings—botanical, philosophical, and otherwise—can be found here: http://rhododendron-caucasicum.blogspot.com/
Andrea Boyer has been teaching in Kakheti since September 2011, where she is attempting to master the art of being an old woman before moving back to America: crafting, reading, watching Spanish soap operas, and dressing in whatever necessary to keep warm. She graduated with a BBA in Marketing and moved in Georgia after working as an Employment Specialist for individuals with disabilities, neither of which, she realizes, have anything to do with teaching or Georgia. She currently writes a blog, Mulling and Musings, which has an audience of approximately nine people and follows the highs and lows of living in the unknown.
Gladys Calderon is a casual writer and aspiring world traveler. She studied International Studies in Sunny San Diego, California and worked two years at the International Center of the University of California, San Diego. Inspired by the adventures of the international students and scholars she encountered there, Gladys embarked on her own adventure to Georgia and has been embarking on consecutive mini-adventures ever since. She writes to share her experience, more than to make a point, but hopes others may find her blogs helpful and enjoyable.
Stacey Carmichael is a Midwestern girl from Indiana who has been traveling and living abroad for the last 5 years. Upon graduating with a degree in education, she moved to the other side of the world having been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English in South Korea. After two years, she moved to Kuwait to teach at an international school. She is now working as an English educator at a police station in Zugdidi, in the Samegrelo region of Georgia. Following her time in Georgia, she will be attending a full time International Development master’s program in England. Stacey’s favorite past time is exploring new countries; she has traveled to over 50 countries thus far and has no intentions on slowing down.
My name is Keorapetse Keketso Chakela, which fittingly translates into “I prayed for you to visit” but everyone just calls me KC–I am sure there is no explanation needed. I started with TLG in February 2012. I studied Culinary Arts and Hospitality at the Swiss Hotel School and in 2011 I published my first poetry book in the USA called Live. Laugh. Love. I played national tennis for South Africa, participating in junior championships at Wimbledon, the US Open, and others. My passion is writing, travelling and just loving every aspect of life.
Philip Cornelison is a southern gentleman (like his mama raised him) from the state of Alabama in the USA, currently living in Guria region of Georgia. He is using neither of his collegiate degrees (BS Biology, MBA), and is loving every minute of teaching his schoolchildren. In his off time, he is eating khachapuri and an assortment of potatoes, relaxing with his host brothers, and, when the internet is available, writing blogs about what he likes, dislikes, and observes at teflertales.wordpress.com.
Born and raised in Southern California, Andrew Delavan attended the University of California, Irvine where he studied English with an emphasis in creative writing. Within months of graduating he went to teach in a private language academy in South Korea, where what was an excuse to travel became a love for teaching. He is currently teaching grades one through nine at a small village north of Khoni in the Imereti region, and spends his free time playing football, exercising, reading, and yes, even a bit of writing.
Faiza Din loves writing and has experienced the media world but ultimately chose teaching as her calling. She joined TLG in January 2012 and is placed in Kakheti, where seeing the Caucasus Mountains everyday is absolute bliss for her. She enjoys travelling, meeting people, eating food and listening to all sorts of music; realises her addiction to Formula 1 motorsport but is not ready to seek help; and really wants to see Star Trek dubbed in Georgian.
Mary Ellen Dingley studied cultural Anthropology at the George Washington University in DC, but is originally from the American state of Georgia, a fact that led to extreme confusion the world over when she moved to Sagarejo, Kakheti region in September 2012. She hasn’t been here long but already has half the town convinced she is just a very quiet, confused Georgian teenager. She longs to share her love of Star Wars, gardening, zumba and contemporary Peruvian culture with her host family, and valiantly fights the language barrier to reach this goal. You can find her mental meanderings at her blog 37 Seconds and find her actual person hanging out with the chickens in the backyard, on her 7th attempt to read Harry Potter in Spanish.
Jason Fazzio‘s interest in Georgia was cemented following a vacation to Tbilisi in 2007, after which he saw a perfect merging of his interests: obscure literature and languages, underdog ethnic groups, international politics and teaching. As a non-professional in all of the above, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to Georgia as a professional in a field he has achieved a degree of mastery in — speaking his native language.
Kiyoshi Kadota may often be found sitting at home, listening to the Crybaby Macarthur tape, eating too many chili-cheese burritos and generally making a mess of things. You know that cozy little cockle in your heart that’s supposed to be reserved for the ‘special someone’ that the liberal media would have you believe is out there? Kiyoshi fills that with cigarettes, used bicycle parts, potato pizza, and daydreams of Tonya Harding. Kiyoshi has been in Georgia — ruining it for the rest of you — since the month of May in the year of our Lord 2011.
Bruna Kesserwani is the author of brunafications, a blog she never intended anyone but her 2 family members to read. Bruna has been teaching in Rustavi since February 2011 and has since discovered a passion for cheese-bread, gossiping and writing. Before TLG, Bruna was a certified mixologist in downtown Washington, D.C., a position that utilized the majority of the skills and knowledge she acquired during her four years earning a B.A. in Global Affairs at George Mason University.
Cass Lowry, while keeping a personal blog of his adventures and insights at educationingeorgia.wordpress.com, is excited to write for Making a Difference to share more professional ideas about the TLG project and its daily workings. A teacher from the states, he came to Georgia in August 2011 to pursue his interest in comparative international education by participating in the revolutionary reforms MES is rapidly introducing in its country.
Kelsey Maher joined the TLG team in August 2012 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied the politics and cultures of Russia and Eastern European nations. While teaching in a Kakhetian village, she also finds time to study foreign languages, practice piano, and update her blog, Blowing in the Wind. When she is not in the famous wine region, Kelsey is traveling Georgia gathering delectable recipes.
Lauren Michels is a native of Minnesota, USA. Before resettling to Rustavi in early September 2011, she lived in Madison, Wisconsin. There, she was a student at the University of Wisconsin and breakfast waitress extraordinaire. She is enthusiastic about mornings, bicycling, hiking, plant life, history, and panpipes. When she’s not surveying Rustavi’s awesome 20th-century relics, she can be found in the Tbilisi sulfur baths or perhaps taking photos of Ladas.
Mzuri writes Living Rootless, a blog about living a portable life after selling her house and all her stuff. Mzuri’s professional background includes mediation, group facilitation, policy analysis and development, program management, and training. Currently, Mzuri teaches English to police officers in Rustavi through Teach and Learn with Georgia. One of Mzuri’s missions is to reveal the beauty that is in Rustavi, a city that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. Mzuri’s a solo budget traveler whose recent trips include a month in Mexico, two months in Ethiopia, a week in Dubai, and a week in Louisiana’s cajun country.
Amy Nelson is originally from the High Five state of Michigan but was residing in Nashville, TN until Georgia called her name from afar in June of 2011. She loves village life in Kakheti and all the fresh food that comes with it. In addition to traveling, she enjoys not using her graphic design degree, camping, awkardly trying to learn Georgian and eating as much cake as humanly possible.
Raughley Nuzzi studied Soviet History, with a special emphasis on the South Caucasus, at Georgetown and Stanford Universities and has been with TLG since August 2010. He worked as (and occasionally wrote under the alias of) the TLG Social Media Coordinator until December 2012, and spends his precious little free time writing Raughley Goes to Georgia.
Kendra Paradis (also known as Keti) is originally from Boston, MA. She has been living abroad and teaching for 5 years now and shows no signs of looking back. With a BA in Eurasian Studies she feels like she’s finally found the right place to indulge all of her interests. When she isn’t talking about ergative case endings or present perfect tense she’s writing (as the Immigrant Punk) and shenaniganizing; ending up at a supra in a border patrol shack next to a glacier in Svaneti, or backpacking/hitchhiking through Nagorno-Karabakh, sleeping outside a monastery by Mt Ararat and walking through the ghost-city Aghdam.
Mary Rogers arrived in Georgia at the beginning of May 2011, and transferred from Poti to Tbilisi in December 2011. After 13 very exciting months in Georgia, she decided to indulge her inner nomad and go off traveling for a bit. She plans to return to Georgia in January 2013. Guess she didn’t learn her lesson the first time. Pre-supras and marshutkas, Mary worked at a government relations firm in DC until career ennui gave her the kick she needed to relocate halfway around the world. Check out her adventures and misadventures at My Journey Westward.
Amy Marie Sandager joined TLG in January 2012 after receiving B.A. degrees in English/creative nonfiction composition, psychology, and Russian studies. She writes two blogs, Back in the (Former) U.S.S.R.—about her year in the Kakheti region of Georgia—and Barbaric Yawpings, and is supposedly in the preliminary stages of writing a novel. Her other big project at the moment is an adaptation of the Plutarchan legend of Coriolanus but with a musical theater twist! In her spare time, Sandager reads voraciously, plays the piano, translates Russian poetry, knits things in Nordic patterns, attempts to persuade people to move to Northeast Iowa, and finds beauty in everything. (She also has a really great Minnesota accent. It comes out occasionally. Especially when she has to teach first graders the word ‘boat.’)
Katie Shea, moved to Terjola in June 2012 after finishing her Bachelors in Political Science and International Affairs in Arizona, although she is originally from, and prefers her hometown in Barre, Vermont. With past volunteer experience teaching ELL students in the States, a teaching assignment abroad was a natural choice as a gap year activity before attending graduate school where she plans to specialize in developing countries’ educational policies.
Caitlin Smith started with TLG in January of 2012, after spending all of 2011 teaching English in South Korea and traveling throughout Southeast Asia. In Georgia, Caitlin is enjoying teaching without worrying about the demands of South Korean mothers, but has struggled to find a suitable replacement for a Starbucks latte. A native of Boulder, Colorado, but a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, DC, Caitlin likes to spend her free time hiking, exercising, playing soccer, watching baseball, following world affairs, and traveling.
Shawn Swinger, as the legend goes, was born somewhere out in the wilds of Northern California. Whether he was raised by wolves or in a modern home in Lake Tahoe, no one knows. Spending the years of his early twenties balancing between Hawaii and East Asia, engaged in various service projects, he felt the need to become an educated man. He studied Modern European History at San Francisco State and, supposedly, graduated with his BA in 2012. Ever feeling the gravitation towards travel and and connecting with local people, he has now found himself in the Guria region of Georgia as an assistant English teacher. When not plotting world domination or holding philosophical discourse with the neighbor’s pigs, he tries to find ways in which to better engage his students, love on his host family, and explore the reaches of the Caucasus.
Dan Thompson is a teacher and author from America. He studied at the Sorbonne and was a Peace Corps volunteer forester in the Sahara. He worked with diplomats’ children in the Hague and Geneva and Bantu refugee children in South Carolina. He taught on the Navajo Nation and studied folklore in Chiapas, Mexico. He taught at Thammasat University in Thailand and Suzhou University in China. His wife is a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.
Raised in the frigid and snowy lands of Minnesota, Charlotte Vaillancourt has called the desert and red rock canyons of Zion National Park in southern Utah home since 2004. However, since July 2010 she has spent most of her time residing in Batumi, and repeatedly telling people in the US, “No, I don’t live in that Georgia.” Possessing an MBA in Sustainable Business and professional background in tourism management, she works with tourism students at Batumi State University for TLG. When not talking about tourism, she likes to be a traveler herself immersing herself in a country’s culture through its food and art. Her experiences in Georgia, as well as Zion and Israel, can be found at: Charlotte in Zion.
Brigid Weir is loudly and proudly South African. She studied Sports Management and Coaching as well as doing a PGCE, and is, scarily enough, a qualified high school teacher. She has had an on-again/off-again relationship with Georgia since January 2011. She is an avid fan of all things funny and all things book. She has a wild imagination and can often be found hiding inside it. Some of her favourite things include the smell of pencils, receiving hugs and delicious chocolate. She also writes her own blog in which she expounds on any whimsical thing that comes into her mind.
Sarah Weldon is from Oxford, England, and began life as an environmental science and outdoor pursuits instructor with people who were disabled or disadvantaged, and became interested in acquired brain injuries after training with a mountain rescue team. This led her into a career in forensic and developmental neuropsychology and later into medicine. She has now come full circle and loves being able to teach young people about geography and the world. Sarah came to Georgia in October 2010 and started blogging just before she left, though she really only writes for herself. Sarah stayed in Georgia after leaving TLG, and now runs an environmental education NGO for young people aged 8-25years old. Sarah is a keen scuba diver, and wild swimmer, and loves working on film productions. She is currently preparing to row from California to Australia across the Pacific Ocean.