Last Friday we were in Kutaisi, Georgia. We finished our training and this was the day that the Georgian teachers’ staff gave us away to our host families. It was like being in the pound and waiting to be adopted. All of the volunteers and host families were eagerly awaiting the appointments to begin. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. It was a little scary and we were all nervous. Kinda like meeting your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
All of us volunteers sat on one side of the room and the host families on the other. After a long introduction and break down of the program by the program director Mia and Nino, we were introduced to our host families one by one. Nino called out their names and the names of their school/district in Georgian. Next she called our names out in English. Some people hugged, some shook hands, and some even cried. I discovered that some of the host families (not mine) are also Muslim.
For me, I was introduced to Eka (photographed on FB) the Georgian English teacher and our school’s Headmaster Elena. I was told that I was going to live with Eka and her husband Archiko and his mother I am to refer to as Bebia (grandma). Archiko and Eka do not have any children. Archiko’s other sister Mari has two girls.
Me and Jonathan Kennett (another volunteer) loaded up into a marshrutka with our two host families and left for the Imereti region. The district nearest to us is Kharagauli which is a decent sized city west of mine and Jonathan’s villages. My village is called and Vertkvichala (which I have yet to attempt to pronounce). The whole trip lasted about an hour and a half. We drove deep into the mountains. Immediately I felt like I had stepped into a Vietnam movie or maybe even the movie “Braveheart.” The mountain areas are very beautiful and the houses are built along the sides of the mountains and rivers. My house (photographed on FB) is along a river with a bit of climb up to the front porch.
Yesterday was the first day of school. I have never witnessed a first day of school like this one. All of the students, teachers, parents, the Headmaster, and other school personnel gathered in the front entrance of the school. The Headmaster gave a long speech in Georgian about the new school year and her expectations. She mentioned me during her speech and gave gifts to some of the children.
The three top students from last year were given presents from the President (I’m not sure if they mean the President of Georgia or the district). Those three received new laptop computers later that day. During the Headmasters speech some of the children came up and sang traditional Georgian songs. One of them sang in English for me. I was asked to say a few words. They seem to like the fact that I am from Georgia and therefore a Georgian. Then they played some traditional music and the Headmaster’s grandson performed a traditional dance.
In our classes the children sat quietly while Eka introduced the two of us. We had one class that was first or second graders and another that was 12th grade. It seems that I will have two classes a day of various ages. For these first couple of days we are not teaching anything but rather getting to know each other. I answered questions about America (apparently they all want to go there). I asked the children what they want to be when they grow up and why they want to learn English.
Later that night, we watched the news and saw that the President of Georgia and the Minister of Education and Science visited a couple of schools. Obviously they went to the nicer, private schools in the nicer cities. One of our volunteers got to meet the President. I think all of us were interviewed by some form of the media. I was interviewed by two girls who seemed to be from a newspaper. They took photos of us and our students and interviewed me using a tape recorder. Of course it all had to be translated. Before I left school I was asked to join a feast or Supra (not sure about the spelling).
They put out a large spread of traditional food, fruit, juice, and of course lots of homemade wine. I never dreamed that I would do something like this at school. We did several toasts with the wine. Some were directed toward the school and all of us working there and one was directed toward me and all that I will accomplish at the school. I gave a toast asking that Eka and I would do a good job teaching English. I left the school with a pretty good buzz. I was fairly exhausted. Today I actually got to teach the alphabet to some of my students as well as some sentences using present perfect tense. It was interesting to say the least.