I got my ticket, finished packing my bags and was off to the airport. Getting the bags through security without having to pay an overweight charge (50 pound limit each) was the next step. The first bag weighed 49.4 pounds and the second 48.9! I made it under the weight allotment for Turkish Airlines.
There were a lot of thoughts going through my head as I sat and waited for my flight to Istanbul and my arrival in Georgia for my teach abroad program. I think the truth was finally starting to sink in… In a little more than 24 hours, I would not be in the U.S. I would be in a country I have never been to before. A country where I do not speak the language, where I know no one. And I am getting tired. I can feel my body reacting to the lack of sleep and the stress of packing and leaving everyone I know.
The international terminal is fun. So many languages and ethnicities all in one place. The cutest little boy of about five walked by with his dad and asked “Are we going to outer space?” I wonder where they’re really going. I talked to a man who had a toddler. I heard him speaking German to his son and when the boy toddled over my way I started also to speak to him in German. Turns out he has not started talking yet, but can understand Russian, German and a dialect of Turkish. Amazing!
It was exciting to see Istanbul from the air. I called and got a window seat so I would be able to see out. The city and the water were beautiful. And it was a most welcome sight after ten and a half hours on the plane. I was able to watch three movies and get some sleep. I met a woman on the plane who has dual citizenship with Georgia and Italy. She spoke very little English and I speak neither Italian nor Georgian so most of our conversation was using hand gestures.
Because it was 3:30AM when I landed in T’bilisi, Georgia, I was not able to see the mountainous countryside I knew to be there, but it was great to see the lights finally coming into view. Once landing and getting through the passport control, all of the volunteers met up to get our bags. Then we headed out to meet our program coordinators, who where waiting for us with signs and smiling faces. We then hauled our bags out to the waiting bus. Getting my two just-under-50-pound bags up the steps into the bus proved to be an adventure, but with help I was able to manage.
The bus was old with multicolored seats and an old smell. We drove through the capital city of T’bilisi to get to the Bazaleti Palace Hotel where were to spend a week of training. I tried to look out the window as much as possible but in the dark all I could really see where dozens of HUGE apartment buildings. All were very rundown and old. Thousands of people must call them home. It was after 5:00AM when we finally arrived at the hotel, unloaded the bags and got our room assignments. For the next hour or so, in between taking a hot shower, my two roommates and I used the free wireless internet to contact family and friends. How nice to have some conveniences.
Breakfast was to be between 8:00AM and 10:00AM and I tried to stay awake until then, thinking I could eat and go to sleep until lunch. Well I didn’t make it. I woke up just in time for lunch at 1:00PM! The bed was wonderful and it felt SO good to be lying down. Right after lunch I headed out into the city with a group of people to a medical clinic in order to have a few mandatory tests done. I was not sure what to expect from a Georgian clinic, but I was pleasantly surprised. The people were very nice and everything was very modern, even though the building was again, old. The real adventure was getting to and from the clinic. The Georgians are WILD drivers! Weaving in and out of lanes. Using their horns and breaks all the time. It reminded me of being in Ghana.
By the time we got back I felt like I had been here for days and yet I had just arrived that morning. After meeting with the whole group (75 in all) and dinner it was finally time for a good nights sleep. A tiring few days, but all in all a great beginning to my time in Georgia!!