Teach Abroad - Republic of Georgia, Teach Abroad Programs

A Letter From Georgia

by Alan Black, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Georgia

It has been a beautiful day in the village and I am glad to be alive.

There is no lettuce in Georgia. Sometimes all a man wants is a romaine salad, a chicken breast and some steamed vegetables. Not going to happen here. Just cabbage, cabbage, cabbage. Although, the food in my house is excellent, Nattie and Manana, do a great job of working with the products that they have. It’s amazing the different ways that potatoes and eggs can be served! There are no American food restaurants in Batumi, so I’ve become accustomed to ordering the Georgian items that I enjoy. The only problem is that they are calorie and carb heavy. My favorite thing is Kachapuri; essentially a baked white bread pie, split open and filled with cheese, butter and a raw egg. I know, I know; the raw egg sounds disgusting, but mix it all together and it’s exceptionally tasty.

I’ve eased into my family soundly. Georgians always look like they are mean mugging you, until they speak and they end up being open heartfelt. They are most welcoming and hospitable culture that I have ever experienced. I would have to say that if you seem jolly and smile, the majority of people, in most cultures, will be welcoming. I use it to disarm shop and restaurant workers.  They are not afraid of invading your space or privacy and I think that’s why the concept of family is so important to them. If I’m typing something or doing some school work at the table in the living room, my host brother Mayda or host sister Nattie, will plop down right next to me, lean on my shoulder and just watch. It was a little unnerving at first, but now I’ve gotten so use to it that I do it to them. My western concept of personal space is slowly eroding. I like it.

No one in my family speaks English. A typical conversation  with someone in my village or my family goes like this: He’ll say a lengthy sentence in Georgian and then I’ll say a lengthy sentence in English and if we’re lucky we might understand one word of the other’s language. I’ve had fifteen minute conversations with people and the only thing that I walk away is that, perhaps, we both enjoy petting dogs? It can be quite amusing at times.

I brought home Fanta tonight, so everyone is happy.  I love my Baybo “Grandmother.” She cleans the school and makes 50 Lari a month. She dresses in that typical black garb, complete with head scarf that is so prevalent with the western image of the dreary elderly soviet woman.  They are good people. This realization makes me feel small. I find it amazing that I can pick up from a place, one that I considered filled with thoughtful people, and move to another place across the earth and find the same human characteristics of love, compassion, family and a sense of welcome.  Everyone wants to feel important, be respected and have someone care about them. It is universal. I think humans should recognize the differences in cultures but celebrate and respect the universality of human thoughts and emotions. There would be fewer wars.

Observations: I believe that 95% of the time they are laughing with me, but the other 5% they are laughing at me. And Jeopardy is no fun if you can’t understand the questions.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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