Teach Abroad - Republic of Georgia, Teach Abroad Programs

No Lights in the Stairwell; Adapting to Life as a Teacher in Tbilisi

by Heidi Gatzke, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Georgia

Georgia is starting to feel like home.   I moved into my apartment this week and have been trying to make it feel like my own.  The day I moved in, the previous family was still here, packing up their things.  I felt a little strange moving in with them still around, but I get the feeling this occurrence is not uncommon here.

I live in a large, concrete building that was built by the Soviets in, I would guess, the 60s.  There are no lights in the stairwell, and I live on the 4th floor!  The flashlight on my cell phone has come in handy more than once since I have been here.  There is a tiny kitchen with a gas stove and sink (no refrigerator yet), a nice size living room with a shelf full of old Russian books, a bathroom with a toilet (western style!), a sink and bathtub and another sitting room space with large windows.  My roommate and I each have our own bedrooms.

Although I have been told by numerous people it has been a warm winter, it feels cold here.  It has been windy and the heating in the apartment is not quite to the standard I am used to.  My body is just going to have to adjust.  Only two more months of winter anyway.

Over the past week, I have tried to explore the city of Tbilisi and the region of Gldani where I live.  I have now taken the bus, the subway, taxis and marshrutkas.  My Lonely Planet guide book describes the subway this way:

“The deep, dank Tbilisi metro is the standard fast, efficient Soviet system seen all over the ex-USSR.”

The word “deep” is an understatement.  There are escalators that take passengers up and down, which is lucky because I have never been in a deeper, steeper subway!  But they are clean, safe and are a great way to travel from one part of the city to another.  A marshrutka is a minivan with a pre-determined route, but no pre-determined stops.  This means you have to flag down the number you want, by literally sticking your arm out.  And when you want to get off, you yell to the driver to stop.

We are not allowed to drive while here in Georgia.  It is clear to me why everyday.  Drivers are INSANE!  Because I work with police officers, many of whom are traffic cops, I decided to ask about the reckless and fast driving that seems to be the norm.  I asked my supervisor about it and his response was, “If you follow the rules, you will be crushed!”  And he was serious!

Most of the time I walk.  The apartment is about a 25 minute walk from the Police Academy and I have been doing that most days.  This way I can stop at the little shops and markets to pick up things if I need them.  I am excited for the weather to warm up a little to make the walks a little more pleasant.

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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