Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First weekend with my host family

Written on 10/10/2011

So far, things with my host family have been really great. I’m really fortunate for several reasons. Firstly, I’m in a city. A small city, but a city none the less. I was kind of hoping for a village placement, I had been mentally preparing for no hot water, no running water, outhouses etc since I signed up and here I am in a house 15 minutes walking distance from the downtown area, indoor bathroom where you can even flush your toilet paper, hot water and a washing machine. The only modern convenience we don’t have is a stove. They have a small gas burner, something like an oversized camping stove, which they seem to use to cook everything. Not to say it’s really nice and modern here, but it’s much more than I was expecting.

I’m also lucky because the aunt that lives here speaks fairly good English. She has a very difficult time understanding me, but she can communicate with me quite well and explain all the things going on around me. The father can also speak some English. While it’s not very advanced, it’s enough to communicate. My host mother doesn’t really speak a word of English, but since I’ve arrived, she’s picked up 4 or 5 words and she seems to be eager to learn more. She’s always a bit apprehensive around me because we can’t really communicate well, but hopefully we’ll get to know each other better soon. I’m also living with two children, an 8 year old girl and a 12 year old boy. They are both great and we communicate with a mix of Georgian and English. The girl has kind of adopted me as her new best friend… or new favorite toy, I’m not sure which, but she points to random things and tells me what they are in Georgian. I’m afraid I’m a poor student for her, I’m kind of in word overload and my mind is not soaking up anything. I’ve picked up the following phrases which I use to communicate everything:

It is good: kargia
It is bad: Tsudia
Beautiful: Lamazia
Car: manqana
I am…: Me var
Where is …: sad aris
My: chemi
Hello: garmajova
Nice to meet you: sasiamovnoa

I do know more than this of course, I did have 5 days of language classes, but these seem to be the only words that will come to me quickly enough to use them. Hopefully I learn quickly but I’m just in overload at the moment.

My house seems to be layed out in a similar scheme to most other Georgian houses I’ve seen in the neighborhood. Two floors with the stairway to the second floor outside. There is an indoor stairway, but it’s very steep and ladder-ish and feels quite awkward to use, especially if you have anything in your hands. My room is by far the nicest in the house. They clearly recently renovated the room for guests. Newly wallpapered walls match the new curtains I have a big double bed and two wardrobes. I plan on buying some hangars because at the moment all my clothes are on shelves. The other two bedrooms are a bit sad looking. The kids room has two twin beds shoved together and you need to cut through the parents room to get to it. It doesn’t seem as though there is any electricity in those rooms. They gave me a flashlight to cut through those rooms to use the bathroom at night because if I were to use the outdoor stairway to go down, the front door would be locked. There are two other rooms in the upstairs, but they seem to be rather a work in progress. One is completely empty and full of dust, the other is full of scrap wood. They told me that they will put electricity in those rooms soon. The downstairs is nice with a kitchen cabinet area and a sitting room area with the TV. Off of that room is the large living room with a piano (I’ve been told that pianos are rather like a piece of furniture here with most people owning one) and sofas and a table. No internet or computer, but they said that we will get internet for the house (or for my computer?) soon. Here you can buy the usb drives that use internet through the phone network. The device is quite expencive though (two different companies, about $100 USD and $50 USD respectively) plus you need to pay for the monthly service, and the price varies depending on the useage of course.

The house also has a yard with an overgrown garden and a large metal structure that seems to be for growing grapes. Most houses have something like this in their front yard. The back yard has a sink (no sink in the bathroom, they’ve told me that this will be moved into the bathroom soon too) and a small house for storage plus several lines hung for drying laundry. There are gates which lead into the neighbors yards and it seems that neighbors are always coming and going from our house. It’s a nice community atmosphere here and it’s the sort of town where everyone knows everyone. As we took a walk around town we bumped into all sorts of people whom the family knew. This was a student, this was a teacher, this was the son’s mother, etc etc.

So far the weather has been beautiful. During the day it feels close to 80˚F but with no humidity so it is very agreeable. But, because it is now October most people seem to be wearing fall clothes, long sleeves, pants etc. I was quite warm dressed like that and have opted to wear clothes from my summer wardrobe. I’m not sure what I’ll do for school since I haven’t brought many nicer summer clothes. All my “teacher” clothes are for the winter. Hopefully it cools down soon! Tbilisi, the capital was a bit cooler than here, so I was thinking that I’d packed just right. The problem with this program is that they don’t tell you your placement before leaving, so it’s hard to know how to pack. 

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