For the last two full days of orientation we mixed up the rhythm a bit, but it was still quite a full schedule. Georgian classes in the morning and information sessions and methodology in the afternoons. My Georgian language is progressing a little, but unfortunately, my listening comprehension, even in class is pretty bad. I think I've got 3/4 of the alphabet down, at least so that I can recognize them, but it will be a while before I'm able to write them on my own. Not to mention distinguish between similar letters.
One thing I really wish we had done on this orientation is have a group excursion and actually see Georgia. I've only been more than 100 meters away from the hotel 3 times in the past 7 days and each time only about 4 hours each. Fortunately, last night, one of the other volunteers asked our teacher where a good place to go to see some Georgian culture was and got the name of a restaurant. All we knew was that there was Georgian food and wine there, but about 30 of us jumped into a bunch of taxis lined up in front of the hotel and zoomed over there.
The restaurant was small and nice but we knew we had picked the right place once the music started. From the little I've seen, it seems that Georgians love to sing and love four part harmonies. There was a variety of acapella music and other singing.
Then the dancers came out. There wasn't a whole lot of dancing, but we got to see a few numbers. It was not what I was expecting at all, but it was fabulous. The music and dancing here is so lively and interesting. I can't really compare it to anything I've witnessed before.
Thursday evening, the last evening of training, we were finally given our assignments. I was told that I was placed in a city in the Samgrelo province. I’m not sure if I’m going to disclose the city name on the blog or not for privacy reasons. If I had been placed in a village, I wasn’t going to since I would probably be the only foreign teacher in the area and it would be impossible to keep my identity and my host family’s identity private. But, as I will be in a city, it may not be as big of a deal. There are two other teachers from TLG placed in my city and there are others that are already there as well. I will see how things go. I may give more information on my location as the time passes.
Friday morning we went out for our last jaunt around Tbilisi. Many main streets downtown near Freedom square were closed off to traffic and there were police everywhere. It’s because the president of France is in town this week. Street cleaners were working hard to make the city center look beautiful.
We came back to check out of our hotel and the host families and school representatives had all arrived to pick us up to bring us to our respective cities, towns and villages. They had a quick meeting and then it was time for us to meet our family and go out into the real Georgia. We were placed on either side of the room and they announced the names one by one and we clapped for each person when they found their family/ school representative.
I was picked up by another teacher at my school who happens to be the sister in law of my host family and lives with us. I am really lucky because she speaks some English. In fact, her English is quite good, she’s just never spoken with native speakers much before and her listening skills are not yet up to par. Don’t read this as a complaint, though, I’m quite happy to have someone to translate for me because the rest of my family doesn’t speak much English at all. The host mother only can say yes and no, the host father seems to know about as much English as I do Georgian, but he communicates quite well with these 10 words. More on that later.
From the hotel, she took me by taxi to Tibilisi Central a bus and train station in Tibilisi. We found the bus to my region and loaded it up with all my things. There were about 5 or 6 other TLG folks on my bus as well with their respective families/ school reps. After loading everything on, my host went and bought our tickets and came back to announce that the bus was scheduled to leave at 4. It wasn’t even 2 o’clock at this point. Fortunately, we were both hungry, so we went off in search of a restaurant. It took us a while, but we found a good one and she ordered lots of yummy stuff.
We made it back to the bus just in time to hop on. Six hours or so later we were in my city and meeting my host family at the bus drop off point. In my next post, I’ll write more about my first few days with my host family.