So, I've been in Georgia for two and a half days! All my flights were uneventful, and when flying, that's a good thing!! I spent 17 hours in the air! The flight from Sacramento to Chicago took over four hours - Chicago to Amsterdam was over eight hours - and Amsterdam to Tbilisi was also over four hours. The flight to Amsterdam was overnight, and I slept a few hours. On the flight to Tbilisi, no one was in the two seats beside me, so I put up the armrests, lay down across them, and slept most of the way! It was great! I had seen the baggage crew put my bags into the plane while we were waiting to take off, so I slept soundly knowing that my luggage would arrive with me!
In Tbilisi, the wonderful staff from Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) was waiting for us - eight of us arrived together on the flight from Amsterdam - the smallest intake-group so far (I like having a small group so we can get to know each other better!). There were news cameras and reporters there, too, wanting to interview some of us to find out why we decided to come to Georgia to teach. Although I had slept, the time change (a 12-hour difference) and amount of travel lay on my eyes heavily. It was difficult to appreciate all the newness surrounding us. We exchanged money at the airport, loaded our bags and ourselves into two vans, and drove into the city. It was dark, so we couldn't see too much, but what we could see was really cool -- the Mtkvari River runs through the center of the city. Along the river we saw part of the old section of the city that I definitely have to go back to explore! There are sulphur baths and wonderful cathedrals and mosques. But sight-seeing is not on the agenda yet!
At our hotel we checked in and then had dinner together - we've had all our meals at the hotel so far, and have been very happy with the food. How can one go wrong with cheese-filled bread? There is fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal, too! And olives…… Two of the guys got some local wine to share at dinner tonight - it was pretty good, especially for less than $3 per bottle! I guess it should be good since Georgia is the birthplace of wine!
Starting Tuesday morning at 9, we have been immersed into Georgian language and culture classes as well some teaching methodology. I have to say that I don't have a headache from learning……yet! I do feel for all my Spanish students, though! Four hours of new language each morning is almost more than the brain can absorb! Thankfully I had learned the alphabet and basic numbers before coming - it is really paying off! Reading is still a lot of work, but it is coming more easily to me than to some of my fellow-teachers! I feel like we have covered a quarter's-worth of language class in two days! At the end of class today, I felt like my brain had turned to stone, and the new words were just bouncing off! It will sink in as soon as I have to start using it on a daily basis!
We started cultural training this afternoon, and it is going to be so helpful! Today we talked about culture shock, it's stages, and how to deal with it. I have experienced culture shock several times in my life, and I know i will experience it here. Knowing what the stages are and how best to deal with each is going to help me this time around! Recognizing that the wonderful newness of everything is going to turn into annoyance and irritability with everything puts perspective on the "honeymoon" stage (the initial one). And after the annoyance phase, one starts to adjust to the new way of life. Even though this phase begins largely unnoticed, knowing that the annoyance phase has an end will make getting through it much easier! And with adjustment comes acceptance and assimilation into the new culture. I think being aware of the specific stages will help me to temper the negative portion more quickly -- at least, I hope it does!