Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A day in the life...

After school today I met with my conversation group, and we talked about our normal days - what a normal day is like for them here, and what a normal day was like for me in the U.S. (did I ever have a normal day??) Anyway, as I was walking home I realized that I have shared all sorts of stories of random happenings and my thoughts of cultural aspects of life here, but I haven't yet written about my daily routine. I've been here long enough to have established some semblance of a routine, so I will share it with you now.

I run in the morning before school every other day. On mornings that I run, I get up at 6:45, dress, and am out on the road just before 7. I run 30-40 minutes on the main road. It is still dark, so my keen night-vision comes in handy! I have to treat the road like a trail, running on my toes to absorb the shock of the stones and dips from the pot holes. Most of the animals are still sleeping in their cozy barns or pens, so I don't have to worry about running into a cow or pig in the road; although, I have scared a few pigs who must have been out late and had to sleep outside their gate on the sidewalk. It's really funny to see them run like mad, bouncing off the fence, trying to get in their yard to get away from the scary human running by them. They squeal as if they are being stuck with a pitchfork! When I get back home, the sun is just coming up, and Tea is already in the kitchen getting breakfast ready. After a hot shower (thank God I have hot, running water at my house!!!), I sit in the kitchen and have a lovely breakfast. Tea is an amazing cook! I tell her everyday that she is wonderful and that she should open her own restaurant! She feeds me more than I can possibly eat - fresh homemade bread - often just out of the cookstove - with home-churned butter, khatchapuri (cheese-filled thin bread), fresh cheese and fresh eggs fried together (if the hens laid eggs that morning), local honey, homemade yogurt, coffee, and sometimes chocolate. I finish getting ready for school, and at 8:45, I leave the house.

It takes about 10-12 minutes to walk to school. The 10-15 minutes before school is the busiest time on the road - and the traffic is mostly foot-traffic! Most of the kids and teachers walk. I like seeing the little knots of students walking arm in arm down the road. Seeing the groups converge on the school building from all directions makes me think about the importance of education for these kids. They are coming together from their little corners of Shamgona to learn as much as they can so they can make something of themselves in the future. These kids are bright, determined students (well, most of them!) in a country that is developing rapidly. They should have good opportunities for good jobs when they are out of school. When I arrive at the school gate, the students who saw me walking are lined up outside the gate (usually at least 15 students of all ages) to say hello and welcome me to school, then they all follow me though the gate and walk me to the front door. I feel like the pied piper without the pipe!

School starts at 9:00, and is over at 2:20. There is no lunch hour - just six 45-minute classes back to back with a 10-minute break between each one. Mondays I teach three classes, Tuesdays I have four classes and a conversation group after school. Wednesdays I teach four classes. Thursdays I have five classes and a conversation group after school. Fridays I only teach two classes in the morning, and then I am finished for the week. The hours that I am at school but not teaching I am able to do lesson plans for the following day or study some Georgian.

I often walk home with students who live in my direction, so we get some extra English-practice in -- or we have a mini-lesson in Georgian as they teach me how to say things that we walk by. On Monday and Wednesday I am home well before 3, and on Tuesday and Thursday, not until 4. Fridays I am home before noon. Tea always has lunch ready when I get home. Again, she has more food on the table than I can possibly eat - the ever-present bread and cheese, butter, fresh curds, fish, potato salad made with carrots and pickles, pickled cabbage, mandarins or apples, honeycomb, something I always forget the name of in Georgian - a sort-of pudding made of corn flour and grape juice (it's delicious!), and hot tea -- today she cooked some local mushrooms with some hot pepper pesto she made - it was amazing!! Tea and I usually get a chance to talk during lunch and afterwards. I am so glad that I am able to help her improve her English. She was so nervous at first to speak, and she had a hard time understanding me, but every day she is getting better at understanding and speaking. In less than three weeks, she has made marked improvement.

In the afternoons, I spend time reading, drawing, taking a walk, and studying Georgian. Elene usually accompanies me when I draw and when I study Georgian. She helps me write the Georgian letters and read - she is a good teacher, and she demands perfection! If I mispronounce a word or write a letter backwards, she clucks her tongue with a sharp, "Ara!" ("No!") and makes me do it until I get it right...... except for some pronunciation. There are a few of the letters that I cannot pronounce - one of the K's (), one of the T's (), the GH (), the QKH (), one of the TS's (), and the TCH () are impossible! No one can explain to me what the things inside my mouth are supposed to do to make the sounds - everyone just says the sounds louder and closer to me! I tell them that I can hear the sound, but I don't know how to make my mouth make that sound! I may get them someday; I may not!

Right now the sun sets around 5:30. I think that time is going to get earlier for a little while yet - but when the sky is clear, the sunsets are lovely. The trees around the house are mostly hazelnut which are short, skinny trees, so the majority of the sky is open. The sunsets seem to go mostly unnoticed by everyone but me - a couple of times I have pointed out the brilliant pinks and purples to Tea. Elene practices naming the colors in English. When the sun goes down, the damp air gets especially cold, so Elene and I go inside to continue whatever we have been doing - reading, writing, drawing, or language-learning. Inside, the warmest room is the kitchen - a small room with a wood cook-stove, a table, a couple of chairs, two benches, and some cupboards with a countertop. There is a TV in the corner, and today I noticed that it is sitting on an electric stove! The stove is not used - Everything that comes out of the cook-stove is wonderful, so I wouldn't change a thing. In the kitchen, the TV is almost always on. Tea doesn't watch it much - she is always busy - but "our grandmother" (as Tea calls her) does. Most of the programs she watches are Georgian-dubbed Spanish telenovelas! If I listen carefully and read lips, I can understand most of the Spanish underneath the flat Georgian dubbing. The programs are eccentric and over-the-top dramatic. "Our grandmother" is very into them - she talks to the TV while the programs are on - it's quite entertaining! During commercial breaks, she always looks at me and says "Tchame! Tchame kargad!" ("Eat! Eat well!")

Around 7:00, Tea makes me more food - "tea," she calls it. So I sit with her at the table and eat again, have more hot tea, and talk some more. I like the time that we have to spend together talking. Tea is very nice and she is a good teacher. She has only been teaching for a year and a half, and she is eager to become better at motivating her students. Her teaching style is a lot like mine - informal and relational. We talk a lot about education, and how to get through to students. The Georgian system leaves much to be desired, but that is a topic for another post!

Between 8 and 9, I wash up and say goodnight to the family. In my room, I put things away from the day and get things ready for the following one. I check my email and facebook and write my blog post. Before I go to bed, I often do some crunches, push-ups, and yoga poses. So much sitting around makes my back hurt, and since I am not rock-climbing at all, I want to do a little something to keep some strength! Between 10:30 and 11, I am ready to cocoon myself under my pile of blankets to keep warm for the night. And as long as the dog doesn't bark too much, I fall asleep fairly quickly to get up and do it all over again!

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