Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our time zone is GMT: "Georgian Maybe Time"

Something that our Georgian-culture instructor told my intake group during our training week was that Georgians (on the whole) are not very concerned with time and think that details are irrelevant. Planning doesn't really happen - spontaneity is more the operative word. For the most part, I am a flexible, easy-going person who likes to go with the flow. But sometimes my east-coast, fill-every-day-to-the-fullest, schedule-driven societal background overshadows my flexibility, and I get a little annoyed at the lack of information and details - or the constant changing of both!

For almost two weeks, my school has been planning a field trip with the 7th and 8th grade to go to the city of Kutaisi to see a couple of historical landmarks (I think). We were supposed to go last Saturday, but on Thursday, the trip was postponed because of some problem with getting a bus. I never did get the whole story on what happened. The outing was postponed to this coming Saturday. Then yesterday, I was told that the director of the Educational Resource Center here wanted to have a special gathering for someone on Saturday and somehow that affected the trip, so it was postponed again. This morning at school, the principal said that the trip was back on - then a couple of hours later, it was off again - and by the end of the day, I got word that the bus had been scheduled, so we would be going. HOLY COW!! At this point I am not holding my breath that it will actually happen, but if Saturday morning rolls around and there is a crowd outside the school with a bus, I'll get up and go! I like spontaneity..... but indecision drives me nuts!

Or maybe things just get lost in translation. At the end of the day yesterday, I was told that after school today there would be a little party for some special guests who would be visiting the school. A businessman who is from Shamgona donated money to have a physics lab put in the school. He and some other people were coming to see the completed lab and to congratulate the physics teacher here, Lela, who received an award from the Georgian president for her teaching. All day long, all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed. I really didn't feel well, and although I was well enough to be at school, hanging out afterward is not what I wanted to do. I was hoping that I could somehow bow out and go home. Yeah, right! After our last class of the day, Lika mentioned that we should get ready for the suphra. Suphra?! I thought it was just a little gathering.... I sat in the teacher's room and watched as the ladies worked feverishly to turn it into a banquet hall. They whisked in and out of the room with tablecloths, stacks of china, silverware, glasses, and napkins. They had the long worktable covered and set for 30 people in a matter of minutes. Then the food started coming in - again I watched (everytime I try to help with anything, they tell me, "Sit! Sit!") as each dish was put onto serving plates and placed with almost mathematical precision at regular intervals down the length of the table so that no matter where one was sitting, a sample of every dish would be within reach. The foods are becoming familiar to me: khatchapuri, bread, vinagretti (potato salad), eggplant with walnut paste, homi (kind of like polenta) with fresh cheese, a couple of meat dishes, pelamushi, and lots of fruit, cakes, and chocolates. Then came the bottles of mineral water, soda, and wine. Like the last suphra I attended, not an inch of table could be seen for all the plates of food! There would be no escaping the "little party!" When the guests arrived, we all sat down, and ate and talked - and ate more - and then the toasts started. If I didn't know that the Georgians were very passionate about expressing their thanks, I would think that they were just trying to out-do each other with the toasting! But they are very sincere in their gratitude and their desire to see others do well and be well. For more than two hours, we ate and talked and toasted. Somehow I ended up being asked to give a toast for Lela - Lika translated for me - and later I ended up with the email address of the business man on a piece of paper in my hand. How do I manage to get myself into these things? I think I need to study more Georgian so I can understand what is being said around me and about me! Things don't always get translated for me - fully! Finally at almost 5:30, I was able to leave.

My mantra (now that it's not "don't buy a plane ticket home rashly") is going to be "flexible and spontaneous - flexible and spontaneous." Yes, I can do this!

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