A couple of weeks ago I was told that there is a second public school here in Shamgona. It is an older school that is about 4 kilometers away from the school where I teach. It has grades 1-8 only, and has about 50 students total. The students who go to that school live in a smaller village (if that's possible!) to one side of Shamgona. When my school director, Nunu (through Lika's translation) told me about the school, she said that the members of that school wanted to meet me and talk about having me teach there, too. Lika, Tea, and I had already solidified my teaching load - a full load plus two after-school sessions per week - and told Nunu that I did not have time to add the other school to my weekly load. I thought that meant that I did not have time to add the other school to my weekly load. Right.
At the beginning of this week, Nunu reiterated that the other school wanted to meet me. So she arranged to have me go during the school day on Friday. I was hoping to get out of it - I really don't like being paraded from one room to the next smiling and saying hello to lots of people - but, there was no way out! I had to go. So today around noon, the director from the other school drove over to pick up Nunu, Lika, and me and drove us to his school.
I had seen the building a couple of other times. It is a wooden structure in a square-U shape, set up on sets of cinder-blocks and concrete posts to keep the floor of the school off the ground. This construction keeps air-circulation flowing underneath the building to keep the moisture at bay. The building is old, and with the constant dampness, the wood is very warped. The exterior was at one time painted bright blue. Age has reduced the paint to chips that cover about 50% of the surface. The twisting planks of the exterior walkways that lead from room to room make walking rather tricky. The interiors of each room have walls to match the undulating floor. On the whole, the building looks like it should fall down at any moment. But the warmth of the place is palpable. It is the kind of building I am drawn to - to photograph. The character in the old, worn wood and chipped paint and rusted metal hinges draw my attention. They tell stories. Each step that is worn into a groove from being stepped on thousands of times stands as a testament to the teachers who have devoted their days to teaching - and to the children who have devoted theirs to learning. (I am hoping to be able to photograph the building - inside and out - before I leave. From my artistic point of view, it's wonderful!) I was able to meet the current devoted ones!
The director led us to the teachers' room - a small, cozy room with a desk, a small table, a few chairs, a wood stove, and some bookshelves. A few of the teachers were sitting there, and rose to greet me. They led me then from classroom to classroom, introducing me to each of the classes. The students smiled and greeted me with a unison, "Hello. How are you?" The older students talked a little more, but the younger ones just smiled shyly. After meeting everyone, I followed the director back to the teachers' room where plates of cookies had been set out along with coffee and wine. Oh, yes - more toasts. We sat around and talked for a couple of minutes when the subject of my teaching there came up. The director was being very adamant that I should come and teach there at least one day every week or two. Everyone looked at me expectantly. I looked at Lika - my translator, my fellow-teacher - we both sort of cringed and said that I have a full schedule. That was not a satisfactory answer. The directors discussed the matter very loudly and if I didn't know better, I would have thought they were fighting. (Georgians are very emotional and passionate about everything. It always seems that they are yelling when they are just talking....heatedly.) The other director kept insisting that I should come teach there, too. I don't know what Nunu said that finally made him drop the subject, and he began with the series of toasts that are mandatory at such gatherings. We stayed for about an hour and then the director drove us back to our school. He started in again with asking me if I would come and teach at his school. All I could say was, "Me ar vitsi." - "I don't know." That was the only thing that seemed mildly satisfactory.
I feel so bad saying no. I don't have a problem saying no - I can do it much better than most people! But knowing how much they would appreciate having me there makes me wish I could clone myself and send the other me there to teach. Those children deserve every chance that my current students have. But I have already committed to the school I am in - it is the one to which I was assigned by the government. Lika and I are going to suggest to them that they request their own teacher from those who are yet to arrive - more international teachers will be coming through February. There are so many wonderful people here who all desire to learn. I wish I could give my time to all of them!