Well, my attempt at the power of positive thinking didn't work. Even though I kept telling myself not to fall prey to the feeling, I'm sick. I have what I think is a cold - my nose is runny, I'm sneezing, and my chest burns when I cough. That last part has me slightly worried. The climate here is very different from what I am used to - it's damp and chilly - not the dry cold of Pennsylvania winter. The smoke in the air right now is not helping my breathing nor sinuses, either. It's tree-pruning time in the hazelnut orchards (which everyone in the village has), and any small branches that can't be used for anything are piled and burned in the field. The leaves that fall from the trees (it's still sort-of autumn here) are also swept up and burned in the front yards. For the last few days there has been almost constant smoke in the air - not real thick, but enough to be affecting me. I've been ingesting more hot tea with honey than any other liquid, and the neighbors' mandarin orange trees are laden with fruit, so I have vitamin C galore! I am praying that does the trick! Being sick is wretched anywhere, but being sick in another country really sucks!
A few days ago I emailed TLG in Tbilisi to ask them if they could put me in touch with other English teachers who are living in my general area (it will be nice to have some conversation at a normal rate of speed and get to know others who are here teaching) - I also told them a little about my village and school and how wonderful everyone here is. Well, it seems that the extensive communication is the same everywhere in Georgia - not just in the village. This morning when I went to school, the director of the school thanked me over and over for the nice things I had told the Ministry of Education! TLG had forwarded my comments to the Ministry of Education who forwarded them to Zugdidi's Educational Resource Center who called my school director and passed on my comments. All the teachers were thrilled to hear that I had sent a good report to the Ministry of Education. Although that wasn't my intention, I am glad that they know I am happy with the school and my job. The director had other news to pass on to me, too. The police had called her yesterday after talking with me and asked her to have someone who speaks English ask me if I would take my walks further away from the Abkhazian border. They want to keep me safe. I promised to stick to the Georgian side of the island and walk on the other river instead of the border-river.
Late this afternoon, Tea and I walked to a neighbor's house to pick some mandarins. I think her name is Irma - she has a beautiful garden with lots of agave and palm trees in the front of her house with four or five mandarin trees as well. Irma gave us a bucket and when we had filled that, she brought out a large bag for us to fill. She picked oranges with us, chatting away with Tea. When the bag was full, she invited us to come in for some "compote." (A drink made from whole fruit that is boiled with a little sugar and then put into large jars with some of the fruit.) She led us inside the lower house and sat us by the fire while she bustled around setting out tea-cups and saucers, spoons, sliced up oranges, peaches from the compote, and the compote juice in a pitcher. As we sat at the table, she apologized for not having a larger spread to put out for her guests. Georgian hospitality! They love having guests, and they will do everything in their power to make their guests feel welcome. I am on the receiving end of this generosity and hospitality daily. And it's not a front - it's not surface - each person is genuinely happy to give anything they have to anyone who needs it. The sense of community is a way of life here (it even beats the Mennonite sense of community!). The need for each other is strong - the village is more like one great family, functioning for the good of the whole. I'm sure they don't even think about what they are doing, it is a natural part of life for them to share everything with everyone. Why is it that those who have the least are willing to share the most?