One of the things I was most worried about before arriving here in Georgia was the whole "host family" situation. To have no idea who I would be living with, nor under what circumstances made me nervous. I learned all sorts of things online about the country, the food, the history, the land, the language, the alphabet, and the music before I got here. It was good to have a general overview of the place I would be spending the next several months. But I had no idea what my exact, personal corner would look or feel or sound like. I had read several blogs by individuals who were already here, but their experiences and circumstances varied so greatly, I couldn't nail down anything specific to help me envision my place. I was so afraid of drawing the short straw, as they say, in my living situation. Thankfully, that fear was unfounded, and instead, I feel that I have been blessed with a wonderful host family, especially with Tea.
Back before I went off galavanting around the world over Christmas break, Tea told me something that accurately depicts the depth of her character. We were sitting in the kitchen (of course!), and she said that she wanted to speak frankly with me for a minute. (The Georgians don't often speak frankly or directly.) She proceeded to tell me about the weeks before I arrived as the town and the school prepared to receive a foreign teacher.
The government of Georgia announced its plan to bring native English speakers to the country to co-teach with the public school teachers in an effort to raise the level of English in the classrooms -- both in the students and the teachers. The Ministry of Education asked each school to submit applications from families who would be willing to host a teacher for the duration of their time here. The Ministry put out a carrot of monetary compensation to motivate people to open their homes to so many English teachers. In Shamgona, there were over twenty applications that were submitted to the school director for consideration. Tea wrote out an application and turned it in to the school director, but the director did not send it in to the Ministry of Education. The school administration felt that Tea's house was not nice enough for the school's guest teacher. But when the Ministry of Education rescinded its promise of payment to the host families, every single one of those who had submitted applications took them back -- except for Tea. She again approached the school director with her application and said that she didn't care about the money. She knew that her house was not the nicest in the village, but she wanted desperately to have the teacher live with her to help her better her language and teaching skills. Since her application was now the only one, the school sent it in to the Ministry of Education.
I know that Tea did not tell me that story to make herself look good. She wanted me to know that she wanted to do this from her heart, not for money. She realized the impact that this opportunity will have on her for the future of her career, and she is serious about wanting to be the best English language teacher she can be. This is only her second year teaching, and she is already a very good teacher. She and I have very similar teaching styles (informal and relational), and her students love having her as a teacher. It is a joy and a privilege to co-teach classes with her, and even more of a joy to live in her home.
So, as I sit in my room and write this before going to bed, I feel blessed. I may be wearing two tank tops, a long-sleeved wool shirt, a hoodie, a scarf, sweatpants, and knee-high, wool socks and be wrapped in two fleece blankets to be warm enough to sit up and type this (my fingers are awfully cold) -- and I can see my breath -- and the rain coming down is just probably just one degree shy of being snow, but my heart is warmed by the acceptance and appreciation that I feel every day in the house I live in.
It seems that everywhere I go, I find good people -- and Tea is among the best!