It rained again today, so when dance class was over, I stepped outside with my iridescent purple/blue umbrella and waited a minute to see if anyone else was walking my way. One of my eighth-grade girls, Angela was. Under the protection of her own umbrella, she joined me in the road and together we started for home. We talked a little bit about dance and the different styles that we are learning -- well, that I am learning -- she already knows them all and is a fantastic dancer. Our conversation then turned to family.
Her parents and older brother are in Russia, and with the border now closed between Georgia and Russia, they are separated. Angela is living with her grandparents in Shamgona. Many families are split up like this. Because there are so few jobs to be found in Georgia, there are many who have gone to Russia to work and send money back to the family in Georgia. The border used to be completely open between the two countries, so those who were working outside of Georgia could return whenever they wanted to see their families. That is no longer possible. Russia is not deporting Georgians who are there, but if they leave Russia, they can't go back. The families opt to stay split up for the sake of financial stability.
I asked Angela if she misses her parents (silly question, I know). She peered out from underneath her umbrella; beautiful hazel eyes connected with mine as she nodded a slow, sad nod. I held her gaze from underneath my own shelter, and with my own tight-lipped nod said, "Me, too." She smiled, and we both felt each other's desire for our loved ones. I had to swallow hard against a lump that rose up in my throat that was sure to bring tears if I allowed it to take hold.
It is hard to be so far away from family and friends. The comfort of being surrounded by the unconditional love of family has no comparison. Even though I am well-cared for and have made friends here, I miss my loved ones. Yesterday I saw my parents on Skype. This morning I talked with my brother through my computer to his phone. I chat with my sister and friends on facebook often. Technology has made staying in touch easier, but it is still no match for sitting in the same room with them.
Every so often, Tea can see that I miss my family. We have gotten to know each other well enough that we can read each other's expression and mood. I can tell when she is tired or upset. She can see when I am pensive. She'll say, "You miss your family," with a seriousness that matches the weight of my emotions. I usually smile sadly and agree. Having lived in Russia for a year, she knows what it is like to be away from home for an extended period of time. Knowing that she understands how I feel helps me to take strength from her quiet support.
Today at school before our first class, Tea and I were sitting in the teachers' room talking about........ something. I don't remember what. We were completely oblivious to everyone else around us as we carried on our conversation. At one point, we laughed about whatever it was that we were sharing. One of the older teachers (one who keeps telling me that I need to stay here) commented on how intimately Tea and I interact -- as if we were family. She said that both of our faces light up when we talk to each other. I said that living with someone allows friendship to grow stronger more quickly. Tea heartily agreed.
At least, living with a kindred spirit allows friendship to grow stronger more quickly. Trying to live with someone who is not a kindred spirit is like an uphill trudge in the mud. You'll make progress, but it will be messy, tough work.
I have thought about June -- when I leave to go back home to the U.S. I have wondered what it will be like to leave Shamgona. It will be hard to leave Tea. It's already the end of March, and I know that as the days grow warmer the time will fly by faster. Departure-day will be here before I know it. I want to prepare myself to leave well. I'm not sure what that means yet, but I've got a couple of months to figure it out.