Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I get told this often.

And I hate being told what to do. Usually when someone (apart from a boss) tells me to do something, I do the exact opposite. (I think I have ODD. And that stands for Oppositional Defiant Disorder.....not to say that I'm odd.....) But for the sake of cultural tolerance and sensitivity, I have had to curb my defiant streak while living here in Georgia.

I get told what to do all the time -- mostly to sit, eat, drink, and stay. I get told to sit anytime I am standing in one spot for more than half a second. I get told to eat and drink any time I enter the kitchen or someone's house. And I get told to stay anytime I lift a finger to help with anything.

At first I did what I was told, but lately I have been refusing if I don't want to do one of those things. When I refuse, I get the same reply from everyone (but Tea, she understands me): "Ratom??" (Why??) I used to try to explain why I didn't want to sit ("I've been sitting all day") or eat ("I'm not hungry") or drink ("I only drink coffee in the morning"), but no one could understand why I would not eat just because I'm not hungry. Now I've taken a cue from the Georgians and I simply say, "Ar minda" (I don't want to). No one questions this reasoning. It's really funny -- I wouldn't say this in the U.S. -- I would feel rude if I did, but here it is the only reason that is ever given and believed.

The command "stay" has changed in its meaning recently. It has expanded.

In the last two days, four unrelated people have told me to stay..... to stay in Georgia and not go back to the U.S. -- "Darchena aq. Shen ar midikhar Amerikashi." (Stay here. Don't go back to America.) "Our grandmother" tells me this quite often -- she said it again on Monday. Two others said the same thing to me Monday -- one of my colleagues and a man in the village (not one of the ones who has expressed his undying love for me). On Tuesday a mom of one of my students told me to stay.

I have a feeling that I will be told this more often by more people the closer my departure date gets.

Each time someone tells me to stay in Georgia, I say no. And, of course, the expected response comes back, "Ratom??" This one is a bit trickier to answer, especially given my limited Georgian. If I am talking with someone who speaks English, it's easy enough to explain that I miss my friends and family. They argue that I can go and visit, then come back to stay. No. In Georgian I know the words for "my friends and family," but that doesn't ever satisfy them. A couple of times I have said (in Georgian) that America is my home. That is always met with the suggestion that Georgia is my home now.

This really gets me thinking about the fourth phase of culture shock -- one that I have experienced many times before and I know I will again in June: difficulty re-assimilating back into the home culture. Every time I travel outside the U.S. and return, I dislike the U.S. more and more. I had wanted to move out of the country for good and would have if I had found a job in Vancouver back in the fall. But since being here in Georgia, I have grown nostalgic over the "good ol' USA." Not that I'll hang a flag on my front door when I get back, but I actually want to go back. I'm sure that after being there for a few months the things that annoyed me before will annoy me again. The media will still sensationalize every news story to keep everyone afraid and under control. Walmart will still perpetuate a lower-middle class society and drive out all the small businesses, wreaking havoc on the country's economy. The government will still spend an obscene amount of our country's money on the military while millions don't have enough to eat. Americans will still drive around in unnecessarily large vehicles that guzzle copious amounts of gasoline, feeding the country's addiction to Arab-oil. Cultural and religious intolerance will still be rampant, fostering ever-increasing tensions and fears. So be it, but it will be home -- I will be home. I will still not contribute to those aspects of America that I disagree with and dislike. But I will be home. I will be with those who love me. I will know my place and role in society. I will be home.

"Darchena aq?" (Stay here?)

"Ara. Tsavedit sakhlshi." (No. Let's go home.)

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