Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last Bell


When 12th graders graduate early in the states, they graduate and are left to their own devices while they rub it in the faces of the underclassmen. At least, that is how I remember it. Here, as always, things work a little differently. There doesn't seem to be a graduation with pomp and circumstance played nonstop as 300 graduates get their certificates. How could there be when the graduating class is is about 60 kids at my school, and much less in other schools across the country. What they have instead is a Last Bell ceremony, which is so unbelievably not a ceremony, but that is how it was explained to me before hand.
There are two 12th grade classes at the 1st school and they spent the Friday of last bell signing each other's white shirts. Some had designed and drawn bells on their shirts, and for some reason Micky Mouse was a big theme on the shirts as well. I was able to get a seat near the front with Nana, one of my co-teachers, which was very useful. She was able to explain to be that this was less a ceremony and more a presentation. Again, not quite the word I would have used, but closer. When it finally began, I saw the 12th graders in the wings, and all the girls had various long tutus of many colors. Then the music started and a whole dance number, the story being “students arriving at school” began. Apparently, Last Bell is the 12th graders giving a performance, singing (lip syncing), and dancing, and poetry. It was great! When it was over, each student said something as a slide show of kiddie pictures were projected behind them.
The second class outdid themselves. Somewhere, they had gotten access to a green screen, and created a whole News Show. The introductions and time between numbers were cuts to the anchors and reporters, which was all projected onto the back wall. The first two numbers were Georgian Folk Dances, and were very neat. Then they traveled to Bollywood and performed some sort of Arabian/Indian/who knows what else dance that was funny. Next they went to Spain (the reporter was reporting from a Bull Fight) but they did the Argentine Tango (it was the music, not words of the Tango Roxanne from Moulin Rouge). Well, I have no room to talk, because the next place they went was obviously America. There were some skyscrapers and Ocean and I spent a good couple seconds trying to figure out where in the New York skyline this was, because for most places outside the US, New York is the capital. I was still trying to figure it out when the scene behind the reporter changed and she was standing in front of a VERY familiar building that said “Quincy Market”! I started flipping out telling my co-teacher “That's Boston! That's Boston!” They then showed Ducks and Boston Common. I still don't know if they were setting me up to see some scenes of home, or if that was just the footage they could find, but either way, it felt good! Following the reporter, they did a rap in Georgian, and then did a very cute motorcycle (in the form of a bicycle) across the stage to begin a jive number. Ahh, America.
The whole time, I was wondering what would have happened at my high school, if, instead of the teachers doing the holiday performance that honors the seniors (with the 5 golden rings), the seniors did the performance. For one thing, it would have taken a whole lot longer than an hour and a half like the two classes were, and for another, no class would do it! Every single kid in both classes sang or danced or recited and every kid had their turn at the mic, and not a single one was too shy or embarrassed to do it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Evil lives in Cows


Cows are evil and bloodthirsty. At least one bull in the mountains of the north is out to eat people, not grass. He made a good show of pretending otherwise so that no one else would believe us, but we know... Evil...
It all started with a trip to Svaneti, specifically to the biggest touristy town up there, Mestia. From Mestia there are 6 or 7 hiking trails to choose from as well as marshutkas to the other villages with equally amazing hikes and views. The hike we chose was one of the shorter ones, just up to a cross that overlooks the town and back down. 

STEEP!
Of course, you can't just climb up and what was supposed to be two hours of walking back and forth and slowly making your way up the mountain turned into 3 and a half hours of climbing, walking, and enjoying the views. The first third of the journey was TOUGH. It was almost straight up and didn't seem to end! It went around the mountain and across a little series of waterfalls from the melting snow higher up. 

Finally we heard some cows (really mooing and being noisy) and we knew that the really tough part was almost over. Oh how wrong we were.
Remember that mooing? It was coming from one animal; a big black bull. It was in one of the pastures, walking toward the fence that separated the pasture from the hiking road. Well every so often there is an opening in the fence, by, what I have now learned is probably from the stampede of the evil cows. We had walked, maybe, 30 feet throught the path between pastures, we crossed a stretch of water running through the path, and then saw something we couldn't cross. In front of us is this bull, with horns lowered and it is looking at us with SUCH angry eyes. I wanted to take out the video camera, but I was worried about making sudden movements. We stood watching eachother for a bit, then it swung its head to eat some grass. At least that was what it wanted us to think, because then it started pawing the ground. It was evil. It started walking toward us, and we thought it was going to the water, so we crossed the stream to let it get its water, and to let us go along our way. BUT it crossed the water too and kept coming after us. Finally we backed off enough that it went through another hole in the fence and went back into the pasture, and we were able to get by. I then got out my video camera, and you wont see how evil was in the video because it knew I was video taping it and it played the harmless cow again... But I know better.

Anyway, we kept climbing up and eventually clawed our way to the top. Almost literally because we decided not to follow the winding path, but to climb the mountain up to top. And once again, it was STEEP. 

But the view was breathtaking and truly special. In the video I made at the top, I mention that I was going to sing, and I did, all the way down. They say it takes 2 hours to go up the mountain, and 2 hours to come down, and it might, but for us, it was 3 ½ hours up and 1 hour down. We had two very good reasons for the faster journey down. 1st we had another run in with the BULL. We had just come down the little hill the Cross at the top of the mountain was on when who should walk onto the path but the big evil bull followed by the rest of the cows. This time, the bull was farther away and we wanted to get off the mountain, so we went by, but I had enough time to get my camera out so that you could see the evil of this cow too.
Later after we had put a major distance between the herd and ourselves, we came upon the pasture that we had been threatened at before. And when I say we came upon mean we realized that we were just above it. We looked at each other and decided it was grassy pastures and the forecast had been for rain (the day was amazing) but why push our luck. We made it to to the bottom where the pastures had begun without breaking our necks. Then we made it to the bottom of the mountain in time to see the world turn different colors. That rain was coming and it was coming with a vengeance. Which, in the couple minutes before it came, turned the sky AMAZING colors... A VERY good weekend.

I have videos of the mountain climb (it was a HIKE) but it won't load so for now, have some pictures to tide you over:












Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beauty Pageant


Wednesday of the next week was a holiday celebrating the end of WWII. After spending my first sleep in morning in Poti in what felt like months, I went out and enjoyed the amazing weather. I had made plans with a friend to see her third graders in a “fashion show” at 6PM, so at 5:30 we met up at the park. She had been told where the show was, and we saw some of her students are were encouraged, but when we all got up to the door, it was locked. By now, it was 5:50, and we had no idea where it was. One of the girls decided it might be at the Poti Theater, so we all walked over, and sure enough, it was at the theater. There was no one or sign at the original building to tell you about the move, you just had to know that it had moved... Anyway, we got there at 6:00 exactly, but the show was obviously not starting on time. I found a seat next to some girls in the 10th and 11th grades who were from my school and looked around. That is when we noticed that we were actually watching tech. The teachers were having the kids come up on the stage and walk through what they were going to do. They were all wearing white shirts with black bottoms and I thought it was the basic costume and then the kids would have colored cloth or something on top. You see, when I think fashion show, I think of a fashion show at camp where the kids create costumes and show them off. That was not what this was... Fashion show might have been the literal translation of the words in Georgia, but what we were watching was the Junior and Teen Miss Poti Pageant. The show didn't start until 8, and the whole thing maybe lasted about 30 min. First the Junior Miss contestants walked out, posed at the top of the stage, and walked off, when the next one would come out. There was a woman Mcing the whole event who would have her favorites walk again show them off. Then a little girl came out who was chubbier than the rest, and the woman actually made some comment that included the work “tchame” which as you know means “eat”. Everyone laughed and the girl walked off, but my friend and I were horrified. That wasn't the end of the uncomfortableness for us through. The teenagers round began, and twice the woman had girls, one who was wearing a dress whose skirt ended mid-thigh and the other a long shirt that ended a little higher, lift the hem when they walked. They were both wearing leggings, but the whole thing sickened me. I know that we have the same problems in America with pageants and such, but I have done a very good job of avoiding that scene in America. In the end, several children from both groups were chosen to move on to the competition in Zugdidi for the title of Miss Samagrelo and Svaneti. Girls who weren't chosen were sobbing, but at least I only saw mothers consoling their children, not scolding them for not making it. It was such an insane experience, I came home and told Lela, my host mother, that in the future, the translation of the program was Beauty Pageant and not “fashion show” and that there is a BIG difference.

Hitch-hiking


Well, I have done the crazy and hitch-hiked across Turkey. Well, not across the whole county, just the couple hours from Sarpi (the border) to Trabzon. But I should start at the beginning.

Donna and I, who have been in Poti since October, have been talking about going to Turkey since October. It is very close and it we decided to be very Georgian about it. Go to Trabzon and go shopping. We needed summer clothing desperately.
Donna had a Polish friend who had studied in Turkey and had hitch-hiked his way around the whole country of Turkey. He called it a hitch-hikers paradise. And it was that, when you put two girls with a guy who knows what he is doing and who speaks a common language with everyone we came across (no one spoke English). As in, this is not something I would readily do again, but turned out to be a good experience. The border on the other hand, was a crazy experience.

We took a marshutka from Batumi to Sarpi and walked into the station for passport control. We “left” Georgia and found ourselves in the no-mans land of space between Turkey and Georgia. Donna and I needed to buy Visas, but there was no obvious place to do that. We had to pass Turkish border control and go into the tunnel through the building to find where to get the visas, then go back and get the stuff stamped. Through it all, we had to dodge the trucks and cars going through the border. There were many people who were walking through border control and I felt very strongly that a separate path for pedestrians would be a smart thing, but alas.
We got out and walked a bit down the road. Michal, the Polish TLGer, told us that trucks are the best because there was a 50% chance they were going through Trabzon. We stuck out our thumbs, and a car actually stopped first. The man worked for a rental car system or something, but he wasn't going to Trabzon, so he let us out on the highway and went on his exit. A truck stopped for us and took us through to Trabzon and we went and stayed with a friend of Michal's, who is studying at the University.

 He took us around the campus, and ended the tour on these series of balconies that overlook the Trabzon Aristrip. It was really cool watching the planes take-off and land. The next day, we hit the Bazar and had a great time. I got the ankle socks I had been dying for (all I had were knee high black warm wonderful for winter socks) and in honor of the big soccer match that was coming up, got some in the colors of Trabzon. When we got back, we were introduced to a HUGE pastime in Turkey, at least among university students, gambling. Turkey is a Muslim country and gambling games such as cards or dice have been banned, but gambling on sporting events is still legal and very much engaged in. The intricacies of this type of gambling (or any serious gambling for that matter) were a little too much for me, so I settled on betting on the final score of the Chelsea/Liverpool match. I lost, but it was a lot of fun to watch the game with everyone. Almost every moment, something would happen to change how much money they would win or lose.
We all had school on monday, so Sunday morning, we got up to hitch-hike back to Sarpi. The first truck that picked us up had to load the truck somewhere else, so he let us off and another truck picked us up. He was also headed to Georgia (Final destination: Azerbaijan), but for some reason, had to stop somewhere else. We got to a town and he parked the truck and came out with us. Apparently, he did not like the thought of us hitchhiking, and was trying to find a bus for us to take. He was going to pay the fees. We finally convinced him that we were hitchhiking to meet people, not because we didn't have the money. We walked back along the way and this time a van picked us up with a turkish family headed to Batumi for the day. They took us to Sarpi and had to get in the line for the cars, while we got out to find the pedestrian passport control.
It was a very fun, but exhausting weekend.

And Back!


I am sorry about the very long break in blog posts. There are only four weeks left and the weather has been amazing, on this side of the country anyway, so I have been out and about more often than not. Which gives me ample things to write about, but not so much time to do it.

The weekend that I posted the last post about the frogs, I was in Kutaisi, at the McDonald's, of course. I was meeting a friend there who is here in Georgia because I told her about the program. I needed to see her and make sure she didn't want to dissolve our friendship for getting her over here (she has ended up in a village with no internet of any kind and the nearest town is downwind of a magnesium factory which is doing wonders for her lungs) Luckily, she is loving it here, with the exception of the things I have just mentioned, and we had a great time reveling in the fast internet of Mc Ds. She had come in with a friend of hers from training who was really cool, and we all had a great time sharing music and movies and talking about the problems and perks of being TLG volunteers. I uploaded the Frog video, and that is when I got the shock of my life. My friend's friend had my blog bookmarked! This blog has made it onto the TLG blogs list, and she said it was one of the better ones (not incredibly depressing and not designed to make her think she made a mistake about coming to Georgia). It was crazy, and I am really happy that this blog that was designed to let me tell my family and friends how I am without telling them all in individual emails has been helping other people out.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Computer Troubles

My gift to my mother was going to be 3 brand new posts. And they are written with pictures for them all picked out. And then the internet for my computer died again. So I am going over the options and will have them up. SOON.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plagues (not really though...)


Do frogs chirp? Well, they do in Georgia! When I returned from Berlin, I started hearing a new sound that seemed to come from the house across the street. I thought it was some sort of a new bird or Georgian animal. It was a Georgian animal, but it was not only found in my neighbors house. As I was walking past the school, I heard the noise again, and looked in the gutter and noticed that there were frogs. LOTS of frogs. They have taken over Georgia, and, if people who were here last summer can be trusted, they are here to stay. Fortunately for me, they all hang out way down the street on my street, so I hear them as I walk home, but never from my home. I took some video from the corner of the school, which is where I hear them the loudest.
(again having some issues with the uploading of the video, so it will be put in at a later date... Fixed thanks to Mc Ds)

Speaking of frogs, and plagues, and passover... What does pascal mean? Pascal lamb and pesakh, these are all words I have grown up on, but have no idea what they mean. I bring it up because as I type, I have no internet and can't look it up, and because of a great Easter cake they make here called “pasqa”, which has to come from the word pascal, right? My host grandmother, Margo, made a whole batch that we finally finished off a couple days ago, but yesterday she made a whole new batch. It is great!