I just finished the last post about teaching, but I really wanted to make this post its own thing. It seems that Wednesday night, school rankings across Georgia were announced. It is a whole system of stars, and a school is given a certain number of stars out of ten. Well, “pirveli skola” the first school was given nine stars out of ten. When I got to school Thursday morning, the teachers were in such an amazing mood. It seems that we got the highest level in Poti. Everyone was congratulating one another and we almost forgot to press the button to make the bell ring to start the school day. But ring it we did and I went to my class. Between classes though, I would go back to the teacher's lounge to meet my co-teachers to head to the next class. During the break, I went back, and there they were making toasts. Someone poured me a glass and made a toast to the English teachers. I took a sip and was relived to find out it was champagne, not vodka as I had originally assumed. Still, it was funny to go to my next class having had a sip of something alcoholic at work. During the next break, the celebration in the teacher's lounge was still going. I want to make it clear right now that no one was drunk, or mildly tipsy or anything. People were just REALLY happy. That's when I found out that the school was not only the best ranked school in Poti, but in the whole region of Samagrelo. My last class was using the computer room for the boombox so that we could use the listen and read activities in the book (still don't have my own copies of anything), but about five, ten minutes from the end, the computer teacher came in and told us they needed the boombox. They set it up in the hallway and hooked a microphone to it and made the announcement to the students. I was leaving the building but I heard the cheers. This was a BIG deal to them. Just before I left, Nino told me the staff was getting together for dinner tonight, and would I come. I figured a chance to meet more of the teachers and eat more Georgian food why not?
Nino came by in a Taxi and we went to a restaurant. There was one long table that went the length of the wall. We grabbed the seats at the far end of the table from the singers. Yes, I said singers. There were three or four of them, I never got a very good look, and other people kept going up and singing too. Either way, they sang traditional Georgian songs in between moments when the school principal got up to make toasts. I hadn't realized that I was attending my first “supra” when I accepted the invitation to dinner. Our principal was the “tamada” the official toast maker for the evening. We got there at about 7:30 and most people were already there, and the band was singing. But our principal had not begun the toasts yet. Nino sat next to me and explained the toasts and, well, everything that was happening. There were about forty-five teachers out of about sixty who work at the school. Nana was one of the absent teachers, which I was sad about because she had some neat things to say about what had happened when I talked to her today about it (friday). Anyway, the first toast was to God. From there, we toasted the school, the students, the current teachers, the hundred plus year history of the school, the first teachers of the school and anyone who had ever worked there, etc. She even told the teachers that for nine stars, they had to drink nine times as much. At some point Nino stopped even trying to translate. Then everyone laughed. Apparently, every friday was the day that lesson plans for the next week was due. The principal had just said that MAYBE this weeks lesson plans could wait until Monday. By that point all of us were pretty happy from the feeling and from the homemade wine. And then the real entertainment began. One of the teachers was singing with the band. It was a Megrelian song. Then there was suddenly a challenge for the different subjects to do something. Mostly it was get up and dance. First the literature teachers kinda sat in their chairs and waved their arms. Then, a math teacher and a physics teacher went up and sang, and the literature teachers got up and danced. Then I have no idea who was sponsoring the dances, but different teachers kept coming to our end of the table and dragging me up to dance. At some point, the dance teacher got up and started dancing Georgian folk dance with the art teacher and some of the other teachers. It was beautiful and he was VERY into it. At some point someone introduced me to him and I told him I would love to learn Georgian folk dance. He took up the challenge later that night when the folksong of Ajara came on. Each region of Georgia has a folksong and dance and they all know each others'. Anyway, he danced to my seat and bowed with his hand out for my hand. I took it and suddenly realized that we were the only ones standing and I had to walk past ALL the teachers to get to the dancing area. I had been dancing in the crowd no problem, but now I was dancing in front of everyone and I lost all ability to put one foot in front of the other. Anyway, I attempted to follow different things, and I thought I did a TERRIBLE job, but all day today teachers were telling me through my co-teachers that I did a great job and I must have a good ear for music (I think they were saying I have rhythm) and that I should really learn what I am doing. I told them I intend to.
The party got smaller at around 10:30 (yes, it started at 7:00) when some of the teachers realized that they were teaching the first class the next day. My ride was Nino, and she had the first class same as I did, so I figured we would be leaving soon. I kept on dancing and dancing, with MANY different people. Mostly I was dancing like my mother. Lots of elbows and moves from the sixties. Good times. At about 11:40, the dancing died down and those of us who were left, about fifteen, gathered at the other end of the table. That was when my drinking began. More toasts, this time led by the computer teacher. He toasted to women (he and the dance teacher were the only men left) and saw that I was drinking soda (a really good lemonade but made with pears that kinda reminded me of cream soda) so without my noticing it, the teachers all found me a clean wine glass and poured me a cup. In training, there had been something about how drinking beer for a toast was rude, so I figured that was the problem. It is also rude for men to not drink the whole glass of wine for each toast, but I am not a man, so I settled on drinking about a third. Well, I still don't understand what I did wrong, IF I did something wrong, but I ended up drinking other third of the glass because first I clinked with the computer teacher and the dance teacher and drank the first third, but then the other teachers wanted me to clink and drink with them. Anyway, I decided that was all I was going to drink tonight. I was about to fall asleep where I was sitting anyway. Then they begin to top off my glass (and I realized that this had happened earlier in the night too!) and I tried to tell them I was done. Nino translated that it was bad luck to not have a full glass in front of you, whether you are going to drink it or not. I said ok, fine, but THEN the computer teacher stood up and made a toast to ME! So of course, I ended up finishing that drink. The singing between toasts this time was acapella (thankfully, the music and microphones were LOUD and the speakers were very close) and sung by the teachers in all sorts of amazing harmony. Nino told me megrulian songs were very sweet and mesmerizing, and I can tell you they are. Finally, at around 12:15, we called a taxi and I went home. I had a really great time, and I am really happy for my school. I can say that I have great co-teachers and all the teachers who are supposed to know English, do, which is something that not all the volunteers in Georgia can boast about. And even though I don't have a language in common with the other teachers, they have been so welcoming and helpful and willing to mime the day away with me. Sometimes, they will catch me with an English speaker around, and they will turn them into translators. I walked into one of my third grade classes today and their normal teacher was leaving the class. She grabbed me and told me that I was a beautiful dancer and that she had had fun the night before. She held me as Taso translated and all I could say was “matdloba, didi matdloba” (a dank, a groysn dank). Finally she let go and Taso and I taught the class. But that is Georgians, and I am getting used to it. Slowly.
PS, I will add pictures once my camera decides not to hate me. I don't have all that many pictures because it was running out of batteries (though it SHOWED that it was more than half charged!) and now it is having issues transferring onto my computer. I only got one picture, and it isn't amazing, but I will work to follow the wishes of my friends and family and will put the picture in as soon as I can. I thought a post without a picture was better than no post at all.