Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kutaisi Part 1

So, we got dropped off right in front of a McDoland's where I promptly forgot how much I scoff at people who leave the US and eat at McDs when the smell of the french fries hit me. I caved and had mcnuggets and fries and had orange juice and it was wonderful! Then, we got together with other people from TLG. McDonalds is the almost official meeting place for all ex-pats, most of whom are TLG volunteers. With the Poti crowd, I wandered around Kutaisi until we found the information center and asked about the Prometheus cave. Then we walked up a HUGE hill to find a guest house that we are staying in. Since the hill was so high and we did a whole lot of walking to get to the house we collapsed, and though we all thought about napping, we realized that if we slept now, we would not wake up until the morning (it was 5PM). So we gathered our strength and walked out to see another group of TLGers walking in. We decided to join forces, and all twelve of us went off in search of somewhere to eat and drink.
Our first stop was the Medea Cafe (continuing our great mythological weekend theme) where we sat across from another huge group of TLG volunteers. Together we all went out to a Brewery for dinner. The poor waitress did an amazing job dealing with more than twenty non-Georgian hungry customers. Oh, ever had hen entrails? Beef brain?
At dinner, a couple of us realized that is was thanksgiving week and that this was the closest we would get to thanksgiving, so I have gotten in my Thanksgiving. I even continued a Katz tradition and had pork.
We came back to the guest house and immediately fell asleep. I am going to do that now. Tomorrow we head out to Prometheus Cave.

PS. The music in McDoland's is kinda insane. While I was there, I wrote down some of the songs that came on. Tupac, then some country song, then the black eyed peas. After that “we think” cotton eyed joe, followed by the mexican hat dance. Yes, the mexican hat dance. No idea what is going on with music here!

PPS, thank you Ben for the pictures!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Communication is happening!

Since I didn't have time last weekend to do a full post, I decided this week, I will do two, but I couldn't think of things, so I decided to go with the most recent fun stuff and see what I end up writing.
First of all, Margo, my host grandmother, and I have gotten interlingual communication down to a science. It might help that the only thing we communicate about is food, but we have gotten it figured out, from my end at least. Today, I will be going out to eat with a bunch of TLGers, but I didn't know we were getting together until after she had started making me some ghome (mame-lige) and I still don't know the name of the other food, basically a boiled chicken in some sort of stew with a tomato sauce base. Not my favorite, but what can you do. Pelamushi isn't to be eaten morning, noon, and night, though I wish it were. So I ate half the ghome and had some pieces of chicken and looked up and told her “tchame””restaurnani” and pointed toward town. This, to me, meant, “eat””restaurant” “in town”, and she laughed and said “kargi tchame” or “eat well”. Even bigger than that was earlier this week when I came home from school and she let me cook my own eggs! Admittedly, she came in and switched the pan I was about to use and turned on the stove and cut some bread. And then she seemed to feel that I hadn't used enough butter (yes, I was shocked , too) and added butter. But I was able to remove two eggs from the fridge, successfully decline a third egg, take out a bowl to mix them in, put them in the pan and fry them until they were done. All by myself! I told some of my friends here and they were jealous. One of my friends is still trying to do her own laundry. I have it good here.
So, I just got back from going out with the other native English speakers of Poti where a trip to Kutaisi was agreed upon for this weekend. I came home and Lela was not here, it is just Soso and Margo. Soso, my host-grandfather, and I are still in smile and say “hi, how are you” land, so I wrote a note to Lela explaining my plans to be gone for the weekend and walked in to talk to Margo about my plans so that I told someone, at least. I went in and said “go” “Kutaisi” “Saturday” “and” “One day past Saturday” (I forgot how to say Sunday, but the word for Monday is two days past Saturday, so I thought this might work). It DID work, because she responded “hotel” and gestured sleep. I said YES! And she started laughing hysterically at how wonderfully we can communicate. It is a whole lot of fun when it works out.
Well, I plan to have a GREAT time in Kutaisi exploring mythology! I have been using my Nook to read up on the stories of the Golden Fleece, taken from the land of Colchis. Did I mention that the western part of Georgia is called Kolkheti? Ya, I am living in the land of the Goldan Fleece and near the mountains of Prometheus' imprisonment. And that is where I am headed tomorrow. Prometheus Cave. If my camera gets over its hatred of me, I will take lots of pictures. And if it doesn't, I am going with friends who will send their pictures to me as soon as they are able.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Been here a while.

So, what to talk about today? This week has been exhausting! One of my co-teachers was out sick all week so I took the classes we had together alone. Let me tell you, there are a whole lot of basic words that I think might be more important to learn early on than the word queen... Like sit down, and be quiet, and I won't call on you if you are standing on your seat shouting “mast”. Unfortunately, that is not a concept that they understand in Georgian either. No matter what the age, shouting to the teacher that you know the answer is just a part of the Georgian educational system... I think I will be deaf by the end of the year. But it is also nice to see the students are eager to participate, and I totally relate to the kids who are so disappointed they didn't get a chance to prove they knew the answer, because I totally was that kid. I now understand why Mr. Murphy didn't call on me, even though I was the only one with my hand raised. You need to give all the kids a chance. Not just a chance, but you need to make sure that the other kids understood, especially in a language class.
Some of the big problems for Georgian students of English include the difference between “p” and “f”, “v” and “w”, and the pronunciation of soft “a”. There is no “f” in the Georgian alphabet, and they can make the sound, once you show them how, but they still get it confused a lot. I got a note from one of my fifth graders to “Poli”, with “Foli” crossed out next to it. “V” and “w” is a similar story, there is no “w” in the alphabet, but there is a “v”, so it makes no sense in the world to me why, at training, some of the Georgian trainers would say “wolunteers” instead of “volunteers”. I have been trying to solve this mystery since I got to Georgia, but anyone I ask gets confused about it. Finally, “a is for apple” is probably the most famous phrase in the English language, but by the time they get to third grade, apple has become epple. They get very embarrassed when that mistake is shown to them, but I understand completely why this mistake occurs. “A” as in cat, bat, sat, is not a part of the Georgian language, and unlike “f”, it is NOT at all easy to explain how to make the sound. So far, we have gotten the “a” in car, and I am very proud that my class can say that. There are other fun moments in pronunciation. Even though they don't have a “th” in the language, they have picked it up very well, sometimes. I had one student say “ze other” to me one day, and I started laughing. I have found that if the th comes at the beginning of the word, it becomes a “z”, but found in the middle, “th” shines though. I think it is unconscious. When they think about it, they get scared, or something, and they can't say it. But if they let go and say the word, no problem. I know that I do the same with Georgian. I always wonder if I sound like an American speaking Georgian as opposed to a Brit or a German. Do I speak Georgian with a different accent than an American who can speak Spanish, or Russian? I know in the beginning, I was saying “shien” instead of “shen” (it means informal you) because I was thinking of Russian.

Quick note, I have been writing this one in the living room and the TV is on, and Justin Bieber was on the news. Why why why is this such important news that the Georgian Media is covering it?

My biggest problem with Georgian is still the pronunciation. Qkh is killing me, though I have decided to master it because of a new food that was introduced this week. “Qkhiqkhliqkho”. I was very late to some meal, I can't remember which right now, and I was eating the leftovers with gusto. Suddenly, Lela came in and started making eggs. Then she cut some slices of bread and started soaking them in the egg. I looked at her and said, so very hopefully, “french toast?” She laughed and said she didn't know what it was in English, but yes, she has seen people eat this in American movies. I still miss pie, but it is nice to have some french toast when I am missing the food I grew up on.
I have had a couple of moments of homesickness, but so far, they have been kept at bay by the wonders of facebook and skype, and the movie, Fever Pitch. I need to invest in Boondocks Saints or (and?) Good Will Hunting when I go home for vacation, because they have more sites of Boston and I need more than lots and lots of Red Sox symbols everywhere (though they help, a LOT).

Back for a moment to the TV, Vanna White really is a better letter flipper than the people who do her job in other countries! In the wheel of fortune here, there are two who do the opening, and they are terrible, and then there is the regular and she isn't very good either. I am also basing this off of old wheel of fortune, because they don't have electric letters, they need to be flipped to show the letter, and they are just very bad at it. Maybe the letters stick or something...

Ok, I can't think of anything else to say, I have been traveling, mountains are amazing (I haven't been to the real mountains yet, that I will post about, I promise) and I really love being on the water, and not just because it keeps the place warmer than the rest of the country. It is nice to look out and read on the water. Every moment it hasn't rained I walk over to the Sea.

OH, and here is an example of my life, some days. I was sitting in the living room and the TV was on, and suddenly I heard english. Well, when english is on, usually they drown it out in Georgian dubbing, but not this commercial. It turns out it was for TLG which was fun. See, the English speakers, what they are doing, ya, that is me on a daily basis, and the days that I find children like that are few and far between, but boy is it fun when I do. I have also done what that guy did, "didi (big) house, uh, "sakhli" (house) *make a house in the air, hope they understand what I am saying*. It is a lot of fun. Insane, exhausting, but fun.