Bodishit, bodishit, bodishit!!! Sorry, sorry, sorry!! Time really is passing quickly and I have just realized that its been a while since I last blogged, so I am more than overdue for a update…..here goes!
So, I am now pretty much settled into my new host family and to my new school, and I have to say that living in Vake in Tbilisi (that’s a posh area in the Capital of Georgia) is a world away from my experiences and life in Vale in southwest Georgia. I seem to have exchanged a life of bread and cabbages for a life of beauty salons (for my family, not me) and yoga classes and a diet of McDonalds and toasted cheese and ham sarnies. I have running water (which is also hot!!), central heating, wifi internet, and electricity, a toilet that flushes, and soap. I still can’t help but get excited over just the simplest things like the chain flushing, or washing my hands, and its almost been more of a culture shock to move from Vale to Vake than it was to move from the UK to Georgia (via Latvia!). I have even started ironing for the first time in my life….just because I can! And nothing makes me more happy than the ability to iron my CLEAN clothes!!!
Materially, my new host family spend the same amount of money in one day for three people as my last host family spent in one month for 8 people, but one thing still remains, and is the thing I love most about all the Georgians I have met so far. That is the warmth and generosity and the big hearts of the Georgian people. Both my host families have totally and utterly welcomed me into their families, in a way that feels unconditional, and all embracing, and I am pretty sure that I would never be able to welcome anyone into my own family in the UK in the same un-expectant way. My last family had no English when I arrived, but in contrast my new family have private lessons and have an amazing level of English..so much so that I pretty much feel redundant and am unsure what exactly I have to offer them in return for my free board and lodgings! But, I love hanging out with them and its always a pleasure to speak to them and teach them whatever English I can, and my Georgian feels like it is coming along for the first time in ages, especially after forgetting so much over the Christmas break back in the UK.
My school is also very different. Its not a rich school or well equipped school by any means, but it does have electricity, and a computer room with very nice looking computers and a room which seems to be open for use, unlike my last school. The school is part Russian and part Georgian so I have two classes for every grade, a Russian speaking class, and a Georgian speaking class. The standard of English is really high in school, and my teachers are younger and more forward thinking than my previous school, who were teaching under Soviet Rule and were close to retirement, and its great to be able to communicate more with my teachers. Its also nice to be around people who are around my age, and to share similar ideas to them, and I have felt welcome at my school from day one. Plus they had a volunteer before so they know what to expect and seem more realistic which makes my life easier. I am loving my school, and whilst it is more challenging than my previous school, particularly in terms of student attitude and lack of discipline, its also more rewarding and I feel as if I can really make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the kids in my previous school, who really did have nothing, but were eager to learn English, and here the children have everything but are less excited about school on the whole, but its great to feel more welcomed by the Principal and Co-teachers and to feel part of something rather than feel as if you are the enemy. Here my challenge is just to get eye contact from the kids some days, but it means that every kid who says hello to me when I am rushing into school late in the mornings has even more significance, because just to get a hello from them is a massive achievement and another step closer to bonding with them and getting them thinking, listening, and speaking English. In my last school, everyone said hello to me and everyone wanted to follow me home from school or to wherever I was going, and to speak to me or invite me to their homes, but it was less personal, they were just excited to meet a native speaker. But here, the kids don’t care, they have met native speakers before and the novelty has worn off, so its means a massive deal to me when they greet me or even acknowledge me in the corridor or whatever, it feels more conditional and I have to work harder to win their respect.