Before we start, I want to point you in the direction of a super cool blog by another volunteer: (http://thegingerwhinger.weebly.com/the-blog.html) I wish my blog were even half as good, but I am not so adept at all this blogging malarcky yet.
Anyways, here we go. So on Friday evening I got a call from TLG inviting me for breakfast today at the Marriot Hotel in Tbilisi (the Capital of the Republic of Georgia, a little country about the size of Ireland). There are actually two Marriotts in Tbilisi, one in Freedom Square and one on Rustaveli (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tbsmc-tbilisi-marriott-hotel/). I was early so I had a nice slow walk from the metro station, and it was raining a little, so I was in my element (excuse the pun!). I love walking in the city, and every time I see something new, a little piece of quirky architecture, a new statue, and so on. I am waiting for the weather to improve so that I can take a stroll with my camera, but its a bit grey and misty at the moment, and a rather cool 10degrees c.
ack to the Minister…..I’m not a big fan of such social occasions, and it took a lot of persuading to get me out of my jeans (I love that you can wear Jeans to school in Georgia!). But I was looking forward to breakfast all the same, and it was nice to be invited and to share my experiences of the project and of being in Georgia. For those of you with an interest in the programme or looking to gain teaching experience, then take a look here: (http://www.tlg.gov.ge/).
So we selected breakfast, sat by the window overlooking the gardens, and we talked about the project and about Georgia. The Minister is a really decent chap, and I was impressed when I met him the last time too, especially in his enthusiasm and vision for the future of Georgian education. He asked really good questions, and seemed interested to know more about the life of a volunteer. We talked about a wide range of topics, including life with a host family, things which volunteers struggle most with, school, co-teachers, infrastructure of schools, free-time and activities, about text books, and about how the programme can be improved for future volunteers and how to help schools and children in the longer term. He is a busy guy, and the meeting was fairly short, but it didn’t feel too rushed, and it was very relaxed and informal. Afterwards, we said our goodbyes and all went back to our main tasks for the day. It will be very interesting to come back to Georgia in ten years time and to see what has changed, and how. There are lots of changes planned, and like most things in life, change takes time. But I would love to see how things progress. Previously there was a lot of knife crime in school, but now this isn’t so, and I was surprised when the Minister asked me about security in Georgia, as it never occurred to me before. I mean, compared to London or New York, I have always felt very safe walking around and there is certainly not the same level of violence or theft, and I am often surprised at how trusting people are. I am sure it does exist, just as it does with every country, but it is not something I have needed to think much about, and I am always fairly sensible no matter where I am. I’m fairly sure that other volunteers have also not had issues with security and safety.
I have to say, that I was rather disappointed with the Marriott, especially having stayed at other Marriotts around the world, and it wasn’t up to the usual Marriott standards that the chain is famous for. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice enough, and still a lovely place to visit, and the staff were very friendly and professional, more so than other Marriotts I have visited, but it lacked that attention to detail. For example, the toilets had run out of paper, the chairs were a little scruffy and some of the interiors were a little worn. The food was also not particularly good, especially given the prices that are charged for breakfast (60GEL or more). Admittedly, I did not try much of the menu, and I was also too busy talking to each much, but the cake I had was stale and dry, and certainly not up to typical Marriott standards or my expectations of a top end hotel. The coffee was good, but also not the best. However, the place was really, really busy when I arrived, with lots of American tourists and bankers from Europe and America, so I probably caught the place just after peak traffic time. But the interiors were nice and spacious and it had a welcoming atmosphere and home from home feel.
But, based on today’s experience, I have to say that if I was staying in a top end hotel in Tbilisi I would be more likely to go to the Sheraton Metechi (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=132) or more definitely, and for a more modern vibe the Holiday Inn (http://www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/tbilisi/tbsms/hoteldetail). It doesn’t have the same prestige in name, but the interiors have just been totally refurbished and it opened up again in February, and has everything for the modern business traveller. For Valentine’s Day, Intourist Georgia (http://www.intourist.ge/) and Captain Plus (email@example.com) teamed up to bring a DJ over from Paris and held an event there, which was a great evening and I had the pleasure of attending, and also got a spot on Georgia’s version of MTV ‘Music Box’, which was pretty funny!!
So that was the highlight of today anyway, and a pleasant way to begin the week. In other news, I bought some new headphones after my 6 year old ones finally died today, and I also discovered an art supplies shop close to my house, which I am really excited about.
Today, Sarah Outen is 20km from the Czech border in her round the world expedition and Roz Savage has been going in circles on her ocean row across the Indian Ocean. Today I really want to share an amazing video clip with you, featuring the infamous Sylvia Earle. Sylvia is the Founder and Chair of Mission Blue, and here is what has been said about her:
“Called “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker and the New York Times, a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and Time Magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet,” Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer, Explorer in Residence of the National Geographic Society, Leader of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, Council Chair for the Harte Research Institute at Texas A & M, Corpus Christi, Founder and Chairman of Mission Blue (http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/missionblue/), and formerly the Chief Scientist of NOAA.
She has founded three companies including Deep Ocean Exploration and Research and served on various corporate Boards including Dresser Industries, Kerr-McGee, Oryx Energy and Undersea Industries.
She is a graduate of St. Petersburg College and Florida State University with MA and PhD from Duke University and 17 honorary doctorates.
Author of more than 170 publications, lecturer in more than 70 countries, and participant in numerous television and radio productions, her research concerns the ecology and conservation of marine ecosystems, with special reference to marine algae and development of technology for access and research in the deep sea. Worldwide field experience includes leading more than 70 expeditions and more than 6500 hours underwater including nine saturation dives and use of various submarines.
She serves on the boards of organizations including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, Rutgers Marine and Coastal Studies Institute, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Conservation Fund, Aspen Institute, Ocean Futures, American Rivers, Ocean Conservancy, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and is a Patron of Wildscreen. She Co-chairs the Science Committee of the U. S. National Parks 21st Century Commission and is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Arctic Commission.
She has received more than 100 national and international honors including the 2009 TED Prize, the Order of the Golden Ark by the Netherlands, Australia’s Banksia Award, and medals from the Explorers Club, Society of Women Geographers, Barnard College, National Wildlife Federation, New England Aquarium, the Lindbergh Foundation and the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences.
She is a fellow of AAAS, Marine Technology Society, California Academy of Science and the Royal Geographical Society, and is a member of the World Academy of Art and Science. She has received the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award, National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Department of Interior’s Conservation Service Award”.
I hope you enjoy her video, and will support her efforts. That is all for today’s news……until tomorrow!