Dirty Rain and Constipation!

    Mysterious Disappearance of the Minister of Education and Science!

Its been a bit of a weird and frustrating week, partly due to Georgian spontaneity, and partly due to Georgian rumours. On Friday last week, there was a mini panic from school when they informed me that the Minister of Education would be attending my school on Monday. I was a bit irritated by this, since myself and another teacher had organised a few weeks ago, that we would do a school exchange for this day, but who am I to argue. I would go to his school on Monday, and he would come to my school today (Wednesday). His school is not close to Tbilisi, so it would be a bit of a trek, but really useful as its a chance to observe different teaching styles and methods and to see if children and lessons are the same in other schools. Its also a really good way to gain a critical review of your teaching and to get advice on what you can do to improve, as well as picking up on any problems that need addressing, and alternative suggestions on how to deal with common issues.

However, I was asked to cancel my visit to his school on Monday because the Minister would be coming to my school for the day. No real problem, and really makes no difference to me. I am at school and teaching anyway. He didn’t come, but instead I was invited to breakfast with him, which was lovely. Then, after finishing my lessons on Tuesday, and having taken the two metro trains towards home, I was asked if I could return to school, as the Minister would be visiting in the afternoon. Tuesdays are my only time to get my photocopying done and lessons planned, so I was again a little miffed as I had already made plans, and to return to school would cost me both time and money. He didn’t come. Then, today school informed me that he would come to school today….but he didn’t!! I think its fantastic that the Minister is eager to visit schools and to meet the children, and to see things from a ground roots level, and is the best way to assess needs. But, it is frustrating when you have to reschedule your week around everything. It also wasn’t helped by the fact that this week we have Easter holidays from tomorrow until next Tuesday, so the kids are extra hyper, and not all students even came to school. One student even left class early today because her mum (a teacher) was taking her to the cinema!

    Sense of Impending Doom

It would be fair to say that I am also feeling a bit uneasy, as I have requested a contract extension for another year, and am waiting to hear whether this is possible or not. The thought of staying at my school for another year really excites me, especially now the kids are behaving. It means we can potentially do so many cool things next term now, and I am constantly having ideas about things we can do. Its hard to switch off from this, and I guess its a little like buying a lottery ticket, and not imagining what it would be like to win, and how you will spend the money!! But I am feeling unsettled, as I cannot make any firm plans or book flights and things until I know what is happening. I want to commit to the new apartment, but I need to know whether I will receive pay in the summer or not first. On the contract, I am not allowed to drive, so this also affects the kind of job I can do over summer. I love working with my classes, and it will be strange not to be seeing them everyday now, but I just need to wait and hope that the answer will come soon. I am also feeling tired today and my asthma is playing up again, and everyone else seems to be off travelling for the break, with no school today, so I feel like the only teacher who was working and not off on a plane somewhere! But, it was equally a brilliant day and I wouldn’t change it for the world:)

    The Very British Topic of ‘The Weather’.

Georgians often seem to relate the weather to people’s moods and health, and on that basis, I can relate to that right now. It is Spring here in Georgia, but it varies from 7degrees c, or raining to sun and temperatures of 26 degrees c in the same week. Apparently this is normal for Easter as the weather is always bad just before the holidays. I think the weather (and the amount of smokers in the country) is also really affecting my chest. Its painful, and I am coughing up nasty stuff. I also have laryngitis and pharyngitis again, and it hasn’t really cleared up from the last time I had it, but it was getting better, and now its bad again. Nothing I can do about it. Honey is very soothing, but I know I will soon have serious issues with my teeth, and I am very afraid of going to the dentist here, especially since I have not had dental problems before. Hopefully my chest will improve over the Easter break with a rest from school, but it is making me tired and a bit grumpy. I have to laugh at Georgians sometimes, and I entirely blame the text books for this, as every Georgian talks to me about how it ALWAYS rains in England. Now, I know we Brits joke about this a lot, but it isn’t LITERALLY true!!! In fact, I am a little jealous of all the Brits right now, out having BBQs and sitting in the sunshine, when its been raining so much here this week!

    Dirty Rain

Today was very strange weather though. On my way to school by metro this morning, I was unaware of the weather above ground, and was a little surprised to see a kind of yellowy haze to the sky when I emerged. It was a bit surreal, and I was really expecting it to thunder since it was so humid, even early in the morning. 17degrees c and showers according to today’s forecast! But weird to be walking through the city, through a yellow haze and with no-one out and about, like something from Z for Zacharia! I wish I had my camera with me (as always!).

    Lightbulb Moment

I had a little insightful moment on my way to school, pretty good considering my lack of sleep, or maybe it was sleep deprivation induced lol! It suddenly occurred to me, that things have changed in my heart the past few weeks, and now I am riding a new wave. Still moving forward, but at a different pace now, with a different vibe and different priorities. I have never been more certain of anything, as I am now, and with that comes a sense of ease and peace. I know everything will just be fine, that whatever is meant to be will be. Whether my contract is renewed or not, is no longer the crux of my life, it will either happen or it wont happen, and I am not going to waste anymore energy in chasing my destiny. What will be, will be.

    Skolashi (School) Stuff and the Australian Visitor

So, I arrived at school to peels of laughter in the staffroom, and I really feel that I am a part of the fabric of the school now. I am frustrated at my lack of Georgian and Russian, but the staff are friendly towards me, and its lovely to be so welcomed every day by the students. I am incredibly lucky. One of the little lads in my 4th grade has a broken arm right now, and it was strange to see the Georgian version of a plaster cast, having spent so much time working in a busy accident and emergency department in the UK. Things are just so different here in terms of healthcare. But he was pretty cool about the whole thing, and I think it might have given him an extra coolness boost with the lads in his class. The class are really bright and funny, and I am always surprised at just how different they are. You would never believe that they were all the same age, and some children are so tiny and fragile looking, whilst others are tall and sturdy. Its a real mix, each with their own style, but all great kids.

My friend called to say that he had arrived in Tbilisi, so I popped out of class to meet him. It was raining when I went out, and it was weird to see the rain. I was totally covered in mud splashes from the rain, like someone had just flicked me with a paintbrush dipped in mud. By the time I got back to school, I was filthy! I have never experienced such dirty rain before in my life, not even in the desert or in India. Brown rain!! Surely that can’t be a good sign environmentally?? Actually, what usually happens, is that strong winds of 50mph or so, whip the dust up into the atmosphere, and the raindrops form around each grain of dust, and these are deposited when it rains. However, I don’t recall any wind recently, at least not in Tbilisi. I had expected this when the Icelandic volcano erupted, but this did not happen. Either way, its definitely a shower before bed, because I feel pretty grubby from the dirty rain now.

    The Little Angels and the Kangaroo: ‘Do you have a pet kangaroo?’

We had a brilliant day at school, and it was fantastic for the kids to meet my friend and fellow English teacher. He is from Australia, so there were lots of interesting questions from the kids, especially about all things Kangaroo!! They have come such a long way since January, and I can hardly believe they are the same kids. When I first met them, they were setting light to paper in class, drawing on their desks, and not bringing text books, and generally being bad mannered from my western perspective. Today, they were very well behaved, were polite, and spoke well, asking really good questions. They were also not too shy, which is the thing that I am most proud about, and if I have achieved just one thing then I am glad that they are no longer afraid to speak English in front of native speakers, and are not afraid to make mistakes. In fact, I almost choked when my friend referred to them as ‘little angels’…that is not a term I ever imagined being used in relation to my kids! Sadly some students were missing today, and the attending students were a little hyper because it was the last day of school before the English break, but there were far more students than I expected, and they were still really well behaved. I also wasn’t as strict with them today, and I know they were really excited to meet my friend too.

One of my really quiet students gave me a lovely Easter Card, which he had clearly put a lot of effort into and it was absolutely pristine. Having a visitor to school, actually caused me to reflect on a lot of things today and to notice things that I have started to take for granted. He was amazed at the high standard of English amongst my students, even the littlest of students, and I would like to make a special mention here for my Co-teacher. She is amazing to work with, and has been incredibly supportive and a great friend to me since my arrival at the school. She has been teaching at the school for 5 years, and I believe that the high standard of English is purely down to her and her continued patience with the children. She always keeps her calm, and is always firm but fair. Sometimes, I almost forget that English is the children’s second language, because I take it for granted that I can have a conversation with them now. They have learnt so much already, not just English language, but also values, and about science, and geography, and other cultures. So many of them love maths and numbers, and they were glued to their seats when my friend wrote on the blackboard, the population figures for different countries. It really put things in perspective, especially about how relatively small Georgia is, especially compared to London or America. I was also really proud at the high standard of the art work the kids produced for last week’s homework. My friend took a few pictures, so I will put them up, once I get them. But, now its Easter holidays until next week….and as much as I love my school, I am secretly looking forward to a little break and a lie in:)

    The English Girl is a Rubbish Student of Georgian – Tsudi Gogo!, and the Blog Reader’s Challenge!

The only negative side of having a visitor to school…is that suddenly everyone knows just how bad your Georgian is in relation to other volunteers, and I definitely need to make more of an effort to learn Georgian and to practice. For some reason, I have become really shy about speaking Georgian now, yet I wasn’t initially. This week, my friend gave me a great expression ‘gaizarde didi gogo’…which I think means “when I am a big girl” or when I am a grown up!! I really like this phrase, and I think I will use it a lot!

So, I am setting myself a new challenge! To learn 5 new words every day. I will know who reads my blog, because I hope they will test me on these words throughout the day, and if I don’t know these words by the end of the week, then you can set me a forfeit. Or maybe you can set the forfeit at the start of the week, and if I don’t know them by the Sunday, then I have to do the forfeit!!! Could be interesting! Today’s words:

– hello! – gamarjobat!
– how are you? – rogor a khart?
– fine thanks, and you? – gmadlobt, kargad! Tqven?
– good morning – dila mshvidobisa!
– good evening – saghamo mshvidobisa!

yeah, I know I am starting with really easy stuff that I already know. But I need to get used to using these words every day instead of being so lazy! So if you see me, then ask me these things:)


So, onto the delightful subject of constipation, not such an issue for me having worked in health for over 17 years! However, a really important issue to discuss as its something that seems to affect many volunteers/teachers in Georgia. The main issue is that the Georgian diet is high in carbs, but low in fibre, and protein. People drink mainly Turkish coffee, and like myself, others try not to drink too much in the daytime, because the school toilets are too unpleasant to use (smelly, old, and squat style, with the school kids often using the same toilets as adults)! Food is so uninteresting compared to the vast array of foods that us Westerners are accustomed to. It is not that Georgian food is unpleasant at all, but it can be very repetitive, and is often high in oil content, and is bread based. It is possible to enjoy a more Western diet if you are in the Capital, but sadly this is very expensive, and it really depends on where you live, and what is in season. For me, its avocados that I really miss, and I get really excited when I see different produce available for sale. I am so looking forward to summer, as I think there are more fresh produce available then, especially strawberrys! Hopefully I can find a freezer, freeze lots of fruits, and make jams for the winter once I get my own place, and it will be great to have a kitchen to cook in again. I haven’t really found a solution for the constipation that volunteers experience. I’m not the kind of person that routinely takes health supplements or vitamins, but in Georgia I often feel I am lacking something in my diet, and I find that a good dose of cod liver oil on a regular basis helps. Buying tins of fruit or drinking hot tea or water often.

    One Poop a Week or Less!

I guess the funny thing for me, is that for many Georgians I have spoken to, it is normal for them to only pass a motion once a week, but this is really strange for us foreigners. Its also difficult to purchase over the counter treatments, because things have different names here, and some medicines with the same name do totally different things to what they do at home. Plus there is the inevitable language barrier and sense of embarrassment! In the villages you can drink mountain and herbal teas, and locals swear by the spring water ‘Borjomi’. I’m sure there is a really great research project there for a budding gastroenterology doctor!! Especially to see how volunteers ‘habits’ change from arrival to leaving, and then on their return to their home country! I wish I had the answers, because its the question that volunteers ask me the most often because they are too shy to speak openly about it.

    Eat a Woodlouse, that will Cure You!

Its also an interesting topic because every country has its own folklores and remedys for constipation. In Britain, we swear by prunes, orange juice, rhubarb, apples, liquorice, and molasses, olive oil, and castor oil. But traditionally, we also suggested less pleasant things, for example, in Norfolk the proven cure for constipation was woodlice (but I don’t know how many of these, or if they should be dead or alive!). I imagine that the mere thought of eating these would turn a person’s stomach and be an instant cure all! In Devon, blackberries were often given as a laxative. In Suffolk, they would soak cloves in boiling water over night. In Norfolk they would also use chamomile tea, or boiled onions. Less pleasant is a fresh hen’s egg, whisked and then add water to it…drink (I think I would prefer cha cha to personally!). And you Americans are no better…..black hens, and enemas from tobacco and water! I would love to hear from some Georgians about other local folklores and traditions!

    Tomorrows Little Jaunt: Davit Gareji with TLG

So, tomorrow I have been invited to visit Davit Gareji with TLG (Teach and Learn in Georgia), although I haven’t yet received any details, and its already almost 10pm! So I may or may not be going anywhere at this rate!! Its an orthodox monastery complex, situated in Kakheti, and you can read more about it here if you are interested (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gareja_monastery_complex). I hope to visit this place many times over the summer, especially as a tour guide. But it will be a nice opportunity to relax and to meet some other teachers, and to enjoy some photography. Don’t think I will be talking much though, since my voice is rapidly going now. Will let you know more tomorrow.

And finally……the Ocean Rowing Girls

Sarah Outen was not able to make it to Prague today, because she was wiped out by food poisoning and spent the day in bed, but I am sure she will be back on form soon (http://www.sarahouten.com/). Roz Savage had great difficulty eating her porridge this morning due to wind blowing it off the spoon before it reached her mouth. She has re-classified many different types of waves, and is now on day 8 of her solo row across the Indian Ocean. (http://www.rozsavage.com/2011/04/20/day-8-waveology/). As always, it seems that food is always a significant factor in any expedition, whether land or shore based!!

    Teliani Winery: A Sneaky Preview, and a Chance to Hear Some Georgian Language!

That’s all for today folks…….


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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