Metekhi Chtili

Tonight, I had guests and so I decided we should eat out at a Georgian restaurant, close to the Shaeraton Hotel. It was absolutely delicious food, and another chance to sample some really good Georgian wine. I really wish that other volunteers had the opportunity to taste good quality Georgian food and wine, because when you get the good stuff its actually really, really nice. When I lived in the village, I hated Georgian food and wine, and was disappointed because before coming to Georgia I had tried really nice Georgian food and wine. However, once I discovered that khajapuri is so much better when it is a) fresh, and b) warm, I started to trust Georgian food again, and am slowly becoming friends with it. Prior to this, I could not understand what all the fuss was about, as we just seemed to eat the same old stuff every day, and it was stale and chewy, and hard to digest. But, proper, good quality Georgian food, is really, really tasty!

I haven’t eaten at the Metekhi Chtili before, but I looked on the website http://www.info-tbilisi.com and saw that they had live Georgian folk music on that evening, and I wanted my guests to here this polyphonic singing and to experience this side of Georgia. I wasn’t overly impressed when we first arrived, because the lady at the desk said that we didn’t have a reservation even though we had booked, and also gave my guests a filthy look and complained because they were wearing open topped sandals. I looked around the restaurant quickly, saw that there were empty tables and that we were really not so badly dressed, and the party of people from Azerbijan who were dancing and singing after their supra, also had such sandles on. It annoyed me really, especially as this was the first time my guests had met a Georgian person, and would be the impression they would take back to America with them, and there was no need to be so obvious or rude, and is not what I am used to in terms of Georgian hospitality. Sadly, my guests had a similar experience the following day when visiting a church, and it made me cross that they were treated this way because they were foreigners.

However, we managed to get a table (in the corner, so we couldn’t see the singers!), but we had a brilliant evening all the same, fantastic food (The best Georgian food I have eaten I think) and we really enjoyed the music and delicious wine from Telaviani Winery, where my guests would also be visiting during the week. It would be fair to say that I was a little bit tipsy, so it was a great idea that we decided to walk back into town, rather than just catching a taxi. We walked through old town, which is always beautiful by night, and it was the perfect end to a lovely evening, and my guests really enjoyed themselves. We only had one minor event, when a very drunken Georgian man approached my female guest, but he soon disappeared when he saw she was with her husband, and my guests shrugged it off. But I wonder how less seasoned travellers would find their first evening in Tbilisi! From the airport, we had taken a taxi to their hotel, and I was annoyed to see that the car was a bit of a wreck and kept stopping as we were driving, and it was not the side of Georgia that I wanted them to experience for the first time here, but again, they shrugged it off, and put it down to the experience of being in Georgia, which, I am sad to say, it is!

Actually, it was pretty interesting and strange for me to meet with foreigners for the first time since I have arrived in Georgia, especially people who are on holiday and are not here to teach. It was nice to see how much I take for granted now, and how much I have adapted to life here, and also great to be able to show other people around, and to introduce them to my Georgia, to share all that I have learnt and experienced, and also to see their reactions and reflections on life here. I am amzed at how much I have learnt, and its really spurred me on to know more of the Georgian language and more about the history and so forth.

    School

I had a brilliant week at school, although I didn’t really feel that I did much school work this week! On Monday we had a public holiday because it was Victory Day, and on Thursday we had a holiday because it was St Andrew’s Day (I think?), and on Friday, I was given the day off because most of my students would not be in anyway, and it was the last day of school for my 12th graders. So, it was a very laid back week in that way. It was really interesting to talk to different Georgian people about Victory Day and to see that people were still proud and upset at the country’s loss, even though the war was some fourty years ago. It was also strange, and sad, to realise that many Georgian people are unaware that Britain was a part of the same war, that London was badly bombed, that we had black outs, that children were sent away from their families to live with strangers in the country for a long period of time, often separated from siblings, and that Britain lost a lot of its young men, some as young as 17 years old. The experiences of war really changed the pyche of Britain, and women basically held the country together, working with the land army, becoming the bread winners, and raising children as widows. Many people had their homes bombed and lost all of their possessions. People had to live in shelters in their gardens during air raids, and people slept on the underground on the floor. In many ways, I guess Georgia is similar, and I wonder whether I love Georgia because it is similar to how Britain was some fourty years ago? In class, a few months ago the children were learning about World War 2 in my English lessons, but I had no idea that so many people were unaware of what Britain lost too. Yet we have no Victory Day holiday, which is really sad.

I had an awesome week at school though, and I really love being a part of the school. I can’t wait to come back in September and to spend the summer holiday working with my co-teachers to come up with new and exciting lessons for the next two semesters.

This week I also started working with some new adult students, and this was a really great experience and opportunity to learn not just more about Georgia, but also the differences between Britain and Georgia, and the implications of my teaching students in Georgia. It’s a huge responsibility, but also a great honour to be a part of such an amazing project and so much change. It’s a responsibility because what I am really teaching, whether I like it or not, is my own belief system and values, and experiences, and I almost feel that I am contaminating or corrupting the Georgian people I meet. My interaction with them, means they will never be the same again! My aim is to teach English, and I am not looking to do any more than that, but I wonder what influences my personality or time spent in my company will do to them?? Likewise, I am always changing too, and I am amazed at the impact the people I have met have had on me in just a short time. I will never be the same person again, and am constantly evolving, just as they are. But its really cool and I think its positive on the whole. I hope that I can break some stereotypes.

Its funny this week, because I have realised that I have just upped the anti, and have doubled my expectations of the children I teach. When I arrived at the school in January, my main goals were to get the children attending class, bringing their text books to school, participating, and giving eye contact. I also wanted to focus on behaviours that I consider unacceptable, like talking when others are talking, not listening, playing with lighters, and drawing on furniture and walls. This week I realised that my main challenge now is getting the students to put their name on their work, and getting them to underline the title of their work!!!!! It was such a shock to realise just how far we have come, and how much I trust them now.

It was also a shock to realise that I am now teaching them English, as if I were an English teacher working in a British school with native speakers. We are doing reading comprehension activities now and are studying literature, looking at why the author has written the book or used certain words or paragraphs in a particular way, etc. I was gob-smacked when I realised! I am pushing them really hard now, but they just seem to lap it up, and enjoy the challenge. I spent several hours marking homework this week, and the errors that they made were not grammatical or in comprehension, but a few spelling mistakes and punctuation errors!!! I still can’t quite get my head around this! On the one hand it makes my job so much more interesting now, but on the other hand, I wonder what I can find for them to do by the time they are in the 12th grade because they are making me work really hard as a teacher now!!

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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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