Saturday 25th June 2011: A Time for Some Reflection

    Saturday 25th June 2011: A Time for Some Reflection

Well, I certainly can’t complain about my writing spot today, that’s for sure!!! Outside in the cool breeze, sun on my back, and the sound of the waves and wind in my ears. With a background of birds singing and twirling and swallows and house martins flying so close to my head that I can almost hear their heart beats as they pass. The pond is looking super today, big enough to swim in, filled with water lilies in their yellows and whites, and the swallows are performing the most amazing air spectacle, diving into the water for a drink or to catch insects. Its lovely to sit on the soft brown grass, surrounded by emerald and azure blue damselflies, and little moths landing on the tall, sharp, green stalks of other grasses.

Better still, is the fact that my little black dog Isla is sat right besides me, resting her chin on my knee and basking in the sunshine, with not a care in the world, and my white cat Uisce is sat next to me mewing away in protest that I am not here to feed her again.

Every so often, a cricket will land on my very grubby looking offwhite mac, realise that this is something alien in this environment, and just as quickly, hop off again, springing into the air, with me not even able to guess in which direction it might land. Life is good.

But, my happiness is tainted by an mixture of thoughts and emotions, many of which are unexpected, and I feel a little on edge as to how I am going to process and reflect on things. Thank goodness for the blog, and my blogging audience to keep me sane! I don’t actually have internet right now, but I hope that I manage to capture the moment all the same, and I am sure the next few weeks will involve a lot of reflection and processing.

    Nine Months Ago..

It is hard to believe that just nine months ago, I was sat outside in the same spot, wondering how life in Georgia would be, and waiting on my flight to Tbilisi. In some ways, nothing has changed, yet in others, the world has done a completely hemispheric backflip. Have I changed I wonder? Am I a better or worse person than I was, or am I still just the same confused and sensitive, and head strong individual?? Hard to imagine that this time last year, I was studying hard for medical school exams, with no time for anything or for anyone, and with no life outside of my books. Life was tough. Working over 60 hours a week in the hospital just to make ends meet, dog walking at weekends for money for food, worrying how to fund medical school, and dealing with all the politics that runs alongside British universities, medical schools, and judging by the recent news and facebook statuses, the ongoing politics of prices rising and wages not meeting to match them. In that sense, I am glad to be out of Britain, and I love the freedom I have in Georgia and the quality of life that I now have. I haven’t missed medicine in the slightest, which is hard to believe given that I have spent over seventeen years of my life working in the NHS and in hospitals, or with social services. I wanted to make a difference to the lives of patients or the children I looked after in the Adolescent Resource Team, but in reality, I was always bound by red tape and idiotic bureaucracy.

    Adolescent Resource Team

I often wonder what happened to those children I worked with. My job was to prevent children from entering into care services where appropriate, and to help improve the relationships between children and the adults ‘caring’ for them. They were supposed to be problematic children/teenagers, and that was why their parents had thrown them out of home, but the reality was very different. What I saw, and learnt in my 1:1 anger management and therapy sessions with the kids was that they were great kids at heart, and just wanted to have a normal life, in which they could go to school and enjoy being a kid. But, for them it was impossible with parents who were heroine addicts with no desire to clean up their acts, and most of the parents I met had no bonds with their child, especially since they were no longer eligible for state benefits once the kids reached a certain age. I don’t know why I am thinking about this now, so long afterwards, but I guess its part of the cultural adaptation of being in Georgia, and seeing how different child rearing practices are??

I remember one young lad, whose parents worked for the fair. He really wanted to go to school, and he loved his foster family because for the first time in his life, he had stability and could stay in one place and make friends with other children. He was able to attend school regularly, on time, and to do his homework, and even joined the army cadets which he loved attending with his foster brother. I had to attend many multi-disciplinary meetings about him and his brother. About twenty adults sat in a room, discussing what was in his best interest, yet to me, no one had his best interests at heart, no one ever asked him what HE wanted, and no one ever did anything other than talk. Instead, they came to the conclusion, that children are always better off with their parents, because its natural and unconditional, probably because they were all from stable and normal homes where the adults did care. It was always my job to break the outcome of such meetings to him, and to do so in the most positive and unbiased way possible. So, they moved him from his foster family, and back home. He was beaten and hospitalised on several occasions by his father, was no longer able to attend school because his father wanted him out working on the fairground, and he was in trouble with his teachers for not attending school regularly or for doing his homework. He ran away from home, got in trouble with the police for stealing money to buy food, and ended up back in care, and back with our services, moving from one foster family to the next.

Did anyone learn?? Nope! Instead, my job was to work with him on his now increased anger and emotions to help him improve his relationship with his parents! On working with his parents, who failed to turn up to most of the scheduled sessions, and who avoided as much contact as possible, it was clear that they did not want their son either, he was a burden to them. They needed a son who wanted to work at the fairground, not a rebellious child who would rather be at school, and who brought the wrath of social services on them on a daily basis, and had them tied up in ridiculous meetings with various ‘do-gooders’.

It was the worst job I have ever had in my life. Working with children, whose hope seems to be diminishing before your eyes. Knowing that everyday you are sending them home to be beaten or starved, or where they don’t have access to the life saving insulin for their diabetes, and knowing full well, that sooner or later, they are either going to kill themselves or be beaten to death, or end up in awful trouble, put in prison, or become addicted to drugs. Or worse still, that the same cycle is going to occur for their own children, just as has happened with their parents and grandparents before them. How can you give false hope to a child that things will get better, when you both know damn well that it won’t. I always felt that no hope was far better than false hope, as at least you can deal with that. Instead, all I could do was to teach survival strategies, and hope that those were enough to see them through until they were old enough to leave home. But I wonder how many of them are still alive now, or have managed to win through life’s shit deck of cards.

    Social Services and Social Workers

I am sure that there are some social workers out there who have managed to do a far better job than I ever did, and who worked in more supportive offices than mine. We were at one time, the worst social services in the country, partly because of the region in which we worked, but partly because we had no idea about the children under our care. We ‘lost’ their files somewhere in the filing cabinet, and had no idea of the health or wherabouts of approximately 200 children under our care. But, the thing which really got to me, was that one of our recently discharged cases, threatened to kill his child if social services did not support him or give the help he wanted. They did not, and the result was that the father took his two year old son into a restaurant and slit the baby’s throat in front of the shocked diners. For that reason, the department I worked with lost its final star. This was a few months before I joined the team, but was in the media for some time afterwards.

    The Case of Baby P

Sadly, its not a one off, as was demonstrated by the case of Social Services in London, regarding Baby P (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Baby_P), and which sadly, I am not surprised about. Sometimes, things are tough not because there is no help or policies, but because there are too many people involved, too many legislations and red tape to cut through, and because it means that it is always somebody else’s problem and no one takes on ultimate responsibility until its too late.

    Georgia..

But, anyway, I digress. One of the things I have come to love about Georgia, is this sense of community spirit, that a problem is always everybody’s problem. If there is a baby in the house, everyone takes on the care, not just the mother or father. I often wonder if there is child abuse in Georgia, and if so, if this ever gets brought to the attention of others? I have never heard of anything, and I wonder if this is just an iceberg phenomenon. Georgian children always seem so vulnerable, but then in other ways they are incredibly lucky because they have society to look out for them (unless of course, they are gypsy children, who no one seems to care about). In Britain, I have seen many distressed children walking around the supermarket having lost their mum’s or dad’s. But I have yet to see this in Georgia. Is it that Georgian children don’t get so upset about being lost, or is it that other adults take responsibility and take them to find their parents, or do they just not get lost in the first place??

    Child Rearing

In Britain, we raise children to be independent from day one, because we believe that they need to learn these life skills, the old ‘you made your bed, now you can lie in it’ mentality and attitude. If I pick up after my child’s every mistake or fight his or her battles, then how will they ever learn to survive?? Yet, in Georgia, it’s the complete opposite, children are allowed to make mistakes, are protected and nurtured, and given emotional support. This is particularly evident when it comes to playing with hazardous substances or in dangerous situations. Georgian kids routinely play with fire and lighters, and are not afraid of setting fire to things, and no one worries that they will hurt themselves or set the house alight. In Britain, we scream at kids, so that they are afraid of being in trouble. But, I am starting to wonder if this is why British kids are becoming so useless at looking after themselves, that we have given them so many rules, that they never learn through experience or learn the consequences of their actions? Georgian kids are certainly far less moody than British kids, and they are more resourceful and resilient on the whole, and deal with disappointments far better.

It saddens me in the UK, that people are afraid to get involved these days, for fear of repercussions or police involvement or accusations of child abuse. People are afraid to speak to or to comfort other people’s children, and you could even get arrested for it if the parents were to press charges. So sometimes, its easier to turn a blind eye, or to call the police and tell them and leave it to them to sort out. If the child gets injured in the long run, then so be it, has to be better than being in trouble!

    Britain and Georgia, Like Chalk and Cheese..

Anyway, I often think about this difference between my life in Britain and in Georgia, and its definitely one of the big positive reasons for staying in Georgia. Its so freeing to be able to participate in society, to not feel guilty for having feelings towards others, or empathy or compassion. Even at medical school, I was always in trouble for actually caring about the lives of my patients, and even for ‘rushing off’ to see my grandfather when he was dying from cancer. I still can’t understand how I had to go to a meeting with senior staff to justify missing a few days of lectures to visit my grandfather. Its such a far cry from my life now. A few weeks ago, one of my teachers at school lost her aunt, and her friends (other teachers from school) all got time off to go to the funeral with her, and again to the 7 day ceremony, and likely the fourty day and one year ceremony. It was no big deal for them to get time off from school, and everyone rallied around her. Even the kids at school gave her flowers and hugs, and it was all so normal. I really wonder about the whole grieving process in Georgia, and whether people get over death much easier in Georgia than they do in Britain. I am still struggling with the grieving process over my grandfather, but I wonder whether most of that is because I was never allowed to grieve or to even show emotions, or whether it was because I was made to feel guilty by the medical school??

    Death and Grieving

I really find Georgia to be cathartic in this manner, and whilst I am often surrounded by people and miss my personal space and time, I often find myself enjoying those quiet moments when visiting the church as a tourist, and when I can light a candle for him, and place it in the special sand in a designated place at the front of the church, devoted to people who have died. Somehow, being in Georgia has made me feel closer to him, and that I often get to remember him and celebrate his life, in ways which are not possible for me in Britain. I am not particularly religious, nor am I orthodox or catholic or atheist or whatever, but I often find myself drawn to the traditions in Georgia, and it makes life feel so much more human and personable. The cycle of life and death is far more normal and evident, and is less taboo in many ways.

It’s a comfort during the supra, to give a toast to people who have died, and it means that every time I go to supra, I get a chance to keep my grandad in my thoughts. Every time I light a candle, I can remember him, and somehow this is easing the stress that was put on me at the time when he died, when I was on a ship at sea, and not able to return for his funeral. Georgia has definitely worked its magic on me!!

    Do I Miss Georgia or Not??

And so, I find myself in a strange and reflective place right now. I am happy to be back in Latvia, and with my pets, for the first time in 9 months, I am really glad to have left Georgia, but equally I feel very homesick and like something is missing from my soul. I am missing my friends, but equally am wanting to cut free, because missing people is such a painful experience. I have never been so emotionally tied to people or places before, and part of me wants to withdraw from the experience entirely and return to my older and colder ways of the past, where I was a free spirit and had no meaningful connection with anyone. But equally, I know what I am missing now, and it’s a little like being a drug addict. I am craving my friendships because they make me so happy, but equally I know that they are making me vulnerable and that I will easily be hurt. To invest in them further, is dangerous, but will equally be rewarding, especially if I can hang in there and brave it out. I hate Georgia as much as I love it right now, but not for any reason, other than its easier for me to protect myself from getting hurt. Its always easier to hate than to love.

In two days time, I will be returning to Georgia, hopefully with my two cats and my dog. Its an all or nothing situation, and I still find myself wondering what the hell I am playing at. To make things work, and to have the quality of life I want, means to throw myself into my work now, and to avoid friendships and therefore emotions as much as possible, because its all a bit too much stress right now, and too much to reflect on and to process. I need to be busy and on auto pilot for a while, because I am afraid to stop. If I stop and think about things, it will freak me out totally, because to move to another country for good is a really big step.

I guess that is why I am in so much turmoil right now, because I know that I am moving in two days time, with no money behind me, and nowhere to live, and no guarantee of a job. I signed my new contract before I left, but it means nothing, as the Ministry can still do whatever they want, including not paying me or not giving me holiday pay, which is exactly what happened, even though they have apologised. I have no stability in my life, everything is done on hope, on a wing and a prayer. It could easily go tits up right now, and all it will take, is for one official at the airport to not allow my pets in, or to give me a large bill, or tell me their paperwork is wrong. Then, I will be completely up shit creek. I have done everything in my power, so now my only survival strategy is to go into complete denial and living in my own little la la land!!

    On Being Selfish and Surviving..

That has made me a shit friend of late, because I just don’t have the energy or space in me to deal with other people right now, as I have to look after myself first. At the end of the day, it is only me, and I will always be on my own, friends will always let me down, and the only person I can truly rely on is me. Only I know how I am feeling, and what I need to get me through, and to survive, and so right now, I am blinkered and removing myself as much as possible, because I can’t afford to get hurt by anyone. My tolerance and patience with others is low, and I am likely to bite your head off right now, if you want anything from me. Unless of course, you are one of the minority of people actually out to support me, and who have really supported me of late, and who have always put me first, and understood why I am the way I am right now. Otherwise, you are the enemy, a leech or vampire, taking away my precious energy that I need to hold onto ready for my own fights. Friendships should be two way relationships, and I am reminded of just how many friends don’t remember this, expecting me to be always on hand at times of need, but never being around to reciprocate when I need it most. That’s just life sadly, we never know when we will be free to give or receive, and that is fine and normal, but at this moment in time, I have nothing to give, nor the desire to give to one way relationships.

    Life as a TLG Volunteer..

The past few weeks with the ministry were really tough, and have made me really think hard about where I place my trust and security, and how I distribute my energy. I really love TLG and the programme, and I also appreciate that Georgia is a phoenix rising from the ashes, and with that there will always come slip ups and not everything will be perfect. Sometimes they deal with things very well, above all expectation, especially by western standards, and they have learnt so many things and over a relatively short amount of time. But since March, my relationship with the programme has really changed, and I no longer have the energy to give them the benefit of the doubt. Somehow they have broken my trust of late, and I am done fighting their battles with other volunteers and constantly giving the benefit of the doubt. Its more of an inner conflict than the result of anything external, but I am burnt out, and I feel that they have not been there for me when I have needed them. Perhaps my expectations of them have always been too high?? Who knows?? Or maybe I am just in survival mode, now that things in my life have changed. The rules of the game have changed for me, and I no longer have time or patience for pissing about.

The past nine months have been the trial run and a steep learning curve, but now I have to work on my life and creating a stable future and base for myself. I have made the huge decision about whether to stay in Georgia or not, and to stay here, means I have to focus on generating income and stability for myself to support me. I have a five year plan effectively, and five years in which to create a new life and base from which to work. I have no guarantee whether I will even have a job with the Ministry in the future, and I think the lack of support during the protests really highlighted that for me. I have given up financial security in pursuit of happiness and a more fulfilling and holistic life. I have given up a career in Medicine, and now I have the most amazing opportunity to focus on the things which are important to me spiritually or however you want to understand it. I have the real chance to make a difference, and to use the time given to me in my life, to generate some good or life changing experiences for others. A chance to put something good back into the system. I have done everything in my life that I have wanted to do, I only have one goal left, to be the first person to walk to Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, but by staying in Georgia, I know that this dream will become less of a reality financially and physically. But, I know I can inspire others to pursue their own dreams, and if I can make even a fraction of a mark or instil just a little bit of spark into the lives of others, then I know I will have achieved something at least.

It’s a transition period for me right now and being back in Latvia really brings this to my attention and is a firm marker. Time has gone by so quickly, and I have had to make a number of adjustments to my attitudes and expectations. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but it has been worth it, despite so many tough times.

I also wonder if I am feeling so strange right now, because it is the first time I have left Georgia, since December when I was sick and seriously thought that my time in Georgia was over. Many of my emotions are the same as they were at that point, anger at TLG, feeling unsupported, but also feeling homesick and pining for my Georgian friendships and noticing how cold people seem after Georgians.

I was lucky in that I had no real issues with my flights home, and I also have a lot of sympathy and understanding with TLG in organising the logistics and dealing with the emotions of the angry volunteers. But, equally, I feel that TLG brought a lot of trouble on themselves, on a personal level, and that they could have handled the situation much better. Seeing my friends go through hell, watching how my host family and other sympathetic Georgians helped to pick up the pieces, and seeing how patronising TLG were (whether intentional or not), highlighted to me the cultural differences and selfishness of Georgian people, and its something I have seen a lot of lately. When troubles hit, Georgians are very good at not wanting to deal with things, they go quiet, ignore communication, and when pushed into a corner, start to make up all kinds of stories, and try and put the onus back on the other person. Again, it’s a survival mechanism, but it generates a lot of unnecessary anger and stress, and is really detrimental to the relationship with the foreigner. It happens throughout Georgian society, on a wide range of scales. For example, I often meet people, who freak out because I am a foreigner and have tried to ask them a question in Georgian. They freak out so much, that the shutters automatically come down, and they decide that no matter what I say to them they will not be able to understand me, purely because I am foreign. They fail to listen and from that point you get nowhere, because they are in panic mode. I have yet to figure a way around this, but they seem to feel so uncomfortable, that they would rather leave the room than spend a second in your company. Often they will try and find someone who can speak English, and will go to any means necessary to provide you with an English speaker so that they can hide in the corner and observe from afar. When the ‘translator’ arrives, you ask exactly the same question in Georgian, and its like, as soon as they see you are not scary, they will slowly start to interact. Its incredibly frustrating when people blank you because they are convinced they will not understand, and you want to shake them by the neck sometimes and tell them to just shut up and listen before making such a decision.

Equally frustrating, is when people hang up on you because they cannot or will not answer your question. They don’t even give communication a chance. Or when they switch from Georgian to Russian, and fail to accept that you do not understand a word they are saying, no matter how loudly they speak.

I am tolerant of such behaviour for the most part, but recently it has started to really annoy me, and I find it selfish and incredibly rude. This is particularly the case where TLG are involved, as it should be about cultural exchange for both parties, and its like they get to a point where things are out of their control, and instead of just focusing on the job in hand, they generate worse feeling and more problems by burying their heads in the sand, and failing to take our cultural and emotional needs into account. Sadly and annoyingly, it gives us this impression taht its just one big joke to them, and I wonder whether part of that attitude is because they have warm beds and families to go home to, and that they don’t appreciate how difficult it I for us to reintegrate into our own cultures after our time in Georgia? There is also the old out of sight out of mind thing, whereby as far as they are concerned, once we have left Georgia, we are no longer their problem. This was not part of the deal, and I will explain why this made me so angry and upset prior to my leaving.

    Anger..

When we signed up for the project (a poorly paid project compared to others, in a war torn country, that no one had ever heard of, and where we had no idea what to expect), we made huge allowances for the fact that we had a day’s notice before leaving our country to fly to Georgia, that we would have to pay for our own health and criminal records checks, and that we had no idea where we would be living for the next year or with whom, or what age we would be teaching. A lot of unknowns on our part, and in exchange for nothing. It was all done on good faith, and at considerable risk to ourselves. But when we signed up, we were promised a round trip flight and a stipend in exchange for suitable living conditions. When I arrived, I was not met at the airport for a long time, no one was expecting me, I managed to cadge a lift with someone waiting for another volunteer, and was then put in the middle of nowhere on a diet of bread, with no water or electricity, and where I potentially could have lost my kidney, and which resulted in my needing to fly back to the UK at my own expense in order to get proper medical treatment. I had no contact from TLG as to my health or emotions, and was the only person not to receive books for school or wine and chocolates from the Minister as a thank you present. I was in the village, out of sight and out of mind, with zero support. Thankfully I am a big girl and a seasoned traveller, and with the support of my western friends, I muddled through. A lot has changed since that time, and TLG has become more adept at looking after volunteers, but all of that great work came undone the last few weeks, and feels like a massive kick in the teeth right now. Its like nothing has changed, and they still just don’t get it, despite us being so incredibly patient and making allowances for them.

I still have loyalties to those friends of mine living in the villages, and who have stuck it out throughout their time here, kudos to them, as I know many Georgians who wouldn’t even tolerate such living conditions. I don’t agree with them that TLG only cares about those people in Tbilisi, or that people in Tbilisi have an easier life, but I do think that they have a valid point to make. We submitted our flight requests back in February (although in TLG’s defence, many volunteers were late with this deadline, or have changed their minds a number of times since then), and most people should have had an open return ticket. So, it was pretty stressful, to witness so many volunteers not only going through the stress and emotions of saying goodbye to their kids at school, and host families, and preparing themselves to transition back into their own family life and culture again, but also having to go through unnecessary bullshit from TLG, and without the support or understanding of TLG. So many positive experiences and memories of Georgia has been irrevocably damaged due to the stresses of the past few weeks with flights and stipends not being paid, and I seriously wonder how many people will come back, and what damage this will do to not only TLG’s recruitment and reputation, but also to Georgia’s reputation. This is not just detrimental to the volunteer, but the volunteer’s family, and friends of the family, and friends of friends, will also know only this about Georgia, and will not take away anything positive about the country or its ability to organise even flights or pay. This is such bad advertising, and it really saddens me, particularly as so much of it could have been easily avoided. I also feel somewhat gutted for the TLG staff, as they work incredibly hard, and have done so much good, only to blow it all at the last minute with this major cock up, and bad attitude.

The fact of the matter, is that shit happens, that is just life, although more shit probably happens in Georgia than elsewhere, due to infrastructure and people’s attitudes towards Georgians and Georgia. Most volunteers were not so much angry about the difficulties with the flights or stipends, but in the attitudes they received from TLG staff, staff whom they have come to love and think of as friends, and at the lack of care or compassion given to them at a time of immense stress. The focus should not have been on TLG staff, but on looking out for the volunteers, who had until the last moment, been as patient and considerate towards the staff’s feelings as they could. Volunteers should have been supported during this time, not fobbed off with lies, or put onto flights going to completely the wrong places, at their own expense, etc.

TLG should have asked volunteers in the village to come to Tbilisi, and put them up in a hotel or hostel in the meantime, in case they were on last minute flights. They should have arranged transport from the villages, and put on activities or given vouchers towards food or whatever, or drafted in other volunteers to help ease the tension, to get volunteers in to make cups of tea or coffee or to provide sandwiches to those waiting in their office for 6 hours or more. Volunteers could have assisted with arranging flights or ensuring that information was forwarded to the right person, or to take calls or messages, or to drive volunteers to the airport for flights. A room could have been set aside for volunteers who were upset, and a member of staff who could trouble shoot, provide emotional support, or offer use of the phone to call America or wherever to organise for parents to collect their beloved offspring whom many had not seen for over 9 months. People are always your best asset in any business or team, and when you start to tell volunteers that you know more about their country and hometown than they do, because you happened to visit there once many moons ago, you are not winning yourself any favours. Apologies are all well and good, but this one was just far too late, and meant nothing by this point in time.

The whole situation was traumatic for everyone involved, and I hope that lessons have been learnt, and improvements will be made. No one person was entirely to blame, but things need chasing up quicker in future and allowance needs to be made, especially towards the emotional vulnerability of volunteers when they are saying goodbye to people they have been attached to and whom they will never see again. Georgian people can be so warm, but at times like this, so cold and removed from the situation and with no thought to how the volunteers might be feeling. Its sadly a common behaviour amongst Georgians, and is hard for me as a foreigner to get used to. Its like being in a relationship which is either hot or cold, depending on whether you are in or out of favour that day. Its akin to being manipulated or someone playing games with you. You get sucked in, and spat out as the mood requires, and you wean yourself off the friendship, only to get sucked back in because they say or do something so nice. Once you are hooked again, there is no challenge for them, and you are just dangling on the line. You cut yourself lose, and they want you back, it’s an emotionally draining cycle, and also one of the hazards of being a foreigner or resource in a foreign country where speaking English can be used as a strong currency. When you are the bell of the ball, everyone wants to know you and life is great, but when you are down and out, no one cares, and they have already moved on to the next Gucci bag or little miss popular. Sometimes its just best to remain the ugly duckling as no one wants to know you, and you always no where you stand, and you don’t get so emotionally involved or hurt. Friendships with Georgians still remain my greatest challenge, and I don’t think I will ever understand them! Friendships are different in Georgia, and the boundaries between work and play are far from clear, copmpared to other countries, which makes life a bit like pea soup at times.

Most of my western friends have had the same experience whilst in Georgia, and have also been badly burnt by friendships with Georgians, yet we still find ourselves going back for more emotional bashings. I guess that is probably why summer is going to be so difficult for me, now that all my foreign friends have left Georgia, as I won’t have anyone to share these experiences and confusions with. I just hope that my friends will come back to Georgia next term, because if I was them, I wouldn’t bother, after their experiences with TLG before they left. But equally, I know that Georgia still has more treats in store for them, and to leave on such a negative note would be incredibly sad, especially since they also have so many happy memories. I also want them to experience another side of Georgia life, the side that I have grown to know and love, and I hope that they can get to know TLG in a way that I have, and to see how hard TLG work, and that they do actually have the volunteers best interests at heart, even though they fuck up big time and go about things the wrong way at times. One volunteer said that life as a TLG volunteer was akin to child birth, painful and nasty at the time, but soon forgotten with subsequent happy memories, and I hope that is true once my friends get home. That will forget about their ordeals and return for another semester.

I hope that volunteers can see this other side to TLG, and the hearts of the individuals employed there, because at the end of the day, they are all really great people, and I respect them all on an individual basis and as people in their own right. Its just that sometimes, and for a reason I don’t fully comprehend, its like this Georgian mentality kicks in when the stress rises, and they disconnect from volunteers or start to treat us as foreigners or second class citizens, and when that happens, there is always trouble. We are foreigners, but we have been in Georgia and living with Georgian families for so long, that we are no longer ourselves, and we need treating in such a way. We are trapped somewhere in the middle, in a limbo land, having lost our cultural identity, and it hurts when we are treated like possessions. TLG are like our surrogate family whilst we are here, we are dependant on them to meet our needs, no matter how trivial or irrational these seem, and we therefore need the same care that would be given to any child. If we are in the office and talking about things from home, its likely that we are homesick or trying to prepare ourselves for our return to our world, and if we are complaining about something in our host family or school, we are doing so because we feel safe in TLG’s company and need a sounding board to let off some steam. The TLG office is a little box of safety or escape for us, and we are generally only there in times of difficulty or when we have a need. We therefore need a little TLC when we are there, no matter how busy or stressed out TLG staff are. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference.

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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.
This entry was posted in Autobiographical Things, Being a Medic, Britishness, Death and Dying, Explorers, Family, Friendship, Georgian Life, Latvia Life, The Pets, TLG (Teach and Learn in Georgia), Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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