Blimey, I think It Must be Time for an Update!

    More excuses!

As always, I will begin with another apology for not writing for a while, but I have a good excuse this time I think! I have been just too busy setting up the Black Sea ‘Oceans Project’, website (, and applying for grants. That and it has been ridiculously hot in Tbilisi, over 40degrees, and we even had a plague of locusts! Check out this article for a laugh: But now, there is a break in the weather for the next few days, and the temperature has dropped to a more pleasant 26degrees. So I am feeling a whole new freshness, and thank goodness, am back to wearing clothes and no longer sticking like glue to my laptop and papers, which is a huge bonus when you are trying to run a project and have a limited time in which to do so!!

So, what is new??? Well, as you can probably already tell, I am in a much better mood than I have been of late. Am settling into my new house, and loving that I am on my own in my own head space, for the first time since August last year! My two housemates, only one of whom has moved in so far, are in Europe, so I am making the most of having the run of the place. Since the weather dropped, I have started to cook again, and feel much healthier for it, especially after o long on hard to digest Georgian food, which is mostly bread based. Because it is summer, there is also a little more variety on the fruit and vegetable front, so that is also fantastic, and I am feeling somewhat renewed again.

    Unemployed in Summer Time!

I am also now unemployed, but hope to start my new job at British Connection school in September, and then should be back to a decent salary and quality of life. So am really looking forward to that and the challenge of being a teacher in my own class again, with no co-teacher. Can’t wait to start planning my lessons too! I will have my own class of first graders in the primary school, and my own geography classes in the secondary school, which is a dream come true really. Its going to be tough and tiring, especially teaching 9am to 5pm and then running my oceans project on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 5pm and 8pm, but exciting all the same. Means I will have some structure in my life again, and can then really start to enjoy my weekends, hence I am so happy to have all of August free for now, just to rest and recharge a bit.

    One Chapter Ends…

Its not to say that life has been easy by any means, or free from drama, but being now free from the Ministry’s TLG (Teach and Learn with Georgia) programme has given me a whole new sense of freedom and its a relief to be master of my own destiny again. Especially since most of the dramas I have had since the time I signed up with them have been down to their mistakes or errors or lack of planning, so at least now, if there is a fuck up, then its down to me, and I don’t have to wait on others for my stability.

We had parted on fairly good terms, however, they have now decided to be complete arses, and I am really just done with wasting any more time on them now. Was pretty upset at first, because I still really believe in the ethos of what they are doing, and they are generally as individuals, all really nice people, but by the time they decided to close my school, tell me they never approved my summer project, not pay me for two months of work I had done, and not even offer me a vacation flight, but have to repay them my flight, and been extremely rude to me, I was pretty much at the end of my tether with them. The irony is that they fiercely deny that my school has been ‘closed’! But basically it is closed as far as I am concerned. I mean how can you sack all the staff, change the number of the school from 56 to 41, and change the main language of the school from Russian and Georgian to Ukranian, and charge the non Ukranian speaking kids to attend? The kids who don’t speak Ukranian have left. To me, school 56, the school I had grown to love and feel a part of, is now closed, and a new school has taken its place. It is not that there is anything wrong with the new school that is school 41, and I understand the need for educational reform, but for me, it is no longer the same, and from the new staff I have met, I don’t feel that its a place where I will feel supported or will get anything new from.

The ‘closure’ of my school was even more annoying, given that I had signed the contract for another year with TLG on the basis that I could continue working at school 56, and that I could undertake my oceans project there. Now, technically, TLG are arguing that nothing has changed, but for me, it is totally different. To me its the people that make up the school, not the bricks and mortar, although that will all be changing shortly, since the new Ukranian Principal is coming with money and grand designs to refurbish the place, so it will only kind of be the same school. It needs refurbishing though as its a bit of a death trap in its current state.

I had also agreed to stay on the basis that I had got permission to undertake my project, which included a summer project to decorate the classrooms and teach English over the holidays to the teachers and anyone who wanted lessons. I did this, and now TLG are refusing to pay me, stating that they never agreed to this. They are treating ne as if I am a total idiot, and their arguments are just ridiculous. They are trying to fool into thinking that there was a communication error or that it never happened, but I purposefully made a point of clarifying every single detail in writing because I know what they are like and that Georgians are often full of false promises, and so I got it all in writing. It means nothing though, other than my relief at knowing its not my memory that is playing up. But its the principal of the matter which really angers me, especially after everything I have done for them on the project, even losing friends or colleagues because I continued to defend them.

I am so frustrated with the backwardness and blinkered vision of the Ministry here, and how they treat people like idiots and go around with this inflated attitude of themselves. So, I am done with wasting more time and breath on them, and am opening up a new chapter in my life. Screw them, I tried, and tried, and tried to help them, but they really have blown it this time, and I struggle to see how we can ever make amends. Its especially sad and difficult, because I really had felt that I was friends with the people from TLG, especially the boss, that she was a really nice lady and very fair, but after this whole pay incident and denial, and now ignoring my emails, I have come to realise that I have really been a total sucker and was never appreciated or valued in any shape or form, it was just empty words on their part and all a lot of tosh. Thinking back, to when I have had my toughest moments in Georgia, they have never supported me, and really only want to be involved when they think things are good. When the going gets tough, they all disappear, and communication is mostly just one way, and usually involves me bending over backwards and no compromise being made.

I am truly disappointed in my experiences with tlg, and the way it has now ended, especially with being left with no money or place to live,and no sense of responsibility from them. I seem to be the only volunteer who was not offered a vacation flight home, to have received wine and chocolates, and everything has been at my own expense in some way. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved my time in TLG, and the opportunity, and experiences I have had, but now it is time to turn a new leaf, and to get over the hurt caused by them, and the sad way in which it seems to have ended. many of them have now unfriended me on facebook, and I really do know where I stand now, having given them every ounce of my energy.

…But a New Chapter Begins…

    And so, I am on with a new chapter in my life. With a new place to live, new community, new job, new project, and hopefully a new place on a PhD. Oh yes, and a new tortoise too!

      Introducing Hercule Poirot!

    The new tortoise is a Russian tortoise I think (he has 4 toes), but I am not exactly sure. Here are some pictures of him:

    his shell is currently 4cm wide and 6cm from head to tail and he is probably about 3months old, but could live to 188years old!! Funnily enough, I have wanted a tortoise ever since our family friends from Greece introduced me to the incredibly old, and lawn pacing tortoise in their back garden when I was very young. We were friends with them for many years, and I used to love hunting around the garden, under plastic trikes and sandpits, trying to find their big tortoise in the long grass under the bushes. It was just so cool and fascinating to watch, like a little dinosaur, and so very mysterious, probbaly because the family were Greek, and I had images of it living on islands somewhere warm and interesting, having never been abroad myself. It was just exciting. All wrinkled and dull skin, and then these big black shiny, all knowing eyes. And so began, my childhood ambition to be a tortoise owner! But, purchasing a tortoise in the UK was against the law, they were probably really expensive, and they were not easy to come by.

    So, I was incredibly childishly excited, when entering the pet shop in Tbilisi for some cat and dog biscuits, to discover that the rustling noise in the corner of the bright shop window, was coming from between 12 and 20 baby tortoises in a little aquarium filled with sawdust. I thought they would be incredibly expensive, difficult to keep, and that I could no way overcome the language barrier to enquire about them, apart from the fact that it was a big responsibility and I could in no way justify getting one!

    However, I spoke to the pet shop man, who spoke Russian, and who, in some ways was the re-incarnation of my granddad, blaming the state of children’s poor arithmetic on the fact that they all use calculators these days, when the best way, like in his schooling, was to learn to do it all in your head! Like, I could make any difference in that as part of my job as an English teacher, but still, he clearly felt it was my responsibility! Like most people here, when they realise you are foreign, and you don’t appear to be a tourist, they automatically assume you are a teacher of the English language here in Georgia, and nothing will change their mind, even if you are not! But, we somehow managed to communicate, and he explained that the cost was 1gel, and that they just ate fruit and vegetables.

    A few days later I returned and asked more questions, and then caved in and bought one. I looked at as many of them as I could. I wanted one who looked that had some attitude about it and wasn’t sleeping, and decided on two small ones. One was male and one was female. The female was much smaller, but the boy looked more alert, so I decided he was the one for me. Apart from which, I have two female cats and a female dog, so its about time there was a boy added to the crazy menagerie. Apparently you can tell the difference between male and female, by the shape on the under surface of the shell near the tail.

    The shop was pretty busy today, mostly with people buying tiny cages and birds to put in them. Birds are popular pets in Georgia, but I sometimes feel sad at the way in which they are kept. I was a little horrified when the pet shop man looked as though he might just wrap the new tortoise in a plastic bag (as I have seen done with live chickens here, so they can be put into one’s handbag and taken home!), and with a it of persuasion and some strange looks, he put him in a case, not the best packaging, but I knew it was just a few minutes walk home in the heat.

    So, I got back, and set about building a tortoise house in the bottom half of the cat carrier. It was perfect. I covered the open side, put in some sawdust and some little cardboard boxes, and cut up a pringles tube for him to hide in if he wanted. next I gave him a warm bath in a saucer of water, and was massively impressed when he emitted a rush of pinky/white substance into the water. Its cool because tortoises have evolved to emit a rush or uric acid when in the presence of water, as a build up of it affects their kidneys. he was probably a bit dehydrated too, and I think this was his first ever bath, but he really loved it. Now he gets regularly baths and is turning into quite a character.

    I never imaged that a tortoise could be so fascinating, but they are just so weird and wonderful. Now he is living on the balcony because its sunny, and I want him to get as much sunlight as possible so that he doesn’t become vitamin deficient or develop problems with his shell. I am also trying to collect different flowers and grasses to grow for him to eat, as a supplement to the fruit and veg, which isn’t great if its not in variety. I haven’t found anywhere to buy plant seeds here, so my plan is to get some sent or brought over from the Uk, and to grow these, as the things that are meant to be good for him, are not obviously available here.

    Winter is going to be the tricky one, especially hibernation, as I read that I am supposed to put him in the freezer, but we will cross that bridge as and when!

    He is called Hercule Poirot by the way. For no particular reason. He just had to have a name that started with a consonant, to break my previous cycle with naming the girls Uisce, Izzy, and Isla, and he kind of has a character that reminds me of Poirot. Agatha Christie is also a well known author in Georgia, and despite her dyslexia she became a world famous author of many, many books. So, it seemed fitting to follow in her path of achieving the seemingly impossible as that is pretty much what I feel like I am doing in Georgia right now. For those of you who don’t know about Poirot, here is a clip to give you an idea:

    And so, I think that is enough for today…..adieu xx


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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