Oceans Project Team Building Day

Sunday, Sunday

Prior to coming to Georgia, I really loved my Sundays and whenever I wasn’t working in the hospital, I loved having a duvet day and attempting to do as little as possible, but with ever looming med school exams and such like, and the constant house chores like washing and cleaning, it never really happened.

Needless to say, I still haven’t really achieved this in Georgia either!  But, my days of revision have been replaced by much more fun activities, and Sundays are probably the most sociable day of the week in Georgian living.  From experience so far, Sunday is the busiest day when it comes to taking the metro and every shop is open, and open until late as this is the day for relaxing and going out and meeting with people.  In my British childhood, Sundays were often the day before you go back to school or work, the day when you had your weekly bath, ironed your clothes, did your homework, and tried to at least get a head start on the week ahead.  If you failed on this Sunday quest then the week was always a challenge.  It was not considered acceptable for anyone, other than, perhaps family to call you after 7pm, and you always tried to get an early night before the week ahead, being in bed way before midnight.

Georgian life is not like this, and Sunday is the busiest day, and even on a ‘school night’, it is very unusual for a Georgian to go to bed before midnight, and its fairly acceptable to phone people past 10pm, to pop over to their house without warning, and to ask them to go out for coffee. In fact I probably speak with my School Director even if just online, most nights of the week, even at 3am or 4am, something that would NEVER happen in Britain, partly because we don’t even contact colleagues outside of work and to do so would not be acceptable.

This actually suits me fine as I have always struggled with being in bed before midnight, and am always at my best between about 10pm and 2am, especially when it comes to being sociable.  I’ve been the same since I was born, and no amount of my granny’s complaints of using up electricity, being unorganised, going to bed earlier, or getting up earlier, could ever change me.  It was just not my body’s natural biorhythm or whatever you want to call it.  My granny, on the other hand, has always been a morning bird, preferring to get up before sunrise and going to bed certainly before midnight, with the exception of New Year’s Eve when many people ‘force’ themselves to stay up and see in the New Year until as late as 2am!!  According to my granny, if I got up earlier, I could go to bed earlier.  But it never worked for me, and I never understood why I should change what was natural for me, just to please another person or society.  Rather like being left handed and being forced to draw and write with your right hand.

It is one of the reasons that I love being in Georgia, and why I feel like I fit into the Georgian life style far better, and a few people have joked that perhaps I must have been Georgian in a past life.  I have a sweet tooth, so do Georgians, I like to be more spontaneous, I like to go with the flow, and I prefer that the emphasis in life should be on friends and family.  All things which I really battled with in Britain as I always seemed to be in opposition to society’s expectations of me, and I have felt this from when I was very young, especially at Primary School. I’m constantly in trouble in Britain, not for being bad, but because I just want to be me, and trying to conform to things that I don’t understand the reasoning behind, just makes me feel more and more excluded and alone.  Don’t show your emotions, don’t say how you feel, don’t say this, don’t say that, etc.  I’ve never felt that in Georgia, here people are assumed to be unique and are allowed to be a bit more open and honest.  I’m not saying that Georgia is the golden land of freedom or choice, far from it.  Many things are still not acceptable here, being gay, being disabled, being a different colour, and so on.  It is still not acceptable for a woman in a village to smoke whilst walking down the street, and being divorced or an unmarried mother is not entirely welcomed either, in the city it is pretty OK, but in the village things are slower to change and its not unusual for strangers to comment if a girl’s skirt is too short or she is wearing nail varnish, jewellery, or make up.  But on the whole, on the smaller attitudes in life, things are more open and emotions are considered to be transient and a part of being a human. At least, that is my experience so far, and I love that it is OK to form relationships with the people you meet and work with every day.

Winter

The weather in Tbilisi is definitely very different to the summer when he had the plague of locusts and I was pretty much walking around the house in the nuddy just to try and keep cool.  It is almost impossible to remember now that I am in fact living in the same country that I was over the summer.  The days were filled with swimming outdoors, trying to avoid getting sunburn, and eating masses of strawberries.  Now it is a case of putting on as many layers as possible, and avoiding even the shower for fear of getting chapped skin due to cold exposure.

Yesterday was a typical wintery morning here in Tbilisi, hovering around zero degrees, but always with a blue sky and sunshine.  I haven’t seen rain in ages and when it does rain, I love it even more than ever.  In Britain, it is usually grey, and winter can feel quite grim, but here it is sunny and cold, and this has always been my favourite kind of weather.  The snow has gone from the city, apart from the higher up areas, but many villages around Georgia still have a significant amount of snow, and just an hour away from Tbilisi it is possible to go skiing in Gudauri off the Military Highway, on the way to the high mountains in Kazbegi. So, the morning began, with a very large cup of tea (with milk because I am a Brit!), a big bowl of porridge, and having put Isla my little dog into her coat and scarf, we headed off to the Freedom Square (Liberty Square) metro where we would be meeting our Oceans Ambassadors for a day trip.

Isla’s Life

Walking Isla is always quite an event, and any journey through the city, turns what should be a 30minute walk, into around an hour, if not longer walk.  People just stop dead and stare at her, give great exclamations of ‘vaiimeee deda’, point, laugh, and want to talk to her (though she is typically Italian Greyhound aloof), take her photo, and ask me ‘is it a dog?’.  I never learnt that as a phrase I would regularly hear in Russian or Georgian, you won’t find that one in any old phrase book! One day, I would love to make a video of one of our typical walks, perhaps putting a hidden camera on Isla so you can see how people react to her, and what life must be like from her perspective.  For the most part, Isla can’t be bothered, it is normal for her, and its often as if she is a celebrity, used to all the paparazzi!

I can understand people’s reactions to her, and it is very funny for me, but sometimes it gets a bit irksome when you are trying to walk a little more incognito. Big grown men, who look like they could kill you, seem to melt and go all girly when they see her, and it seems to be the guys who are most taken by her cuteness.  And she knows it too! Italian greyhounds are very manipulative, and they instantly work out who they have the best chance of scoring food or cuddles from!  You might be wondering how on earth, walking a dog could be so fascinating for passers by, but put it into the context of walking a giraffe along the street, but not just any old giraffe, one which is also wearing clothes and saying good morning to you!  Now you get the picture!!

Isla loves these walks, probably more so than me, and I miss the old days where we could just go out on the mountains walking and running and knowing that we would not bump into a single person for days.  Its scary for me, walking down the street and its hard work.  Georgians don’t walk in straight lines, and their movements can be difficult to predict. Crossing roads is always daunting, and as a pedestrian you often have to look out for cars driving along pavements, plus uneven and broken road and path surfaces, dodging cigarette yielding people who have a tendency to talk with their arms, and avoiding any strange or stray dogs which live on the streets.  Walking Isla is quite a task in Georgia, but we are getting used to it slowly.  What makes it even harder, is that she is the only Iggy (Italian Greyhound) in the country, and she is also very special and precious to me, and I’m afraid to lose her in any shape or form.  Iggys are not as robust as some bigger dogs, and when we lived in the Caribbean, she was very lucky to survive an attack from two dogs whilst she was staying with my vet friend who was taking a swim in the sea and could do nothing other than watch Isla on her lead being bitten by two dogs.  There were other Iggys on that island, and they were also attacked by the same dogs.  Dogs which were owned by someone who worked with animals, but had no clue as to how to train them or discipline them! In Georgia, I am even more cautious as distemper and rabies are two of the hazards here if bitten by a dog, and the number of strays and packs of strays roaming the streets is high.  In villages, you have the huge Caucasus shepherd and mountain dogs too, renowned for their strength and protectiveness towards their family, and aggression towards strangers.

But, we eventually made it to the metro station and met with many of the Oceans Ambassadors from the Oceans Project and some parents too.  Isla was an instant hit (as always) and was quickly lapping up as much attention as possible, and putting on a great show of being cold and needing to be carried and cuddled by absolutely everyone! She is not stupid when it comes to getting affection! Everyone was very excited about the day and the weather forecast was good, so once we had all gathered, we headed off on the bus to the Botanical Gardens in Tbilisi.  It always amazes me, just how many people you can squeeze onto a bus in Georgia and I often think that Georgians have some kind of magical powers or morphing ability to fit so many people into the smallest of spaces.

Botanical Gardens

After travelling up some very windy and steep roads, going through some tunnels, we arrived at our start point, and began our trek into the ‘unknown’.  We had made a point of briefing the kids on acceptable clothing for the day, but as always parents decided to join us, but not entirely dressed appropriately for the occasion!  Ladies ALWAYS like to wear their best heels! This was no surprise, and is traditional of Georgian parents who wish to find out more about what their kids are doing, to make sure they are safe, and also who wish to take part, and its really great for us to get to know them and to build up that trust too.  Its a big responsibility for us and a massive trust for them.  We are planning to take their child on an expedition in the summer next year with Earthwatch for two weeks, at different times during the summer and in different groups of around 6 young people.  Most of the kids have never been outside of Georgia, have never been on an aeroplane, never met a person from another culture or country, and even the gypsies who live in Georgia are just overwhelming to them.  So its a huge thing to be taking them on expedition, although really the expeditions are far safer than an average day out in Georgia! Apart from which the expeditions have been fully risked assessed, are insured, and are well planned down to the smallest little detail, a far cry from the simple thing of taking a bus in Georgia and living in a country where the concept of Risk Assessment or Health and Safety is totally new!

It makes me really happy that parents are so involved in the Oceans Project.  Not just because it means that they are actively involved in the life of their teenager, but also because somehow, the environmental message is also reaching them, as is the information about different cultures.  It makes me really proud and I love how they have welcomed us into their lives, inviting us to go to Gudauri skiing with them, inviting us to join them for Georgian Christmas (7th January I think) and New Year (about a week later).  They give us wine made by their family and are always just so overwhelmingly grateful for us giving our time to their child, helping them with English, or in becoming more focused or studious, or in making new friends or whatever.  It really is the most immense feeling, and also daunting too as I always hope that we are doing what is in the best interests of everyone.  It is freaky to think that we are all changing each other somehow, that our interactions with each other mean that none of us will ever be the same again, and that we are all on some kind of journey together, with a destination unknown.  What impacts are we as foreigners having on the future of Georgia? Its mind-blowing really.  The kids are changing us and our values everyday, as is Georgia, and if you read the facebook statuses of the volunteers who are coming from around the world to teach English in public schools as part of the Ministry of Education and Science’s project ‘Teach and Learn in Georgia’, it is pretty awesome and every volunteer has the fear and knowledge that they will also go through reverse culture shock when they go back to their own country, either for the Christmas break or for good.  Georgia has this power to change all of us, and it makes it hard for us to go back to our relatively ‘cold’ countries afterwards.  In fact, I wonder who the TLG experience affects the most? Teachers from abroad, or students in Georgia? Or perhaps it is a two way thing?

With this in mind, how will it be for the first group of Oceans Ambassadors once they return from their field research and come back to Georgia? We need to continue to work with them as well, as this will really be the toughest and most exciting time for them.  For those of you who might not have followed the Oceans Project thus far, the icing on the cake, after their 31 weeks of training, is the Earthwatch expedition.  We have an archaeological expedition in the North of England looking at Romans, one in Devon on the south coast of England, one looking at Roman remains on the coast of Italy (near Rome), and another archaeology expedition digging up dinosaurs in Texas, USA.  We have one group going to the Amazon Jungle to study pink river dolphins, monkeys and local wildlife and working with local people, another going to the Canadian Arctic to study climate change and learning about polar bears, another going to the French Alps to study marmots and climate change.  We have a group going to the Bahamas to snorkel and study transects of coral reef and the marine life that is there, another going to Belize to tag sharks and help with their conservation and educating in schools.  One group is going to live aboard a sailing boat on the Spanish coast and will be collecting data on dolphins, whales and turtles everyday, another group will be doing snorkel research with dolphins in the Egyptian Red Sea. These guys will be away for two weeks, and will then come back to Georgia, where we hope to offer those who are interested, the chance to join us as Assistants on our summer camp in Batumi for young people from different countries around the Black Sea, and whom we are currently applying for funding for, so that different Ministries around the Black Sea can select students to come to Georgia for a three week (intensive) version of the Oceans Project and to gain their BSAC Snorkel Diver certification and of course to practice their English language.

Our Oceans Ambassadors can also apply for other opportunities like work aboard a yacht collecting data on plastic in our oceans with the 5 gyres project.  So this time with the parents now, is absolutely crucial and it is already amazing to see them taking such an interest in the environment, just because their child is so passionate and because they want to know what their children are up to!  Plus its a great chance for us to learn and practice our Georgian and Russian and for the parents to practice their English and to meet with other parents, and together they almost have a second group of Oceans Ambassadors, the ‘Oceans Project Parents Group’!  Perhaps we could even run a group for them whilst their children are away on expedition, maybe teaching them with the intense version of the project and allowing them to skype with their children ‘live from the field’ each day??

Team Building

But anyway, I’m digressing yet again! The day was all about team building and communication and starting to get the Ambassadors out of the classroom and into the nature and world.  We split into two teams (three if you include the parents!). An equal mix of boys and girls and where we selected the teams rather than them just being with their friends as they would ordinarily do.  Teams were selected, and the first job was to designate a Team Captain and choose a Team Name.  Then they had to complete a small task to see which team would go first.  One team then went off for about an hour, whilst the other group had the task of building a  fire to keep everyone warm.  Fire building is a skill learnt by all Georgian children from a very early age, and the health and safety concept is non existent, as is smoking in young people, so most people have a lighter and know how to build a good fire fairly quickly.  In my public school, it was the kids job to get the classroom fire going each day and also to keep an eye on any nearby logs in the pile which would often catch fire during the lesson.  Most people have a fore at home, and this is used for cooking and heating, especially in villages.  So its not as big a deal as it sounds.  The fire was soon built, everyone was toasty warm, we talked a lot about hot chocolate and marshmallows and made a mental note to bring these to future events!  It was a great opportunity to talk and get to know the guys really well, as often on teh Saturday sessions I’m really busy and although I spend three hours with them a week, I don’t really get a chance to know them properly, to find out what excites them in life, and I still don’t really know all of their names.  Many students are also still very shy to talk to foreigners in case they make a mistake in their English, and the day was perfect to start building up this rapport with the quieter ones.  Being in teams with non friends was also a great way to get them working closely together, and having already decided which expeditions they want to go on, they now have a very good opening conversation and can talk about which expedition they want to go on and why.

My job was to time the point at which the first team left and returned and to get to know the group better, whilst the other leaders and Ambassadors were off on their mission.  Then when they came back, it was our turn!

We had 4 tasks, each with a maximum score of 8 points and also a score for being the fastest team over all.  We set off running, up along the river and waterfall, around rocks and rubbish, through prickle bushes, across streams, through mud and snow. Before arriving hot and sweaty at the first station.  For those of you who have never seen the crystal maze (a bit of an 80s thing for business people really!), here is a clip of kind of what we were up to, only we were outside and didn’t have any fancy footwear or clothing.

Crystal Maze

Our first task was to walk a set distance with a piece of newspaper, generating as few crinkles as possible.  They did very well and were really focused.  Next we had to run to the next check point, and it was great to see the Team Captains really looking after their team, and also to see the boys who I often doubt in our sessions, really stepping up to the challenge, communicating brilliantly and being really very chivalrous, not just to their team mates, but also the the adults and parents who wished to follow and see what their children were up to.  This kind of thing is especially important for parents as we rely on them to allow their children to join us, and many of our Ambassadors are busy with many aspects of the project, hopefully not to the demise of other things like homework! And some of the children will now have school on Saturdays once they return in February after their Christmas break, so the parents and teachers will hopefully be able to get permission for the children to attend project on Saturdays still rather than school.  The reason for the Saturday classes is that their school is being renovated over the break, so they will return later, but make up for missed classes by attending on Saturdays.  Luckily, one of the schools is my previous school, and many of the children attend from there and the Principal is hoping to allow them to continue on the project as they will be missing mostly English lessons, but the whole of the project is in English, and expeditions are also in English, and the children have promised to make up for their missed work.  It’ll be a huge shame if we lose them so far into the project.

Our second task was the infamous spider’s web.  An activity which I used to use in my work as an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor in the UK back in the 1990s, and which was part of my selection for the Ice Warrior expedition to the Geographical North Pole.  It was quite funny when my team arrived, as there were three other Georgian teenagers, nothing to do with us, who had arrived.  A girl on her laptop, and two boys, one of whom was painting the other boy’s face with make up in a kind of prodigy-esque style.  Not entirely sure what they were up to, but I think they were more curious about us than we were with them, and they seemed quite curious about the mix of us and what exactly we were doing and why we were having so much fun.

Our guys were brilliant, they were hot on their communication, were really smart and they achieved success on the web far quicker than I have EVER seen done before, and with very few mistakes.  I think they probably had the bonus of not having issues with physical contact, as Brits would probably spend most of their time fretting about how and where to touch another person when lifting them up, but these guys just got on with it.  No arguing, no messing about over who was in charge, no alpha males, and a very clear team captain.  I used a friend’s camera to record a little bit of what we did, and will upload it later on so you can see exactly what it was like.

Next, we ran up through some more snow and helped each other across the stream, until we reached a grid on the ground, something a little like the chess set in one of the Harry Potter films, although the task was quite different, and very funny to watch!  The aim was to walk across the squares on the board, following exactly the same square as the person in front of you.  Sounds easy, but just try it, when you are in a chain and the person in front of you is quicker and has bigger strides than you and is also focusing on the step in front of them.

One more run, and the final task.  Questions taken from the Oceans Project past 8 weeks or so!  The leaders had each picked a question that they had to answer, and I thought mine would be too easy.  I asked them to name the 4 BBC Oceans TV Presenters.  They got Paul Rose and Philippe Cousteau easily, but couldn’t remember the names of the girls, Dr Lucy Blue and Tooni Mahto.  The other team got them straight away.  BUt rather ironically and which I am sure will make Paul and Tooni laugh when they see the footage, is that they instantly got another question which we couldn’t remember the answer to at first and which we thought was difficult: ‘how fast can a sailfish swim’?  They got it instantly, no hesitation, but then started to doubt themselves because we told them to make sure they all agreed.  The answer is 110km/hour (I think).  With all questions answered, we ran back to the base and rejoined the other team, to see which team had scored the most points for each of the four challenges and which team had been quickest overall.  Ironically, my team (as in the team I was following, they did all the work) had not run as fast as the other team, or so I had thought, but they were very steady throughout and completed the tasks quicker, although the other team got every one of their questions correct.  So our team ‘The Unstoppables’ won, but the other team ‘The Pumas’ were still buzzing and didn’t take issue in any way at all.

The parents were looking a bit chilly in their tights and nice shoes, but were happy enough by the fire and chatting and I got the impression it was a different day to the norm for them too.  That and there were a few guys climbing the rock face with ropes and things, and this was interesting for them to watch a little bit.  I was less enthralled by this, as having once been a British Mountaineering Club (BMC) certified climbing Instructor, I wasn’t massively convinced by their pitch and rope quality (although not so bad), but just not up to what I remembered of BMC standards, and so I was quite happy to be away from there as being a medic in a past life also comes with an inbuilt sense of medical responsibility should anyone ever injure themself.  I did not want to be around at any point when something went wrong with the climb.  But I equally know that I am no where near as adventurous as I used to be, am not as fit or flexible since I came to Georgia, and perhaps my sense of what is acceptable risk and activity is no longer what it used to be.  I’ve become old and worry about everything!  I definitely need to go on a new adventure if that is the case, as I can’t become a tea drinking, sofa siting, tv adventurer.

We then played a few games together, two which were new to me, and I think the second was new to the Ambassadors too.  The first one is a Georgian game called ‘Flag and Kiss’.  And involves a flag (in our case a wool scarf), being dropped between two people in a circle.  Those two people, then have to run around the outside of the circle, kiss on the cheek when they meet, and race back to where they started to see who can get the scarf the quickest.  The winner is the person who gets the scarf first, and they then have to go and find two other people to drop the flag between.  It was really funny to watch, and to see what tactics might be involved, and fun for the parents too, who took great delight in taking photos for us.

The second game together was very good as a game for teaching English words, and is one I will definitely add to my teaching tool kit, perhaps for our school trip to Austria where I will be running afternoon activities after they finish their morning ski lessons.  I have free choice on what activities i give them all for an afternoon, and I might try and incorporate some of the team building and problem solving games I used to use in the Royal Navy and as part of my work with the Bendrigg Trust (an outdoor education centre for people who are disabled or disadvantaged).  This will have a massive impact for me as most of the kids are in my Geography classes, and some are in my 6th grade class who I have not taught yet, but whom I will start to teach from the start of the new term.  They have a reputation for being high maintenance and every teacher dreads lessons with them, so I hope that this could be a nice way to get to know some of them before school starts again!  A couple of them are also on the Oceans Project, and are definitely the naughtiest, but also some of the smartest of them.

The idea of the game is that you are in a circle, but you send one or two of them away from the circle.  The guys in the circle have to come up with a word, say ‘expedition’.  The word gets broken up into bits, so one part of the circle will end up with ‘ex’, another with ‘ped’ another with ‘ish’ and the final students with ‘on’.  The other students return to the circle and the ring leader must count loudly to three.  On the count of three, each person shouts their part at the same time, and the guys in the middle of the circle have to listen to each bit and try and put it together as a word.  Its a great game for team working, for focusing, and listening, and then working together and trusting each other to piece together the original word.  And more importantly, they really enjoyed it, and the parents seemed to really appreciate their children talking together and playing games in English, and having so much fun with their new friends.

Khinkali House

As a treat, we decided to take the Ambassadors to a local Khinkali house, using the money we had managed to raise so far for the Oceans Project.  Life will be so much better and we will be able to do so many more things once we have charitable status and funds.  At the moment, everything is done on a voluntary basis and with donations in kind, so it will be really brilliant to start doing more things with them.  But it was our treat today, and we wanted to finish the day on a high, and eating together is a very traditional celebration of this.  So we took a ridiculously crowded bus back, I got my foot trapped in the door for a painful few seconds until the driver managed to open the door again.  No damage done fortunately, but a daily hazard when it comes to crowded buses in Georgia, and we headed back into Tbilisi and to the restaurant.

Isla as always had a fantastic day, full of exploration (off lead which she was really happy about) and lots of cuddles and as always, she travelled in far better style than me.  On her journey here she was upgraded to first class on the aeroplane, whilst I travelled economy, and she never failed to have a knee to sit on by the fire during the day, or having plenty of care and room on the bus.  In fact she was so relaxed, that she actually fell asleep on the bus, whilst in the arms of her favourite boy, who she took a shine to yesterday during the project.  Such is Isla’s life!  I obviously wouldn’t have been able to take her to the restaurant, but living near the centre of Tbilisi meant I could easily drop her home, and pop back in time to eat with everyone.  A typical Georgian affair: pear flavoured lemonade, khinkali, fries, a bowl of raw radishes, and a little shwadi, and some bread.

It was a brilliant day, and the journey home was just as spectacular, with a lovely pink sky, great company, and the Christmas lights of the city:

New Office for the Oceans Project!

I’m at home today, but the workmen are busy outside making our new road, and this is the reason why we regularly have no water and no electricity in my house.  I live in one of the best districts in Georgia, but it is an old house and so the area is one of the very fortunate areas to receive this renovation input from the government.  Its a bit of a pain, but equally it is temporary and its well worth the inconvenience.  The workmen work very hard, from early in the morning until late at night, everyday including Sunday, and even when the weather is bitterly cold.  They are a real band of brothers, and I will have to insert a couple of Artur’s photos here for you to see.  Artur is one of the students on the Oceans Project and is just 12 years old and totally deaf, but a real inspiration.  One of the reasons I love his pictures is that they really capture the essence of my daily life here, and his grandma lives on my street so he has actually taken some pictures of the workmen I see everyday.  So I want to just share them with you again, to give you some idea of daily life.  They probably earn the equivalent of around £2 a day for their hard work, and I love to listen to their banter as they work.  They have taken over our Italian yard for their lunchbreak and they hang up their jackets on the balcony every day, and always say hello and are very polite when I come home from school and go up the balcony stairs into my apartment. I can’t imagine a British workman being so polite, and they are always really happy to see Isla, who is equally happy to see them too:

But, it does mean that the electricity, and thus internet is often off which isn’t so helpful for doing anything at home, especially as my kitchen has no windows and is only lit by electricity or candle light.  The only god send is that I cook on gas, so at least I can still grab a snack whilst they are working, albeit by candle light.  They always put it off for the least amount of time possible, and if you ask them they always give you a decent answer of when the water or electricity will return.  They have a lot of pipes to fix and sometimes this means a couple of days without water, which isn’t too much of a hassle because Georgians are used to this and always have a stash of water in buckets that they can use to flush the toilet, to wash hands or whatever, and a large bottle of drinking water is about 10pence from the shop across the road for cooking and drinking.

In many ways, Georgia is very on the ball with things and development (when it happens) is far better than in Britain.  I love it when I catch the bus to school, and the sign actually works, something that rarely happens in the UK, a relatively wealthier country.  Here in the city there are these great sign posts, in bot Georgian and then in English (a recent development) and they tell you the names and order of each bus arriving at that stop.  They also tell you the time and the temperature, and it really takes away the daily stress in wondering whether or not a bus will come.  I think the buses must have some kind of signal in them as the next bus to arrive always coincides with the bus actually arriving, and information is really up to date.  This is what the signs look like at my bus stop where I catch the bus to school every day:

This past week has been an exciting one for many reasons, and one of those reasons was the fact that we moved into the Oceans Project Office.  Its a little bit far away, but easy enough to get to, and now that we have a base, life will be much easier, especially in terms of all the data and paperwork we seem to have collected.  There is a lot to organise logistically with the project, especially with some 8o Ambassadors on the books, and trying to figure out who is who.  In January we are starting a second group, and a university group, and have lots of other things to plan, such as the European Volunteers coming to join us, two large funding applications, the Land Rover Go Beyond bursary, and my teaching Geography full time at school, plus summer camp and Austria trip.  Life is always hectic, but I like it like this, and having my own project office will really help to make life simpler.  I’ve yet to organise it, but this is what it looks like initially, including the view from the window:

Oceans Project Holidays

We have officially broken up from Oceans Project for the holidays, until the 21st January, but are still pretty busy.  These are the topics we covered this week about the Atlantic Ocean:

The film Production side has been really busy, the Producers met twice this week to practice their pitch and then to make it to the Film Producers inorder to get their funding.  They had to make their sales pitch in English, Georgian, and Russian and I gather they did a fantastic job, and I know that they seem so professional and focused already.  So much so, that it is hard to realise that these are the same young people I first met on my decorating project at school over the summer! They are turning into incredible young people, and I think they are going to give a lot of people a run for their money.  This week the Directors stood up during the Oceans Project session and talked about the script, and why they want to be the Director of the film.  I don’t envy Nikoloz in any way and I have no idea how he is going to choose between them for the ultimate Film Director.  Each one gave a brilliant answer to the group, and all had great ideas.  So now, they have to make a 1minute film in one continuous take about a topic of their choice, and send it to Georgian Movie maker Nikoloz, so that he and other film makers from Georgia and LA can decide who will be the Director of our project movie.  They will begin filming around the 12th March for three days, shortly before Nikoloz embarks on his own big budget film ‘Jeans Generation’ with some big stars in it! What is really cool, is that the best of our Ambassadors will also have the chance to work on Jeans Generation, in paid roles to fit around school, working with a mixed film crew from Georgia, LA, and Britain. This is serious stuff and an amazing opportunity for the Ambassadors.

Most of the Ambassadors have finished school for the holidays and won’t go back until February, but our school will have exams over the British Christmas period and doesn’t break up until 30th December, which will be strange for me! We start back on 22nd Jan or thereabouts.  So the Ambassadors have lots to keep them busy over their break.  They have to finalise their Volvo/United Nations competition entries, prepare the script and do lots of film things for their first movie.  They also want to visit an orphanage and spend a day playing with the children there, and we hope to have an Oceans Project Christmas party probably over the weekend.  They are also designing some cards and calendars that we hope to sell to raise money for the Oceans Project.

Geography and School

The next two weeks I will be just giving exams and marking them as we don’t break up until the 30th December, and then I will have a few days before heading to Austria for our school ski trip.

I spoke to my classes last week about the Land Rover Go Beyond bursary, and have decided to incorporate this into my Geography lessons from January, as a way of bringing geography to life.  I need to order some maps for my classes as we don’t have any, and they can only be purchased from abroad, so I need to try and figure out how easy it will be to buy maps from the USA, pay for them, and get them shipped over, so that we can hopefully have them in time for the end of January when school resumes.  I also need to purchase a sensor cleaner for my camera as its driving me nuts not having it, but again, its a logistical nightmare as I have to order it from abroad. But I hope I can get something sorted by the time we go to Austria.

I would really like to start off my Land Rover bursary project with the Austria trip, making some videos and connecting with a local school there, but thus far, I’ve had a poor response from the Tourist Information in Wagrain where we are going.  So, I hope I can figure something out in the short space of time I have.

Things are hectic in general right now, and I’m looking forward to sitting down over Christmas and getting on with things in my own time.  Oceans Project, geography lesson planning, Land Rover, Austria, decorating my room, funding applications, etc, etc.  And I’m also about to start my adoption application now that I have a plan about the year ahead.  Its been on hold for some time as I needed to figure out things in Georgian, etc, but I hope that things can commence shortly and that I can give more consideration to the various different factors involved.  Its great to be able to go into the New Year with a future vision, and to know that, with a lot of hard work things can be achieved, little by little.  Everyday with the Oceans Project is just really rewarding and it feels like we have already come such a long way since the start of the project.  I know I will have my ups and downs, but that is to be expected to.

Anything new is always a bit exciting and scary at the same time, and its good to have doubts and to question yourself along the way. There is a long way ahead, but I do believe we have already achieved so much in such a short space of time. So who knows what else lies ahead for us!

 

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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 Britishness, Georgian Life, Oceans Project, Teaching and Geography, The Pets, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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