Wakey, Wakey, and a Self Enforced Time out

Just a few of the messages on facebook this morning in Georgia……

“Interesting way to start the day with an earthquake. Got to school to find that all the children had been sent home but all the teachers were locked in the building and had to stay. School director screaming at TV journalists. So they smuggled me out as the other teachers didn’t think I should “go down with the ship” so to speak. Crazy place – just love it!!!”

“My litte Georgian village makes the news…..just not for the right reasons”.

“Few things are more terrifying than being on the toilet on the 10th floor of an old Soviet apartment block when an earthquake hits. 5.4 mag. just across the border in Azerbaijan gave Tbilisi a little shake this morning”.

“Small earthquake today.
I saw my plant shaking in my room, as if it was in the wind. Then everything started shaking as it got stronger. It lasted only a few seconds. Though most children were not a school. When I arrived everyone was waiting outside the building, awaiting instructions of if school will run or not.
I must admit I was a little concerned being on the 5th floor of a very old building at home”.

“nice little earthquake this morning pretty intense i must say”

“Awoke to a slight earthquake this morning and it was a nice gentle rocking. I realized after it was over that I was still in Georgia and in a crumbling, Soviet-era apartment building. Scary!”

“Part of an old building just collapsed metres before me, on the street… God is smiling on me today! Earthquake?”

“Earth tremor today measured a 5 rumour has it. People are in a bit of a panic over a slight wobble. Adventures in Sakartvelo eh?”

“all this rain plus an earthquake are making it extremely difficult to want to go to work this morning”.

“I’ll admit it. Earth quakes are kind of scary. :s”

The Reason for all This?

“A magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit Georgia`s eastern districts at 08:40 a.m. on Monday. The quake`s epicenter was located in Azerbaijan, some 40 kilometers from the border of Georgia.

The tremor was most felt in the town of Dedoplistskaro located close to teh border of Azerbaijan and 155 kilometers to the east of the capital city Tbilisi.

No damage or injuries have been reported. (http://rustavi2.com/news/news_text.php?id_news=45382&ct=0&im=main&ddd&ddd2=07-05-12&month=6&year=2012&srch_w&srch=0&wth=0&rec_start=0&rec_start_nav=0#.T6eLh6smmgQ.twitter)”.

“5.7-magnitude earthquake with epicenter in Azerbaijan, close to the Georgian border, sent tremors across the eastern part of Georgia, including to capital Tbilisi at 08:40am local time on Monday, according to the Georgian Seismic Monitoring Center (GSMC).

GSMC of the Tbilisi-based Ilia State University said, that epicenter of the earthquake was in Azerbaijan, about 25 kilometers from the Georgian border.

Azerbaijan’s Seismic Survey Center also reported that the epicenter was in Zaqatala district of Azerbaijan, but it put the magnitude at 5.5.

According to the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center quake at the epicenter in Azerbaijan was 5.6.

GSMC initially put the magnitude of the earthquake at 5.8 and indicated Georgia’s village of Zemo Kedi in Dediplistskaro district as its epicenter.

Azerbaijani news agencies are reporting that the quake caused cracks in the buildings and damaged houses in the epicenter and surrounding areas. No casualties are reported. No damage was reported from Georgia’s Dedoplistskaro district (http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=24732)”.

As a geography teacher, I am happy to say that all my students from school know lots of things about earthquakes, and in a weird way, I hope that this will help and encourage them when it comes to revision for their GCSE Geography exams, nothing like practical and hands on experience to put learning into context! Especially since all schools have been cancelled today.  Myself and my neighbour were actually out at the bazaari yesterday and felt a few tinyshakes.  Had we not been together, we probably would have both thought that we had an inner ear problem, but because we were both experiencing the same thing, we guessed an earthquake might come soon as tremors are often the sign of more to come.  So I knew this morning when things started shaking a little in the house and my usually very lazy cat and dog suddenly jumped off the bed and looked at each other, before deciding it was ok to return back to their sleeping positions a few minutes afterwards.  Animals often have a sixth sense for these things.  Then my neighbour called to confirm that it was indeed an earthquake.

I’m always a little concerned about earthquakes, and even lorries driving along my street, as I live in an old building, with huge and old cracks throughout, and very little mortar between the bricks, but I was assured that this was all old earthquake damage and subsidence and specialists had confirmed that the house was now stood on bedrock and wouldn’t move more.  But still, I’m always cautious!  In fact, I’m actually more worried about the combination of thunder, heavy rain, and earthquake at the moment, as its been very hot, and we have had lots of sudden downpours, which lead to temporary flooding.  I checked the house and the cracks in the building and nothing seems to have moved, but I have developed a leek in the kitchen roof.  There are lots of signs of leaks in the past, and roofs are generally just tin slates and not always great quality, many are old and have only been patched up.  I’ve been surprised not to have experienced more leaks, so this is the first and is in the position of an older one.  Its not bad, just a few big drips and I hope that once this few weeks of storms passes, life will get back to usual.

Down Time

I had a pretty busy weekend as always, but did manage to get a lot done, though not as much as usual unfortunately, and last night I was starting to feel a little stress creeping in as I’m not achieving my goals and need a little down time to re-check myself.  So I’m a bit frustrated this morning as I really wanted to go to yoga, but I’ve decided it’ll be better to have a catch up and refresh, miss the class and then go to tonight’s instead and be back on track tomorrow.  Otherwise I’ll end up feeling more and more behind, and I can’t let things slip.  I’ve now hit the original 60days target for the fundraising campaign and I think things are starting to pay off and we have made massive progress, but still have a lot of work to do, including finding either a salary for myself, or a road I really don’t want to go down, finding a new job, as financially it will become necessary, but if we can get our grants then it means I can stay full time on project which is where my energy and time needs to be, especially at this crucial point.


A few weeks ago I applied for a scholarship and place at a university in Sweden for my PhD on Plastic Pollution in the ocean.  They really pulled out all the stops for me and helped me a lot with my questions and thoughts for a thesis and with OPG and the ocean row, and I’d love to do the MSc and PhD with them.  It would also mean that everything fell into place with everything else, and if I get it then I will begin in August, which will mean travelling to Sweden from Georgia.  Now on tenterhooks waiting to hear the outcome, and trying not to think about it.  I’m never good at being patient!!!

Earthwatch Expeditions

The past week I also found out that we should have funding for our OPG kids to go on their Earthwatch expeditions, so am now in a tricky position of organising all logistics, visas, passports, flights, funds, and preparing them, as well as the really hard task of breaking the news that on the positive side, at least some of them will be going on life changing expeditions, but on the bad side, not all of them will be going this year, but that they still have a chance in the future.

It means that our original expeditions are changed a bit, and also the expedition teams, plus I have a maximum of two funded places for my OPG guys per expedition, and that makes choosing who should go on expedition really hard as they are all amazing.  Its also hard to know that some of them are wealthier and will likely have more opportunities to travel in life, whereas some of our guys will never have such an opportunity to visit another country, but it seems unfair to choose them based on financial background and opportunity and goes against everything we stand for, in making things fair for everyone. I’d hate it if we choose our refugees and IDPs over other kids who have maybe put in several hours a week on activities, just because they will have chance in the future.  I also don’t want it to be based on age or ability in English, or to exclude people who are naturally quieter and therefore overshadowed by more vocal students, nor do I want just the scientists to go.  Deciding is so hard.  For some kids there is no doubt in my mind, and where there is no competition it is easy, but when you have ten kids equally competitive for one place, it gets hard, especially when emotionally involved and when you know how disappointed they will be.  I feel quite mixed emotions right now, on the one hand I’m relieved and happy that any of them can go, and happy to have so many great kids to choose from, but equally sad not to be able to take them all.  But if this goes well, there will be ample opportunity for us to take them next year, and all of them have asked us to start up a new project for them for next year as they wish to continue on project, so that is really positive.

This week I need to finalise the list for expeditions.  The first expedition will be Red Sea Dolphins in Egypt, and the guys will live on a boat for two weeks and get to snorkel with dolphins with studying them and collecting scientific data.  Around the same time, we have an archaeology project in South Shields, UK, digging up Roman artefacts from an old fortress and palace.  Then, in October, we have two spaces for 16year olds and upwards to go to Kenya where they will work with scientists to help save the Black rhinos from extinction, and also have the chance to work with elephants, lions, and other amazing creatures.  And finally, in December two students will go to Peru, to the Amazon Jungle, where they will live aboard a riverboat for two weeks and study pink dolphins, monkeys, birds, insects, and plants.  We should also hopefully have the exchange programme for two weeks in October for a group to go to Sweden to learn scuba diving and maritime archaeology as part of an exchange programme, with the archaeologists coming to Georgia in September to teach them archaeology as part of our project sessions.

Aside from these being Earthwatch expeditions, we hope to have some of the BBC Oceans team with us on expedition, so the kids can really get to know them and learn from them, and where possible we plan to get them their skin and scuba diver certificates during the expedition, as well as including elements that they need to cover for their Duke of Edinburgh/International Awards, such as map reading and expedition planning.

What makes these even more special, is that we have invited Award participants from all over the world to join us on expedition, and we also will have scheduled time with local Award participants in each country, so should really get to share Georgian culture and help give our OPG guys a sense of being part of an international community, so it really will be quite amazing, and I’m very excited about this.  I’m hoping this will also help to boost both the International Award and Earthwatch too, and to get young people involved in scientific and conservation research.


Just choosing guys for the rhino team and hard work and research in Kenya has been super tough, especially as the minimum age limit is 16years old, which has already been reduced for us.  This will allow one of the Zoo Keepers to join us on expedition and hopefully incorporate this into future zoo work in Tbilisi as the rhino are a species with many problems.  Couple of pictures here, taken by of OPG kids during their work with Maro the rhino, the only rhino in Georgia:

This week, I also had a sneek preview of the kids’ second episode for their ‘Georgian Wildlife Show’ and it really blew me away.  They are just editing a couple of spelling mistakes, and I hope to be able to share it with you next week, but I am sure you will enjoy it, as it is all about their work with the rhino.  When you see it, you’ll understand why selecting just two children to go on expedition to study rhinos in Africa is such a daunting task for me!! Especially baring in mind that though they are working with elephants and rhinos at the zoo, it may not be their preferred expedition, for example they may want to be an archaeologist or biologist in the future, and so I also need to factor that in and put them on the other expedition.

I also need to think about who is physically fit enough to work long days in the African heat, and who is likely to get parental consent, especially with Kenya having some political problems and Embassy warnings.  Many of our parents won’t let their children go to the Red Sea for example, because of media reports about problems Egypt, and we couldn’t include countries such as China or Greece because parents are afraid of the people in these countries, so there is a huge cultural minefield involved and that also needs to be taken into consideration, especially when many of our children and their families have never left Georgia before and they are already allowing their children to be away for two weeks, which is a big trust and responsibility for them.  Plus we need to think about how they will cope on return from expedition, especially if they come from families where they have little money and not much food.  This is in fact my biggest fear, as I know how hard it can be to fit back in after a life changing expedition, especially when others can’t relate to what you have experienced, and this is something I’ve also seen in soldiers coming back from war, as much as seeing it with explorers coming back from the Arctic or Amazon or whatever.  So this is a huge factor, as is the children’s openness to new experiences and willingness to push themselves outside of their comfort zones.  If they refuse to try local foods, and that is all that we have on offer, then they will quickly become ill or dehydrated and that could be disastrous, as much as them making a social or verbal faux par, as a wrong word could be taken massively out of context or misunderstood, even when not meant that way.  For example, my calling a child ‘bossy’ would be no big deal in the UK, but calling a Georgian child the same word, would sound to a Georgian like ‘bosi’ meaning whore (long ago bosi actually meant beautiful, but not anymore).  I have also heard the word ‘nigger’ being used for a black person in relation to its meaning in Russian coming from ‘negro’, but it would have an entirely different meaning outside of Georgia and could lead to massive problems for us.  Just as Georgians use the word ‘I want’ rather than ‘I would like’ and often don’t include ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  This is not rude in Georgian culture, and is perfectly normal, but outside of Georgia could lead to our kids being seen as rude and demanding or impolite.

So you can see that there are many factors to take into account in selecting which guys will go on expedition, and not just kids but from the 8 leaders too, as they have to agree to be responsible for these guys, as well as travelling for the first time or to a new place, and also working with the other young people on the expedition.  For example, there will be 12 people on the rhino expedition, 20 in the Amazon, 10 in Egypt, and 20 in the UK and each Leader has help our OPG guys to integrate with children from other countries, as well as being happy to fly with them, transfer, and to get to the rendezvous site, having never been there before, and to deal with any customs or immigration things on the way, especially when connecting flights.  But it is equally exciting, and my job is to now put logistics together and make sure everyone is happy, as well as dealing with the disappointment of those not selected for expedition this time around.

I’m even thinking about getting them all to write one final essay to see who meets the deadline, and who really wants to go the most, as for some of them there is nothing between them, whereas for others its clear cut.

Elephant Enrichment

But I’d like to share a few photos with you from the kids work with the elephants at the zoo, where they have been helping to enrich their environments:

Stuff Your Rucsack

I’d actually forgotten that over a year ago, I posted a list of things that my school could benefit from, should any traveller have a space in their rucsack to bring us things.  So you can imagine how delighted I was to get an email from the Netherlands this week from some some tourists coming on holiday here next week, and asking us what we would like them to bring.  I guess I need to update our page now that the school no longer exists, but its fantastic to be able to put an update and to include items for the zoo, OPG, dog shelter, and young people in general.

Stuff Your Rucsack is a charity, set up by BBC Presenter Kate Humble in the UK, and is a very simple idea, which has enormous potential to benefit millions around the world.  Anyone can sign up and anyone can list a need, and if people are going on holiday, then they look up the country they plan to visit, and find someone that they think they can help.  That might be something as simple as pens for a school in Africa, or dog treats for a dog shelter, or calpol for an orphanage, pictures for the wall, or a book with pictures in it.

If you have plans to travel anywhere in the world, then I would highly recommend looking through and seeing if you can help in any way, or if you know of a good cause, then why not get it listed on the site.  Here is the link to our original page, which I will update shortly: http://www.stuffyourrucksack.com/charity.php?id=282

Puna Music Festival

OPG have also submitted an idea for a fun project to help promote Hawaiian Music.  The winners receive $500 for their event, and accommodation at an eco hotel in Hawaii during the music festival.  Since I’ll be calling at Hawaii on my ocean row, and want to help promote the International Award and links with our guys here in Georgia, I thought it would be fun to host a Hawaiian evening for OPG participants and other Award participants and youngsters in Georgia, and also to get them to put some art work or writing together in a scrapbook, that I can take with me on my ocean row and present to the children in Hawaii, hopefully getting them to do the same and bringing that back with me to Georgia.  Perhaps even spreading some Georgian music, and getting the kids from both countries talking to each other via skype.  Anyway, we have submitted our idea, and voting begins on the 9th May, and if we can get enough votes, then we can win and host the Hawaiian evening here in Tbilisi: http://pmf.maker.good.is/projects/Hulahooray

Well, I think that’s about all for the update right now…..back to grant writing so that I can stop stressing so much….


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 Earthwatch, Environment, Explorers, Georgian Life, My PhD: Environmental Psychology, Nature and Wildlife, and Seasons, Ocean Rowing, Oceans Project, Photos, Plastic Pollution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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