ZOMG

Well, some very unexpected things have happened.

The assignment in Tbilisi is basically far, far swankier than what I was thinking I’d be doing this year. I’ll be teaching at the Police Academy – teaching all kinds of police, from school safety officers to patrolmen to customs officials. I’m not allowed to talk about specific details about my trainees – for instance, the numbers of officers I’m teaching, or information that could identify any particular officer – but I will be allowed to discuss the curriculum, how classes are going, and my life in and out of work.

But I believe I can safely talk about the facilities I’ll be working at. Specifically, we have a gym, a swimming pool, an indoor basketball court, an outdoor tennis court, volleyball court, and football (soccer) field. We have full internet connectivity as well as a mputer lab and a library that includes English novels. And instead of a host family, the Ministry of the Interior – the department that runs the Police Academy – is renting myself and the other TLG teacher I’m working with our own private accommodations. I’m actually not sure what exactly that means just yet – it could be a flat (apartment) or even a freestanding house. So yes, I am going to be sharing a house or apartment in a somewhat affluent suburb of Tbilisi with another English speaker rather than living with a Georgian host family. And the apartments around here are *really* nice.

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet in terms of sheer cool factor, which is that our coworkers at the Academy have promised us that we can use both shooting ranges – the indoor pistol shooting range and the outdoor rifle and machine gun – yes, that’s right, *machine gun* – firing range. How freaking cool is that?

I was a little disappointed about not having a host family, at first – no one to croon over me, make me food, do my laundry, and try to marry me off to a nice Georgian girl – but after a day with the temporary host family I am assigned to until the Ministry gets us our new place, I am seeing the advantages of living with one other person, who is American. It’s hard to get a moment alone here, and the smoking thing is really quite distressing in the context of living with a host family. Now, I was promised, due to my asthma, that I’d get a host family with no smokers. However, since this is a weekend-only arrangement, I have been posted with a host who does smoke. He is a very nice, very accommodating man, and that’s why I feel bad being so sensitive to the smoking, but I actually had an asthma attack today when we went to meet his father because in his father’s shop the smoke was just hanging in the air and yeah, it was unpleasant.

But aside from that, it also occurs to me that having a host family means having a bunch of family obligations that I don’t necessarily want to deal with, such as making a polite appearance at events where there will be smokers, or just generally dealing with an exhausting network of family and friends. And I’m actually quite a good cook, personally, so I’m not concerned that I won’t be able to eat well, and on our salary we could eat at a restaurant every night if we wanted, and my TLG co-teacher pointed out that if I befriended some of the families in the building/neighborhood where we live, I could probably get us a good amount of dinner invitations and/or homecooked meals if I really want. And I was just joking about wanting someone to do my laundry, because I actually do get embarrassed when other people touch my underwear.

So yeah, when we were offered our own place from the Ministry of the Interior, over and above what the Ministry of Education is paying us, it wasn’t exactly a tough sell. And since I won’t be working in the Georgian public school system, I have a little bit more flexibility with my leave than I would have had otherwise – for most TLG members, school ends December 23rd, which means they’ll be flying out late on the 23rd or on the 24th. Since I am going home exclusively for my dad’s birthday and my family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebration, leaving on the 24th would have been unacceptable for me. So maybe I’ll take two weeks in December for that, and two weeks in April for Passover, instead of taking four weeks in the dead of winter in NYC. It all depends on what I can arrange with the Ministries and how much the extra flight would cost and such things. But anyway, it seems that this position has a great deal more flexibility, which is quite nice.

I guess I’ll say a little bit more about what I mean. Basically, the Ministry of the Interior wants every law enforcement official in Georgia to speak English, and they want it done by yesterday afternoon. Since TLG only sent me and one other native English speaker, there’s going to be a lot more work available for us to do than we can do in the 30 hours/week specified in our contracts. This means that the position we’re accepting basically has some room for expansion – in other words, it may be possible for me to, say, renegotiate my contract so that I work 40 hours a week, and get some additional money or benefits. In addition, rather than ending on June 30th like my TLG contract, this position is basically open-ended, that is to say, if I wanted to keep working through the summer, that would almost certainly be an option (that is, as long as I am doing a good job and keeping my nose clean, of course). So anyway, basically I can put in additional time per week and additional time per year, if I want, and it may be possible to be compensated additionally for that time in some way.

Another side in this story is that I will be working with an around a different set of people than I would have with the Ministry of Education, and probably in a good way. I will be working with a large number of English speakers – including many Georgians who are high-level speakers, another TLG teacher, and several native English speakers who are liaisons to the Police Academy from English-speaking places. In addition, we’ll be in Tbilisi and relatively close to the American embassy, so we could conceivably go to the embassy for resources or to find other expats to have a beer with or something.

The other benefit to working for the Police Academy is that we will end up having friends in every law enforcement agency in every province in Georgia. I could conceivably be personally acquainted with, for example, the majority of police in Tbilisi. I imagine that would make my life here about as safe and secure as I could be anywhere in the world.

And did I mention I might get to shoot a machine gun?

Don’t know why this song popped into my head:

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2 Responses to ZOMG

  1. Meg says:

    Hey I’m enjoying your posts and learning a lot before I embark there myself at the end of September. Were you offered this better position due to your anthropological/linguistic knowledge and the fact that you learned a bit of Georgian first? I have a B.A. in anthropology with a cultural emphasis and have been teaching myself Georgian for the last two months. I was wondering if these things matter when they place people or if you just fell upon a lucky situation. Thanks and keep it up!

    • panoptical says:

      I’ve been trying to figure that out, actually. No one has specifically told me that it was because of my background – on the contrary, it’s been suggested that it is more due to the way I have carried myself since arriving. I’ve been described by the TLG staff as someone who doesn’t complain or make trouble, someone who is independent, and someone who could take care of myself in Georgian society.

      I would suspect that some of this has something to do with my studying Georgian before coming over – and as I said earlier, Georgians are very proud of their language and will take it as a sign of great respect that you have studied it before coming here. But it was definitely also a huge factor of luck, because of the timing of the assignment – basically, if the Ministry of the Interior had asked for volunteers a week later, I’d either be in Maleta by myself or in Imereti with the rest of the third group.

      Overall I’d just say that what you get out of the program is proportional to what you put in. If you stay positive, show initiative, and present yourself well, you’ll get the most out of whatever assignment you end up with. I was initially hesitant about taking this assignment because I was looking forward to getting out of an urban environment and now I’m living in the biggest city for hundreds of miles, again – so I don’t know if I’d call this assignment “better” or just say that it has a different set of benefits and drawbacks. I’m choosing to focus on the benefits.

      Thanks for the comment, and feel free to drop a comment or contact me if you have any questions or if you want to hang when you get to Tbilisi.

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