I’m back in Georgia – actually, this is my third day back, but I haven’t had the free time to make a post until now.
Today is Orthodox Christmas – a time for Georgians to go to church, to gather together with friends and family, to… um, honestly I’m not sure what else goes on. Is there an Orthodox Santa? For once my investigations into Georgian culture have fallen short; I suspect this is because I don’t have a host family.
So, today, I’ll be catching up on some errands and chores. I’ve got to clean the house, do some laundry, unpack my two suitcases, go grocery shopping, etc etc etc etc etc ad nauseum. Tomorrow is more of the same.
My trip to New York was about as emotionally challenging as I predicted. When I got there I was depressed and tired for about three days, then I started enjoying myself, seeing more friends, etc, and then at about the time when I finally conquered jetlag, it was time to get back on a plane and go. Leaving New York this time was different – there was no sense of excitement or adventure or confronting the unknown, like there was back in August, and so all there was was a sense of leaving.
And of course in August I was incredibly tired of being in New York and dealing with all the stress, and this time, I wasn’t. After two and a half weeks, I was just getting used to being in New York.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to have my huge bedroom, my washing machine, my delicious Georgian tea, I was glad to see the few coworkers and students that I ran into yesterday – but coming to Georgia this time feels different.
I have six months ahead of me during which I have a specific mission. I have to figure out if living in Georgia is sustainable for me in the long term.
When I first came here, my belief was that I’d be living with a host family, which would be challenging, and that after a school year of that I’d be tired of it and ready to move on. I expected that I’d find another job, somewhere else – maybe South Korea, maybe Istanbul, maybe someplace completely unexpected. I thought that I could make a living as an English teacher for a while, travelling the world, and be back in New York (or perhaps somewhere in Europe) over the summers, and maybe I could save enough money to go to law school or grad school.
What happened instead was that I got put in a really excellent situation here that offers numerous benefits that I hadn’t really expected. I am healthier and happier here, overall, than I was in New York. I eat better, I sleep better, I am more relaxed, less stressed, less angry, medicine is cheaper, etc. The only problem, as I have detailed before, is that financially this lifestyle is not sustainable. I have enough to eat, but not enough to, for instance, pay off my student loans. Not enough to buy a new pair of sneakers for the summer. Not enough to buy a microwave for the house or a wireless router so my roommate and I can both use the internet. Not enough to travel anywhere outside of Georgia. Not enough to cover unforeseen emergencies.
So phase one is that I need to find additional income streams. I’m going to contact TLG to ask for permission to try to find a part-time job. (By the way, I appreciate the rationale behind the many “do it anyway, don’t get caught” suggestions, but I’m not willing to risk being thrown out of the country nor am I willing to go through all the trouble of maintaining a layer of secrecy over that much of my life.) After that I have to figure out how to make more money. I’ve heard people suggest that I give private lessons, which I would be okay with, although a job in copyediting or proofreading would be more in line with my personal preferences, and there are tons of English-language publications in Georgia that could really benefit from a fluent English speaker with some writing ability.
Phase two is to improve my Georgian language skills. I’ve hit the “expat plateau” – that point where you know enough of a language to order from a restaurant or get a taxi, but not really enough to hold a meaningful conversation. If I can get a second job, I’ll be able to afford a Georgian tutor, which is what I really need to get my Georgian up to speed. I feel like I wasted the last four months – well, not exactly wasted, because I did a lot of other stuff that was important to me – but I missed an opportunity in the last four months to really learn a lot of Georgian, because I am not great at independent study. I am resolving to spend at least an hour a day studying – Georgian, or Linguistics, or something to keep my academic skills sharp and improve my ability to communicate and teach – but I know how those resolutions go. I’ll get busy and they’ll fall by the wayside. That’s why I need a class or a tutor or some kind of scheduled face time with a human being – because without that social obligation I will completely fail to devote any time at all to what I want to learn.
I’m going to attempt to actually start doing some of the things I just mentioned.
From Hyperbole and a Half: