New Beginnings

I’m moving on up.

Call it a transfer, or a horizontal promotion, maybe. As of tomorrow, I’ll be teaching at a public school in Vake.

Vake is the wealthiest neighborhood in Tbilisi. It’s the home of Tbilisi’s Segafredo, of several Tbilisi universities (Tbilisi State and Chavchavadze), and of its very own Goodwill branch. It’s within walking distance of the center of town. People tend to speak English here (I’m writing this from the Chavchavadze University bookstore and cafe) and all the shop names are in English as well as Georgian, or just in English. There’s an Apple store and a Levis store. It’s basically like a little slice of New York, except without a subway.

Yeah, transit in Vake is limited to city buses, marshutkas on sidestreets, cabs, and of course driving or walking. The Metro doesn’t come out this way (although I’ve read that it’s slated for a planned expansion, at some indefinite point in the future, as budget allows… think NYC’s 2nd avenue subway line) but I can’t exactly say I’ll miss taking the Metro.

And of course this means that I’ll be within walking distance of the city center, of all my favorite bars and restaurants. It means I won’t have to drag people out to Gldani to socialize with me. It means I can stay out past 11:30 without having to pay for a cab. These are good things.

So obviously I’m trying to stay positive. I honestly had been considering asking for a transfer to a host family anyway, perhaps if I decided to stay for another year. As I’ve said before, my lifestyle was not sustainable – between utility bills and paying for all my own food and household supplies, I was basically under water every month – and this will ease a lot of that burden.

But there are numerous aspects of the Police Academy that I will miss. I’ll miss my students – and I’ll try to stay in touch with them, but it’s of course going to be difficult. I’ll miss the pool that I was never allowed to use, but that the two new Police Academy employees will be allowed to use. I’ll definitely miss the freedom and privacy that I had living in Gldani. I’ll miss brunches and dinner parties. But of course I won’t have to cook all my own meals anymore, so that’s good. And I’ll miss living near all my Gldani friends – both old and new – but I’m sure I’ll still be seeing them often. Vake’s not that far away.

I mean, I came to Georgia to teach in a public school and live with a Georgian family. This will give me the true TLG experience. I’ll be able to describe the experiences of a TLG teacher firsthand, rather than relating stories I’ve heard from others. It will be a good experience, and of course living with a wealthy Vake family will still be a step above living in a village without running water, like some volunteers. I’m still a lucky bastard.

And yet change is always intimidating. This is all happening so fast, and I have so many vague worries – not to mention that there are a number of other situations going on that are distracting me such that I don’t even have time to actually worry about what’s going to happen to me personally. I’m backlogged on entries – I need to write about the TLG improvements and educational reforms, about my excellent Georgian cultural weekend experiences, and about the situation regarding resources for foreign women in Georgia. And starting tomorrow I’m going to have to write about my new digs, my new school, my new host family, and all the other stuff that comes with a new experience. Oy vey, this is a lot – my thoughts are spinning like crazy.

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I’m just glad that TLG has been so supportive through this process. I got a text from my supervisor at 10pm on Friday saying that I had to meet him at the Ministry of Education at 10am on Monday. I was glad that I had been told something in advance for once, but of course I didn’t want to spend the entire weekend worrying about what was going to happen to me and whether I’d be thrown out of the country. So I called Maia, the head of TLG, and she personally assured me that I wouldn’t be leaving TLG regardless of what the Police Academy folks had to say.

What did they have to say? Basically, nothing. They wanted me to leave, but when I pressed my supervisor for a reason, he refused to give me a straight answer. He told me that there were no problems with my performance, but they were not willing to put that in writing. I got the impression that if I didn’t go quietly, they would make my life very, very difficult, and frankly, I don’t want a difficult life. I could offer a thousand speculations as to why I’m being moved, but it all seems to come down to a fundamental incompatibility between my approach to problem-solving and the Police Academy’s administrative style. I can never be passive or complacent or approach any task uncritically, and I am constantly striving to make my life conditions better, and as a result, basically anywhere I go I make a big splash. The Police Academy did not want a splash.

Hopefully Vake wants a splash. TLG told me in no uncertain terms that I will have to be much more careful about what I write on here, given that I will be teaching in public school and living with a family. I am sure that I can be diplomatic enough in how I write and use enough discretion in what I write that I’ll be able to avoid offending people – and this blog was never meant to be controversial, only to lay out basic information about my experiences here – so there shouldn’t really be any conflict of interest here.

And yet. I have demonstrated a marked inability in my life to not shake things up. So hopefully in my new position I can channel the chaos and intrigue that seem to follow me everywhere I go into some kind of positive effect without stepping on any toes in the process.

I guess we’ll see…

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[Video: The Jeffersons Theme – Movin’ On Up]

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7 Responses to New Beginnings

  1. Ilyk Eyaj says:

    I love The Jeffersons clip you chose to post here. Good stuff!

  2. Ilyk Eyaj says:

    @Neal
    “What did they have to say? Basically, nothing. They wanted me to leave, but when I pressed my supervisor for a reason, he refused to give me a straight answer. He told me that there were no problems with my performance, but they were not willing to put that in writing. I got the impression that if I didn’t go quietly, they would make my life very, very difficult, and frankly, I don’t want a difficult life. I could offer a thousand speculations as to why I’m being moved, but it all seems to come down to a fundamental incompatibility between my approach to problem-solving and the Police Academy’s administrative style.”

    I know that’s your business and your life but you put this on the blog so I’m going to comment. Why can’t they give you specific reason for not having you work at the police academy? Why won’t they give you a specific reason for not having you work at the police academy? (I used both can’t and won’t because that changes the questions).

    As someone with over six years of teaching experience and fifteen years of relevant work experience; I’ve never heard of an employer giving an employee such a vague response about why they can no longer remained employed by that company or institution.

    I really want to jump up on a soapbox right now and rant about Georgian ‘work culture’ as a whole, but I won’t. Although when I was living there I did some journalism about that subject and what I discovered was less than desirable.

    On another subject:
    I wonder how much of the way the police academy and the way most institutions in Georgia conduct business has to do with still having a Soviet mind set or communist mentality? Specifically, what I noticed when I was living there was the ‘hive mentality’ or ‘The Borg’ mindset with everything being about conformity, not questioning authority, a lack of innovation, and the use of threat and force to achieve things.
    After the USSR collapsed, the mentality that had been enforced for several generations didn’t just disappear overnight. This is a sensitive topic but I know that sociologists have stated that it takes more than three generations to get over something so traumatic.

    The Police Academy’s security:
    The police academy in Georgia is not Georgia’s military. The police academy is not even comparable to the DHS, the FBI, DIA, or even France’s DGSE. It’s just a police academy. So why can’t they give a reason recorded on hardcopy for you?

  3. loe says:

    ah, from gldani to vake, how cinderellaish,

    but seriously, reading your blog is going to get twice more interesting. Living in a host family and teaching at public school is supposed to get you look at things from a totally different perspective.

  4. No Name says:

    In which school u will teach ?

  5. Linda says:

    Hey Neal, congrats on these positive changes. Although you say you will now have a true TLG experience. Au Contraire boy!! Living in Vake & working at school 51 are from normal, lol. I say the true TLG experience comes from our fellow volunteers located in villages. If you haven’t done so already, take a trip to visit a teacher in a village. It a wonderful experience. All of my favorite stories are from my time spent while living in Tsalenjika, Samegrelo.

  6. Pingback: Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly | Georgia On My Mind

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