Milestones

A year ago today, at about 4 am, I landed in Tbilisi International Airport for the first time.

Last night my blog reached 100,000 individual page views, or “hits.”

I wish I had time for a real “year in review” sort of post – something looking back on my time here, or whatever – but that’s sort of what this whole blog is. I’ve grown a lot in this past year. I’ve changed a lot and become a better person. I’ve realized opportunities that I never even knew I had. Life has been good.

I have failed to become fluent in Georgian. My first six months here I didn’t even have a host family, and when I did, they mostly just spoke English. I live in Tbilisi and hang out with expats and English-speaking Georgians. I can order food, direct a taxi, and obtain goods and services; I cannot hold a conversation. I can understand less than half of what is said around me, depending on their accent and how fast they are talking.

I have learned a lot about teaching. I have learned a lot about Tbilisi. My knowledge of Tbilisi geography is now comparable to or better than that of most Georgians I encounter. Sometimes when I go out in public I run into strangers who know who I am because of this blog. I find this surprising but incredibly cool. I have finally, after a full year, found a place to get decent mtsvadi. I still haven’t tried the Mexican place in Sighnaghi. I still haven’t been to Batumi.

I’ve made a lot of good friends, and a ton of nice acquaintances, and most of them are gone now. There aren’t many people from TLG group 3 still in Georgia. I’ve had great luck with dating and relationships, and I’ve managed not to talk about any of it on this blog even though I always want to. I’ve made professional contacts that could perhaps one day lead to well-paying jobs. I have a decent social network here who I feel I can rely on for help if I need it. I’ve avoided culture shock.

This is one of the first times in my life when I can honestly and unreservedly say that I am better off now than I was one year ago. Coming to Georgia was a great decision for me even if it’s only because I no longer feel like I am wasting my life. Teaching, and writing this blog, are dually responsible for the feeling that my life is now contributing positively to the world and the lives of others. I feel like I can make a difference here, like I can give Georgians the opportunities that come from education and also give a voice to the social issues that Georgia struggles with (or should struggle with.) Someone told me that this is a very American attitude. I’m fine with that.

This blog gets, on average, between 200 and 300 hits per day. That means that there are hundreds of people who read what I have to say – who get to be exposed to a very particular Western assessment of Georgian life and culture. A vocal minority wishes I would shut up and go home, but that’s always the case when there’s any discussion of social issues whatsoever. Many more people read, and comment, or pass a link on to others, or mention me in their blogs or news articles. I want to thank all of those people – you’ve given me something really special and I hope I can live up to that gift.

I’ve fallen out of touch with America in a very big way. I know that some of my relatives read this blog, but most don’t. Same with my American friends. I haven’t had time to keep up with facebook this summer, and even before that I had hid hundreds of people from my news feed because their daily lives are no longer applicable to my daily life. I was happy with a lot of aspects of my life in America but on a day to day basis I was often very miserable. I haven’t had a single miserable day in Georgia and so I can’t say that I regret making a significant and sudden break from my previous life, even if there are many people and places and things from America that I miss.

My opinions about Georgia have grown and changed. As a friend told me the other day, I’m no longer a rookie. I’ve been places and seen things – more than some, less than others – and my perspective today is vastly different than it was a year ago. At the same time, I’m still a New Yorker with a liberal arts education, which means that I still see things differently than most of the people in the world. Again, I’m fine with that. I want to express my views and I want to hear your views. This blog has evolved from primarily a one-way information source for Americans looking to come to Georgia and into something more like a cultural exchange, an English-language forum for Georgians and Americans and other interested parties. I think that’s really cool, and I never would have expected it, and again I want to extend my gratitude to everyone who’s made that possible.

It’s been a great year. Sakartvelos Gaumarjost!


(video: Katie Melua, What a Wonderful World)

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10 Responses to Milestones

  1. Russ says:

    Just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed your blog over the past year. It has helped me stay connected with Georgia and its culture and led to my reminiscing about a wonderful place I left only two years ago. I wonder if you’ve considered making a permanent life there???

  2. Hmmm..... says:

    Hello, me again! I commented on your last post.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m a Georgian (who lives abroad and visits whenever possible)….and I haven’t tried the Mexican place in Sighnaghi either! πŸ˜€

    Batumi is nice, except for the fact that it’s probably the rainiest place in Ajara. It’s the best for nightlife, scenery, and entertainment, but if you just want sea and nature I hear that Sarpi is cheaper and it also has a good beach, *WITH* a view of Turkey.

    I’ve only read a couple of blog posts, but I think it’s pretty cool (and advantageous) to see a foreigner discuss Georgia and Georgians. Some things are funny and I can relate to pretty well (like supra stories and near death experiences in Georgian taxis) and others make me think about our culture (like the lemonade post and the gender roles examples). The “Sex in Georgia” post was interesting, and while I didn’t agree with all of it, I did enjoy reading what someone from outside of Georgia thinks about that part of our culture. There’s already a bunch of Georgian forums and blogs discussing sex and virginity in Georgia, but yours was the first one I’ve seen in English.

    Don’t let that vocal minority get to you- they do that to everyone, even to Georgians who live outside of Georgia; “what do you know, you don’t live here!” and “everything looks different and pleasant from a large distance” are common things that they say to me. If they don’t like it, they can get their own blogs.

    Good idea on not saying anything about relationships and dating…..after all, you do know how we love to gossip hehehehe

    Anyways good blog! And I’m glad you haven’t had a single miserable day in Georgia!

    Am blogis patrons gaumarjos!
    πŸ™‚

  3. Kimberly says:

    Well I’d just like to say how much I’ve enjoyed your blog! I think I have been reading it almost since the beginning, and I love it not only because I’m still thinking of joining TLG, but also because I have a strong interest in Georgian history and culture. I completely relate to the feeling of wasting your life (I’m just finishing a History B.A), and I think it’s so difficult today as university educated students are more aware than ever of poverty, political instability, injustice etc, but we often feel at a loss as to how to go about helping to change the world. I know I do. Previous volunteer experience, plus your blog, has made me pretty much certain that Georgia is the next step in my life, because as you say, the program contributes to positive change through education. Thanks again, and keep it up!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for maintaining this blog! I’ve spent the past day or so reading most of your entries throughout the past year. My interest in TLG began when I stumbled upon a posting on my university’s job board. I am strongly considering applying to the program. I have some specific questions about TLG and life in Georgia that I have not seen addressed on here. Would it be possible to contact you via email? I would really appreciate it.

    • panoptical says:

      Yeah, I’d be glad to answer questions. You can message me on facebook or leave me your email here (it won’t show up in the comment if you fill out the email address field.)

      • Helen says:

        I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions! Thank you.

        1. What’s the primary mode of transportation in the rural communities? I’ve lived in NY all my life and never got around to learning how to drive. I’m concerned with certain mobility issues if I am placed somewhere that’s remote.
        2. On the website, I believe it said that TLG groups arrive twice a month every month. Isn’t there an issue with teachers coming in the middle of a school year and possibly disrupting the curriculum/routine?
        3. How selective is admission to the program? I will be graduating with a B.S. this December from a good school; I also have experience studying/working abroad plus some teaching experience.
        4. Is there a policy to try to place TLG people close together, particularly in the villages? It appears that there’s a very active expat scene in Tbilisi (the good and bad), but do the people placed in the villages express disappointment with their social lives?
        5. In the event that someone leaves the program early, is their return ticket also covered by the program?

        I included my email in the form.

  5. Steven Diamond says:

    Shut up and go home.

    Cheerio!

  6. Pingback: The Balcony – Part 2 | A Traveller's Tale

  7. Pingback: The Balcony – Part 3 | A Traveller's Tale

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