I have been neglectful of my blog recently. There’s been a lot going on – not necessarily bad stuff, just stuff that has kept me a little more occupied than usual.
So, I moved out of Vera. I know, it seems like only yesterday when I was whining about how annoying living in Vera was – it really is annoying, but rather than continue to whine about it on here I went and actually did something about it. And by “did something about it” I mean “urged my girlfriend to do something about it” because my Georgian isn’t quite good enough to make that process go smoothly. Anyway, we found a lovely place in Vake which, among other amenities, actually contains both a dining room table AND an oven, which means the return of dinner parties and Sunday brunches could be in the cards. My commute is a little longer, but I can now comfortably walk to and from Goodwill Vake, and Chavchavadze (which I have taken to calling “Chahv” in an effort to be as obnoxious about living in Vake as humanly possible) is of course well-trafficked with
rank smelly foul blighted wonderful inexpensive Tbilisi buses.
The other issue with Vera was my host family. They were nice enough people but it turns out that they actually not only didn’t ask for a TLG volunteer, but actually had to be persuaded. Things that seemed cool at first – having basically a separate apartment, not having to share a bathroom/kitchen/etc with a family of five, not displacing anyone from their room – were really cool, but the downside was that talking to or seeing these people involved walking up the stairs and knocking on the door, and as I am generally a pretty busy person, I didn’t do that very often, and they never really came to talk to me, and so there was just this distance that became uncomfortable.
And then there was not having internet for a month – a situation that only got that bad because my host family was unwilling to help me out with getting internet set up, which turned out to be just as simple as everyone has assured me it would be but was made complicated because not one single person that I spoke to was willing to actually listen to what I was saying and do what I was asking, even though those things turned out to be extremely easy. And it was things like “could you please call the following party and ask them the following question(s)” – things that I literally only needed a translator to do – that I couldn’t get any Georgian speaker to do because either they felt that they knew better than I did what needed to be done or they felt that it was not their responsibility to do this relatively tiny favor for me. So at first I thought this was just a general obtuseness of the type that I have in fact encountered before many times in Georgia – the same thing that leads people to be unable to do things like tell me what the name of the street they are on is or how long it would take to walk to the nearest Metro station, to cite some of the earliest examples I found – but no, this was probably at least partially due to purposeful obtuseness, perhaps aimed at sending me the message that my presence was at best an inconvenience.
Anyway, after the colossal failure to get internet within any reasonable time frame, I became reluctant to ask my host family for anything. (Also a factor: getting the keys to my apartment had taken almost 25 minutes of arguing). I did things like hand-wash my laundry rather than ask to use their washing machine. I think they would have let me, I just hate asking for help from people who clearly don’t want to help me. So that was uncomfortable, and the apartment also wasn’t heated, which would have meant buying an electric heater and paying 200 lari per month electric bills again, so it just didn’t seem worth it.
When I told my host mom I was leaving, she seemed quite happy. I actually feel vaguely bad that TLG stuck her with me. There’s a persistent rumor this year that they’re running out of host families in Tbilisi – especially for male volunteers – and I wonder how much truth there is to that. It does sort of make sense, given that hosting a volunteer is a giant pain in the ass and the host families don’t really get anything for it and there’s less room in general in Tbilisi and things are more expensive and the tradition of hospitality isn’t quite as strong as in the regions.
I also started taking an online TEFL course with i-to-i tefl. So far it’s been both easier and more challenging than I expected – the course itself is really easy and the material is very basic, but the five checkpoint evaluations – the ones graded by a live tutor – are long, deep, and comprehensive. I sailed through the grammar course, mostly because after teaching it for a year, I know the grammar of EFL teaching really well by now. And incidentally, EFL grammar is way different from the stuff they teach us growing up. In many ways it’s actually more accurate and more descriptive, which is an unexpected cool thing about EFL teaching; but in other ways it’s totally weird and backwards (like the standard way of teaching “conditional” sentences… that merits its own whole post though, so don’t get me started). Anyway, I’ve put a lot of good hours into that so far – it’s a 100 hour course, and I expect to have it done by late November at the latest so that they can mail me my certificates in the US and I can pick them up over Christmas break.
I’ve also been taking Georgian lessons, and I’ve also started taking the Rosetta Stone course in Russian. I have heard nothing but horrible, horrible, catastrophically awful reviews of Rosetta Stone, and yet my ability to read Cyrillic has already improved after only a few hours with the thing, which is important because a lot of stuff here is written in Cyrillic and I want to be able to read that stuff. Medication is a great example – if you can read Cyrillic you can read the ingredients on medications here and the chemical names in Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian are the same as the chemical names in (British) English. I don’t expect to learn to speak fluent Russian with this thing, but it’s fun and shiny and teaching me to at least be literate. Plus now I can say “the woman eats” and other interesting sentences about people doing simple, common things.
But yeah, my Georgian is really getting much better. I’ve been working on accent reduction and on mastering the grammar, and I’ve been spending embarrassingly little time on vocabulary, and I have essentially no confidence in my ability to speak the language in front of friends (although with strangers I can be quite talkative), but it’s getting better.
And on another note, I’ve been looking at Master’s programs. I might want to get a Master’s just to improve my resume and increase my income potential. There are a bunch of online Master’s now in things like TESOL and Applied Linguistics – stuff I could theoretically do from Georgia. There’s also a cool online Master’s in Political Science that offers scholarships and summer classes in Italy, which I am strongly considering applying to, because if I get a scholarship it will be awesome and make my life easier and I’ll get to study in Rome for a summer. It’s not that I actually want to go to Italy – I tend to have trouble getting along with Italians that I’m not closely related to and I suspect Italy would irritate me at least as much as Vera – but I would certainly like to leave Italy and then when other people talk about Italy I could act all blasé about it, and I definitely want to eat Italian pizza in Italy so that I can make an even more informed comparison between all the different pizza varieties when I preach to Georgians about what pizza is supposed to taste like.
Speaking of food – and did I mention I have an oven now?! – I’ve been having a month of excellent culinary accomplishments. I’ve been tweaking my ginger curry and I think I finally got the ginger/other spice ratio right. I made my first soup – beef with rice, vegetables, and lightly spiced – and it was fantastic. I made some jambalaya and it was like the second best I’ve ever had (the best was made by this dude from New Orleans who was renowned for being an awesome cook). My gf helped out with the soup and the jambalaya – we actually work well together in the kitchen, which is surprising because I’m a giant control freak when I cook. On Saturday night I made one of the best quesadillas I’ve ever done. I know what you’re thinking – “where’s my invitation?” – and fear not, we do plan to start sharing these and other fine dishes with company now that we’ve got them perfected. I consider this last month to have been a proof of concept.
So yeah – I’ve been keeping myself busy. I’m currently focused on a few issues at work, hoping to resolve them with all the energy I will now have now that I have a nice stable comfortable place to live. It’s mostly classroom management stuff and a little bit of scheduling craziness. I’m optimistic.
Speaking of optimism…
Video: Tom Lehrer, “We Will All Go Together When We Go”