Back to Life, Back to Reality

I realize now that TEDx kind of ate my life. It’s sort of depressing getting back to normal life, back to the daily habits, back to the grind.

TEDx was awesome. My nerves peaked at the beginning of the third segment, which was the segment that I was to speak in. Then they sort of died back down as I waited backstage, mentally tinkered with a few things, and tried to find my Zen. When I actually got on stage, everything just clicked. The talk went way better than either of the rehearsals had. I remembered all my talking points. I landed all of my jokes. I forgot that I was being videoed and possibly watched by people all over the world, and just had a conversation with the audience. The audience feedback was the best part, and when I walked off the stage I already knew I had done a great job.

So that was the high point – the culmination of weeks of anticipation, planning, and the increasing buildup of nerves and stress over the past week or two. Some people came up to me afterwards and congratulated me or talked to me about my talk. Everyone had nice things to say, but nothing really matched that initial high of walking off the stage after knocking it out of the park.


On my way to TEDx I had a nice fall on the ice. I knew yesterday that it would hurt today, but I somehow managed to forget about it by the end of the night, so I had a moment of confusion when I sat down at my computer this morning and the act of sitting down kinda hurt. I’ve also got a slight hangover.

Tomorrow I go back to school. School has been extra stressful this year and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to approach it – actually, I’ve now failed in several different spectacular ways to effect any sort of change at all in how things are done in my classrooms, and this has led to a sort of downward spiral eating away at my self-confidence and an increasing sense of futility. I think I need to somehow find it in myself to be more assertive and I’m wondering if I can’t leverage some of this TEDx-related elation in meeting that goal.

I am eagerly awaiting video of the talks. I really want to watch myself, despite the fact that, like many people, I actually hate the way my voice sounds when it is recorded and played back to me. Apparently the process of getting the video to YouTube could take up to a month, so ick. The point is, between going back to daily routine, dealing with trivial problems like the right side of my body hurting, and waiting around for the videos to upload, the next few weeks are going to be a relatively bland contrast to yesterday.


Yesterday was awesome. Talking to the other speakers, organizers, and guests was exciting. I didn’t end up talking to John Bass, the US Ambassador to Georgia (although I’ve met him before, at the embassy) and I don’t know if he caught my talk or not since he left early, so as of yet there’s no official US government position on the topic of my talk. I got Professor Lordkipanidze’s business card after I asked him if I could come dig up bones in Dmanisi. I am actually serious about this – one of my potential summer plans is figuring out a way to like intern there or something because I find anthropology and archaeology really interesting (I studied anthropology for a year in college so I actually know a bunch of stuff about it, and had heard of Dmanisi before I knew Georgia was a place.) John Wurdeman gave me his card along with a glowing review of the Mexican place in his hometown of Sighnaghi, which he says opens in spring, serves chicken mole, and will open especially for a group event.

Today, as you can probably tell from this post, my thoughts are scattered between basking in the memory of talking to lots of interesting and important people and very slowly changing gears back to dealing with the present and near future.

(Video: Soul II Soul, Back To Life

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7 Responses to Back to Life, Back to Reality

  1. dohldrums says:

    Confirmed: Mexican restaurant in Sighnaghi = awesome. Not perfect, but pretty darn good, super cheap, and the guy in charge is extremely cool.


  2. --> says:

    >John Wurdeman gave me his card
    Next time you see him, say Irakli says hello. 🙂


  3. pasumonok says:

    listen, I am very proud to have a friend who actually gave talk on TED. I keep telling about you to everyone around me (well, everyone who knows TED).
    So, now I know a celebrity. 🙂
    But seriously, this is so, so awesome, really!!!
    Congrats and when will we see the video?


  4. Any says:

    First, congrats on TED! Watched it online and you were definitely the best in your group. However, I found an interesting article (in Georgian) and was wondering if you would wish to share ideas about it (can be found here:
    Personally, I found the article a bit insulting.


    • panoptical says:

      I mean, some of the critique is fair and some of it is just demagoguery – linking to my supposedly inflammatory posts (which rarely say anything Georgian’s don’t already say to each other – my blog is mainly to introduce foreign English speakers to the issues of the day in Georgia) is a good example. The problem for David Merabishvili is that many of his readers agree with some or all of what I have to say and find my posts and the discussions they create valuable, which means that he’s undermining his own argument when he holds me up as an example of the nefarious mission creep of TLG. The “foreigners are coming here and screwing everything up” card doesn’t really work in Georgia, which craves economic and social revitalization and wants to consider itself part of the Western world. With the less-than-notable exception of the few geezers who miss the days when people didn’t have sex in the USSR.

      On the substantive points, I think he’s right only in that TLG has not made a strong enough case to the Georgian public for who we are and why we’re here – something I am constantly working on changing. Davit is right that relatively few of us are “qualified professional teachers” – but that’s why we don’t head classrooms by ourselves. We’re here to communicate in English, not to take over the Georgian educational system (as much as some of us would like to).

      I’ve heard the argument many times that training Georgian teachers would be better than bringing foreign teachers here. Bluntly, this argument is crap. No amount of training will make a Soviet-education Georgian a fluent English speaker. Maybe, through months of immersion in an English-speaking culture, she could achieve enough English proficiency to hold realistic conversations, and maybe after years she could achieve enough to pass that skill on – but then you run up against the fact that putting a Georgian in England or America for an academic semester is vastly more expensive than bringing an American or Englishperson to Georgia.

      The problems that Georgian English teachers have are related to a lack of experience using English to communicate. They can teach advanced grammar but cannot understand when a Native speaker asks them what time class starts. I am not exaggerating in any way – it is challenging to me to express even basic, A1 level information to my coteachers – I have to speak slowly and carefully and choose my words very specifically – and if they don’t know what actual English sounds like, then how can they teach communication to kids?

      There is also the fossilization of bad habits. Even after correcting coteachers three, four, five times, they still pronounce “were” like “where” and “it” like “eat” and have other pronunciation habits that make it difficult for me to know what they are saying. I have my doubts that two weeks in the UK would fix these issues.

      I’m not saying we shouldn’t undertake to train teachers – in fact, I think that TLG volunteers should be teaching their coteachers, but that suggestion goes over like a lead zeppelin – I’m just saying that in terms of teaching communication, it is actually far more efficient to bring hundreds of native communicators to Georgia than to try to send tens of Georgians to English-speaking places to learn how to communicate. We just reach more students this way for much less money.


  5. pasumonok says:

    i think funding is the main issue here and i agree with the article on that point.
    why is it insulting? clearly, u personally weren’t mentioned in a bad way.and just becoz u are in the program does not mean that u support everything it does.
    i am glad u are here. am i glad that mass of foreigners are persuaded to be here?
    … the logistics, the planning, the presentation of the results?
    i’d rather have 200 neals and neal-like people than many people of unknown origin and position.


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