The Long Winter

Well, this is now the longest I’ve ever been outside of the US. This is the first year I haven’t spent Christmas with my family – but scratch that, because I have my own family now and I spent Christmas with my beautiful wife and son, and we watched A Christmas Story because that’s what you do on Christmas if you’re me.

Vacation… over a month. It was long. So, so long. At first I was productive. I read, and I wrote, and I coded, and I studied Georgian and I studied Turkish. Over time I slept more and watched more TV. I got tired of being at home all the time and little things started to annoy me. Everyone in the house started to get on each others’ nerves.

One weekend my mother-in-law took a trip to the village to visit her relatives. Tea and Giga and I had the house to ourselves. It was wonderful to have so much time alone, but it also highlighted how helpful it is to have a third person in the house helping with the kid. When I grew up my whole family lived nearby – my mother’s family lived upstairs; my father’s family a few minutes’ walk away – and there was no shortage of help. Anyway after that weekend everyone was more or less happy again.

Winter in Kutaisi is hardly winter at all. There have been one or two days where there’s actually been ice on the ground, and one or two days of snow, but generally it’s been well above freezing and I haven’t had to break out my winter gloves yet. February is often the coldest month in Georgia in my experience so we’ll see if we get a real winter.

I went to Kemalpasha in Turkey for a few hours – I had to reset my visa-free period, since I’d been in Georgia for almost 360 days and that’s the limit and if you overstay they get mad at you. I want to write a separate Kemalpasha post, we’ll see if I get to it. (Edit: I did!)

My New Years’ Resolution has been going great. Staying away from outrage makes me happier. I still have things to write about! I’ve got a post coming up about Georgian hospitality and how it differs from American hospitality, among others.

The truth is, aside from being busy with other stuff, I’ve been writing less because things are less new to me. I still have epiphanies about things in Georgia but they’re spaced out more. I think a little bit harder before I write, too. Also, a lot of the interesting things that happen to me involve my family and I want to give them a modicum of privacy, plus I’m not trying to turn this into a parenting blog, although I’m sure there will be one or more posts about parenting in Georgia at some point.

TLG has switched gears and moved us all to village schools. I miss my old school, #36, and my super-short commute. On the other hand, my new school is excellent. It’s in Kvitiri – a village just outside Kutaisi, located on the main highway going towards Batumi. The school isn’t renovated, so there are wood stoves in the classrooms for the kids to keep warm, and the floors are wooden slats that aren’t necessarily nailed down onto the uneven concrete below, and the bathroom is an outhouse, and the cafeteria is not a cafeteria. Most of the building is not used – the school could probably house a thousand students, but only hosts 193, so there’s a bunch of decayed empty space with no windows and sometimes no floors or rooms. I’ll try to get pictures.

I know I said the school was excellent and then described a dystopian husk of a building, but the excellent part is the people. My coteachers have excellent English – I have two, and their pronunciation is among the best of anyone I’ve taught with. They’re friendly and accommodating and we already work well together. My school director brought me candy and cookies on Friday, and one of my coteachers brings me to her friend’s classroom after school for coffee.

The students are well-behaved, and – here’s the fantastic part – today one of the students didn’t bring his books, and my coteacher sent a note home to be signed by his parents. Parents and teachers who communicate? Kids who do what they’re told, when they’re told it? What country am I in?

The only downside is that Kvitiri is so far away. Well… okay, to be fair it’s an 8 minute cab ride that costs five lari, but assuming I don’t want to spend 100 lari a month just on getting to school, it means spending more time on marshutkas. It’s about fifteen minutes into the city from my house and fifteen minutes back out to Kvitiri, so that’s an hour a day on the blasted things, plus waiting time standing in the weather. Still – and I might change my mind, it’s only been three days – I think it might actually be worth the extra time to have such a satisfying teaching experience.

Which is not to say anything against my previous school and students, who were great, but they at least had CD players and new windows and regular heaters. The village kids really do need native speakers more than the city kids, and feeling like I’m not just taking up space is a really important part of my job satisfaction.

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5 Responses to The Long Winter

  1. Anonymous says:

    Neal I love your blogs! I’m glad you are happy in your new school!

  2. Amanda says:

    It is so rewarding to teach the kids who Really need your help! I definitely know the feeling.
    On another note… Perhaps you could write a more private blog about the things that interest you about your family, so that the rest of your family can read it : )

  3. Anonymous says:

    another wow, so you are still in Georgia, married and have son? that is great!! I wish I would imitate your experience…have you married a Georgian lady? 🙂

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