It had snowed. The electricity was down, but this was to be expected. Power lines in the village have a mind of their own; usually they take a few hours’ or overnight sabbatical and this is perfectly fine. I went about my normal business and decided to dare the treacherous two miles to town in those godawful rainboots with their gaping hole (might as well have walked barefoot) … But as this is Georgia, I was saved from most of my journey by a friendly stranger with a rather loud horn. Naturally. Like everyone I know, he went on and on about the ass beating Georgia laid on Ukraine’s rugby team, pasuing only to pass me more sunflower seeds.
When I returned home my host grandmother was bringing in firewood. A neighbor had caught her attention in the driveway. He stood there delivering the day’s news with his hands, his 2-liter beer jug shaking wildly from side to side. My host sister and I watched this commotion from the window. Bebia finally made her way back, slamming the gate while noticing us leaning in anticipation over the sill.
“deni ar iqneba erti kvirit (There won’t be power for one week),” she said casually. This is one of those statements that demands a “WTF!” reponse – except you can’t say it aloud because, before any Georgian learns their “ABCs” or “123s”, they can all translate f* at the drop of a hat. So, I said it anyway. Old habits die hard.
So what does one do with a dead phone, dead netbook, and a handful of candles? Proceed as normal of course. As much as my host sister and I bitched and moaned for the sake of bitching and moaning, nothing went horribly wrong. We were only slightly inconvenienced when it came to the hot water situation; but I have long accepted the fact that some washing here might come in bucket sponge bath form. She also whined about the absence of the toaster oven (which means the absence of cake). But I’m sure we’re better for it.
We did manage to scrounge up a few batteries at our street’s shop. My host grandmother is a diehard “sad aris eliza (Where is Eliza?)” fan and simply couldn’t go without. She sat at the the kitchen table futzing with our dusty old radio for an hour before I heard the familiar dubbed voice saying something about eloping with her amor, Antonio. Meanwhile, Salo and I were busy translating “Hotel California” and “Not Afraid”.
That “eliza” broadcast inspired a lengthy premarital sex discussion. Apparently, Georgian boys mean business when it comes to virginity. Of course there is the double standard: They, with their parents’ permission and blessing, begin visiting prostitutues around age 15 or 16 to ‘gain experience’. These women may be in their mid-20s or even in their 60s. I’m not saying this approach is bad or good; I’m saying it’s different. And fascinating in a few respects. I only hope they wear a rubber. But that’s tomorrow’s topic.
Living without the Internet for a few (more) days gave me some perspective. I went outside. A lot. And I watched things. I watched the world go by with my notebook, jotting down neighborhood details like who went where when, the time the cows arrived at their respective homes for the evening, how people get along perfectly okay without rock salt or plows, etc. I also doodled in my notebook more than normal at school. And this is what I surmised:
Chixa School has all the good intention in the world. Unfortunately, they posses little in the area of efficiency and even less in the realm of creativity. Unless my twelfth graders work ’round the clock, most will fail their English national exam in May. Cheating is still a big problem among even the best of them. Many of my students work incredibly hard but lack the proper venue for improvement. I can’t bear the thought of any of these things. So I intend to fix all of them.
Maybe it is already February, but it’s never too late to instill change. Maybe I won’t be the one who turns out a horde of fluent English speakers, but I can at least get all the balls rolling. I encourage my fellow TLGers to resist the temptation to coast along in light of our overwhelming task; instead, make full use of the time we have been given.
I’ve decided to forego most traveling this semester; I can always come back to see the sights, but I’ll never have the opportunity to teach here again. Right now, those weekends are needed for extra tutoring sessions, English Club, visiting students’ homes, etc.
My running list of improvements is far from finished. We’re constantly batting around new policies and extracurricular ideas. To date, I have been met with only open minds and agreement. Approaching peers at school isn’t as difficult as I first assumed. Taking initiative is the cornerstone of this project even if it were to evolve into a sticky process. After all, a mind is a terrible – the worst – thing to waste.
*** Armenia and the Sachxere arrival will be covered in the next post. Scout’s honor.