So this post is a little old, and it hasn't made it to you yet due to internet issues, but it's here for you now!
|My 2nd Grade Class|
Happy Thanksgiving! Well, what to say. First of all, that internet has been heck of hard to find recently up here in Mestia which is one of the reasons I have fallen off of the face of the earth for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. I have also been working like a fiend on my graduate school applications which are due in the scarily-quick-approaching-future so that has eaten up my internet time quite well too. But, those deadlines are almost past, I’m feeling like I’m in a good place for the apps, and I miss talking to you all about this amazing place, so it’s time for an update.
Instead of doing anything for Thanksgiving I left training which we had for 4 days in Ureki Guria and sat on a mashrutka for way too many hours on my way home to Svaneti. I could have stayed down south and gotten together with people I suppose, but I missed my Georgian home, bed and family. I’ve grown incredibly attached to the people here. My host mother has stopped qualifying my daughter status with ‘American’ so I am now just her daughter. My Svan is coming along so that means that I have been even further absorbed by the community. My future happy marriage and children (here in Svaneti, spoken in Svan) have become a regular toast at supras at my home. I’ve moved from a kargi gogo to a xocha dina, which is only a language shift but to be embraced by Svans seems to take a bit. I’m not just liked for being a guest anymore, I think I’ve earned the respect of people around me for the work that I’ve done in and out of the classroom, my attempts at their languages (not just the rarely found national language but the dying indigenous one) and my simply having stuck around for this long. It’s starting to get cold and snowy so I think future chances to earn respect are rapidly approaching.A couple more vignettes to illustrate my point.
|My 6th Grade Class, Note male to female ratio resulting in much discipline|
My students have started giving me little presents. One day it was a clay flower made by one of my seventh grade girls. My fifth and sixth graders tend to stick to fruit; either clementines or apples. My younger kids draw pictures for me. My co-teachers have given me delicious sweets and a great list of Svan vocab and a pair of hand-knitted mittens respectively. After being gone for 4 days my kids, even the 6th grade boys who occasionally make our 45 minutes together a foretaste of hell, seemed genuinely excited to see me back at school today. My teachers welcomed me back with open arms and my older boys all gave me awkward happy smiles. Pictionary was a revelation to my 8th graders, one of whom remarked in Georgian that they loved this game. People ask me how my life is going way the heck up in the mountains, but I have to reply in all seriousness that all is well. I’ve been to three weddings and a baptism supra, with more sure to come. I haven’t been to a funeral yet, but I feel like that might just be that my family doesn’t want to bring me down by taking me to one. I have no doubt that I will be to one before the semester is over. I can catch rides from pretty much anyone in Mestia since they all know who I am and I feel exceptionally safe in this place. Anywhere else I’ve lived if a man who I vaguely recognized pulled over, opened the door and said to get in, he’d take me home, I’d probably yell and leg it out of there. Here, I climb aboard and have a nice chat before I get to my door. It’s just the nature of the place to feel completely at ease with anyone in the community. This is not to say that I have thrown caution to the wind but the level of intimacy here, with everyone knowing everyone else means that you have to worry far less.
|My seniors, or 9/17 of them which is a huge victory|
Young cousin Gio took quite the shine to me on Giorgoba (St George's Day on the 23rd of November), so much so that I couldn't escape to pack for training the next day until he left. I also discovered just how much friggin work slaughtering an ox is. Every clan or samxub (everyone with the same last name, my samxub up in Mestia is both Kakhberidze and Gvarliani, one from my host dad and one from my host mom) gets together to celebrate the day and slaughters a bull or ox for the event. It seems to have some deliciously pagan roots, and is also a great way to get enough meat for the next couple of months. I missed part of the slaughtering due to being at Church, but I came home to a headless animal in the yard and the men of the clan working on dividing it into pieces. I saw the neighbors get started the day before, they stunned it with the blunt side of an ax and then slit the throat with a hunting knife. I didn't break my stride walking past. Everybody spent the day dealing with chunks of dead animal. Since I know absolutely nothing about how to process dead animal, I was put in charge of Gio, coffee and eventually some dishes, because really, it was the best division of everyone’s labor. I found the head in the storage room the next morning, and then got fed it after training. It tasted ok, but the brain texture was too weird to each much.
|Banguriani in the snow. Gorgeous, right?|
|The footpath to Laghami|
|My host siblings, managing to not kill themselves with fireworks|