This week at school was…interesting. Admittedly I’ve never taught anywhere before so it is difficult to tell whether this is normal or not. From the students end, it always seemed like my teacher’s had it all figured out, but this was probably my awe of them talking and not reality. I certainly was in way over my head. The schedule wasn’t quite set yet so I was never quite sure which classes I was going to. I simply starting walking into school knowing that I could be anything from 1st to 12th grade and that I could only hope that I had a co-teacher with me. I did several times get put into a class on my own, which I discovered is one of the most terrifying things in the entire world. Particularly when the students have little or no idea what it is that you’re saying to them. I was sent to the first graders on my own one day, and it was their first day of English. My Georgian was not up to it. I am starting to wish that I had a greater physical presence. That or I need to work on my confidence because I think the students can tell that I’m a little unsure of myself and they are exploiting it. I’m glad that I am physically stronger than I look, but an extra foot or so of height and perhaps a sex change would give me a little more authority in the classroom. I did have to haul one first grader off of another for fighting, he didn’t expect me to simply be able to pick him up and move him. More incentive to work out while I’m here.
|My road and Tetnuldi in the background|
|This is what Svaneti looks like to me|
|My end of Mestia as the rain comes in from the Mountains|
The cold is already starting to set in. The power went out again this morning for a while so we were again dependent on the wood stove for heat, light and cooking. I worked with Nini and Saba on their English while Nato translated for me and peeled potatoes. We discussed the goals for the various classes today and about my idea for an after school club for the older kids with whom I don’t have as much time to work. English through rap. American music seems to be popular just about everywhere so I figure rap might draw some kids in who might otherwise not show up to a conversation club.
I also went for a nice walk this morning in the fog. The mists covered the mountain that sits above us almost completely but strangely enough cleared on Tetnuldi (other side of the valley), giving a stunning view of the snowcapped peaks. I find myself wanting to romanticize life here for you folks but I also want to be realistic. Life is hard. Power cuts mean that it is difficult to get basic things done and the cold will soon be bone-shattering. The school I work at has next to no supplies. The walls are largely bare. Students are still getting textbooks. Chalk is rationed. Wood stoves are the only source of heat in the winter and we haven’t gotten them out yet so the building is freezing in the morning. Kids aren’t fed at school so the level of concentration drops the longer the day goes on. The government runs a special program to bring new graduates out to villages and towns since young people flock to cities, despite youth unemployment being astronomically high. The road I live on isn’t paved so after the rain it’s a muddy mess. Central Mestia has a newly build commercial center that is empty and will be for the time being due to infighting. This is a place of great beauty and if I was just a tourist it would be easy to gloss over everything else. Visitors are so often in search of ‘the authentic’ without realizing that by authenticity they often mean poverty. They want life to seem raw, but where the hell did the lights, wifi and hot water go? They seek the quaint, ruin porn and blood feuds. Life here is so much more than that. I’ve only been here for a little over a week but already I find myself at odds with some of the tourists coming here, and the characterizations I find in the guidebooks of a mystical swirl of history, a place suspended in time. Mestia is no such thing, it is…a place that cannot be summed up in a paragraph and one that as an outsider I cannot yet describe and perhaps never will be able to. But is it quickly working its way into my heart.