School Introductions

Around 11:15, my Georgian co-teacher showed up to the dormitory to take me and Pakistani host brother to the school to show us around and introduce us to the director of the school.

We took the bumpy Marshrutka there. It’s only a ten minute walk so normally I go by foot. Marshrutkas are the primary means of transport in Georgia. They are minibuses that have a route that they follow, but there are no official stops or schedule. You just stand on the side of the road of their route, and when you see it coming, you flag it down. They seem to be always packed, so often it’s standing room only on them. When you see where you want to get off, you say aq gaacheret (stop here), and hand the driver 40 laris (~25 cents) and get off.

Once in the school, everyone was eager to greet us. It’s not a traditional Georgian public school like the other volunteers are at (K-12), but a vocational school. It’s a one year training college for future professions. Students learn sewing, auto repair, computer programming, plumbing, carpentry, and there are a few more groups I’ll figure out in my time there.

We stopped into numerous classrooms, and were introduced to the classes as the native English speaking foreigners who would be teaching for the rest of the semester. There is a pretty steep range of skill levels in English, and also a sizable gap in comfort levels speaking with us, but all the students were excited to meet us. Everyone seemed eager and hopeful.

We met one class who told our co-teacher that they had made a cake in their cooking class that they wanted to share with us after we made the obligatory rounds. We met the director of the school, who was very glad to meet us but doesn’t speak any English, and many other staff members who also don’t speak any English. They all are very eager and want us to teach them English as well as the students. Popular questions from the teachers to us were how well we like Georgian food and wine.

Eventually we made it back to the class that wanted to share their cake with us. There were about eight students of varying ages, from maybe 13 to 45, I would say, and one toddler running around. Along with the cake, they had some mixture of a homemade liquor. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but some mixture of vodka, lemonade, and a few other things. About the texture of cough syrup. Everyone (except for the toddler and my Pakistani host brother) got a glassful of the mystery concoction (since it was mixed with lemonade, it wasn’t too strong, but still, it was 1:00pm!) and we raised our glasses for a toast to all of the women in the world, as the day before had been Women’s Day. The cake that they had made was beautiful, and with Georgian hospitality as overbearing as it is, along with their excitement at meeting foreigners, I knew that it would be rude to try to refuse a piece of cake on the grounds of lactose intolerance. I don’t think Georgians have any conception what a dairy allergy would even be; about half of their diet consists of cheese dishes of one variety or another. After the first piece of cake, I tried but failed to refuse another piece of cake and toast. The Tamada (toastmaster) explained that I had to have this toast, as it was for all the men of the world, as we are all born of women (or so I gathered.) There were many more toasts, to love, matchmaking, friendship, etc. but I was able to escape more glasses of the mystery concoction (even though Tamada told me it was Georgian custom to have at least three). All of this was in a classroom in the school, at 1pm.

They invited me to play volleyball with them (yes, that’s right), but I told them that we had to go prepare for our lessons that evening, as it would be our first meetings with the Resource Managers (we still knew nothing about these classes, or how or what to prepare), and this was a good excuse to escape the party, after a few photographs were taken. Such was my introduction to the school. The next day I was to have a few lessons.

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