Wasting Time

I think most English teachers in Georgia on this program are becoming experts in wasting time. I hear that the crew in Tbilisi get together regularly and see each other often, but they have cafes and bars at their disposal. There are a few cafes and bars in Kutaisi, but not a great many. Living with a family would make things different, too. There would always be things to do or someone around for one reason or another.

But living solo in a dormitory (my new room is more like my own apartment, really), I have nothing but time. My teaching load is extremely light too; I teach only 10 hours per week, while I hear others have 30 hours per week of teaching, in addition to tutoring members of their host family.

I like keeping track of how people use their time. It’s all comical. Here we are, a few hundred volunteers spread across Georgia with little to do. All living joke existences, really. We all have mobile phones, and calls between the volunteers’ phones are free of charge, so talking on the phone eats away some time. Plus, as with every TEFL circle, there’s the inevitable teacher drama. Who is now with whom, who was with whom, and how that’s making so-and-so feel now…. It’s all a delightful soap opera for me to sit back and observe.

I was at a party on Thursday evening and met a few other people. One guy had some dice. He sat in a chair and rolled the dice, trying to get seven. Statistically, it’s the number that I should roll the most. Come on, seven! Just once I’d like to roll seven twice in a row. This is one way that he has found to spend his time in his home. He sits and rolls dice. I should have brought a deck of cards with me. I remember in Budapest in 2000, I sat and shuffled cards to eat up the hours. I got pretty good at stacking the deck, too.

Another guy I met who has been here since January recently finished Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. What possessed you to read that? I asked him, astounded. Well, there’s so much down time here, you know? Gotta do something. I think he inherited it from another teacher, and was passing it along to a third. So there are a number of English teachers in Georgia who are plowing through Gibbon.

I walk places. It takes an hour to walk to the center of Kutaisi, so if I have anything going on in the center, I leave an hour early and walk there. I think it’s around four or five kilometers. It’s not a pretty walk, but it eats up an hour. And if I’m up for it, I’ll walk home too.

I’ve started to play chess as well. New British host brother brought a board along with him. I asked him if he was any good, and he’s won tournaments. He won the lowest category offered at the British national championships one year, so he’s proud of the fact that he’s, as he says, the best shit chess player in Britain. As I’ve found out, this means he’s pretty good at the game. I’ve improved my chess skills over the past week. Now I not only know where all the pieces move, I know their names too. Rook, not castle. Knight, not horse piece. Bishop, not diagonal guy. After most of my moves he asks: what’s the reasoning behind moving there? Who are you attacking, who’s defended, who’s not defended? Right. So you don’t want to move there, there’s actually a much better place to move. I’ve done pretty well in a few games, but since he’s always correcting all of my moves, I’m not sure if I’ve actually done well at all. I think it’s kind of like Pygmalion; he says he wants to make me into a grand master by the time I leave Georgia.

Then I have my books (and my poetry to protect me.) I’ve made good headway into the little library I brought with me. My new Lent/Easter tradition is to read Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, and this year I may just read it twice, since I’m pretty sure I’m going to finish all the books i brought with me.

British host brother and I laugh about how we spend our time. Walking places just because it takes longer to get there. Literature, chess, tea… we should start smoking pipes to complete the image.

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