"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Matter Where You Are in the World, Laughter Always Sounds the Same

It’s funny how life unravels and uncoils to show the most sacred and beautiful aspects of one’s being even in seemingly dark and hopeless moments. I’ve been in Georgia for about two weeks now and already I’ve learned more about myself and about life than I ever thought possible. I’m sitting here alone (ahh, bliss!) in my dimly lit bedroom looking out the balcony at my laundry blowing in the wind and the mountains spying on me from just a few kilometers away. The rooster that wakes me up at 5:00AM sharp has meandered his way to the middle of the street four floors below, my siblings are loudly finishing their homework in the room adjacent to mine, and I’ve been smelling broiling meat from the kitchen that has been pointing every other thought of mine to vegetarianism.

Amidst my many pleas to the Lord and my frequent tears shed to close friends, I’m feeling a lot of heavy anxiety, frustration, stress, and worry. And let me tell you—it’s quite possible to feel all of these unpleasant emotions at the very same time. The heavy rain and unwanted thunderstorms have been complimenting my mood for the past three days.

Now pause. Add bright lights. Add cheerful music. Add my smiley little pupils. Add laughter. And then add comfort—that no matter where you are in the world, and no matter what languages are spoken and not understood, laughter always sounds the same and can always be shared.

I started teaching today at 6th school in Zugdidi, which is roughly 4 kilometers from my house (I’m getting better at this whole kilometers thing), and I have a whole lot to look forward to. I’m teaching with three English teachers and my schedule is hard to explain because it’s never been the same. Go figure ;) My students love to hear my voice and so I’ve been spending the first couple of lessons on pronunciation and reading. I’m teaching all levels, so my lessons are quite different for each form. Two of my teachers give me full reign, and the third will be more difficult. All I have to say is…wait for it...THANK GOD FOR ENGLISH 416 and for all of the phonemic transcription I learned at Elmhurst College, because I have to transcribe virtually every word I speak on the blackboard. The ‘th’ sound and differentiating between ‘f’ and ‘v’ will surely be the most difficult molehill to conquer, but hopefully my model of the human mouth and pointing at where the tongue should hit the lips/teeth will help. My students think I’m so silly, but we have a riot laughing with each other even when I’m probably making no sense. Who knew I’d ever be teaching this stuff? Cheers for a new challenge! More on the progression of my lessons will be posted in the later weeks.

This past weekend I was able to travel to Batumi with friends Yevgeniy, Ilana, and Adam. Our new friend Katuna got us in touch with a friend of a friend of a friend who helped us rent in flat for the weekend—which totally makes us true Georgians since we went through the ‘challenges’ (as Nino would say) of renting instead of taking the smoother and perhaps smarter option of renting a hotel like tourists would. The process of renting a flat was…interesting. I’ll leave it at that. Our water stopped working five minutes after we arrived and we had some extreme bad luck, but the weekend was nonetheless fabulous—and it was great to meet up with some of the other TLG volunteers and to compare experiences. I returned to Zugdidi Sunday evening to discover that a supra was in order at my grandmother’s home to celebrate the birthday of my host father and the 15th wedding anniversary of him and my host mother. The night ended with the family standing on chairs and downing shots of various hard liquors to some of the most poetic toasts imaginable. Kudos to all Georgians for always having the most perfect and thoughtful words to share at the dinner table (though they’re always being translated from Georgian to Russian to English and more than likely lose some of the artistry and eloquence in the process). Yev and I then got…kidnapped…and taken to a teenage summer camp for an experience which I can only sum up in four words: Georgian Backstreet Boys Concert! I returned to my flat dzalien daghlili (extremely, extremely, extremely tired) and thankful that hangovers at school are perfectly acceptable.

More to look forward to: I am traveling to Tbilisi in two weeks and can absolutely not wait to visit Stephanie, Terri, Nino, Tatia, and Shorena! I think we’ll stick with a hotel this time though ;-)

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