What we have here…

…is a failure to communicate. Language…barrier… ugh!

In the time I’ve neglected to write a new blog entry I’ve been on two “excursions” (more commonly referred to as “field trips” in America), a funeral, a wedding reception (I guess I wasn’t invited to the ceremony), 4 or 5 Supras, an overnight visit from two fellow American TLG volunteers, more than a few snow days, and most recently, what can only be described as an “engagement party”. There are some really good stories behind all of these events, so I’m a lot more behind on my blog entries than I care to admit. There’s just no way to fill in the blanks now, so I’ll just pretend I’m up to date and write about whatever hits me.

The excursions were lots of fun, but also frustrating because I’m still hampered by a lack of language skills, or a reliable translator. My first excursion took place on October 19, and included a lot of teenagers that I don’t have the opportunity to teach in class. In the days leading up to this excursion I was under the impression that it would be a group of first graders and their mothers. But it turned out I was getting mixed messages.

There were two planned excursions, and the first would be with a group of older students and teachers. We stopped at a few churches, a monastery, and the birthplace and museum for Georgia’s beloved poet, Vazha Pshavela. This is a very popular destination for school excursions. The birthplace home is very picturesque, but I have to wonder if it’s really authentic. I suppose there’s no good reason to think it’s a fake, but the structure is in very good shape, all things considered. I managed to get a lot of pictures of the students and faculty on the excursion. The biggest disappointment on this trip is the lack of communication.

The second excursion with the first graders took place the following week. We went to a village west of Zeghduleti and visited a museum and schoolhouse of a famous Georgian educator and author. Unfortunately, I really don’t have any idea of his name, or any details about his accomplishments because the tour was only in Georgian language, and there was no one to translate.

The best part of this trip was a visit to Uplistsiche, an ancient stone-hewn city near Gori. The guide took a few extra minutes to explain a few things in broken English, but it was difficult to understand. It’s a beautiful view from the top of the hill, and it was a beautiful sunny day. I managed to get a lot of pictures and posted them to Facebook. It was a wonderful day, and I wish there were more of these trips, but I guess it’s really my own responsibility to go exploring through Georgia, although I didn’t make a lot of lasting friendships at the TLG orientation, so I’d be venturing on my own—a somewhat intimidating scenario.

I guess it’s fair to say that I’m starting to get frustrated with the language problem. And as a result I’ve been studying a lot harder. It’s easy to memorize numbers, colors, a few adjectives and lots of useful nouns and phrases, but real communication is exceedingly difficult, and frustrating. I’m a lot more useful in class now that I can follow a pattern of useful phrases like “listen”, “watch me”, “show me your homework”, “come to the blackboard”, “sit down”, “stand up”, “calm down”, etc., etc.  It’s also important for me to know all the Georgian vocabulary that they are expected to learn in English, but this is the easy part.

I go to school every day and sit among a group of older women and a few men, and listen to their emotionally-charged conversations and wonder what they’re talking about. It’s really easy to feel alone in a crowd. I have enough reasons to believe they are happy, perhaps even proud to have me on staff, but I just don’t feel like I’m part of the team.  There are so many ways I’d like to contribute and offer my time and talents, but I can’t communicate! I think all of my feelings will change if I can learn the language better. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to talk to my host parents about my life, and about politics, and how I’m feeling every day, but it’s not possible yet. It seems pretty clear that they don’t have a huge desire to learn English, and I guess I don’t really blame them. There’s very little use for it here, except to become an English teacher, or government employee. On the other hand, if I learn Qartuli I’ll be a lot more useful, and have a lot more opportunities for friendship and business in Georgia.

Yes, I’m starting to feel like I actually want to LIVE here, although my reasons are a lot different than most other TLG volunteers who are much younger, and are always mentioning their numerous marriage proposals. I simply don’t have that problem (for obvious reasons). I feel a genuine respect coming from my family, my co-workers and community, and it’s something I don’t want to leave behind for a lousy job in the states without benefits or a decent wage. The country I grew up in has changed too much, and I no longer want to be a part of it. Maybe my feelings will change, and I don’t want to resist, but that’s how I feel today.

I’m coming back to America for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to seeing my family! I’ve been feeling very stifled to write about my true feelings on a public blog, and I cherish the opportunity to sit down with my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, and really talk about what’s going on in my heart. Hopefully I’ll get to spend 10 warm days in Los Angeles, and then Christmas in San Francisco. It will be a wonderful vacation, but I honestly can’t wait to return to my family and friends in Georgia for New Year’s Eve!

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3 responses to “What we have here…

  1. Thanks for the new post. It’s good to know what’s going on now in your Georgian adventure. Your language frustrations must be enormous. Basic communication must be difficult enough, and serious exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings, not to mention intellectual discussions must be near impossible. I’d say what you need most is at least one well-educated friend who speaks English as well as the Georgian language. Is there ANYONE in the village who fits that description?

    The little I’ve learned about Georgia tells me that at least a few people in responsible governmental positions are seriously committed to opening up the country to the English-speaking world and to western-style business ventures. This should open up employment opportunities for you with already established firms that need good English language skills. Now all you need is Georgian!

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