Goodbye Saqartvelo! (For a Month)

Hello my lovely readers,

I just spent the last few hours preparing for my upcoming vacation. I washed all of my wool socks because, stupidly, I chose to travel to a region not much warmer than the one I am in. I put my contacts in after a month of wearing glasses. I poorly packed my smaller suitcase, which will be transferred to a newly purchased travel backpack when I get to Tbilisi tomorrow.

So where am I headed?

Because I felt like it

Because I felt like it

If things had gone differently, I might have been going home. The more information that comes out, the more I realize how lucky I am to have been extended. Recruitment is closed until July 2013, TLG’s budget has been cut dramatically, only teachers in the villages were renewed, and only about a fourth of the people who requested an extension were approved. Yikes!

My assumption is that TLG, when it begins recruiting again, will require more certifications or education from the applicants, will ask them to sign longer contracts, and will likely do away with the vacation flight entirely. However, I am still eligible for said flight, meaning that this Sunday I will be headed to Barcelona, Spain with my friends Amy and Drew. I fly into Barcelona around midnight Sunday night, and I fly back from there to Tbilisi on January 18. All that time in the middle is pretty unplanned, just how I like it. The only sure-thing is that we will spend Christmas in Rome, Italy

You can go, without tickets, to see the Pope on Christmas Day!

You can go, without tickets, to see the Pope on Christmas Day!

On December 26, Drew will fly back to Tbilisi and it will be just us girls. I know we will end up in Graz, Austria to visit my sister’s best friend Tina, but otherwise everything is completely unknown. I am happy to just play things by ear and see what happens.

I fully intend to keep blogging while I am away, but posts might be infrequent/brief/outdated for the next month or so. I will be back in Georgia for my first day of school on Jan. 21, so you can expect more Georgia related posts after that point.

Happy Holidays readers! I hope you enjoy your vacations, family time, and traditions. I know I will enjoy Western Europe!

-Kacie Riann

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Georgian “Maybe” Time

Hello all!

As of yesterday I crossed a milestone: I have been in Georgia for 2 months now. For the most part, I am still in the honeymoon phase. My students are still cute, my host family is still in awe of me, the weather is still shockingly warm, and the language is still intriguing. However, there is one aspect of Georgian culture that I have found extremely frustrating, especially these last few weeks: Georgian’s don’t make plans, and when they do, they are never communicated to me.

As you may recall from my last post, I was told I would be going to Batumi this weekend with my host family. However, when they weekend arrived it was dubbed “too cold” for that, and despite the fact that I had dropped all of my other plans that weekend in order to go with them, that was the end of the conversation.

Yet here I am, on December 1st, in short sleeves

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a certain amount of spontaneity, especially when traveling, and I ended up having an above average weekend in the village. I even managed to find a pair of jeans, one of my biggest draws to Batumi, at the Sunday Bazaar in town. I even got to try them on! Though my “changing room” was really just my host sister holding up a sweater to hide the lower half of my body as I stripped in the middle of the bazaar. I got to see my host sister and her classmates perform music, dance, and comedy at the local theater on Friday. I visited the river with Salome on Saturday and crossed a super sketchy bridge. Seriously, it had entire chunks missing where you had to just straddle the re-bar on either side to get by.

I mean, that doesn't look safe or inviting a all!

I mean, that doesn’t look safe or inviting at all!

Saturday night, a bunch of the extended host family came over for dinner, including my three Georgian cousins whose ages and demeanors coincide with my brothers back at home. We had a nice meal and they sang Georgian folk songs which I bobbed my head along to. Then, so as not to leave me out, they started singing “Jingle Bells” even though the only words they knew were “jingle” and “bells.”  Sunday was the bazaar, which was, well bizarre. I was so happy to find jeans that fit me, and so shocked that there are more people than I thought in my district. They definitely make it a priority to show up to the Bazaar and stock up on Turkish coffee, bread, and mandarin oranges for the week.

and this is just the produce section!

And this is just the produce section!

So, yes, the Georgian tradition of “maybe” worked out for me in this case, but every other time has been pure frustration. For example, my school has NEVER bothered to tell me when we have a holiday or, like today, when we’re rolling back our entire schedule by half an hour. So, I wake up grumpy, get myself presentable, and show up to an empty school looking like an idiot.

Hello... anybody there?

Hello… anybody there?

Or, there’s the entire 6 weeks that I lived in fear, wondering if my contract would be extended. I allowed for a bit of uncertainty there, because TLG was adjusting to the wishes of a new minister of education, but I was still annoyed and nervous, unable to make plans for my future. Eventually, my request was approved (THANK GOODNESS) and in the email I was told I had less than 24 hours to accept or reject the new contract. Okay, where was that urgency before, when I was stressing myself into thinking I was going home 6 months sooner than I had planned?

Today, though, I got pretty snippy with my co-teacher when my Birthday plans, which I was really excited about, had to be canceled in place of something that she dropped on me. Apparently, we have to give a presentation to the minister of education on Monday showing how we work together and such. While I agree that this is not something I should miss, I was told it would be on Tuesday a few weeks ago, before I made plans to go to Mestia for my Birthday, which would require me to take a holiday on Monday due to the distance and transportation schedule. Most of my friends did not extend their contracts and are leaving the following weekend, and did I mention it’s my Birthday? Needless to say, I was PISSED that I would have to cancel for the ONE PLAN in Georgia that cannot be changed on a whim because I was previously told the incorrect date.

At least I still get a cake... at home in the village...

At least I still get a cake… at home in the village… (this is my friend Daniel’s cake from his Birthday two weeks ago).

Cultural differences can be fun, and I have been blown away by Georgian hospitality, among other areas where I find their way of life enviable. But the complete lack of planning or communicating plans has been very hard to adjust to. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised, since I arrived in Georgia only a few weeks after starting the application process. I remember hearing a joke about “GMT” or “Georgian Maybe Time” at orientation, but now I know it was not a joke at all. I will try to remain calm as decisions around me are made and cancelled quickly and without notice.

Now, if only I can manage not to hyperventilate as I wait for my Christmas vacation itinerary. I am supposed to be flying to Europe in less than two weeks, but still, I have no ticket. The TLG last minute saga continues…

-Kacie Riann

Getting Oriented

Gamarjoba readers!

I finally have a semi functional knowledge of Georgian language, since we’ve been spending about 4 hours a day learning how to navigate the throaty “k” sounds, the difference between an aspirated and non-aspirated consonant, and the question intonation. I have to say, I feel pretty good about what I’ve learned so far, and I am going to make an honest effort to get better on my own time.

I even bought a book.

Orientation is coming to an end, and I have mixed feelings about it. Because I arrived in one of the last groups to Tbilisi, I feel like I really missed out on free time. I managed two excursions out of the hotel in 6 days (more on those in my next post), mostly because we had such a packed schedule between Georgian, intercultural training, teaching methodologies, and various legal, academic, and non academic presentations. I have no doubt that all of the information is invaluable, but I would have liked a bit more time in the city. The upside is, the entire country is like 250 miles across from the Black Sea to the Azerbaijani border, so chances are I will be back in Tbilisi before my time here is done.

Goodbye oddly dark hotel that can’t decide if it wants to be modern or classic!

Now for some really exciting news:

I know where I’ll be living for the next 9 months!

Right… About… There!

I am pretty happy with what little information I have right now!
Here are the facts:

  • I will be in the Guria region, in the Chokhatauri district, in a village called Gut’uri.
  • There is no information about Gut’uri on Google.
  • I will teach at Gut’uri public school.
  • My host family includes a host mother, a host father, an adult host brother, a 16 year old host sister, and a host grandmother.
  • They live in a private house.
  • My toilet and shower are indoor.
  • There is no internet at the house (which means I will need to buy a modem).

I get to meet my family tomorrow and drive the length of Georgia with them to my home. I am really excited to see what my village has to offer. The district is home to the Nabeglavi mineral springs, which produce one of two popular mineral water’s in Georgia. Also, Google Earth has showed me only that it is on a river, at a mild elevation, is roughly 10 miles from the nearest city (Ozurgeti) and 30 miles from the Black Sea.

I see river. I see mountains. I see beautiful.

I originally went into this program thinking I wanted to be in a city, but orientation has showed me that village life is really worth the lack of amenities because of the relationships you build with your family and neighbors. It may take me a few days to get my internet set up, so please be patient in waiting for my next post!

Things to look forward to:
– My first impressions of Tbilisi – A series of fun facts learned at orientation – My first days with my family, in my school, and in my village – More on Georgian language –

Mshvidobit!

-Kacie Riann

 

 

Bed: The Final Destination

Hello Readers!

Welcome to Georgia, one free bottle of wine for every stamped passport

It turns out, my hotel in Tbilisi has Wifi, which is a great relief because now I can post pictures/blogs and not get too far behind.Also,  the Internet is the perfect activity to keep me awake a bit longer to adjust to the timezone, without requiring a lot of brainpower.

I am EXHAUSTED. The fact that I am a functional human being, and in addition, capable of writing a blog right now, is nothing short of a miracle. In the last 48 hours, I have slept for roughly 10. I flew for 17 of those hours, spent 18  in airports (with a brief visit into Warsaw), and the other 14 has been a flurry of checking into the hotel, sleeping for a bit, then jumping right into orientation.

This clock in Warsaw was a constant reminder of how long it would be until I would sleep again.

I have to admit that I haven’t gotten much of a chance to explore Tbilisi yet. I arrived at my hotel at 5:40 AM, and after having troubles with my room key didn’t get to sleep until 7:00. I slept until about 12:30, and spent lunch, our 3 hour orientation session, and dinner nodding off. I am nearing 10:00 P.M. local time, which was my goal for staying awake, so I am hoping that tomorrow I will be almost entirely adjusted. I have a full day of orientation, but there should be time in the evening for wandering the city.

If I can find the time between my medical check, orientation session, and meals…

I am excited to continue meeting people, which is crazier than I expected. My volunteer group has 109 people, a TLG record high, so  I am incredibly thankful for the name tags. I am also excited for the training and eventually finding out where I will be living and who my host family is.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, I plan to spend 10 hours here

I will try to post pretty frequently since my internet situation is unknown after orientations, until then, good night readers!

-Kacie Riann

The Day Is Coming

Hello Readers!

I can’t seem to stop humming this song lately:

Maybe it’s because the day is dawning, the day is near, the day is coming, you know what I mean? Or maybe it’s because it’s a freakishly catchy song.

But seriously, I am leaving in 36 hours.

I revised the blog post below, putting slashes through the accomplished to-do list items. I have to say, even though it’s not entirely complete I feel really relieved that even this much got done. Two days ago, I was rushing from mall to mall, store to store, dropping hundreds of dollars on parkas and boots and long johns for the frigid winter I will eventually live in, almost completely forgetting about the few months of warm weather that I should also be prepared for. Last night, I had a lovely pile in the middle of the living room, complete with clothes, toiletries, classroom supplies, electronics, gifts for my host family, and everything else I will need in Georgia. Here it is:

Also pictured: Stella, who unfortunately will not be in coming with me

I went to bed with a sense of dread over the daunting task of actually turning the pile into an organized couple of bags. And okay, I may have also been sort of nervous about leaving the country for ten months, so I fell asleep extremely late. I woke up around 10 A.M. with a pretty significant to-do list left (transfer music to iPod, clean car, etc.) and packing at the forefront of my mind. Then I saw this:

One large suitcase, One carry-on suitcase, One large backpack, and a purse.

My genius mother packed the pile in my sleep! She not only fit everything, including my knee length coat, picture books of my hometown, winter hats, and more, but she managed to fit my tall boots so I could wear my more comfortable Vans on the plane. I mean, seriously? I probably would have ended up crying over the pile after twenty minutes of unsuccessful “tetris.”

I have about 24 waking hours left in Washington State. Tonight, I will go to a friend’s Birthday party and say goodbye all over again. Tomorrow, I will eat my last American breakfast with my family before Mom drives me to Seattle. I will meet up with my sister, we will eat dinner, she’ll take a “nap,” and we will go to the airport around 3 in the morning.

Then starts a horrendous 36 hours of travel. I will fly SeaTac to Chicago, where I will have a 7 HOUR LAYOVER, then I will fly Chicago to Warsaw, a fabulous 4 hour layover, and then Warsaw to Tblisi. I fly out at 5:42 AM local time on October 1st, and land at 4:00 PM local time on October 3.

I don’t know how much time/Internet I will have at orientation, but I will see you all on the other side!

Wish me luck and safe travels, please?

-Kacie Riann

 

To-Do Lists and Goodbyes

Hello readers,

I imagine that anyone who has ever moved, gone on vacation, or started a new job can understand the scramble that ensues when you realize that your time has disappeared rapidly and you need to kick it into high gear to be prepared.

I am currently in that state of panic.

Troy Barnes is my spirit animal

I have roughly 2 weeks until I leave. 6 days of that will be spent at work, 4 days are reserved for my last weekend with my sister, and 1 day will be occupied by my going away party. This leaves about 4 days for shopping, packing, and otherwise preparing to live and work in a foreign country for 9 months.

When I get to this stage of an impending deadline, I tend to write to-do-lists. Here is my most recent draft:

  1. Catalog clothes and determine what you still need
  2. Buy case for netbook
  3. Try out new camera
  4. Look into expat insurance plans
  5. Find educational materials to bring (Apples to Apples JR, etc.)
  6. FINISH A DANCE WITH DRAGONS (in capitals because I am borrowing the book)
  7. Load up external hard drive with TV shows and movies
  8. Find all electronic chargers, USB connectors, and electricity converters necessary
  9. Print TLG Manual and packing list
  10. Find baggage weight limits and fees for all airlines
  11. Look into banks with better international options
  12. Bring enough U.S. cash for medical exam
  13. Load music onto iPod
  14. Find a purse that fits camera, crosses body, and sits under arm
  15. Get enough of my prescriptions for entire 9 months

I am almost certain that doesn’t cover all that still needs to be done, which is why it is still a draft. On top of the boring, technical preparations, there is the bittersweet struggle to spend time with all of my friends and family before I leave.

Tonight, my older sister Jenna will arrive and stay through Monday in what will more than likely be our last few days together until she (hopefully) comes to visit me on the other side of the globe.

Jenna and I in South Korea, where she taught ESL in 2010/11

My going away party is one week from today, and according to Facebook it should be a good turnout, but my friends are scattered all over the place, so I won’t get to say my goodbyes to most of my hometown homies, including one of my best friends who lives in Denver. On top of that, nobody can possibly understand how much I will miss my nephews, who will grow exponentially in the course of 9 months.

When I went to Prague on a semester abroad, I missed major milestones in half the duration of my teaching contract. Jesse the oldest started reading, Hunter in the middle formed his own personality, and Matty the youngest started talking. They saw me quite a bit on Skype, but I will miss the little moments most of all.

Matty, 3, Hunter, 5, and Jesse, 7 being adorable as always

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. This is the longest time I will ever be away from my family, from Washington State, from America. It is my first time teaching English or living with a host family. Georgia is the furthest away from home I have ever ventured to go (an 11 hour time difference and almost exactly on the other side of the world). Despite all of that, I am also excited to be in Georgia.

It’s the transition I am not so fond of. I don’t want to say 100 goodbyes and pack my life into two bags and spend my last few weeks at home running from one task on my to-do list to the next. But alas, that is where I am right now.

Wish me luck! Until next time,

-Kacie Riann

And Then It Got Real

Hello Readers,

Even though this is my first post, this is not the beginning of my journey to Georgia.

I have been tentatively planning to go to Georgia for months, since before graduation, but in that post-grad summer excitement I continued that horrid habit that I wrongly believed was only associated with school: procrastination.

Do as the cookie says

I rolled my departure date twice while I gathered the necessary documents, background checks and reference letters, lazily accomplishing the paperwork one piece at a time.

And then it got real: today, I finished the application.

The final piece of the puzzle was a YouTube video introduction, meant to act as sort of a one-sided interview about why I want to teach English in Georgia. If you can imagine, it was even more awkward to make than it would be to have an actual sit down interview with a potential employer. Here, watch and cringe with me:

 

It may seem kind of last second to just now get my documents in, but things move at a breakneck pace at “Teach and Learn with Georgia” (TLG). I actually turned my paperwork in with 2 days to spare! My projected departure date is September 30th, but I could leave within three days in either direction of that.

Despite my impending departure, I still know very little about exactly what my time in Georgia will entail. I will not know where I am placed, who my host family is, and what ages I will be teaching until I arrive in Georgia. I won’t even know my flight details until my ticket is emailed to me (as little as 3 days in advance).

Even though I am teetering on the threshold of the unknown, I feel more secure in my plans than I have in months. I have spent months convincing everyone who would listen that I really am going through with this, and now there’s nothing holding me back. The proper paperwork is in, I have put my two weeks notice in at work, I have made a Facebook event for my going away party and I made a post on the blog. There’s no turning back.

You and me both…

My journey feels like it has really begun now, I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens!

-Kacie Riann

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