Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Long Goodbye Part 8 - Back to the village and to Gori

Saturday 23rd June 2012

We ran for the 7.30 train from Kaspi to Kareli which was no mean feat with two dodgy suitcases and a hangover.  As is often the way in Georgia we were told the wrong time and it didn't turn up till nearer 8 so we were safe.  The train is slow, slow, slow but the views are magnificent and the seats comfy.  One of our unfulfilled plans was to travel in both directions on the "Electro" train to see where it took us as it seemed to be one of life mysteries.  Anyway to tempt your appetite here is the view from the train, somewhere in Georgia.  If there were station signs at one time then they have faded into oblivion - even the locals don't know where they are.
The view on the way to Kvemo Kvedureti
 We called into the village school but it was quiet and subdued and uneventful.  Katie was on an excursion and the year 11s were doing exams and there were a few students in the playground but that was it.  We had packed all our winter clothes into a suitcase and anything else we didn't think we could take with us due to the 20kg weight allowance and we left this at Juliet's house.  We called into Manana's to say our final goodbyes and they immediately started to prepare a feast  - make khachapuri and to grab and kill a chicken.  We were adamant that we had to catch the next marshutka and that we had just come to say "Gamajoba Nakvamdis" (Hello Goodbye).  We were already feeling the effects of our late night and early start and we still had loads to do.  Juliet had told us that Eka was expecting a baby and so as we left I touched her belly and said "Good luck!" She burst into a fit of giggles as even though she didn't understand the actual words she was very good at intuiting what was meant in all our "conversations".

Onward to Gori to hand in our phones and MacMillan Books and to collect our Letters of Recommendation from the Educational Resource Centre (ERC)  Khatuna has been a great support during our time here and it will seem funny not to have her around anymore.  Even though I had emailed and texted our arrival date and time, the letters had not appeared and so I was allowed to keep my phone and to hand it in at the Ministry of education in Tbilisi where we could collect the documents.  Sigh!!! but it at least meant that we could contact people for a little longer.

Good bye Khatuna! (TLG Co-ordinator)
 We really felt like we were on holiday after we'd handed in our books and so went to a restaurant, sat outside and drank beer and ate Khingali, kebab, khachapuri and salad.  It was wonderful.  Gori looked a whole lot different to what it did usually!  We simply sat and enjoyed.

The latest fashions in Gori
Couldn't resist taking a picture of this shop front.  Now the summer is here, young Georgian women are abandoning black and jeans and donning all kinds of things!  Which era would you say this was?  Very 80's? late 70's? 90's?   You decide.

Now we had to get back to Kaspi and pack up for real, plus clean the apartment.  We got back at 3 at were hoping to catch the 5 o'clock marshutka but we couldn't do it!  We made it for the 5.30 but couldn't be as thorough in the cleaning department!  Avery hot marshutka ride then we had to drage the suitcases, rucksacks and laptop backs through the market to the metro underpass to weigh the luggage and see how much we were over.  There is a woman who stands there all day calling out "come and weigh yourself only 10 tetris!" Or something like that anyway! Coming here at Christmas we paid £315 excess and we just couldn't do it this time.  We had to lose about 15kg.  We got a taxi to Dani's and we were SO EXHAUSTED by then.  We showered and went to bed basically and were asleep before our heads touched the pillow.

The next morning Dani made us a great breakfast - an english fry-up!  What a treat for our last day in Georgia!
Real Bacon - Dani cooks English for breakfast

"Wot No Tea?!" Champagne is the best thing to drink first thing.

Everyone got bored with waiting for me to keep my eyes
open for a picture so we used superglue.
We had a nice last day.  It was 42 degrees!  We met up with Paula for a last chat and a felafal (yum), got our yellow fever jabs and bought lots of drugs as they are so cheap.  We now have 8 months of malaria tablets.  Went to the Ministry of Education and handed the phone and received our letters of recommendation and martin collected his completion certificate.  Back to Dani's to be ruthless with the luggage and went to bed for a short sleep and before we knew it, we were off to the airport.

We will miss Dani - she is a character and a half and we always had a good time with her.

We only had a 20kg allowance as it turns out not he 23kg that was on the website and so we rearranged our luggage so that my coat and our rucksacks weighed a ton - well an extra 6kg - but our checked luggage was acceptably over.

Our time in Georgia over, we boarded our Aerosvit plane for Kiev then Gatwick, excited and exhausted.

The Long Goodbye Part 7 - TLGers in Kaspi

Saturday 23rd June 2012

We were in a bit of a state back in the apartment as there was so much to pack and clean.  Our last day in school was Tuesday and later that day someone was coming over to collect the printer and someone else to collect the last Magtie stick which was our only access to the internet.  We knew we were leaving then!  Not considering this level of disruption sufficient we had also invited a bunch of local TLGers for dinner and we had promised an English roast dinner as our farewell.  So we had to clear up, pack stuff, shop and then cook !   Unfortunately, The TLG co-ordinator rang at this point and told us that the landlord wanted to come over and check over the apartment and discuss how much our bills should be for when we leave.  I tried to get out of it, explaining all the things we had to do but it had to be and so he was due round at 4.30 in the middle of dinner.  Oh well!

Of course it all went off ok! I cooked roast chicken with paxo stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots and stir-fried cabbage with onions and garlic.  Yum yum.  And then double bloody yum with an apricot crumble and yes the rumours were true - custard!!!! Treble yum yum.

Oh we had two unexpected Mexicans turn up but we fitted them in as well!  They were friends of one of our guests and were making their way across to Telavi to do summer school.  Unluckily for them they have been placed in the mountains and have no winter clothes (coming from me-hi-ko) and so raided the pile of "Martin's winter clothes to be taken to the village" pile which luckily for us meant that we had less to carry the next day.  I threw in (literally) the remaining hot water bottle we hadn't sold.  I don't think they quite believe that it will get that cold as it is really hot at the moment but we shall see.....

We had a good time.  These are TLGers who have been coming round, eating, drinking, watching films, and are great conversationalists and we always have a good time with them and so it was yet another goodbye.

The landlord and his family timed their visit at a convenient lull in the conversation and I was in fighting mode prepared fully intending to not pay any utilities bills this month as we had paid well over the odds the first month.  However, they were only expecting us to pay 2 weeks rent which was an added bonus and so I caved in and therefore all parties were satisfied that they had maintained their position!

We had a long day ahead of us the day after and had to make an early start.  Our two overnight guests were asked to wash the dishes, give the cut flowers to the neighbours and then throw the key through the open bedroom window.  Then to bed.

The Long Goodbye part 6 - Kaspi School

Saturday 23rd June 2012

Our last working day was Tuesday 12th June and so consisted on "Goodbye" Lessons.  I felt a little sad as I was just getting into the swing of things and would have liked to have continued to build on what I had learned about them all.  But in truth, I have done my time here and am looking forward to our next adventures.  Maybe if we had no real plans it would have been different.  I felt very, very sad at leaving the children in the village as I was very attached to them but possibly with a much bigger school in Kaspi, those attachments are slower to development. I will miss my lazy boys from the younger years and my year 6 groups certainly.  I was given bunches of lillies and roses from all classes!

In terms of lesson content - games were the order of the day - games and singing!  With year 3a my favourite little lazy boy is Giorgi (front right) a handsome boy who has ants in his pants.  The girls in this class were particularly conscientious and far better than many of the older students.

Goodbye year 3a!
Year 2b were also a good class but with only 1 lesson a week with them I didn't develop a strong attachment.
Goodbye Year 2b!
 Year 3b had a very broad ability mix and were hard to teach.
Goodbye Year 3b!
The year 5a class were boisterous and charming.  The more active activities I could find for them to do, the better!  Lessons always seemed to work well with this class.  They didn't get tired of the activity below where they had to choose one of the actions on the board and act it out so that the class could guess what it was.  There were lots of great kids in this class who were enthusiastic and responsive!
Last Lesson - Can you guess what I'm doing?

Goodbye Year 5a!

Goodbye year 6b!
With my year 6 classes I showed a youtube clip about making Seaside Rock.  Many of you reading this probably wont know about it either, but it is a great tradition in coastal towns in England where seaside rock is sold to the day-trippers and holiday makers to take home as a treat or as gifts for friends.  The stick of sweetness has a core of letters that spell the name of the town throughout it.  So after the video and a slide show of photos from Southend-on-Sea we chopped up some genuine seaside rock and they had all had a bit!
Lesson for today - How to make seaside rock and then eat it!

The Jury's out! Natia and Ani are considering the merits of seaside rock.

Koba and Luka give seaside rock the thumbs up!

Thumbs up from all but Giorgi who just wants to
write in the answers from the test they just had

Goodbye Year 6a!

Goodbye some more year 6a!

No idea what this young lady is doing lol!

A final picture was taken outside the school gates as we said more goodbyes.  Unfortunately for Maka she had to come over later that day to mediate with the landlords as to how much we owed them!

Goodbye Maria, Tamta and Maka!
Goodbye Tamta and Maria!

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Long Goodbye Part 5 - Completion Ceremony

Sunday 10th June

The “Good-byes” keep on coming thick and fast with the Completion Ceremony on Friday at the Sheraton Hotel.  Transport provided, with plenty of delicious food and the chance to say goodbye to those people whom you have met at various points during our time in Georgia.  Martin decided not to go as he had been asked to be a judge at the Georgia’s got Talent show at his school and he did miss out.
Me and Danielle
It was a well thought out event; we were seated according to region and then were called up to the stage to receive our Completion Certificate.  We even had time for a practice run!  The Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Science was there and a few people had been nominated to give a 2 minute speech each which added to the occasion.  There were four TLGers who were still here after 2 years and part of the first group.  They received a special award and their marbles back.  Spirits were high and there was a vibrant energy as people were having their final chats, hugs and photos.  I had planned to meet up with Paula (the person who told us about the Ethiopian School) but actually when it came to it I just didn’t want to actually do it.  In all the excitement about going home and onto the next adventure the realisation comes that we are also leaving a lot behind.  I found I just didn’t want to say goodbye to her. 
From left: Ren Sherrer, Caitlin O'Neill, Mark Coxen and me
From left: Ren Sherrer, Ellie Pullan, me and Justina  Jenkins
Paula Diller and me
I know I have moaned and complained about Georgia and it has been tough, very tough at times, when you put it into perspective it is a great country with great people who are just struggling like the rest of us to get by and bring up our families.  It has been an amazing experience, seeing the country, getting to know the people a little, working in the schools and living in the grim conditions that your everyday Georgian lives.

NB when Martin got to school he found out that Georgia’s Got Talent had been postponed until Monday.  That’s Georgia for you!

The Long Goodbye Part 4 - Kaspi Teachers

Sunday 10th June

On Thursday night we went for a meal with the teachers from my school.  We were treated like honoured guests, picked up in a taxi and taken to a nice restaurant on the outskirts of Kaspi.  The weather has been alternating between very hot and sunny and humid thundery downpours and this was an evening of downpours.

Waiting for everyone to arrive
Black is the in colour in Georgian fashion!
So many varieties of black!

A cozy corner to gossip
My Co-teachers from left, Maria, me, Tamta and Maka
The restaurant was very nice with a garden and pond outside and it was very pleasant just waiting for the rest of the teachers to arrive.  As is often the case in Georgia the restaurant is not just one room but a number of individual huts and we were placed in the largest room as there were 20 of us.  It was quite dark inside and then we realised that there had been a power-cut and so eventually candles were brought out.  I think that was much nicer anyway.  The food was delicious and Maka brought along her father’s wine.  Nunu was pronounced the Tamuda (toast master) for the evening and so it was a regular supra with toasts to God, family, love, teachers and many more.

Fish followed
by garlic chicken and pork casserole
The food was lovely
Salads and cornbread
I was very surprised and touched that they had bought me a gift.  They gave me a beautiful bracelet and a glass globe on a gold stand.  It was actually a perfect gift and is something I will always treasure.

Tamuna my School Director presenting me with a gift
Such a pretty box!

Just a perfect little present! Rotated to Africa - our next stop!

A very unusual bracelet!
There are of course obvious cultural differences but what seems to be the same as back home was how the old girls assumed authority over the younger women and got them running around. “My phone’s ringing, get my bag”  “Gogo (girl) their (ours) wine glasses are empty”  “We need a jug of water”  “Go and dance” My young co-teachers were up and down all night, running around with the wine, dessert, the music.   I had to laugh, it so reminded me of my Mum and what she’d be like.  You can see in this next picture, two of my teachers running around – they are a blur!

Spot the blur in the background!

Another surprise of the evening was the singing.  The ladies sang lots of songs, harmonising with each other.  It was great!  Maka told me that it is a tradition because no matter what your problems are you can always sing and feel better. At one point, the French teachers sang a French song, then the Russian teachers countered with a Russian one and to top that the Maths teachers sang a Georgian song entitled “Erti, Ori, Sami la la la” (One, two, three lalala)

It’s no different to home really in that respect.  I have fond memories of all the women sitting in the kitchen at a barbeque singing all the songs we could remember, probably spanning a century!

To finish, what night out would be complete without a dash around the tables doing a conga?

La-La-la-la-la-la conga!
The end of a very pleasant evening

The Long Goodbye Part 3 - Bazaleti Hotel

Sunday 10th June
 After another rough night we emerged from the train at 7.30 in Tbilisi and headed to McDonalds  (where else?) for a wash and brush up, a burger and strong coffee to set ourselves up for the day.  We were meeting up with people to exchange our worldly goods for much needed lari.  Martin had been carrying around with him all weekend a very large Georgian - English Dictionary and it was a relief to get rid of it.  We also ventured to the Bazaleti Hotel, where a new TLG arrival was buying one of our modems.  Again, we had not been to the Bazaleti Hotel since our own orientation, 10 months ago and it was quite strange to be back there.  We had a nice chat with our trainer, Tamara, and as we shared our experiences with her it felt like the circle was closing and our time in Georgia was coming to an end.  At the end we were coming back to our beginnings.
The cable car base has now been built

The cable cars hover over the ever-watchful Mother Georgia!
On they go
And on
Final Destination

The weather was gorgeous and we had time to wander around Europe Square and see the changes that have taken place since our last visit.  Now the cable cars are in position.  Still a lot of work to be done, but they are getting there bit by bit.  It will be a fantastic view of the city!

The Long Good Bye Part 2 - Group 23 Batumi

Sunday 10th June

It is only since this last week that it feels like we are leaving Georgia.  It started with the 1st years finishing, but that felt more like a little holiday from lessons rather than the beginning of the end.  Ren, one of our cohort, got engaged and we were invited to the celebration bash to be held in Batumi last weekend.  We have no money but it felt important to be there for this special event and also it would be the last time probably that all of the remaining Group 23 people would get together.  So we went cattle class by train, up on the Friday night and back again on the Saturday night to make it as cheap as possible.  Batumi is a coastal town on the Black sea and has been subjected to a lot of investment and is quite ‘glamorous’. 

A beautiful day on the Black Sea

A new aquisition! A moving statue (we didn't see it move)
But there is a mechanism that rotates the man and the woman .  Very interesting!
The Alphabet Tower

We arrived at 7.30 on the Saturday morning after a pretty restless night and found out that many of the celebration party were on the same train and so we gathered together then split into groups again with the plan being to meet up again later.  We had a fab breakfast of the khatchapuri (cheese bread) with the egg on top washed down by a couple of pints of beer.  Very good and this set us up nicely.  We then took a leisurely stroll to the beach and kind of settled down, with us preferring to have a little snooze while the younger elements of the group ran around playing Frisbee.  The beach consists of large pebbles and so it is testament to our rough night that we managed to sleep haha.

Sitting at the Pizza restaurant waiting for news about the wedding!
We kind of drifted somewhere else after a while and then Ren arrived and we were told that the engagement might actually be a wedding if her fiancĂ© Miriami could get the registry office booked and so we were not sure what was happening.  There was no restaurant actually booked either and so we really didn’t have a clue what was going to happen!  Another stroll to a pizza place for lunch and then Miriami and his mates arrived and we were told “No wedding” and that they had booked a Chinese restaurant and to meet there at 6.
Wandering through the town centre of Batumi
Batumi was the first place we visited when we came to Georgia last August and it co-incidentally it was with our group 23 and we had not been back since then.  So it was a funny kind of day with the memories of what it was like to be a newbie and also looking at the changes that had taken place since we were last there.  It was a good day.  Here are some before and after pictures from both of our visits and while the weather makes everything seem a lot lovelier, you can see the changes!

The Lighthouse in the distance with the not yet finished Alphabet Tower (August 2011)
Taken from a different angle but you can see how the surroundings are developing (June 2012)

The Raddison hotel on the left,
unknown building and the Alphabet Tower  (August 2011).

The Raddison hotel on the left plus new building,
unknown building and the Alphabet Tower with its roof on (June 2012).
The Ferris wheel all alone in August 2011
Much prettier in June 2012
I like this picture!

The Chinese restaurant was good and in the end there were about 30 of us in the party.  Of course this was followed by Georgian dancing !  Emotions were running high.  Who would have thought it that one year later 7 of the 8 remaining group 23ers would be here with 2 of the 8 singletons having met their future husbands?  Because of course Justina also met Ola!
Ren and Miriani Louisiana meets Georgia
Kisses and Flowers
Let the Dancing Begin!

Justina and Ola - 2 lovebirds!