During the week of the orientation in Tbilisi, I was given information about Georgian culture which would help me in my host family situation. I was prepared for a host father to hold many toasts in my honor; that, as a male, I would both be expected to drink a lot and that it would be awkward for me to do any work around the house; that everyone would try to marry me off to someone they knew, and many other things. Everyone in the orientation was pretty freaked out by the end of the week.
Sunday evening all of the volunteers were finally were informed about their host family situation and city placement. Myself and a Pakistani who’s been living in Canada for the past six years, were told we would be in Kutaisi, in a vocational school teaching adults (we were also warned about Georgian children and classroom discipline), and that we would not be living with a host family but would be living in a students’ dormitory near the vocational school.
Kutaisi is the second largest city in Georgia, with a population of roughly 180,000 people. While not as much a tourist hub as either Tbilisi or Batumi, Kutaisi does have a nice little old town, a few nice looking streets, and a few cafes and pubs. No movie theatre, but there is an opera (but it is closed.) The building looks nice though. The city is surrounded by mountains. On a clear day the skyline (outside of the city, anyway) is very pretty. Apparently there are good connections to hiking or skiing destinations in Kutaisi. (I haven’t been able to get pictures of Kutaisi yet.)
As for living in a dormitory, all the things I’d been stressing out about in anticipation of the host family and adapting to new ways of life suddenly changed. I’ll be teaching adults English related to their line of work, living by myself in a dorm room, I’ll have a few days with odd evening hours, and I’m in a town where I don’t know the language or anyone in it. Immersion in a family environment, where people would be speaking Georgian constantly, and English would be spoken rarely (as opposed to relative isolation and little dialogue of any language), would enable a relatively faster acquisition of the Georgian tongue. Living in a family would also ease the stress of the transition to a new city. The first few days in a new place are always the worst: when you can’t place yourself on a map (I finally learned my address), you don’t know how to get to any shops or where good cafes are (let alone how to order something in a cafe), don’t know how the public transportation works, don’t know how to get to bus/train stations to travel elsewhere, and many other annoyances that make a new place all the more stressful. Then again, I have water, electricity, heat, internet, and my time is my own. So there’s the good and the bad.
The dorm itself is pretty strange. There should be some students coming to live here in the next week or two, but as it stands now, it’s basically empty. We’ve seen a few random people here and there, but not really anyone who lives here. Very few members of the staff speak English. So it’s an empty hostel/dormitory where of the few people we see, one or two speak English. Our room placement is odd too. We are on the top floor, and at the end of a long, lonely hallway. We share a suite. My “Pakistani host brother’s” room has two beds, mine has three. We had the option of doing either a suite or sharing a room (very close quarters) and we’d have a shower, toilet and kitchen in the room. I opted for having my own room and sacrificing the in-room toilet, shower and kitchen. I’d say it’s a good trade off. Plus now I’m in a weird room that has three beds and three night stands for reading. Just in case I go crazy over here and need different sleeping areas for different personas. Or maybe I can read three novels simultaneously; I can just have one novel per night stand and reading light. I could last a while like that!
I had to laugh when I opened my closet. I have the same problem that I had in Prague! I have no hangers! And I’m too lazy and don’t care enough to go out and buy them, so the few chairs that I have around the room serve as my hanging place for my dress shirts and jackets.
The complete 180 of not living with a Georgian host family, and instead inheriting a Pakistani host brother, definitely is a bit of a shocker. My experience of Georgian culture, be it good or ill, is drastically limited now. I came into the program open to the fact that I had no clue what I was getting into. Where I would be teaching, who I would be teaching, their level of English, and what kind of family I would be placed with, were all completely open variables. All lessons that I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, and there’s no way I can plan for it, because everything can change at the drop of a hat.