It’s turning into a strange week.
Woke up Tuesday morning for class. I figured today would be back to normal, I’d teach my lessons with my co-teacher (let’s give her a name…. how about Bibi?), and it would be a normal Tuesday.
Got to my lesson at 9:00. On time, that is, which is early for Georgian standards.
(Side note. Georgians and being on time: the dormitory director hired a new assistant last week. I often laugh over lunch with the director over things like being on time. He said his new assistant wondered what time she should start work. He said work starts at 9. She replied that, oh well, she doesn’t want the job then. He replied well, if she wants she can come in at 9:30, 10:00, or 10:30 if she wants, and just start then. Well, then of course she wants the job.)
Anyways, I was on time to class. First lesson today was with the welders. But the classroom was locked, there were no students, and no Bibi. I sent Bibi a text message: Hello Bibi, do we have the first lesson today? 9:10 one student showed up, and he found someone to unlock the door. He can speak a little bit of English, so I explain that Bibi is not here, that I don’t know where she is, but we can still try to have the lesson. 9:20, a second student showed up. I had pulled out some flashcards for “daily habits.” Brush your hair, wake up, go to school, etc. In the next twenty minutes, three more students showed up and we played bingo with daily habits. In the meantime I got a text: Hi Sven we have the class but I asked the principal not to have the 1st lesson as I was in Tbilisi. I feel terrible and I think I shan’t be at the lessons today.
I went back to the dorms, as I had a few hours until my next two lessons, and chatted on facebook to see what was up. Bibi spent yesterday in Tbilisi for training about a new English teacher. Pakistani host brother is leaving (hooray!) and going to Tbilisi, and someone else is taking his place here. Bibi must go again to Tbilisi tomorrow to pick him up. She did not go to the lessons today because she was tired from the yesterday’s driving. She’s going tomorrow again to Tbilisi, though, so I wonder if Thursday she will also be tired from the drive and not go to class?! I’m sure I won’t figure out until Thursday morning as I’m awkwardly sitting there.
On the plus side, things have been sorted out for the hot water. Hot water’s been out due to the Kutaisi weather. It didn’t rain this weekend, which was nice, but the winds were about 90km/hour for about five days, and nobody could get out on the roof (which is where they need to go to fix the hot water), but since the wind died down and it’s just raining today, someone was able to fix it. Now if I get phone calls about how to get hot water in the shower, it’s just a simple explanation of the differences between the red and blue marks on the tap.
Anyways, I still had two more lessons. The first was with a class of seamstresses. (Bibi calls them sewers, but I haven’t quite gotten used to that.) They don’t speak any English, so I was a bit at a loss. I tried to do the daily habits lesson again, but they didn’t really understand me. (This is one of those classes that can’t answer me if I ask How are you?) A bunch of 16 and 17 year old Georgian girls laughing at me for 45 minutes. I explained things with hand motions to brush your teeth. I didn’t understand much of what was said, but I did understand chven mindat Bibi, or, we want Bibi. Bodishi, I apologized. Sometimes they’d ask me questions in Georgian, and I could only respond. Ver gavige. Inglisuri, tu sheidzleba. (I don’t understand. English, please.) They would respond with defiant, scowling faces: qartveluri, tu sheidzleba. (Georgian, please.) Oh, how happy I was when the bell rang.
The next class wasn’t bad. One of my groups of cooks. Thankfully, one of the girls speaks some German, so I could count on her to help me translate. And she was glad to help, so it was a much more pleasant lesson. A tri-lingual lesson. Pretty fun actually! I would write the words for daily habits on the board, then explain them auf Deutsch, then she would tell the students in the class the word in Georgian. And I could finally explain to the students where Bibi was! (It’s nice, too, to be able to converse in German. Being in a place where your English conversations are all very basic, you tend to feel your own level of English slipping a bit. Conversing in German is a bit difficult for me, so it’s nice to stretch mental boundaries in conversation.)
Warum ist Bibi nicht hier? (Why isn’t Bibi here?)
Gestern hat Bibi nach Tbilisi gefährt, und heute ist sehr müde. Jetzt schläft ihr. Deshalb heute habe ich meinem selbst gelehrt, und es ist sehr schwer und niemand haben mich verstehen! (Yesterday Bibi drove to Tbilisi, and is very tired today. She is sleeping now. That’s why I have taught by myself today, and it’s very difficult and nobody understands anything!)
Nein, in diesem Klasse haben wir beidem gelehrt. (No no, in this class we both taught.)
Ja ja, und diesem Klasse wird sehr besser als meinem anderem Klassen. Vielen dank. (Yes, and this class was much butter than my other classes. Thanks very much.)
After that, a return back to the dorms to sit, read and think. A typical afternoon. Took a short nap, but was awoken by the phone ringing, a call from Pakistani host brother down the hall.
Hey man, where are you?
I’m in my room.
Oh, you’re back from class?
Yes, I’m in my room. (I’ve taken to locking my room to minimize the frequent walk ins.)
Oh, well I was just wondering, have you gone to eat dinner yet?
What, are you kidding me?! It’s 3:45!
Well, I’m just really hungry, you know? So I was wondering if you wanted to go downstairs and eat dinner.
The kitchen staff doesn’t serve dinner until around 7.
Oh, so, what? Are you just planning on waiting until then?
Well, what are you going to do until then?
I don’t know. Sit and read I think.
Tomorrow I don’t have lessons with Bibi, but Thursday I have a few. So, I guess depending on how tiring the drive to Tbilisi and back tomorrow will be, I might get another bunch of fun lessons of great misunderstandings. An interesting week this is turning out to be.
But as Graham put it to me in an email: it’s a spectacularly strange, slightly unexpected situation I probably won’t find too many more times in my life. Frustration and discomforting unease fueled by cold showers and the all too visceral company of angry, arguing Azerbaijani men neighboring me through paper thin walls.