Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Don't smile so much!"

The past few days have felt like a mix of sleep away camp, high school and fraternity pledging (not that I’d really know though). With all the classes and meetings and panel discussions we’ve been having, we’ve been running on a super tight schedule. Every few hours we’ll have a fifteen minute break to eat a plum (a super delicious plum), feed a stray dog or sprint to the Apothecary to get medicine for our digestion-challenged friends. Other than those brief breaks though, it’s pretty much TLG time from 9am to 10pm. It’s only after ten, when a hoard of forty of us English speakers go to the pub together does it start to feel like fraternity pledging. And with beer being just $0.65 you can literally have an amazing evening and spend less then $2.00. Oh, Georgia, how I love you.

Melissa and Craig walking down the street in Kutaisi

A few of my so called TLG fraternity brothers, Bran, Katy, Steph and Me
 So far the Georgian language classes have been the most helpful thing that we’ve done during training. My Georgian is coming along really well. I even uh, bumped into my teacher at the pub and had a conversation with her in Georgian. (Seriously, they should hand out chacha (homemade Georgian vodka) in class, everyone’s Georgian will improve). Some people in my class have never even studied another language before so it’s truly delightfully hilarious when some people with thick Southern accents (think Texas cowboy) try to say something like, “kvertskhi” (egg) or really any Georgian phrase.

 Asides from language class, we’ve been learning a lot about Georgian culture. Giorgi, my intercultural teacher has already told me that I smile way too much and constantly tells me to “look more Georgian”. In Georgian culture, smiling at someone is indirect communication for “I like you”, (even in the classroom setting)! I can barely go five minutes without smiling, let alone teach a class of teenagers without smiling. I’m either going to come off as a pedophile at my school or somehow get engaged with my neighbor from smiling at him three times in a row. Should be an interesting year!

This is our toilet in the dorms! It's an eastern style squatter. (It's been an experience).
One of the many gangs of street dogs in Kutaisi.

Amidst our fully-booked daily schedule, we managed to make it to the 900 year old Gelati monastery in Kutaisi. We went at night (so we couldn’t really see the place) but we sat in on a nighttime prayer session of the monks. Now, I’ve been around Europe and Jerusalem and I’ve seen my fair share of churches, but this was really one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. In this huge cathedral all the lights were out except for this one candle, and the voices of the monks just reverberated throughout the whole place. It was so moving and beautiful that I went and said Schechianu (the Jewish prayer that you say when you experience something amazing, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before). Kind of ironic, I know, but it was just that beautiful.

While at the monastery, Giorgi (the same Giorgi who told me I smile too much) gave me, Melissa and a few other people a private tour of Gelati. Asides from the fact that it was so dark I have no idea what I saw, it was very cool (and creepy) to walk on King David the Builder's tomb and be inside a thousand-year-old classroom. I can’t wait to go back in the daytime (and see the place). We’re even going to try and go see a mass! Gosh look at me, I’ve been in Georgia for ten days and I’m already excited to go to church!

Melissa and I at the little pub!


  1. you guys must have bomb leg muscles from using that toilet! L'Shana Tova! and hell, I say keep smiling, at least until someone presses charges.

  2. Hi Michelle! Shana Tova!
    Never stop smiling! How many street gangs of dogs
    are there?
    Good luck in Samtredia!
    We all miss you!

  3. Do not believe to everything, Michelle. In Georgian culture smiling doesn't necessarily mean - "I like you". We just more likely to smile to the people we know more meaningfully and not just politely. It's just a matter of interpersonal relationships than a "I like you" in a romantic sense. The guy may be was more concerned about the fact that some Georgian guys would take smiling as readiness for romantic relationship or anything :)))) And definitely - keep smiling with kids! Being a pedophile is the LAST thing that can come across a Georgian mind - we aren't so concerned about pedophiles like in US for instance.

  4. I am starting to believe that in TLG program all Georgian trainers are idiots or some depressed sociopaths.

    don't believe that crap about "too much smiling," there is no such thing.

    Everyone smiles here and everyone likes when someone else smiles.

  5. Totally agree with Antigone and საბა. Was going to wright the same. no need to, they said everything I wanted to say. :)

    Keep smiling :)

  6. hi guys. first of all welcome. :)

    now about more or less sex subject, im so curious who gave u those instructions.
    outside of capital maybe it is like that, but in capital? common.
    i also got the idea that u havent been that much out. how can u say that somebody is shy at the hangers or they dont have open relationships :))))
    i lived in georgia myself and sorry but nobody went after my BF s lol.had friends real friends and guys and there were all the time at my place without any rumors or my parents putting labels on it.
    so my advice would be. go out more, have fun, relax and trust me ull see everything a bit differently.

    best wishes on your project.