Tag Archives: culture shock

overwhelmed, constantly.

The past month has been a whirlwind of weekend trips, TLG conventions, wrapping up lessons, and most prominently for me, saying all my goodbyes to all the wonderfully crazy and talented people that I call my friends/teachers/fellow travelers. At the forefront of my mind has been my countdown until I fly home. From 30 days to 2 weeks to 7 days and now, the hourly countdown. (I am a bit desperate for first world luxuries…and my family.) However, looking forward so much and with such fervor, I haven’t had a chance to come to terms with this experience.

I still remember how overwhelmed I was arriving to the hotel at 4 a.m. I remember the camaraderie of training, the frustration of learning Georgian and the struggles of jet-lag that resulted in numerous ten minute naps between workshops (usually huddled in one bed because it was freezing and yet, no central heating!) The first night in Rustavi counts as one of the most lonely nights of my life. The successes of teaching, and the trials of communication, and the many long phone conversations venting/laughing/marveling at this country with my colleagues all made this experience what it was.

In one word, this experience has been intriguing. Not all of it was good, not all of it was bad, but together everything mixed into an eclectic dance. Daily, I asked myself what I was doing here. Now, daily, I ask myself why on Earth I decided to come back. In just over 50 hours, I will board a plane to fly home for the summer, and I am anxiously awaiting that landing. But in some weird way, it’s a little bittersweet.

When I come back in September, it will not be with wide eyes and anxiety. I will know how to navigate and haggle with taxis. I won’t be talking to Surfer Matt about the latest mind-numbingly confusing thing our co-teachers have said. Brittany and I won’t be sharing our latest crazy stories, or comparing this country to Asia. There won’t be sleepovers with Hannah or conversations with Alex about the (non-existent) pros of Tolstoy over Dostoevsky or late-night rants with Lyndsay about this misogynistic culture. I will be coming back less as a tourist, I think, and with less of a safety net.

These past five months were my time to figure it out (impossible) and find my favorite places and talk through the crazy. This is when I have to internalize and focus and pinpoint what I will do to make next semester work for me. This is when I re-live the hours, days, and months until I can accept what I experienced. Right now, I don’t know what happened. It was a blur to me.

It was bumpy marshrutkas and open stares. It was frustrations and triumphs at school. It was tears and curses when I felt so alone and so frustrated with this culture. It was laughter and smiles on the weekend trips. It was learning to let go of timing and planning and my love of luxury hotels.  It was trying to find any strip of normalcy, even if that was McDonald’s.

I have been overwhelmed constantly.

Maybe once I land, and eat a meal with vegetables, and shower, I will be able to finalize my feelings. Until then, my mind will be whirling as I try, and fail, to process.

#georgianlogic

This country is nothing if not confusing. On a good day, TLGers refer to it as baffling or complex or charming. And on bad days I have sent (and received!) a text or two about this ‘backwards freaking country’. Some stories, in Twitter format.


A brimming cup of hot tea and a bumpy, swerving marshrutka. What could go wrong? #georgianlogic

My throat hurts? Better wrap a scarf around my neck…in the 85* heat. #georgianlogic

It’s 90* today? Still wear three layers and a sweater, but pour water on your head/lap to cool off. #georgianlogic

There are 16 seats on this marshrutka? That means we can fit at least 25 people, easy. #georgianlogic

It’s raining today? I better use this plastic bag instead of my umbrella. #georgianlogic

I’m complaining of a sore throat and ear infection? Better listen to my lungs and ignore my ears/throat before you prescribe five different medications. #georgianlogic

Oh, my family bought sour cream–that will brighten up the fried potatoes we have daily! Oh, no…okay. Sour cream goes on bread only. #georgianlogic

Co-teacher doesn’t want to teach today? Spend all class talking about traveling and complain when the ignored students become rowdy. #georgianlogic

Book two seats on the 3:00 marshrutka, only to be accosted at 2:15 by the marshrutka driver…who is waiting on you to take your seat so he can leave. At 2:15. #georgianlogic

Two-lane road with traffic steady in both directions? The perfect time to pass a semi-tanker stamped with ‘danger’. Bonus points if on a mountain road. #georgianlogic

I’m 23 and not married? Absolutely I would love to be your boyfriend! #taxilogic #georgianlogic #notgonnahappen

I’m 23 and married? Why don’t I have children yet? #taxilogic #georgianlogic #fakering

You want a girl’s phone number? Best way is to grab her phone from her purse when she isn’t looking and call your phone. Later, text her love notes. #georgianlogic

Ordered a Ceasar salad. Came with a cup of mayonnaise Ceasar ‘dressing’. #tasty #georgianlogic

“Whose car is that?” “It is ours.” “When did you get a car?” “Oh, I do not know.” “Did you buy a car today?” “Uh, yeah I guess.” #georgianlogic

Vegetables are finally in season? You should boil them into a tasteless mush before serving. #georgianlogic

Standing next to the trash can and you have trash? How convenient. Better throw the waste on the ground. #georgianlogic

Special thanks to Hannah, Matthieu and Brittany for their additions to #georgianlogic



 

**Bonus Story: A few weeks ago, I was struggling with homesickness and went to pick up the package my sweet Momma sent me. On the way, the taxi driver and I were having a very limited conversation, but it came up that I am from Georgia in America! Boy, he got excited and almost had a wreck as he hurried to show me his Willie Nelson CD’s! We jammed to, what else, Georgia on My Mind, and that was a good taste of home right when I needed it.

Gray Skies.

It’s week 3 of teaching, and I’ve been in Georgia for almost a month. I have learned more of this language than I ever though possible and I love my fellow volunteers and love that I am doing this–I am really teaching and working and living with the locals! But my Heavens this is exhausting. I am one of the lucky ones–my sisters speak a small bit of English, but still it is exhausting trying to communicate. I was woken up at midnight last night because my family wanted me to “chame, Mariam, chame!” (eat, Mariam, eat!). Uhhh, no thanks. I’m sleeping. **Also, I go by Mariam here. It is easier to pronounce and gets everyone excited because of how popular it is. Whenever I say to someone new “Me var Mariam” they get very excited and tell me I am already a true Georgian! 

 

I came here expecting to fall in love with the people, and the culture, and my family and community. While everyone is very nice, that is not happening. Being in a city, I’ve lost some of the culture that I wanted to see. I traded it for running water and a Western toilet–fair trade? Maybe. My family is very nice and hospitable and helpful, but that is it. Being in a city, they lost some of their cultural closeness, and so of course it isn’t translated. They traded it for modern conveniences and a chance for their children to go to university–Fair trade? Yes.

It is still a letdown, however.But it doesn’t have to be. As Georgia changes to try and fit in to modern Europe, the culture has to change. I had imagined being in a village behind in time; instead I am in a city where I can see the clash of old Soviet and Georgian cultures and the new influences of modernity. If I look at this positively, I can see how useful and interesting this is, especially given my planned career path. But at the end of the day, when I’m woken from sleep to eat, my mood tends to match the gray clouds that constantly cover Rustavi’s skies.