The learning curve is like climbing a mountain! A new household and location, a new city, a new culture and language. Language is the hardest. Thirty-three letters in the alphabet but seven syntax cases; it reminds us of Latin class. This has been the most stressful time we can remember. Suzanne wakes up and goes to sleep trying her best to remember one more word in Georgian. Whereas, Tom’s memory for this seems younger! We sit at the dinner table with a dictionary trying to learn a word or a phrase to use or ask a question.
Friday was Hub Day…..a day when all the new Group 12 Peace Corps trainees come together to attend common classes and get more vaccinations (rabies and hepatitis). It was a good time to reacquaint ourselves with those who traveled with us from the United States.
A welcome break of each day is lunch at one of the host families homes. We’ve tried lots of new food prepared in many ways and we look forward to these meals. A highlight has been the most delicious strawberries you can imagine. They are the very small ones unlike most of the ones we get in the US. They are so flavorful and juicy and usually we are served a huge bowlful.
Bathing can be both antique and unique. In our home we have a shower but no one seems to use it because water is not always available. So we have learned the art of “bucket baths”. You stand in the shower area with a huge bucket of hot water which has been heated with a big emersion element and go from there. For us, we take turns….the pourer or the bather. We aren’t sure how those without a spouse do it!
Our daily schedule is arising at about 6:30 a.m., studying for a short time, eating and off to language classes at 9:00 for the next four hours. Suzanne is in a local school which is a 15-minute walk away. Tom walks to the USAID office which is 20 minutes away in the opposite direction up a very steep road.
After lunch we both attend a technical session about our respective programs, education for Suzanne and business for Tom. Occasionally we have cultural sessions to learn about this very old country and its people. We arrive back at our host family’s house somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., hungry and exhausted. After dinner, it’s time to study and do homework all while trying to stay awake.
We eat very little meat. We have been buying bananas and apples to supplement our diets. Our host family won’t let us do much …..not even put our dishes in the sink. Gender roles here are very different and we must respect them as we struggle to be “ourselves”.
Today in our culture class someone said the gender roles here remind them of the US back in the early 50s, especially where the role of men is concerned. Male teachers in Georgian schools are very rare. We do hear a lot about the Minister of Education and how he is pushing to change things.
There are those days when we want to give up, but we realize this training is necessary preparation for our upcoming two years of service. Time now to sleep as tomorrow begins another day.