Archive for September, 2010

The Life and Times of Georgian Public School

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by Paul Knettel

So first of all let me apologize that there aren’t pictures on this post. The internet access I have here is rather slow and I’m unable to insert pictures. But good news is there will be links to photos spread throughout the post, which you may click on for your viewing pleasure. For example, HERE is a picture I took of some of the fields and mountains surrounding Zeda Etseri.

Alright, now story time.

I have started actually teaching students at the school in my village. The school has approximately 160 students from 1st-12th grade. The first day was quite an experience. Let me tell you about it:

Ok first of all there were huge thunderstorms the two nights before school began, and it was still coming down the morning of the first day, so my host dad drove me, Vasiko (my 10 year old host brother), Fatima (my host mother) and another entire family of 4 (two parents and two children) to school. For those of you who didn’t add up those numbers, that’s 8 people crammed into one little Mercedes.

Vasiko and I piled out at the school, while the rest were going to the preschool (where Fatima is the headmaster). After running into the building, we went up to the second floor, where in the main hallway all the students, teachers and many parents were gathering.

After a few minutes, the headmaster of the school, Mzia, gave a speech, in Georgian, which I think was just basically a “Welcome back to another year at school!” kind of thing.

Then, the 1st grade students, who were entering the school for the first time, were introduced, and some even spoke little poems they had learned into the microphone. Some were very shy and refused to speak at all.

Next, I was introduced by Mzia, then was asked to make an impromptu speech. I did, in English, and when I finished received a roaring applause, despite no one having any clue what I had said.

Up next in the assembly lineup was a performance by 4 of the students, who come from a neighboring region called Svaneti, which contains some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world, I’ve been told many times. My teachers are trying to plan a trip to take me there soon, which would be awesome! But these students were displaying another thing that Svaneti, and all of Georgia, takes great pride in: their traditional music. HERE is a link to part of their performance (it’s on Facebook so you might have to be my friend on Facebook to view it; I’m not sure).

Lastly, the students sang their national anthem (picture HERE) with great aplomb. Mzia then dismissed the students to their classes, and everyone dispersed. However, a few of the first graders (the youngest students in the school), along with the oldest teacher in the school went out to the front yard, where it had stopped raining, to raise the Georgian flag together, a school tradition (picture HERE).

After I watched that heart-warming process, it was off to the classroom. Most of my classes these first few days have just been constant questioning by the students, in a mixture of English and Georgian, and they want to know everything: where I live, if I have a house, if I have a big house, if I have a car, what kind of car, all about my family, my favorite music, musicians, actors, actresses, films, cars, sports, sports teams, and on and on and on…

But it’s been fairly enjoyable. The kids are very excited I’m there, they are always running up to me and saying “Hello!” or “Hi!” and waving and smiling and giggling or running shyly away. I have been playing basketball and football (soccer) with some of the older students during breaks almost everyday, with a large crowd of younger students standing around watching and cheering us on. And most of them seem pretty excited to learn English, especially in the younger grades. Which in turn makes me excited to teach them!

Ok just one more thing, because this post is getting lengthy: last Friday after school my friend Tom, another English teacher from Newcastle, England, and I went with his host family to the Inguri Dam, about a 20-30 minute drive away from Zugdidi. HERE‘s a picture of it: it is the highest standing dam in the world; the picture doesn’t really do it justice. But it was amazing to see, and it is just where the mountains begin, so the scenery was wonderful as well.

Alright, that’s where I’ll leave you for now. More updates soon. Feel free to talk to me via email if you have any questions or comments or just want to say hey: pknettelATgmailDOTcom (AT=@, DOT=. to avoid spam-bots)


A Few Words About Tbilisi

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by Paul Knettel

It’s been a long time since I last updated you, in words, on my life in Georgia. One of the most exciting thing that’s happened recently was a trip to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. It is definitely the largest, most modern city in the country; it has a metro system and a majority of its inhabitants speak at least basic English.

So first, to account for the trip from Zugdidi to Tbilisi. Our group of about 12 English teachers based in Zugdidi and the surrounding villages took a night train, a 8-hour boiling trip with frequent stops, while we roasted in the stuffy sleeper cars, using sleep aids (generic brand Tylenol PM) to help make the ride a little easier.

We left Zugdidi at 11pm and arrived at the Tbilisi station at 7am the next morning. We took the metro, down the huge, steep escalator into the deep, dimly-lit but overall clean and safe depths.

After dropping off our bags at the hostel, we wandered into the city, still groggy from the sleep medications that hadn’t fully worn off yet. After some tasty khatchapuri for breakfast from a streetside bakery, we started our adventure in the city.

Some highlights include: eating less than appealing pizza with mayonnaise (an apparent standard in Georgia) and much more tasty kinkhali in a basement restaurant; visiting the Tsaminda Sameba cathedral, the head of the Georgian Orthodox church; having a pint of Guinness in an “authentic” Irish pub; and swimming in the Tbilisi Zea, a reservoir northwest of the city with numbingly-cold water, pairs of Georgian men in paddle boats and a drunk man who washed his shoes in the water, sang under his breath and creeped on three 20-something Georgian sunbathers. Also, drinking wine from a khantsi, a Georgian drinking horn; and viewing the city lights at night from the Narikala Fortress up on a hillside above the city.

And then there was the train ride home. Originally meant to leave at 9am and arrive back in Zugdidi at 5pm, another 8 hour journey. However, it turned into an 11.5 hour trip when the train made a 2 hour stop off in the middle of nowhere because of an electricity outage, the best we could figure out in our broken inter-language communication.

All in all though, a really fun weekend. Hopefully I’ll be back again.

Everything You Need

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by Paul Knettel

Hello friends!

Time for a quick update!

Mostly in picture form. But also if you would like some more information on the program I am participating in here, this article explains things very well:

Black Sea Coast at Anakhlia

Mv Village, Zeda Etseri

Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi

Group of English teachers at a fortress near Rukhi

At the Abkhazian Border

Tbilisi, the Capital of Georgia

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Tbilisi

Tbilisi at Night

Yes, Harry Potter is universal