Last day in Zestaponi…

Well, quite frankly, this sucks. I’m breaking a new rule (the Dan Doyle rule as it will heretofore be known) by talking about tomorrow, today. But the odds are good that ChaCha will prevent me from posting tonight because the teachers are throwing us a going away Supra (banquet). Please consider this post a “duty first” obligation.

I’m leaving for Tbillisi tomorrow morning. No more Shorena and her family’s hospitality. No more beautiful mountain and river views. No more eating amazing food. No more bonding with amazing fellow professionals. No more Georgian students.

It makes me sad. It really does. I am still reeling from the warmth of this place against the cold, gray background of haphazardly built multistory cattle dwellings some might call apartments.

Everyone is asking us to come back and stay longer. 2 weeks is not long enough! Come in the summer and go to Svetia (north caucuses). Come in the fall for the leaves, harvest, wine pressing, bread making and Shalva says the hunting!

There’s a part of me that calls BS. No one can be that nice! My city living screams at everyone I see-“what is your angle, guy?” But there is a rare sincerity here. Imereti, the region I am in, is known for its hospitality. And it seems genuine. I stare into the eyes of everyone I meet, smiling, trying to break down that tough soviet exterior and with a broken Georgian phrase or two, they soften. And when they do, it’s like a curtain is pulled up from over their eyes to reveal a glowing fire, intense depth of feeling, and a warm hug.

It is best seen in the children of Zestaponi. The affection they have shown their teachers has become the affection they have shown Turtle and I. Today it was like we were famous walking through the halls. We were asked to take a million selfies, “hello” echoed like a chorus at Christmas, and smiling kids looking up at us showing us the swag Turtle and I gave them. We were even interviewed by local TV. At the end of the English lesson, Lana said to me, “I will not forget you, please don’t forget me”. She was the one who asked what my dream was…

How can I ever forget?

The parents, teachers, and especially the children have given me an amazing gift-they have let me in. They made me feel like family. They made me feel special in way I’m not sure I’ve felt before. How  can anyone wish to leave this?

For Mr. Henry’s class, we had our round table discussion. It was all 12th graders (seniors). First, they LOVED the presentation! Several have expressed interest in reading your writings and they would wish you to read theirs. It wasn’t everyone, but the students that want to will be waiting for me to coordinate. Their English is better than mine and they drove the conversation today.

Ultimately, US and Georgian seniors are pretty much the same. Everyone likes movies and videos games, hanging out with their friends, reading, writing, and preparing for University. I felt odd asking what they ‘really’ did given the teachers in the room, but from what I can see of Zestaponi, hanging with friends means hitting a coffee shop, walking up and down the street, texting and taking selfies. When I said how much do clothes cost (a question from one of Mr. Henry’s students) they said it varies tremendously but they revealed they go into Tbillisi to shop where they have more and better stores. It’s about a 3 hour minibus drive from Zestaponi so I’m guessing that is a very common social activity for Zestaponi teens: head to the big city.

Turtle and I were able to participate in a few lessons. My favorite was one of Shorena’s 8th grade English lessons: she handed out phrases in English, we had to act it out without saying and the class had to say what was happening in the past tense. Anna, Lana and I acted it in a very silly way that drew laughter and more importantly the right answer. Since we went first, the class was up for grabs after that. What a way to end out time with the students.

We also observed a geography lesson with juniors and an English class with 5th graders.

Then what do you after a morning like that? Drive into the mountains, seeing of the oldest churches in Georgia, and picnic on the side of the road.

I must now prepare mentally for the food I will eat and wine I will drink at tonight’s Supra…


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One Response to Last day in Zestaponi…

  1. Fabian says:

    It looks like the classroom and students there do not look that much different from us. They seem really friendly there too since they made you feel like family.