Friday, November 5, 2010

Guns and Patience

It’s starting to get a bit chilly here in Georgia. We had quite the cold snap last weekend. When I left for Tbilisi, it was warm enough that I considered leaving my coat behind – a thought I laughed heartily about later. Lela and I have been complaining about the cold since I got back on Sunday, but she’s far less tolerant of the weather than I am. Georgians are convinced that you catch a cold by failing to wear a coat when the temperature dips below 15 degrees Celsius (since I’ve been here I’ve tried to start thinking in the metric system). Meanwhile, an “epidemic” is ripping through our little town, consisting of four children getting fevers and turning yellow. Does that sound like the Bubonic plague? Did I hit some time rift on the plane over here? Is this Lost? God, I hope I’m Sawyer.

Things are still chugging along. Progress in English is slow and sometimes even Lela gets frustrated. I keep reminding her that there are good days and bad weeks. We’re just in the latter. I’m really not all that concerned – at this point it’s just a matter of encouraging the students to study at home. This is more difficult than it sounds since some students don’t have books. Living this close to Abkhazia, a lot of my students are refugees, and as such are too poor to afford the textbooks Lela picked out. We’re still waiting on some organization to send us resources for the displaced children, but like everything else in Georgia, it’s kind of slow going.

I guess I’m saying that patience is a virtue in this country. My attitude towards life had to change the minute I stepped off the plane in Tbilisi at three in the morning – and prepared for three hours of sleep and a day of travel. The government, the schools, the transportation…they all run at their own pace. If I was spending even a minute of my time worrying about how things were going to work out, I would have been hypertensive weeks ago. By now I would have had an aneurism, and in a month my heart would explode. This is an environment geared towards breathing deep and letting go. Now let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Anaklia sits right on the Black Sea, about 10 kilometers from Abkhazia, as I’ve mentioned before. Perhaps it’s because of its geographical isolation and relative proximity to a disputed territory, or maybe it’s just plain paranoia, but it seems like everybody out here is armed. I hear gunfire at least once every other day, and I still think Russia is invading every time. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s probably just someone hunting birds or doing a little target practice (maybe on the cows that are EVERYWHERE). The best sight so far: an old woman riding with her son on a horse-drawn carriage, sitting atop a huge load of hay and bracing herself on a double barrel shotgun. It’s like being in the South. Thank God they haven’t discovered gun racks and flannel.

One more thing: Lela told me yesterday that she has been dreaming in English recently. How cool is that? I thought about it and realized that she’s essentially communicating in English for at least 60% of her day, sometimes a lot more depending on how much I’m around and which classes she has. It’s nice to know I’m accomplishing something. After all, if we can improve her English, that will be the best way to improve her students’ English – far more than my limited time here ever could.


  1. Great post, Adam! Your efforts are not fruitless. Also, the part about the gunfire reminds me of Charles City during deer season.

  2. Adam,

    Great post! They key for success there is to remain positive and spread encouragement around you. Seems you've being doing right this.

    About gunfire - wait until New Year's eve and see that will be going on around. ;-)

  3. Great post! Minus the shout out to the South - there are better things here than gun racks, flannel, and guns!

    You should try a little target practice of your own! Show them the soda/shot gun trick :)

  4. Really like this post. It scares the pure living snot out of me, but I like it. It's some of your better writing, I think - clean, evocative, accurate. This piece reminds me of that old slogan, "Good writing is clear thinking." That machine writers have for processing thought into words without waste is working well.

    We are resisting a meltdown of concern, trusting that God has you entirely in His care. "If I take the wings of morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will hold me." (Ps. 139)

    We're amazed at what you're accomplishing and so proud of you that we are thinking about commissioning a statue in the front yard. You are winning out over hard circumstances. God is certainly with you. May He grant you even greater success, and safe return. Love, Dad

  5. Hi Adam: My husband (Georgian) and I (American) founded a small charity in the US. We have done several textbook lending libraries in schools in Georgia. If your students need books, perhaps we can help. Send me an email at constancefinch at You can read more about our work and see some pix at
    All the best,

  6. Hey Adam! Barbara and Vail told me to check out your blog to see what you are up to in Georgia. The stories are great and the storytelling is amazing! Keep it up, this is like reading a good book! I'm excited to hear what will happen next... I especially enjoy the posts about food and how to eat in Georgia. I feel like I'm reading a travel guide from Rick Steve's! What about some more pictures? What does it look like out there? What about the architecture? Keep up the good work, I look forward to the next chapter! Matthew Clemence