Thursday, December 2, 2010

The main exhibits at Foreigner Zoo

Georgians stare like it’s their job. I can only imagine how hard the female volunteers have it in this country – I’ve heard it’s pretty bad. Someone suggested the stares I get are MY fault, what with my long hair, goatee, and eyebrow piercing. Fair point, to be sure, but my appearance is far from the most shocking of all the volunteers. Really, I can take the staring in itself, but it’s a constant reminder that I’m worlds away from home. Just when I start to lose myself in this place, when I momentarily forget that my family and friends are thousands of miles away, I climb onto a bus where four guys gape at me while I’m not looking. It’s like being jerked out of a pleasant dream. There’s no fault to be placed here, mind you. It’s just one of those cultural disconnects we all face, though I’m sure it would help if my Georgian were more up to snuff.

Comfort always comes back to food for me. Here Georgians and I share a similar interest. I love trying new things and being surprised at what I like, but even in one of my most adventurous frames of mind I still miss the familiar. That’s why I was so excited when some other volunteers introduced me to this little Turkish food stall in Zugdidi. I don’t quite remember the name of what the little family behind the counter serves, but it’s basically a grilled wrap with sliced roasted chicken, vegetables, and yogurt. I’ve had three in the course of two days.

Zugdidi is kind of a mini-city. I can’t decide if it’s deceptively large or deceptively small (not that the meaning of either of those is altogether clear to anyone), but in truth I haven’t explored it much. There’s a park near the town center that’s relaxing – the paths wind through the grass and trees are scarce and trimmed. A few of us gathered there on Monday and were swiftly reminded that groups of Westerners tend to attract even larger groups of young Georgian men eager to try out their English on the women. Note to such Georgians: “I love you! I love America!” is no longer acceptable English practice. With everyone saying it, it’s starting to lose its meaning. Try something else.

I’m gathering more information about the “show” that Lela and the students are putting on in a week or two. I know they want to sing “Happy New Year” by Abba in Georgian and English; several students will be singing traditional Georgian songs and English Christmas songs; I am expected, as it turns out, to sing the Star Spangled Banner, another Christmas song or two, and a Georgian folk song in 3 part harmony. Let me remind you that this is a show the students are putting on for me. It’s a gift to me. I feel like I’ll be doing most of the performing…

1 comment:

  1. I love the illustration that your choice in words produce. I can't imagine what it is like to live so far from all those comforts of home and the familiar.

    It is wonderful to me that you were able to go to another country to teach them your native language I only hope that they appreciate the gift you are giving them.