by Abigail Botello, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Georgia

I have been in my new home of Tbilisi, Georgia for over a week and I am just now finding time to write! The orientation for our teach abroad program at the hotel was a blur of sleeplessness and constant activities. It was actually rather exhausting and for those of you planning on joining us here in Georgia, should be prepared to be sleep deprived and very, very busy. The hotel rooms are quite nice with warm heaters and hot water, but don’t get too comfortable because most people in Tbilisi do not have central heating in their homes and if you are coming in the winter you would do yourself well by bringing these items:

Tbilisi at night.

-electric blanket
-warm slippers
-thermal leggings that you can wear under jeans
-heavy sweater
-thick socks

Also, take a look at the medicine you are planning on bringing….and then double it.
Because orientation is a bit stressful and you will be staying up late and waking up early, it is likely that you will get sick (I did, along with 20 or so other people). Orientation is really fun, you will be laughing and making new friends, and getting sick just puts a dent in the groove so stock up on Dayquil, cough drops, and vitamins.

Okay, now on to the fun stuff!
Tbilisi, which is where I was placed with a host family (other teachers were placed in Batumi, or in villages in the western region), is very fast paced. And that statement is coming from a city girl! There is an obvious lack of personal space here in Tbilisi, which must be quickly overcome. Cars, buses, and marshutkas (vans that have been turned into 20 seaters) will fly past you without regard for where you stand or walk…in my case, usually run.  Honking will become the melody to your everyday and it is a good idea to bring an ipod with you on the bus in order to drown out some of the noise.

I think the most interesting thing to watch though, is how much my beautiful host mom doesn’t seem to notice. (That’s another thing! Georgian women are gorgeous, they all look like models). This place is so full of contradictions! My lovely host mom Kate just sits, or stands on this crowded and dirty marshutka, calmly staring out the window. And then there’s me. I figit around feeling as if I might suffocate and it makes me realize how utterly spoiled I have been my entire life.

Let me also say that my host family, consisting of a young married couple in their 30’s (Kate and Koba), have been the most rewarding part of this experience so far. They work so, so hard and they are the most kind, generous, and loving people I have ever come into contact with. I think my only complaint is that they feed me too much. And wow, do Georgians love to eat! They eat ALL THE TIME! And if they’re not eating then they are talking about what they want to eat. I enjoyed my first traditional Supra with my host family and their friends. At one point I seriously thought I might die if I took another bite. But I have a system down… you see, if you are holding food in your hand, then your host family won’t tell you to eat. Please keep this in mind as it may save your life…

My host family lives modestly, in a small flat in Tamriko. I have a very cute bedroom with an antique vanity and giant dresser. The bathroom, which is shared by the three of us, has hot water, which compensates for the toilet that needs a bucket of water poured into it in order to flush, and the kitchen is small, but warm because it is usually filled with people and piles of steaming food.

Another important aspect of Georgian culture (one of which is pulling me away from my beloved computer right now) is socializing. Georgian women LOVE to socialize. They stay up late, wake up early, work too hard for their own good, and then gossip, gossip, gossip.