It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting at the desk in my house in Gori, sipping a glass of red Georgian wine, and staring out through the lace curtains at the grapes growing in the backyard.
I’ve been in Georgia for a week now, and it is still anything but familiar. (Beautiful and intriguing, yes, but certainly not familiar)! I’ll get back to my story in chronological order soon, but first…
I live in a house?
In the Republic of Georgia?
And there are grapes growing in the backyard?
I first heard about this fellowship while still living in Seattle, which I moved away from in May 2011, so it’s been at the very least more than four years that I’ve been thinking about doing and wanting to do this fellowship. And here I am, doing it, but, still, how did this happen?
When I decided last December to press the “resubmit” button on my application, I really didn’t think I’d accept the fellowship if offered.
I had just completed my first semester of my PhD program.
I had just begun dating the guy I’d had a crush on for months. ( ☺️ You can see him in the picture above if you look closely at the photo on the desk— he didn’t really think I’d accept it either. Whoops! Luckily, he’s been wanting to travel to Georgia for a while now, so I’m happy to give him a good excuse).
I was quite content with my life in DC.
Yet, when I was offered the fellowship, I did accept it, and now here I am, one week in!
I blame it on Georgia. 🙂
I don’t think, at that particular time, that there were many places in the world that I was ready and willing to (temporarily) drop everything and move multi-timezones away to… But I couldn’t say no to Georgia.
How could anyone say “no” to a fellowship offer to teach and train teachers in a country where not only are there grapes growing in your backyard, but there are grapes growing above you as you walk down the sidewalk? (In Gori, this is the case)!
As a linguaphile, how could anyone say “no” to the chance to live in a country where the language is an enigma to linguists, in a language family of its own, with its own unique writing system, and no verified connection to other language families? (I’m slooowly improving; I can now confidently say, “ბოდიში, მე არ ვიცი ქართული” (Bodishi, me ar vitsi Kartuli — Sorry, I don’t speak Georgian) and I can even pronounce my street address (when I can remember it). Next goal: my phone number 🙂 ). Also, in addition to Georgian, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and use Russian. Again, what linguaphile could say “no” to that?
Everyone I talked to had positive things to say– “Georgians are wonderfully hospitable,” “The food… and music… and dancing are amazing,” “The country is gorgeous,” “It’s a place rich with history,” “It’s the birthplace of winemaking,” “The mountains make for incredible hiking,” and so on. Furthermore, I’ve long loved Central and Eastern Europe, and have wanted to make it further east for a while now.
So how could I say “no”?
I didn’t say “no,” and here I am.
The first week went by both very fast and very slow, and now I’m sitting here, reflecting on the week before spending a little more time preparing for my first teacher training session, happening next week.
I read a book once called Love Does by a man named Bob Goff; some of you are probably fans of his and many of you have probably never heard of him. Regardless, his philosophy in life is to “simply say yes” to opportunities that come your way. (Snow Patrol also wrote a song called “Just say yes” and my dear friend Zuzi once coyly informed me that if a man ever asked, “Vezmeš si ma?” then I should “just say yes.” Luckily I figured out what she was trying to do and never accidentally agreed to marry anyone, but I digress)…
Anyway, I doubt I’ll ever be as liberal with my “yes” as Bob Goff, Snow Patrol, or Zuzi may have me to be (just kidding, Zuzi, and, you’re welcome, Mom and Dad– there are some opportunities that I would say “no” to: I’m not planning to travel to Iraq or Iran, even if given the opportunity), but I think, in general, it’s a good philosophy. “Yes” has taken me to 25 different countries, introduced me to a lot of amazing people, and led to all sorts of adventures so far.
Do I have any idea what’s in store for the next ten months? “No.” Am I looking forward to them? “Yes.” 🙂