I showed up for work in Georgia the country a week ago with a backpack, tiny computer, and basically zero knowledge of the language, the culture, or the job description.
To date, I’ve been largely holed up in a hotel at a government-sponsored Georgian cram session, learning all we can before being shipped out Sunday to some rural village south of Tbilisi.
We’ve jammed a semester’s worth of language learning into a four-day period and been inundated with exercises getting us up to speed on cultural traits of rural Georgians and their schools.
In general, I’m pretty good at having no expectations, but at this point I’m (a) excited and (b) a tad nervous about moving to rural Georgia for seven months.
According to the training, Georgian values are pretty much directly opposite from mine.
Here’s what we’ve been told:
Decisions are family- and community-centered rather than individualistic. Personal space, privacy, and freedom are not emphasized or respected. People drink heavily at discreet times rather than moderately. LBGT sexualities are taboo (the program encourages a don’t ask, don’t tell approach for gay teachers), as is sex before marriage. Gender roles are formalized, inflexible, inequitable, and traditional. Oddly, abortion is acceptable and rampant because of poor access to or knowledge of birth control (not that I’m opposed to women’s right to choose but would prefer to preempt abortion rather than encourage it). Tolerance of atheism is slim to none. Students are out of control and teachers have little to no authority over their classes.
It sounds pretty rough, but I think I’m OK with immersing myself in this culture for awhile. It’s easy to say now, but I figure the more different, the better. At the very least, I get some good stories from experiencing a vastly different culture; at best, I’ll figure out how to ingratiate myself into a completely foreign community. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll learn a ton in the process.
So for now, I’m glad I’m here. I’m sure I’ll be put in so many ridiculous situations but know I’ll be a much stronger individual for fighting through them. Look forward to sharing the stories going forward.