Today, I interviewed Natia. She works at an American organization and teaches English in Ozurgeti, so her English is fantastic. She’s one of the only Georgians I can speak with because of the language barrier. Because she understands me so well, I am always asking her questions about Georgian politics, her opinions and what Georgian words mean. She is always patient with me and is an excellent cultural ambassador.
I get to visit Natia’s home and her family regularly. Twice a week, we go to her house and sing Georgian folk songs together. Her bebia (grandmother) sits by the pechi (stove) and teaches us all the parts of every song. Whenever I visit, her family always prepares me a meal, even if I am only staying a couple hours. I can’t refuse because the food is so good. Besides, if you ever try to refuse Georgian hospitality, you will find that it is impossible. They are extremely stubborn on this point and will give you food even if you say you aren’t hungry.
Natia can not only sing, but also play piano, guitar and traditional Georgian instruments called the Pandori and Chonguri. Today I interviewed her to learn about her family, her hobbies, and her life in Guria. Natia was a little nervous because she is waiting to be interviewed for a program to come to America in the summer and learn more about teaching. She’s very excited for the opportunity to visit the United States.
What is your full name?
Where do you live? What is your house like?
“I live in Ozurgeti’s village, Chanieti. My house has two stories. I live here, and I like my house. I love my house! There’s a living room, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, bathroom. There is also a balcony!” From the balcony, grape vines hang like streamers across the backyard. Right now though, the vines are shriveled and like twigs. They will become very beautiful in the summer.
“I have garage and storage where we keep things during winter.” A lot of Georgian houses have an outside cellar where they keep homemade juice, pickled foods, wine and sacks of flour. One afternoon, I went to her house and her father was using a machine to strip the seeds off of dried corn. They were going to sell the corn in the capital, Tbilisi.
I asked why, since Tbilisi is so far away! It takes six hours to get there on a bumpy marshrutka. Natia told me that in Tbilisi, you can sell corn for a lot more money because no one grows it there. The soil is dry there, and there is very little land since there are many people in the city.
What is your family like?
“My family? There are five members including me. My mother, father, grandmother, sister and me. We are ususally very busy. All the members work and my sister is not here right now. She lives in Tbilisi.
I asked her if her grandmother works too, since she is very old. I knew that she used to be a teacher at the village school, but I learned that she still works there! “Yes, she teaches only one or two subjects (each week). She has been teaching for more than fifty years. First she started working as a dance and singing teacher. She had a choir. And then started as an elementary school teacher.” Now she teaches music. When Naia’s bebia was young, she was part of a Georgian choir that toured all over Russia and even in America! She is well traveled.
Her mother works as a social worker. She gives out pensions to the retired workers. Her father works as a coordinator at the Cultural Center. He’s starting a school for folk music. It’s a two year program with a certificate at the end, so it’s a little like university. Her younger sister works as a bank teller.
“By car. Usually by car because my house is 7 kilometers away from my work.” When Natia is in Ozurgeti, she walks. She doesn’t drive a car in the town.
What types of clothing do you like to wear?
“Comfortable. Yes, I like comfortable clothes. Sometimes I like formal clothes, but it depends on where I go. If I go to a wedding or some special event I wear formal clothes. However, I typically like everyday clothes.”
Natia especially likes skirts and scarfs. She tells me, “Scarves are my favorite accessory.” She was wearing a black one that day. I asked her if she had a favorite scarf, but she said, “I like all of my scarves that I get. If I see a scarf I really like, I will buy it. Or, when my sister buys some, if I like one especially, she gives it to me. I like all of my scarves.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“In my free time I like being with my friends when we all have the time. It’s my favorite. We also chat and we talk about things. I really like talking on the phone. I also like playing the piano or other instruments. Yesterday, I went home and played guitar all evening long! This morning, when I got up at 8, I played it. I also ready books and study languages. If I had more time I would study another language. I like Spanish very much, or Italian.”
Natia already knows English very well, but she is always working harder to improve. Natia likes many different kinds of books, but especially love stories, science fiction and children’s books. She likes to read fairy tales because she can learn about the culture of a place too. She recently read Charlotte’s Web. Her favorite English book is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and she really wants to read Jurassic Park. Her favorite Georgian book is a collection of poems by Chavchavadze.
What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “Hello” in your language?
Natia speaks Georgian and English. She also knew a little German and Russian when she was in school. “Hello” in Georgian is “Gamarjoba!”
Do you have pets?
Natia has one dog that she loves very much. “I had two but one ate the neighbor’s eggs and I gave it to my relative because she has a yard.” Natia’s house shares a yard with two other houses. Her dogs were named Basti and Booboo, after a children’s show that she loved when she was younger. She still has Basti.
Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?
Natia has travelled all over Georgia! She used to live in Tbilisi for five years when she was a student. She’s also been to Turkey, just across the border, for shopping. There are many products available in Turkey that aren’t available in Georgia, so many Turks sell clothes and textiles at the mall right across the border.
What do you do for work?
“I am an English teacher at the Guria Youth Center. I have been teaching here for three years. I am also the representative for the English Teachers Association of Georgia in Guria (our region). And I started working at school this November.” Natia works with kindergartners at a village school.
Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?
“I wish they would travel to Georgia. Also, study hard! And read about culture. Cultural exchange is very important. If they come here, it is very good. I wish all the best for them and success in their future.”
Natia also mentioned that she is very interested in how American schools work. Georgian schools want to move away from the Russian way of teaching, which was based in memorization of text and rote repetition. It is not the most engaging way to learn!