I arrived in Georgia almost four and a half months ago. I am teaching English at a school in my town, Ozurgeti where I live. I teach students of all ages, from 1st grade to 12th grade. Georgian school is probably very different from your school. The students are very boisterous – friendly but loud. In between classes, they run through the hallways, tumbling and tussling with eachother. They are very careful not to bump into a teacher. They would be in a lot of trouble. Students learn some subjects like you do: science, music, art, PE and math. But they also learn Georgian history, Georgian language, geography, and English as a second language.
The Georgian school day is very short. Right now in the winter, school starts at 9:30 because it is so dark in the morning. It only goes until 2pm. But most students have tutors outside of school to help with their classes. So they might have a few more hours of lessons.
One of the most different things about Georgian is the language. It looks like this: ქართული. That says “kartuli”, the Georgian word for…Georgian! Some of my favorite words I’ve learned are lamazi (ლამაზი), which means beautiful, tsisperi (ცისფერი), which means sky’s color, and sopeli (სოფელი), which means village AND universe. And if you want to say hello, it’s “Gamarjoba!” (გამარჯობა).
There’s an old story that the Georgian alphabet was created in only 20 minutes. The Georgians had captured the Armenian monk who had created their alphabet and they wanted him to make one for their country. And so he did… by throwing noodles at a wall! He carefully copied down all the shapes they made and turned them into the Georgian alphabet! Despite the silly story, I do think it looks amazing. It’s one of the original alphabets of the world.
Georgia is a developing country, which means that it has some cities, some technology and some aspects of modern life, but also holds on to older ways of life. Georgia’s past is closely linked with Russia. Most of the past 100 years were spent under Soviet rule. Russia wanted to create a society where people would not make trouble. They gave people food, clothes, and wood to keep them warm. But they also punished students who spoke Georgian at school and wouldn’t let people write what they wanted to in the newspaper. In these times, the students only spoke Russian at school, so all the elderly Georgians are fluent in Russian. But they really like it when Americans can speak Georgian! It shows that we care about their nation’s culture and the unique contributions it can make to the world.
One of those contributions is the old Georgian music. This music is some of the oldest in the world that we can still hear. Some of it is instrumental, but I am studying the singing. There are three voices and they always end together on one note. But before they get there, they twist and contort to create the strangest and most beautiful sounds. The folk music can be funny and silly, but the church music sounds ancient, primal, and moving. I’m learning these song with some of my Georgian friends. I hope I can record some of the songs for you to hear.
The photo is from a monastery in a place called Logodekhi. It contains one of the most obvious features of Georgia: the mountains. They are taller than any I’ve ever seen in America. The old Georgians liked to build their villages nestled right up against the foot of the mountain. Georgia is filled with old monasteries, churches, castles, fortresses, and ruins. The best part is that you can climb all over them. You can explore any part you can reach!