Saturday, December 1, 2007


Here's what I'm trying to juggle so far:
  • Being a full-time student at Tbilisi State Medical University.
  • Volunteering at the Chemistry Institute
  • Volunteering at Ghudushauri National Medical Center (where I was this summer)
  • Teaching English
Studies at TSMU have remained pretty much the same. That's to say that I'm not learning a whole lot from my classes except Anatomy. The other day in Biology practical, my Biology professor (whom I believe hasn't the faintest idea how to teach) decided to give us a practice test which he had written. The first problem was that the test was written in a find-the-mistake format. He had copied passages out of the textbook and intentionally changed terms--not the best way to test someone's knowledge when they haven't been taught it in the first place. To make things worse, some totally irrelevant terms were changed. For example, in a passage about the discovery of protein synthesis, he changed the date from 1950 to 1960--that was the mistake we were to have found.

Work at the chemistry institute has been slow, but you can hardly blame them given the conditions (I promise to take some pictures soon) they work in. Mzia, my chemistry professor, has been having a difficult time synthesizing her desired compound; more than a couple of times she has obtained a product that wasn't what it should have been. At least one of those times was the fault of using old chemicals (stockpiled from the Soviet days) which had since decomposed into something else entirely. I still manage to eat and drink every time I come, and now that wintry weather has arrived (it snowed last week), we've since moved on to spirits to keep ourselves warm.

I haven't yet actually returned to Ghudushauri to volunteer. I visited the hospital last Tuesday to speak with Dr. Merab about the possibility of my returning to volunteer and to ask him to write me a letter of recommendation for medical school. It was a strange experience to see all the people I had worked with for 6 weeks this past summer; some recognized me right off the bat, others didn't but kept glancing towards me trying to remember how they knew me. One huge difference I and my colleagues at Ghudushauri both noticed was how much my Georgian had improved. During my summer internship there, I was forced to communicate through someone that knew English, and therefore wasn't able to get to know many of the doctors and nurses as well as I would have liked. Now that I've made plans to return to Ghudushauri on a regular basis, I plan to get to know everyone better.

Teaching... As inexpensive as it is to live in Georgia, it never hurts to have a little cash on hand. And as it turns out, being a native English speaker in Georgia means you're a hot commodity. As with any non-English speaking country in the world (especially one that's trying to cozy up with the US), English is the new second language. Fortunately, as I've discovered, there are many very qualified Georgians who can teach English grammar quite well. But, thankfully, they understand that there are only some things that a native speaker can teach, such as slang, pronunciation, and conversation. And since there are relatively few native English speakers in Georgia, it wasn't hard for me to find teaching work.

I primarily teach four classes all at one school (it's actually in the teacher's, Anne's, house), once a week where my primary duty is to talk to the students and make them talk back to me. The level of proficiency in English among the four classes ranges from pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate, but even the pre-intermediate students (classifications determined by Anne) have a good grasp of English and don't have too much difficulty in communicating with me. The students are wonderful. In addition to being hard working, they seemed to be genuinely enthusiastic about learning English and using it with me. Teaching, as I've discovered, is quite draining. After 4 hours of talking and trying to explain concepts of my language that I've never had to think about before, I feel exhausted.

In addition to my 8 hours a week at Anne's school, I also have an 11-year old private student. He spent the last year in the States where he attended public school and by necessity, went from speaking virtually no English to having a good command of conversational English. His mother, who herself speaks fluent English, doesn't want him to lose the gains he's made in English and has hired me to come twice a week to speak with him and make him read books. I'll be sure to have him read my childhood favorites.

Just a brief snapshot of what's keeping me occupied in Tbilisi. I'll elaborate more when I have some free time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My goodness! I'll never say I'm busy again after reading that! :)

Lots of prayers; sounds like an experience.