I'm Turken To Ya'

Browsing through countless articles, travel blogs, and sites has led me to the conclusion that this place called Turkey is somewhat of a gem of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.

Maybe the travelers were more prepared for their findings than I, but I had no idea about anything it held besides Istanbul, the Ottoman Empire and a bunch of bazaar loving gypsies.

I've got three days left before I embark on a trip that really hasn't been mapped out. The loose plan is to connect in Trabzon for a bus that shuttles to the center of the country—in the vicinity of Goreme—where the scenery resembles that of Tatooine.

The kicker of the trip is the camping. Crystal, Bradley and me will be using a pop-up tent to sleep for several of the 10 nights we'll be gone over our Easter break. There's no real camp spots or roads in mind. Everything will be on a whim—accordingly planned.

There's also the tree hotels that are supposedly cheap and gorgeous near the town of Olympos. I'm not exactly sure what a tree hotel is like, but I envision it's more glamorous than the high sleeping quarters Dr. Grant took the kids into in Jurassic Park—or sleeping on the hard ground.

That's all I got for now. I'll update the fallouts and fun follies from the trip in the weeks ahead.

As far as what's been going on, the last month has been a bit of a string of continuity that really isn't worth 500 words to map out. Here's a few spontaneous shots from the Blackberry. Enjoy.

Eka and Lollie's Organics

And their kinkhali

Outskirts of Kutaisi

Morning view of Tskhratskaro


An Army Of One

For me, there’s nothing better than starting a workday with an onslaught of sunlight. Despite not moving the clock ahead, the days are significantly longer (sun setting around 9 p.m.) than they were just a couple weeks ago, providing an extra spark of Georgian teaching significance that was undoubtedly missing from my life.

I guess you could call it a “Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” for a Western Florida boy.

The daily spark has been vital, as my classes have been manageable, but not dzalian kargi (very good). As my relationships with my students have grown in time, so has my impatience with their laziness. Lately I’ve been bringing my laptop to class to assist with listening exercises as I've found that just pulling it out and putting it on the table grabs their attention (they rarely listen to Tamrico reading from the book).

“Play music” and “Let me see your games” are typical responses I get from the older kids. The younger tots just wait for my next move, like skittish animals waiting to see if it’s OK to come a little closer for the kill.

I use the glamour to bait them and an old Macintosh trick to pull them in.

Think back to the mid ‘90s Disney movie “Blank Check,” where a young chap uses a voice over on his computer to create a different identity known as Mr. Macintosh so that he can cash a blank check he acquired from a crime lord.

Well, I’ve begun using the same formula in the classroom—only with a text document. For all practical purposes I do not need any mode of assistance to teach English pronunciations, but a computer voice is just so much cooler and makes more sense to a bunch of undisciplined 13-year-olds. The little shits in class are still gonna be little shits in class. But at least they give pause when the phantom English teacher enters the room.

Friday I went on an unexpected field trip to Kutaisi with the highschoolers to visit an army base. As I've explained before, I live on the seat of my pants around these here parts—delightfully unprepared for my next foolish mistake.

When we reached the base, I still had no idea what we were doing and looked like a complete asshole when an officer had to confiscate my Swiss Army Knife at the gate.

Stupid American.

Although they scoured my pockets with a medal detector, they let me keep my 10-lb backpack without checking it. I guess they figured the Russians couldn’t buy out an American for another Kutaisi bomb plot.

Stupid Georgians.

For the boys, the guns, tanks and all the sophisticated military equipment on display was like a real-life Candyland. The girls and I had were over the recruiting hoopla in 10 minutes and enjoying the dziani amindi (sunny weather) with ara skola (no school).

The trip on base truly brought out the gayness in the boys. And when I say gay, I mean gay.

It’s still quite strange to me how a country controlled by Catholicism and 1950s male-dominated behavior is so touchy feely. The older boys (and even men sometimes) are constantly holding and practically fondling one another in the classroom and in public.

Gay-a-phobs is what I call them.

But hey, whatever gives you that spark, I guess. I’ll stick to the Georgian sunlight…and to myself.