With the beginning of school and the changing of weather, it's officially fall. Nar is growing on the trees, pears fall and make a thudding sound on the roof of my kitchen. And things move along.
Typical of the Azerbaijani schools, my school still doesn't have a set schedule, so teaching has been sporadic to say the least. It's good to see the kids, and it's nice because this year, I'll be teaching extensively with two different counterparts. I'm hoping that this week we'll have something a little more set, so that I can begin to select classes and make a plan for the year. I'd like to do another English Evening (a la my Azeri Christmas Pageant of last year...), get some teacher trainings set up, and maybe even take some of my own time to drop in at the Internat School once a week or so. I also need to arrange a clubs schedule, but I'm waiting for the schools to have everything in place, and for students to finalize their tutoring schedules, before getting anything written down.
Tuesday we'll be taking the kids to Sheki for the FLEX exam like we did last year, the only difference is this year, I feel like some of our students have a very good chance. We've been preparing them for a while now, and the group this year is stronger and more enthusiastic. Fingers crossed.
October is going to be madness (as I find October always is), because softball is in full swing. In one month we have three tournaments to get to (a little ambitious considering we haven't been to a tournament yet...), but I think we can get our kids ready. On that note, a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our grant, we ended up filling it at the last minute, and now we're able to compete!
In the personal sphere, good news on my end! It comes in the form of a successfully completed GMAT. That is one stressful test, and I'm glad it's over. I got the score I wanted, and luckily, am still in the running for all the programs I wanted to apply to. It's a big amount of stress off of my shoulders, though I know there is more around the corner in the form of applications, essays, resumes, and recommendations. Sigh.
I took the test in Tbilisi, and went along with Trey, Jake, Jake's parents, and Lori. We had a lovely time, and it was a nice way to really acknowledge the end of summer and time to get back to work. We spent the first day taking a tour of a winery in Sighnaghi, a small town on the way to Tbilisi from Balaken. We wandered the vineyard, plucking different grape varieties right off the vine. (There are over 500 grape varieties growing in Georgia - impressive considering there are only about 1200 known grape varieties in the world - and the owner of the vineyard has collected about 230 of these varieties and planted them just for tasting - not production - in the vineyard). We saw the traditional winemaking style of Georgia, putting the grapes for fermentation directly into qvery, or clay pots, buried in the ground. We drove to the town to the tasting room for a great meal and a nice wine tasting. The wines were definitely better than anything I get in Azerbaijan (save Caspian Coast wines - those are pretty good), but they weren't amazing. Unrefined might be the best word.
That night Lori and I headed to Tbilisi for our tests, we checked into the hostel and had a hot chocolate night cap in the nicer part of Old Town Tbilisi. Next morning I headed to the test a ball of nerves, but ready. That afternoon we met up with the rest of the gang and spent the evening and next morning eating delicious Georgian food (it's sooooo good, potato xenqeli that reminds me of pierogies, badimcani that is eggplant with a garlic-walnut paste, and of course, xacapuri - cheesy bread!), wine tasting (you can walk into any wine shop and immediately be offered a taste of the shop keepers favorites), and delicious ice cream (a great shop, like gelato, only lighter - strawberry/lemon and banana-coffee were the highlight combos). And then, back on a marsh, and back to reality.
I've got a lot ahead of me. A lot to do, a lot to accomplish, and yet, I still feel like I need something more concrete to keep me occupied. It's hard, watching the 7s get ready to leave, knowing that I'll be here for another 6 months. Sometimes I question my choice to stay, but then I see my kids and I know what I'm doing here. I just need to remind myself of that when I'm back in my empty house. Dad's doing great in the UAE, and Mom's getting ready to move. It's hard being apart from them, and knowing that we're all in different countries. I feel fragmented. I feel like I'm not completely in one place at any one time. Martin Seligman would say I've lost my flow. (Points if you get that reference...) I'll find it.
I'll leave you with some images of Georgia!
St. Stephan's Church in Sighnaghi...
The wine's we tasted, all from Pheasant's Tears Vineyard. (Those are the reds, on the right is chacha, which is alcohol distilled from the remains of the winemaking process - grape skins and the like. It is usually clear, but this one is gold because it is aged in oak. Makes it so much smoother than typical chacha...)
The little road of Sighnaghi.
The vineyard and qvery - the clay pots. Generally they are buried, and the ones Pheasant's Tears uses are much larger - about 4 meters deep.
And Tbilisi. Lovely lovely Tbilisi. Photo taken from the fortress on the hill.