Toma had to miss school the past two days because he had to help Nino and Medico and a bunch of the neighbors pick the mandarins off the trees on their land. I came home to find the garage packed full of them. I’ve never seen so much fruit in one place before – and they smelled wonderful!
Mandarinis are the main crop grown in Shroma (and the region of Guria) and at one time when Georgian used to trade with Russia, they fetched a very high price. But ever since the boarders closed (I think during the Rose Revolution) it has been hard for these families to sell them at a reasonable price.
Nino told me that this whole area used to be rather wealthy but have had a hard time for the past decade. I’ve been wondering why Shroma is the way it is, and this explained a lot. For example, Shroma has a very large official looking government building with nothing in it, we have a tank memorial, and a decorative tile wall, and a very large school that is so far away from any of the nearby towns, and an old store front that has the word Petrol on it, also with nothing in it…. At one time, there was a lot of economic activity here. But not anymore.
Hearing all this was hard. My favorite class (the 6th graders) are now 11 years old, so they have only known this reality. Nino’s story has made me even prouder to have won the grant to get the school new whiteboards. I know now that those boards are at the very least 10-11 years old, and it shows. I hope the boards will brighten the classes and give Shroma something new to be proud of.
I also want to say here that I am so very grateful to my host family for taking in an extra person to feed and live in their home. I hope I’ve improved their lives a little by being here and sharing who I am and what I know.