Picking up the books!

Last week while I was in Batumi I ordered the English World Level 3 books for my 6th grade class so this weekend they were ready to be picked up! I grabbed those along with the maps for this class…plus I found a donor to match the Grant amount we received so I ordered 4 more chalkboards!!! This “to-do” list went smoothly so Cajun and I were free to spend the afternoon catching up with and saying goodbye to friends. (I can’t believe my time here is almost over – we’re already saying goodbyes!?)

We danced the night away at a place called Vox and the next morning I sent the chalkboards and books back to Shroma on a marshrutka while I headed to Cajun’s village named Tchanieti. He was greeted by two of the cutest little girls who gave him berry branches and kisses. So stinking cute!

Berry branches and kisses for Cajun on our walk through his village.

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Operation Installation

I arrived to school much earlier than I needed to because I had a feeling at least one of the grant chalkboards were going up today…and I guessed right! I walked straight to my 6th grade class and sure enough the one of the male teachers had already gotten to work. I “assisted” by taking pictures. All the kids were jumping around like crazy…nothing like this has ever happened at their school! The loud thunder and hail storm outside added to the dramatic anticipation in the room….

As the  brand new chalkboard got hung at just the right angle, the kids rushed to it and tore off the protective plastic covering. Then they all shouted something in my direction and soon enough someone was able to figure out what to say in English so I’d understand: “No looking” they shouted. So I turned my eyes away…waiting to see what they were going to do.

When I was allowed to turn back around I saw the most touching thing I think a teacher could see….We love you, was written on the board. They were all beaming at me, some of the girls eyes were filled with tears. We all hugged and danced and took more pictures. It was such a special moment I wish everyone who had donated and provided the grant could have been there. The bell rang to start the school day and all the kids jumped into their seats ready to see what class would be like with the new board.

As a side note: It took another 3 days to hang all the other boards. Some of the older chalkboards fell right off the wall while other had to be drilled out…and then since all the walls are concrete, hanging and installing each board was a special project unto itself. So I’d like to congratulate the men who figured it all out and got those boards up! This wasn’t an easy project but definitely one that will make a tangible and lasting change for the better!

Installation Step 1: Make sure the power drill works…

Installation Step 2: Gotta make sure it’s just right.

Installation Step 3: Unwrap the new present!

And then everyone joined in!!!

They even spelled my name right. (It’s usually: Mell, Melli, or Melon.)

 

It was so hard to calm down for a moment to get a group photo with the new chalkboard!

The most excited group of kids in Georgia today!

 

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Chalkboard Supra

After school today we celebrated the arrival of the chalkboards! In Georgia, a Supra, or large party with food and drinks, accompanies any celebration you could think of. From weddings and birthdays, to funerals and anniversaries and even anniversaries of funerals! All of my teachers add something to the event, their signatures dish, cups/plates/forks/and napkins, or their homemade kvino (wine).

I invited Kanise and her English co-teacher Lana from the next village over, Cajun who helped me transport the boards, and a special guest: Marina. She is my TLG Regional Representative and if I have any questions or requests she is the woman I call first….which means we’ve spoken on the phone or over email at least once a week since I arrived!

Once we were all there we sat down to eat. As the supra progresses a person (usually a male) called the Tamada is ment to stand and give toast after toast and encourage others to do so. Since the old director, Zuri, was one of the few men present he took this responsibility and kept the party going. He toasted to GreenHeart Travel who provided the money to purchase the boards, the community and teachers who participated to make this project come together, to all who helped locate and transport the boards, as well as toasts to me, my family, my future family, my sister, her future family, the school, the children at the school, and the future children who will come to this school……you get the picture.

Each teacher stood to offer a thank you and say a few special words to me. My co-teacher Tamuna translated for all the English speakers in the room. Then came the moment for my toast. My host mother Nino had arrived (Toma was sick and was taken to town to get medicine today so she was late). So I stood up, took a deep breath and thanked my guests, all the teachers who work so hard, my co-teachers for teaching beside me, Marina who was vital to the project, and of course the woman who made everything possibly by allowing me to live in her home: Nino. I toasted lastly to Toma and all the children in the school who will have more opportunity because of our work. I wiped my tears and went over and gave Nino a very large hug and a tissue because she was a mess just like me. : )

After this Nino went over to the piano and the teachers started singing some Georgian songs. We danced and took photos and finished up eating. Later I sang Jingle Bells for all the teachers while Nino played it on the piano – we had practiced a few times at home – and oh how the teachers loved to hear a song in English!

Once we cleaned up we went into the hallway and opened the box with the chalkboards. We walked one of them up to a classroom and held it on the wall so the teachers could all see what they would look like once they were hanging! The energy was electric – nothing like this has ever happened to this school before and everyone felt honored to be a part of it.

This supra really brought out how much we all love and respect each other. I’ve only been here for 4 short months – but we have become a family. I’ve spent quality time with each of the people at the table – even if we didn’t always understand one another – there is mutual care and pride for the other. I am so proud of Shroma – the teachers and the students. And I am ever so grateful that I was in a position to provide a tangible change that improve this school.

My most special supra table

Yummy desserts for all!

Cajun and his family photos were as big of a hit as the new Chalkboards were!

And the celebration begins!

Inga and Zuri can’t help but dance!

From top left to bottom right: Rusiko, Me, Mzia, Kanise, Lana, and Marina (My TLG Regional Representative)

Bringing the first board out!

Me and Rusiko holding up the first board so everyone can see what it will look like when it’s hanging!!

 

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Update on 5th Grade

When I told my 5th Grade class that they were going to be receiving one of the new Grant Chalkboards – they went wild!!! This is the other class that I provided “Special English Notebooks” and am also working towards an Ice Cream Party if they all continue to try throughout the semester. There are 22 students in this class and at the beginning of the semester – they were uncontrollable.

However, after instilling the rule of putting their thumbs in the air when they are finished with their work or copying from the boards instead of shouting “Mas! Mas!” (Teacher! Teacher!) the class began to calm down and lessons started flowing more smoothly. They have continued to improve and I’m so happy that they will have one of the new chalkboards because theirs is one of the worst I teach with. Hurray 5th Graders!

This was their reaction when I told them they would be getting one of the new Grant Chalkboards!

One of the cutest boys in class, Tornike, and his signature wink!

The 5th Grader’s Special English Notebooks

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Chalkboards in Transit

If you all remember I applied for the GreenHeart Travel grant to purchase new Chalkboards/Whiteboards for my school in Shroma. We were awarded $250 USD which equals about 400 Lari. I found out this week that there was one more place I could check to see if we could buy Chalkboards rather than the more expensive Whiteboards….and come to find out the answer was Yes!

I ordered 4 Chalkboards with the grant money but when we went to pick them up, they came in a bundle of 5….which worked out perfectly because we had extra money from the fundraising for the 6th Grades books and I needed one more anyhow! So, with 5 beautiful Chalkboards we got in a car and drove them to the marshrutka station. We had to wait about half an hour before the Shroma bus arrived and Cajun and Levani loaded them on.

I road with them home, we unloaded them at the house, and on Tuesday we will install them into the classrooms! Hopefully with friends and a local reporter to boot! Stay tuned!

Chalkboards and their proud protector!

And up they gooooo……

Levani safely securing them to the top of the marshrutka for the 2 hour ride home!

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WE DID IT!

Find out how my online community made this possibly: click here!

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Batumi and a Mountain Village

I took the morning marshrutka to Batumi today to do one final search for chalkboards instead of whiteboards. Cajun and Kanise joined me there and showed me the market called Hoppa….and yes indeed: We found chalkboards! I ordered them from Emzari, the owner, who said they’d be there tomorrow. So we all went to meet some of Cajun’s friends for a celebratory drink!

Later, we boarded another marshrutka headed to a village somewhere in the mountains (I can’t remember the name of it). We had been invited to join Peter for his goodbye supra. His village is one of the last few that still have a village chief!?

After a very yummy meal, many laughs with his host family and a few shots of chacha later…we walked down to his school to take a look. Cajun uploaded a language learning program onto the school’s computers and we wondered around for a bit until a neighbor gave us some homemade wine…and at some point we stumbled home and went to bed….thank goodness there are no pictures!

The next morning we made a running dash to catch the one and only marshrutka of the day at 9am and headed back to Batumi. (Everyone surprisingly still in one piece!)

Luka is in my 5th Grade class and makes a killer paper airplane!

My plane looked cool…but was a total dud!

I always stop at this Shwarma place upon arriving and departing Batumi. Like every, single, time. The lady knows me by name and I don’t even live in this city!

Got to play tourist for a bit this weekend… perfect way to spend an afternoon in autumn!

Picturesque right?

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