American Saqartvelo

Hey everyone! I’m stateside, now, and already missing Georgia like crazy. It’s odd to think that I can’t just hop in a marshrutka and go to Tbilisi for the low, low price of 6 lari anymore. It’s weird to think that I’m not going to go to school (once it starts up in a couple of weeks) and be bombarded with cries of “HelloAmyMas’Howareyou?”, said all in one breath, while a horde of kids runs by at a hundred miles an hour.

It’s weird to be warm inside all the time. It’s strange to not be called some version of Emma or Emiko every day. It’s odd to be living in the land of ice, snow, and flat, flat land. Going to Target and the grocery store are still overwhelming for me. (Reverse culture shock Experience #1: The first time I set foot in a grocery store, a few days after returning to the States, I got to the cereal aisle and just sort of… stopped. There were, like, thousands of boxes of cereal there.) Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s nice to be back. I just will always be a little bit homesick for Saqartvelo.

I did, however, get a pleasant surprise upon deciding to move to Iowa City. (It’s the home of the University of Iowa, which, in addition to having the best M.F.A. in creative writing in the world, has an M.F.A. program in literary translationAnd that is what I’m applying to, after I get residency.) I was looking at photos of rental properties online, and happened on one that had a Georgian flag hanging on the living room wall. Obviously, I contacted them. Turns out that there are ten Georgian families living in this area, aaaand that I now have a Georgian landlord. He and his family have been just as hospitable and welcoming as any Georgians I’ve met in the past year. (They even invited me to their New Years’ celebration, without ever having met me!)

So, here I am, jobless (though I have prospects!), but happy. I’ve been working on some translations, a ton of writing (…like everyone else in this town, haha), and generally getting settled. Life is great. If you’re in the Iowa City area, look me up! Also, I’ll be returning to my other blog, Barbaric Yawpings, which I promise is going to be all sorts of awesome and wonderful and stuff.

Packing, UGH

You guys.

Packing is the worst thing.

I somehow have ten pairs of shoes to bring back. Ten. How… I don’t… I… I did not have this many shoes when I came to Georgia. (In my defense, one pair is Mummy’s.)

A panduri, which is a Georgian lute, basically, is also making its home in my suitcase for the trek back. It takes up way too much room, but, it’s worth it.

Luckily, I’m a very small person, and it will be cold when I get to Chicago. This means I get to wear as many layers on the plane as I can put on. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I’m also stuffing both my carry-on and laptop bag with clothes and shoes.

I have spent enough time today packing. That will be tomorrow’s project, I think. …I think. Packing is never something I look forward to. Ugh.


I have three days left of school, which… is crazy. Very crazy. Today, I said goodbye to my sixth-graders, whom I’ve had for both semesters I’ve been in Georgia. Their response to my leaving was considerably cooler than I had anticipated. But, oh well. The primary grades were quite upset that I was going back to America, so they make up for the older kids. My first graders showered me in love notes yesterday, which was awesome, and also bittersweet. I’ll try to get photos up sometime. (I keep saying that, I know, I know!)

It’s time to get some sleep. Or to read. Probably the latter. I’m also watching a really great made-for-HBO movie about Hemingway. It involves all of my favorite things: Hemingway, the late 1930s, and Tony Shaloub with a terrible Russian accent working for the KGB.


Namaste, everyone. I’ll see you in the U.S. soon!

I’m almost home!

It’s so hard to believe it, but I’m leaving Georgia in eleven days. Well. Fewer than then. Exactly eleven days from now, I will be sitting on a plane en route to Chicago. (Let’s hope there are no weather delays or cancellations… but, if there are, I’ll at least have company in the airport and on the plane!)

I’m in the process of writing a list of the things I’ll miss, and the things I won’t. So, this is to inform you all, dear readers, of my future plans.

After I return to the US on the 20th, I’ll be spending the holidays with family and friends, and then having job interviews (yay!) in the Iowa City, Iowa area. A few friends have been gracious enough to give up their couches for me to sleep on until I have a stable income and apartment (you guys are amazing, and I love you so, so much). I hope to be settled

So! Why am I moving to IC? (Other than for its wildly inappropriate nickname, which I won’t mention here?) Because it’s awesome, and probably my favorite city in all of Iowa, after Decorah. It’s the home of the University of Iowa, which is, in turn, the home of the best writing program in the country—and possibly the world. I’m applying to their program in literary translation, however. And maybe to the Writers’ Workshop, we’ll see. But, that’s not for a few years, yet! Iowa City’s the cultural capital of the Midwest, in my opinion. Or at least of Iowa. My dear father refers to it as The People’s Republic of Iowa City. I’m okay with this. Also, there are probably more writers per capita in Iowa City than there are in New York. (Actually, I’m pretty sure I just made that up. But it’s a definite possibility.) Anyway, it’s awesome, and you should come visit me.

My short-term plans, though, are that I’m going to work… somewhere… to earn enough to pay off my student loans, and also work on my portfolio. My sister and I will be traveling through Europe over the summer (provided we can afford it!), and plan to visit Georgia again. Also, I know I’ve mentioned before that Malmo University in Sweden has an online Caucasus Studies course that I’ll probably take, eventually. I’m going to be fluent in Georgian at some point in my life. That’s for sure. (Though when that will be, who knows?! Ha, ha.) Ideally, I’d like to be a Georgian translator. But, if that falls through, I’ll do Russian translation.

My host sister is applying to be an exchange student in the US next school year, and she finds out in April if she’ll be going or not. (!) Also, my host cousin, Gio, is applying for a grant to finish his undergraduate university study (three years) in the US. Keep them in your thoughts; it would be wonderful for both of them! While it’s doubtful either of them will be near me (Gio will be at least six hours away, in Kansas, and Nuca doesn’t know yet), it’ll still be far easier for us to see each other on holidays and things.

I have lots and lots of other plans for my future, but I’ve learned it’s best to not rely on those plans. For instance, if you had asked me five years ago where I’d be in five years, I would have replied that I’d be in graduate school for clinical psychology, preferably in the Chicago or Seattle area. My then-boyfriend and I would have been engaged or married, too. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I’d be in Georgia! (Or that anything else in my life would have happened, for that matter.) And, it’s definitely been worth it. I’m so, so blessed to have had such a wonderful year. It’s had its ups and downs, as everything does. There were a few rough patches emotionally, and I’ve never been sicker here than I have in the U.S. But, if I could go back and change things, I doubt if I would.

Anyway, I’m going to stop getting sappy, and get back to my work. I should test-pack, just to see if everything will fit in my suitcase. But. Augh. Listening to Christmas music and reading about Anna Akhmatova is just so much more appealing…!

Happy holidays, everyone. Love and peace to you all.

What I’m Looking Forward To…

It’s, somehow, already December 2nd. It’s astonishing. But, that means that 18 days from now, I’ll be landing in Chicago, home for Christmas and getting ready for my new life! (I’ll write more about that later.)

There have been a ton of things I’ve been craving and missing from the U.S. in the past year. I actually started writing a song, to the tune of My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music, about it. A short list of what I’m looking forward to:

– seeing my family and friends, obviously. We have lots to catch up on, guys.

– going to the grocery store. I love grocery shopping. Especially at my local co-op and farmers’ market. I’m moving to a different town, but I’m told on good authority that the co-op there is just as good.

– singing in choir. Oh man, I miss singing.

– playing the organ again (it doesn’t really exist here, as Georgia is an Orthodox country and thus, church music is a capella). I’ve studied it for… seven years?

– also, my piano. I miss my piano so, so much. Unfortunately, I need to buy a new, smaller one, until I have a house of my own.

– good, strong, drip-brewed coffee and warm cafes where I can sit all day and eat scones and pretend like I’m writing things. First thing I’m getting: a white chocolate peppermint mocha from Starbucks. MMMMMMMMM.

– my libraries, both personal and public.

– listening to National Public Radio and Classical Minnesota Public Radio all the time. I miss my Sunday morning making and eating brunch while listening to On Being and Prairie Home Companion routine.

– taking long walks at night under the stars.

– hot, daily showers. (I’m spoiled, I know. But I just, …you know.)

– driving. I love driving. It is definitely one of the things I miss the most.

– snow and ice and frost-covered trees. I’m going to be severely disappointed if there’s no snow on the ground when I get to my parents’ house.

– throwing dinner parties for friends, new and old.

– going to the theatre and to the opera and to symphony and choir concerts.

– Oreos.  The only junk food I like. Oh, and candy corn.

– Mexican and Chinese and sushi and the best hamburgers in the state.

– having my own tiny apartment all of my own.


Oh man, folks, there’s drama here. Because there’s a new administration in office in Georgia, and Teach and Learn with Georgia is a government program, there will be substantial changes in the future. Anyone wishing to stay with the program past December (including those who initially signed a year long Sept.–June contract and those who asked to renew their expiring one) has been reviewed by their host school and TLG personnel, and some current volunteers haven’t been asked to stay.

…a few people are angry about this.

Today, I (as well as the rest of the company blog staff) received a copy of an email exchange from one such volunteer with TLG staff. Unfortunately, it would be frowned upon—and a probable breach of my contract—if I shared the content of this e-mail and my opinion about it at this point in time.

But, I do have opinions. Stay tuned in January when I share them! (Man, I’m sort of glad my contract expires in December. All of these changes are a lot to keep straight.)

Be well, everyone, and namaste.

Things I’m thankful for.

Thanksgiving has always been my second-favorite holiday (the entire Christmas—Juletide, according to my dear alma mater—season comes in first), and every year, cliche as it is, I make a list of all the things I’m thankful for. I really ought to be thankful for these things on a daily basis, but. This is the short list. Get ready for pure, gooey, absolute cheesiness.

So. This year, I am thankful for:

– my wonderful American family, my wonderful Georgian family, and all of my wonderful friends here, there, and everywhere. You’re all so loving and supportive, and not a day goes by where I don’t know what I’d do without all of you. I love you all so much. I really don’t deserve you.

– having had such an excellent, formative year in Georgia. I left college not quite knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and now I have so many more ideas and plans and dreams and opportunities. Life’s good.

– the Luther commuuuuuuunity. (Inside joke: I definitely did the hand actions there, for anyone interested.) But, seriously. Soli Deo Gloria.

– books and words and literature. Besides being my livelihood, they’re my entertainment and escape from real life.

– that I have access to a piano. Even if it is tuned half a step lower than I’m used to, which drives me absolutely crazy.

– ample time to read and write and translate and study.

– My 40-minute walk home from school each day. It’s my thinking time. I don’t care if people think I’m crazy; I like it. :)

– that I get to wake up every morning and look at the Caucasus mountains draped in clouds. They never get old.

– central heating and air. This doesn’t need any elaboration.

– having a U.S. passport. (Seriously. It makes life way easier sometimes. I never thought it would be something I would be thankful for.)


Winter is coming…

Hey all!

I’m sorry I haven’t written in forever. (And I’m sorry I keep prefacing blog posts with that…!) I would blame it on my horribly busy life, but that would be a major lie. Life has been pretty mundane. Autumn and early winter here consists of a lot of rain and fog, which is perfect weather for staying inside curled up with a book. (Or attempting to write a book. I’m doing National Novel Writing Month this year, or so I like to think. I’m atrociously behind, and currently blocked like it’s nobody’s business. Bah. But, I have a lot of good material so far, to work with in the future. So that’s good!) So, without further ado, a life update.

School is going well! I can do the alphabet rap from our first-grade textbooks like it’s nobody’s business. And I can do it in Georgian, too! (“A, apple. B, bag. C, cat. D, dog.”) I don’t teach any 5th grade, which is a little sad, but that’s the way scheduling worked out. Man, I’m going to miss these kids. Won’t miss the nearly getting run over by kids racing down the halls during every break, though. (Sometimes I actually worry for my safety. It’s like driving in a big city… without tolls or stoplights or anything at all. Fun, though!)

Mummy was here for the first part of October, which was lovely. :)

I learned to make churchkhela, which is one of my favorite Georgian snacks. It’s a string of nuts dipped into grape juice (thickened with flour) and dried/cured for a few months. You can read more about it here! Related: Apparently, I’m the TLG Blog’s resident foodie. I guess I write about Georgian food a lot. And, shameless plug, while you’re on the TLG blog, read more! We have lots of great writers.

My host sister, N., is applying to be a high school exchange student in the U.S., and made it to the semi-final round. (Yay! :D ) So, we’ve been working a lot on writing essays, interviewing, and so on. She won’t know whether she got into the program or not until sometime around late March or early April, which is semi-frustrating. On the plus side, I’ve become familiar with the program, and am going to find ways to volunteer when I’m back in the U.S.! Yay!

A word of advice: be careful when eating mushrooms. (Or any strange food, for that matter.) I love mushrooms, but, it’ll be awhile before I eat them again. My host family says it’s because I have a weak stomach; I attribute it to not having a tolerance for Georgian mushrooms………………. And that’s all I have to say about that.

It’s fewer than six weeks until Christmas, which means I get to listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies to my heart’s content! My personal rule is that the holiday season (or Juletide, as my dear alma mater calls it… we’re Norwegian to the core) goes from All Saint’s Day until Epiphany. 1 November to 6 January. It doesn’t feel like the holidays here, though, without snow and sugary pop Christmas songs playing everywhere and crazy Black Friday commercials blaring on the TV and peppermint mochas. (First thing I’m buying, when I get back to the U.S. Or anywhere with a Starbucks. A peppermint mocha. Yum. I want one so bad.) Here, it’s still in the late teens/early 20s (Celsius, of course), albeit foggy and rainy and almost bleak. It’s still warm enough to wear only a sweater and light jacket. I wear wool socks and layers of sweaters out of habit, haha. This is my favorite weather, though. I love winter, when everything is still and sleeping. All we need is some snow.

I have my plane tickets back to the U.S., and I’ll be home just in time for Christmas. It’s crazy to think the year’s nearly over… But it’ll be nice to be home for the holidays. (I’ve been getting homesick lately, as some of you know. Which is weird… I never get homesick. First time for everything, I guess!) I’ve started saying goodbye to friends here that I realized I might not see again for years, even decades. I’m gonna be a bawling mess at the airport…

IIIII should wrap this up and finish my book! (If you haven’t read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, do. It’s excellent. And it won a Pulitzer, so there’s that.)

Be well everyone; namaste.