I have about 3 1/2 weeks left here in the Republic of Georgia. When I’m finished, it will have been 15 weeks since I left America, Land of Safety. Just kidding! But really, being here makes me love my country even more for the little things.
1. No hot water.
Being able to take a shower every day is a luxury. Normally, you turn on the water and hot water comes pouring out almost right away. Here, I wait several minutes (however long I feel like waiting) for the hot water to come. If it doesn’t, I have an internal debate: how desperate and/or dirty am I that I would take a shower in freezing cold water? And, also, how clean can one person get by showering in cold water?
2. Being cold. All. The. Time.
You’re either freezing or baking (hello, Africa), but here I am pretty much cold all the time, even with several layers of clothes on. There’s no “Oh, I’ll just break out the electric blanket,” or “Let’s turn the heater on tonight, honey.” Nope. Unless you want to be stoking a fire all throughout the night, you will wear layers to bed and burrow under the blankets like you’re hibernating for the winter.
3. Minimal shoe options.What the hell was I thinking when I only packed three pairs of “shoes”? I brought one pair of sandals, one pair of ballet flats, and one pair of “trainers” (which is what they call tennis shoes here because they’re learning clothing terms from a book written by a British person). My flats are falling apart from walking to school in dirt, dust, rocks and mud, and it’s not even possible to wear my sandals without further proving my point of #2. I miss my riding boots! I miss my leather boots! I miss the other pair of flats I have that are 1) much sturdier and 2) would keep my feet warmer than the ones I currently have. Note to self: bring more shoes next travel trip.
4. Minimal clothing options.
Yes, sheer blue shirt that looks good with everything, I love you, but wearing you more than once a week is making the sight of you in the early morning a nightmare. And I’m certainly not adequately packed to deal with temperatures that are neither freezing or hot. I only brought my heavy rain coat, two blazers (which could function as “coats” but were fired from that job long ago), a cozy cardigan with a hood, and a wool sweater. While some of them would be fine wearing in America at whatever time/occasion you want, here it won’t fly. There are expectations that you always look good and wear your best. Not that you just roll out of bed and put on whatever is clean and will “function.”
5. Poor Internet connection.
Skyping is a luxury for some… at least, Skyping whenever you want is. But Skyping when the Internet flat-out sucks and the person on the other end is a blurry blob? Awkward. And what about when you can see the other person but they can’t see you? Or when their screen freezes at a point where you moved your face in a way that was totally unflattering?
6. No water pressure.
When you have thick hair, this is a problem. The water just trickling out means you have to stand there longer waiting to be thoroughly wet before even thinking about adding shampoo. Then it’s a race to scrub all the bubbles away before the *dun dun dun* cold water comes back to say “time’s up!” You never know how fast you can move until you’re stuck under a stream of cold water and your hair and body are still covered in soap.
7. No sidewalks.
“Oh, you don’t really need those pathways along the streets and roads that keep you safe, do you?” This is what I imagine the country of Georgia saying to me as I stumble along the cracks and crevices of falling down chunks of cement. If I’m in tennis shoes, okay, I’ll survive. In flats, this is a problem. I guess if I’m forced between walking in the middle of the road and jumping quickly to the side every time a car is speeding at me or walking on a destroyed “sidewalk,” I know what I have to do.
8. No heating in the school.
Most parents don’t have to send their child off to school worrying they’ll be cold and wondering if that winter coat/hat they’re wearing is enough. The school I’m working in is 150 years old and renovations in schools across the country are not only slow to come, they’re also not guaranteed. I’m not exactly sure how much it is to have your school renovated here, but let me just say we’re lucky if even a few of the classrooms have heating. We might as well have class outside because it’s the same 40-degree temps inside! Granted, the kids aren’t in school too long, but I think we all know how hard it is to focus on work when we’re freezing.
9. Questionable water.
Ohh yes, I can’t even count on both hands the number of times I’ve had problems because of the water. You either have a well here or you buy bottled water. And while many Americans already do buy bottled water, I can just picture the upset it would cause if every family had to haul buckets to their local well faucet to fill them up and carry them back to their house.
10. The students don’t have school supplies.In America, the students 98% of the time come to class with their materials. They just won’t do the work sometimes. Here, the students come to class with or without and I have a feeling that those who skip, do so because they aren’t prepared for class. It could be something as simple as not having a pencil and they will feel too ashamed to step into class. If a student does come to class without their materials, they just sit there. The teacher doesn’t usually give them an extra pencil or piece of paper. It’s only when the student is called out for not having their supplies that some other students will volunteer to share a pencil.
I’m sure I’ll think of more later. If anything, being here has made me rethink everything I once complained about! And a late precaution I’ll insert here: I realize everything I’ve listed might not really be a “problem” for those in third world countries. We are dealt the hand we have and it’s up to us to make do or learn how to make it easier. And for the people in these countries, they don’t really know any different. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely a bad thing when they know what the rest of the world has compared to them.