Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The 8th Graders of Akhaltsikhe

We took portraits and recorded video of the 8th Graders of Akhaltsikhe. In the portraits, the students showed off an item that had personal significance to them. Students then wrote a short reflection in English and in Georgian. We then recorded them reading their reflection in English. This can be seen at the end of the slide show.

Students in Milton, Vermont did a similar project and then were asked to find similarities and differences between themselves and the students from Akhaltsikhe. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Final Reflection

I am not sure I even know where to begin on my final reflection. I have been putting it off for over a week and I would be remiss if I did not complete it. This trip has forever changed me. It was my first time in over 20 years, where I was alone and the only two labels I initially carried were "Joe" and "teacher from Vermont." It was also the first time visiting a country where I did not know the language. Thanks to my travel cohort of 11 other teachers and the leadership of IREX's Claire Breedlove, this trip was wildly successful. It showed me how to do international travel. I am now ready and I have the confidence to travel to new places on my own and/or with my family and friends.

I lived in the moment. During my entire time that I was away, I lived in the moment. I appreciated and took advantage of all the situations that were presented to me. I tried to take in all of the sights, sounds, and smells. I was able to ignore the minutia of life and just appreciate the world. Now that I am back home, I am working on living in the moment.

I can get by with a simple "Hello" and "Thank You." I did not learn as much Georgian as I would have liked but learning these two words showed my appreciation of their culture. People were more than willing to help me out when I made the attempt to speak their language.

I am very lucky to speak English. Regardless of where I was, there was always someone around who spoke English.

Only knowing one language made me feel stupid. In my travels, I came across many people who spoke more than one language and some that were able to speak four or five languages. I wish that learning language was more of a priority in this country.

Teachers in Georgia complain about the same things that teachers in the United States complain about: lack of resources, not enough time, not enough pay, not enough time, poor parenting, etc. At the end of the day, all teachers still go to work and care deeply about their students.

Good teaching is good teaching. While I was in Georgia I saw schools that had limited resources, but I also saw some amazing teachers doing the best with what they do have.

Georgia had beautiful nature and history. There was something amazingly peaceful seeing churches and castles that were over 2000 years old. The nature of Georgia is absolutely gorgeous. I would go back to Georgia just go hiking/camping in Borjomi National Park.

I love visiting cities, but nature is much more relaxing and spiritual.

Athens, Greece was a nice stop on the way home. Seeing the Parthenon, watching the sunset, and visiting the ocean had a magic all its own. There is something special about walking the streets where there is over 2000 years of well documented history.

While traveling, I found that blogging and emailing my family, was very therapeutic. It helped frame my thoughts and gave me a sense of where I came from. I am very appreciative that this blog will serve as digital scrapbook of my experience.

I will travel internationally again both for pleasure and for work. Some possible destinations: Iceland, Finland, Spain, Peru (Machu Picchu), and of course I will take advantage of opportunities that will send me to some place new.

Where the Heck is TGC Georgia Cohort

 Dancing is universal and brings out the best in people.

This video was put together by Walt Davis, a teacher from South Carolina. He was inspired by the Where the Hell is Matt video. I helped film in Akhaltsikhe, Tblisi, and Milton.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Milton Bear at the Parthenon.
Milton Bear at the Aegean Sea. 
After skiing, Megan and I traveled to Athens to visit the birthplace of democracy and the ancient Greek ruins. After catching a 5:15 a.m. flight, we checking into our hotel room at 9:00 a.m. and found a breakfast. We then proceed to walk 38,000 steps around the city of Athens. We first visited the Botanical Gardens and sat on ancient ruins, looked at birds, and saw many spring flowers. We then visited the monuments of Zeus the Olympian, where we met up with TGC fellows, Walt and Renee. We visited the Planko where there are many stores and shops on small city streets in between ancient Greek remains. We then all went up to Mount Lycabettus and watch the sunset over Athens.

On the following morning, we got up early and went to the Acropolis. We were one of the first people at the Parthenon. It was great to be up there and just stand in awe at this great feat in human engineering. I am amazed the humans were able to erect this massive monument over 2000 years ago. After the Parthenonon we visited the Acropolis museum. Afterward we went back our hotel and took a tram to see the Aegean Sea. We put our feet in the water and enjoyed the peacefulness of the ocean. 

Greek guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Check out their shoes.

From another building at the Acropolis.

This church has a building built around it.

Me sitting on top of some ruins. 
Zeus the Olympian Monument.
Megan and I at the Acropolis. Her and I together we able to easily navigate the city. No one of us was as smart as both of us.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Greek.

Skiing in Gudauri

I traveled with my fellow TGC Fellow, Megan, to Gudauri Ski area in the upper Caucuses Mountains. It was a nice trip up to the mountain and we were hoping to ski for two days. On the first day, the power went out at 8:15 and was off until 12:15. It was a bit of a disappointment because we could not get on the slopes right away. However, we made the best of the situation playing backgammon and Monopoly.  Once the power came back on we jumped up rented skis and began skiing. We took the gondola and when we got out we could not see a thing. We were in the middle of a cloud. Since we were above the tree line, we could not even find the trail, so we followed a group of skiers and we found the trail. We figured out that the trails were marked by poles and that we needed to ski between them. 

Despite skiing in the clouds for two days and not being able to get to the top because of the poor visibility. I am still happy to say I skied in the Caucuses Mountains. 

Ski Map
Sunrise from my hotel room window.

View going up the gondola.

Me and the Snow Cat.

Mother Georgia

Before heading to Guduari, Milton Bear visits Mother Georgia. She hold a bowl is for welcoming guests and the sword is for turning away enemies.

View from Mother Georgia.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Last Day as Part of Teachers for a Global Classroom

Today is the last day for the Teachers for a Global Classroom. I will be extending my stay in Georgia to ski at Gudauri ski area in the great Caucasus mountain range. I will be skiing above the tree line the base of the mountain is at 8000 feet and the summit is at 10,000 feet. I will then be heading to Greece on Monday and returning to Vermont on Wednesday night.

I will try to do a quick blog from Gudauri and Athens. I hope to do a final reflection when I have sometime to reflect on this awesome experience.

Today we just did a quick debrief and visited a couple of churches. 

Svetitskhoveli Church - The story is that the Shroud of Jesus is buried in the church with the person who brought it form Jerusalem. This church was built in the 5th century around a wooden church that was built in the 4th century.

In the background is another church, Jvari, that we visited on top of the mountain. I am in awe that they were able to build these churches without any modern equipment.

The River Mtkvari (left) flows from Turkey to the Caspian Sea. The Silk Road followed this river. The River Aragvi (right) flows from the Caucusus Mountains into Mtkvari.