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.