…and why I love it.
Tuesday morning. I wake up in yesterdays clothes because it is too cold to take off any layers before sleeping–undershirt, dress shirt, sweater that hasn’t been washed since arriving because I don’t have enough sweaters to afford letting it air dry for five days, and jeans I have been wearing for a week. It’s a frost on your skin kind of morning. I look in the mirror and think, “well, these’ll do again for the day,” and I walk out the door, faithful briefcase from goodwill in the states slung across my back.
I set off on my dirt path to school. Instead of just droppings lying across my way, the heard of cows is lying across my path this morning. I have to climb up the hill through the brush to continue forward. The nieghborhood’s stray dogs bark and follow me to school as I pass my children shouting “Hello Mr. Cass!!!” and enter the school.
After first period, a teacher comes up to me and asks if I’m staying after school for the party. “What party?” She didn’t know, but she told me there would be cake, so I had to stay. I wasn’t quite in the mood, seeing as I had a private tutoring lesson in the evening, so I gave her the typical Georgian line “oh I am so sorry, but I cannot tonight. I have business.” The teacher was distraught. She ran off to another group of teachers, animatedly chatted, and in a few minutes my English coteacher Natia came over to me and handed me a cup of sugary, sugary instant coffee, in one of the three communal cups we all use for water and coffee and never wash. “Cass, you must stay for the party. We’re having cake!” “Natia, what is it even a party for?” “Umm, I don’t know.” The bell rings, and we go to class.
After a great class of “What is it? Is it a boat? Nooooooo. It isnut (Georgian pronunciation of “isn’t”) e boat. Itz e doll,” I head back to the teachers’ lounge. One of our Georgian teachers confronts me. “Cass, you must stay for the party, even for a short time.” “What is it a party for Manana?” “For grandchild.” “Oh! Does someone have a new grandchild?” “No.”
After third period, I get shepherded into the assistant director’s room. There are the sad remains of a torte and champagne. Natia and I sit down to enjoy our compulsory share and give toasts to our fellow teachers. Ok, so I’m happy because I’ve satisfied my obligation and my teachers are happy that I’ve eaten the cake with them. I go, teach my remaining two lessons, and get ready to leave the school.
After the last lesson, a teacher grabs me and says “let’s go to the party!” “I’ve already had some of the cake, I really can’t eat anymore,” I excuse myself. “No, no. There is a different cake.” I’m really confused, and she leads me to a room I have never been in before, our school’s biology room, strewn with plants, anatomical dummies, and student-made posters dedicated to motherhood. The beginnings of a supra are laid, and I am told the cake and chicken are coming. Here I at last find out that we are having a party for the grandmothers in our staff in general. The teachers wanted to have a party, so their planning went something like this; We should have a party! Ok, what for? I don’t know, what to we all have in common? Well…we’re all grandmothers, aren’t we? Yeah! Let’s have a party in honor of our grandmothers and grandchildren! Great! I’ll bring the cake tomorrow!
And so we had a party.
Natia jokingly said, “Cass, we should call it the ‘Grand Party’.” I loved it, and so wrote it around the beautiful flower drawn on the board. I open the champagne for the teachers (a strange simple secret delight of mine, along with pouring liquids from great heights and having milk-crate bookshelves) as the teachers shout with each pop ‘vaiiime!’ The only other male classroom teacher in the school (besides the two athletic teachers) pours me some of his homemade cognac after the champagne runs out. Rough stuff. The mandatorebi, our school’s security, and the directors stop by and make toasts. Up till this point, I had not had much communication with many of the teachers. I give stumbling toasts in Georgian, and since then they love me even more. Especially the other male teacher, who didn’t talk to me much before the party.
The cake comes, we eat, we drink from not enough plastic cups, passing them back and forth with each other, and then separate for the day. I call and cancel my private lesson for the day.
The dogs chase me back home. I am sincere when I say I could not love my work and fellow teachers any more than I do.