The other day, while I still had no voice, the director of the school, a wizened slightly angry looking old man, entered the class room where I was politely sitting and the 6-12th grade teacher was teaching and began to have a conversation with her. After class my co-teacher pulled me aside, sat me down in an empty class room and told me that my host mother had contacted to school to say she did not fully understand the contract and would not be able to provide the required two meals a day and asked that I provide my own meals, but that she really wanted me to stay with them. While I was still processing this information, anyone who was an adult in the school at the time began to sympathize with me, offer me their home, and tell me how awful of a situation it was and how very un-Georgian it was. At least I think that is what they were patting me on the head for and murmuring at me.
My host mother does not have a job. Her husband passed away eight years ago. She has two grown children and a six year old son. Honestly, the news was a shock, but it made sense. The biggest contribution to my shock was that my host mother and entire host family had always placed food in front of me and told me “chame” (eat), and I did. It might be important to point out that it is in my contract to provide the host family with monetary compensation for each month I live with them. My host mother was stating that the set amount in the contract would not be enough to fulfill her contractual obligation of electricity, water, and food.
After a bit of deliberation (aka rambling in my raspy whisper to another volunteer in the city as well as informing the program of my situation), I decided I wanted to stay with my host family and I was willing to buy my own food. In fact, the idea began to grow on me. I would have a purpose to venture into the spice market and bargain with vendors about the quality of the spice or how fresh the cucumbers were. My co-teacher had even offered to translate Georgian recipes for me to try. Things were looking good.
The next day at school my host mother, my co-teacher and the director discussed the situation. By discussed I mean my host mother talked to my co-teacher, looked incredibly nervous and did not make eye contact with me. I attempted to send calming, happy, content vibes to her to let her know it was really alright for me to buy my own food. My host mother then left and lessons continued.
After school my co-teacher took me to the vegetable market around the corner, the baker and the goods store. These are all places that I had been with my host family at some point or another, but it was very sweet of my co-teacher to want to help. At each of these places she would explain who I was, the “horrible” situation I was being put in, and who the culprit was. Remember, these are people who know who my host mother is. I felt horrible, but completely unable to communicate that it was fine. I would get to stay with people I liked, be near the school and be in a neighborhood I knew.
I return home with a couple of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, oil and bread. I have no plan as to what I am going to make, but I figure I can piece something together. Upon entering my room, I receive a phone call from the program. They are letting me know that they have spoken with my host mother and that I will be moving as soon as they find a replacement family.
Wait what? Earlier that day we had all agreed I would stay. Somewhere along the lines my host mother decided it would be best for me to be with a “kargi ojakhi” (good family), meaning someone who could afford to feed me twice a day. She was very sure to tell me, through her English-speaking niece and her German-speaking neighbor that it had nothing to do with me as a person. It all had to do with money and her now not feeling like a good enough family.
So now, six days later with no updates as to what was going on, I am moving to a new host family that lives a good distance away from my current school. In the email informing me of this, I was told that the new host family and TLG thought I should switch to a closer school. As firmly and politely as possible, I responded that I would not change schools and that public transportation was not an issue for me. They conceded. I get to stay at school #5!!
Getting to stay at my current school is not only less stressful for me, but it also means I will be able to easily visit my soon-to-be-old host family after school sometimes. I do still want to see them.
My next post will be an update as to my new living situation. As annoying it is to have to readjust to everything about my home life, at this point, it will be good to be slightly removed from the drama that ensued from this odd situation.