THE BLOG
02/23/2013 10:49 am ET Updated Apr 25, 2013

Telavi, Georgia's Stunningly Good Shopping

I feel a bit awkward asking this extremely busy woman to help me, but she is incredibly gracious and willing. We walk down to the center of the city where there are clearly no Sprint Store signs. She stops in a very small store without any identifying signs on the window, at least none that I could recognize. Two women are sitting in the back, and she speaks to them. One woman pushes forward two Xeroxed sheets with long lists of numbers, some of which are crossed off in ink. My colleague tells me to pick two numbers.

I am feeling uncomfortable again, thinking "between one and ten?" My friend sees the look of confusion on my face, and tells me that these are phone numbers from which I can choose.

The next hurdle is determining how many lari, the Georgian form of currency, I should put on a Sim card. Thank heavens my colleague is patient with me. She not only helps with Sim card purchases, but then demonstrates how to use what looks like ATM machines dotting the city, with the word "Pay Box"" written on them. Here, I can add more lari to my phone account, as well as pay my gas and electric bills as needed.

Next, we head down to the bazaar to find reasonably priced cell-phones. My colleague has several small stores in mind, six by six foot rooms with sliding windows facing the street in which their phone selection is displayed. Some children approach, asking for a coin or two. I am uncomfortable in not knowing how to respond to this, so I follow my colleague's lead. "Ara." I repeat the Georgian word for no, but I still feel uncomfortable with this response.

Vendors line the side of the street next to large duffel bags of shoes and clothing. Beautiful wedges of goat cheese, carrots, onions, beans and fresh parsley are displayed by men and women bordering the edge of the sidewalk. After checking for cell phones in several small kiosks and one more formal famous brand store, we return to one small store, wherein the young man programs our cell-phones. Success has been achieved, but it has been a godsend to have my dear colleague helping me.

I cannot help but think how these experiences have given me more insight into the difficulties that our immigrant students and parents may encounter when first arriving in our country. What we may consider mundane or just common sense can be very confusing to someone not accustomed to our culture or experiencing a language barrier. On the other hand, things that we see as every day occurrences may be seen with awe or with a deep appreciation of beauty by those new to a country. By providing our new students and their parents with our patience and understanding, and by allowing them the time to absorb all the rich sensory bombardment of a new environment, we not only help them adjust, but we also may be provided with new insights as well.

I know that my trip through a bustling outdoor bazaar situated on a bumpy sidewalk filled with potholes, with the air richly scented with herbs and cheese, provided me with much more than a new cell-phone. It gave me new insights into the workings of Georgian culture, a nice walk on what would be considered spring-like weather by this New Englander, gratitude for the invaluable help of my colleague, and appreciation of the beauty of the colorful, lively environment that will be my new grocery store.

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