I am moving to Georgia in three weeks, to work as a Fulbright Scholar until June. When I tell many friends in New England this, some ask if I can handle the heat that is so prevalent in the South. I quickly explain "No... I'm going to the country of Georgia." They look relieved and then tell me that I should find some shade from the trees in the rural parts of Georgia. They still think I am doing a Fulbright in the state of Georgia. Is it that the state of Georgia seems as foreign to some New Englanders as a distant country? I then add "the Republic of Georgia," to which they often reply "Oh, Russia!" They then tell me to dress warmly. For some of them, kidding aside, I need to let them know that I will be living just north of Turkey, not in Siberia.
To be honest, when I was looking at countries where I would like to be a scholar, I had my atlas handy. I wanted to work in a country that had a relatively new democracy. I presented a paper at an international conference in Latvia a few years prior to applying for the Fulbright, and this experience prodded my curiosity about countries that were emerging democracies, but were former members of the Soviet Union. I selected Georgia as my first choice and was delighted to learn that I was accepted.
In the months following notification of this award, I have been learning more about Georgia, through books, the Internet, and from people who are more familiar with the country. My piano teacher visited Georgia three times with his chamber ensemble. In addition to filling me in on many practical details, he extolled the wonderful wine produced in this country, considered to be the birthplace of wine. A colleague at my college has visited Georgia a few times because her parents had lived over there for a short period. She reaffirmed what I read about the people of Georgia; they are warm, welcoming, and delightful hosts. Personnel associated with the Fulbright program and members of the Embassy have provided multiple opportunities to talk, email, and have questions answered about this experience. Despite all this preparatory work, I find myself awakening at two thirty in the morning, worrying and wondering if I have everything in place for this experience. Textbooks have been sent over -check; prescriptions for six months packed - check; cord adapters are packed - etc. I remind myself that this is normal for me before I leave on any trip. It has only been in the last ten years that I have started traveling overseas (when I was first married, I had never traveled further south than Connecticut). Since my first trip to Ireland with my husband, achieved by five years of saving pocket change in a big jar, I have traveled to many countries in Europe, and have visited South Africa as well. The trips are always accompanied a few weeks earlier with the 'two in the morning' jitters. I just consider them to be a normal part of the preparation process.
I find it is wise to remind myself that in three weeks, I will be in Telavi, in the heart of the wine region, nestled in a valley near the Caucasus Mountains. I will be working with a wonderful faculty member at the university, who has helped reassure me via email. I know a handful of Georgian words, and half their alphabet, but I am told I can teach at the university in English. I can learn more of the language when I am there. This is going to be an incredible adventure.
From now until the middle of the middle of June, I will be blogging about my time in Georgia. The material I write will not represent the views or beliefs of the Fulbright Organization, but will be an opportunity to describe some of my own personal travel experiences and insights. By the time I post the next blog, I will have many of the "what ifs" addressed, and can let you in on some of the adventure. But for now, I'm off to that packing list...