Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Maka the Dog


My time is almost up here in old Sakartvelo. In six weeks I’ll be headed home. To be more precise, I will be departing in exactly 886 hours. But who’s counting?

The vast majority of my students have ceased doing their homework or class work, but continue to attend the lessons. Summeritis is upon us all. So school drags on, but the last day of school is fast approaching. Only 8 more school days to go...

While it’s probably a little premature, I recently cleaned out my room, sorting through the heaps of paper and mess strewn about. During the cleaning I came across piles of notebooks from my first six-months in my village. They were filled with the notes of all the projects I’d hoped to work on for my school and community.

Inside were surveys of local needs, strategic plans, project outlines, and notes from meetings with Jeff, the other volunteer in my area. Inside were the details of the Youth Activity Center we’d hoped to start. There was our research on how we could bring an Internet café to the area and for a girls’ basketball league. There were our notes on starting a local NGO and on a regional wine festival. There were lists of after-school activities and clubs, and numerous other ideas that never came to be. And not from a lack of trying.

I think sometime down the road I’ll look back on my time here and I’ll see that I’ve accomplished more than what it seems like now. Still, when you’re tossing out piles of English tests in which many of the students did little more than sign their name in Georgian... well it can feel a little discouraging.

So with all this weighing on my mind, I met up with some fellow volunteers for a BBQ at the river near my house. In addition to grilling up kebabs we also used the open flame to help us make a break with some of the bad memories from our time here. Each of us brought three items to burn. I brought one my student’s tests, some pages for a textbook we tried to write, and a notebook full of Jeff and my plans for improving out community.


The purpose of this pyre was to put these disappointments behind us, but while it felt good to burn them it didn’t necessarily make me feel better about what I’ve accomplished here. So when the BBQ was over and we walked back to Jeff’s house I still felt low. Along the way we came across a street dog nursing it’s three puppies and we stopped to pet it. As the puppies crawled over our feet Paige and I each decided simultaneously we needed to take one back to America.


I know I said “No more dogs in Georgia.” I know that. But we had to take this one. We have no idea what breed she is, but she’s friendly, adventurous, and despite the worms and fleas, she’s a delight to be around.


So this is going to be my legacy. For two years I struggled to improve my school and my community. But the one tangible legacy I’m going to leave behind is that I rescued one dingy puppy from a life on the streets of Bagdati to take back to America and feed it puppy chow and keep it free of fleas and ticks and mange. This is our legacy—Maka the puppy.


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