Saturday, November 26, 2011

Going to the Country, Blank Slates, and Work

Sunset off of Bishte Pauli (Paul's Tail) on the Adriatik

An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.

The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparage the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.

'I would not change my way of life for yours,' said she. We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do but though you often earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb, "Loss and gain are brothers twain." It often happens that people who are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is safer. Though a peasant's life is not a fat one, it is a long one. We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat.'

The elder sister said sneeringly:

'Enough? Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves! What do you know of elegance or manners! However much your goodman may slave, you will die as you are living -- on a dung heap -- and your children the same.'

'Well, what of that?' replied the younger. 'Of course our work is rough and coarse. But, on the other hand, it is sure; and we need not bow to any one. But you, in your towns, are surrounded by temptations; to-day all may be right, but to-morrow the Evil One may tempt your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to ruin. Don't such things happen often enough?'

(From Leo Tolstoy's short story, How Much Land Does a Man Need?)

'Surrounded by temptations' isn't exactly how I would describe Tirana, but this excerpt from Tolstoy's famous story/parable about greed still relates to my sabbatical from blogging. When I first got to Bandza, there were very few ways to pass the time. I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farming land, pigs, and cattle. I worked approximately three to five hours in a day (and that was at the beginning when I took matters more seriously). The only way I could pass the time was by running, reading, and writing.

And, man, did I write; I was pumping out three posts a week at times. Now I'm sitting down to write for the first time in three months. What the hell happened? I can't say Georgia got less interesting, because that was never the case (and I still have all those list posts that I had promised, I just need to add content). But as I spent more time in Georgia, I started to spend less time in Bandza (and more time in Martvili, Senaki, and Tbilisi). The time I did spend in Bandza was consumed with tutoring my host-brothers, playing volleyball, basketball, or soccer with my students, and drinking a lot of wine (when the weather gets better, we have a ton of impromptu suphras in Bandza).

My summer inactivity has already been explained, but Tirana was a fresh start. I was planning on a GNJB Renaissance! After finishing up my Georgian thoughts, I would get to breaking down Tirana and Albania. It would be the Autumn of Max!

But then I got here and realized that my first three months here would be nothing like Bandza. Tirana was a city, I lived on my own, I didn't have a social support group like TLG (which meant I had to spend twice as much time cultivating relationships and friends), and I had work...

There's a lot I still want to say about TLG, but this post isn't about that. Either way, my teaching job in Bandza was pretty simple and easy. I taught between 2-4 lessons a day, and towards the end of the year, sometimes I would teach one lesson and then go home. I'm still proud of the work I did, and I know that some students really improved their conversational English during my time there, but at times, my job was a bit of a joke.

My job now is far from a joke. I teach 25 hours a week, run social and sports clubs, and spend most of my other time meeting with students outside of class (something I beg them to do). On top of that, I have lesson plans that must be typed out in advance; an extremely meticulous and bureaucratic task. I also have a student outside of school who I teach once a week, while I have Albanian lessons twice a week.

I'm fuckin' busy, man.

But that doesn't mean I don't miss writing, which is why I'm trying to get back into it. Reading through my last few posts, I have found myself writing just for the sake of excuses. The only way I can stop that is by posting consistently. I'm not going to promise anything, mainly because I'm sick of breaking those promises. But I'm going to Kosovo today for the four day weekend (apparently they celebrate Independence Day harder in Prestina than they do in Tirana), but after I get back, I have three weeks until my winter break. In that time, I'm going to write.

But first I must get away from the city...