March 20, 2008
March 16, 2008
For our closing dinner, the amazing people of Batumi threw quite a celebration for us. Many dignitaries showed up. The local kids also put on quite a traditional Georgian dancing show. The Georgian people are the kindest and warmest people I have ever met. Before this trip many people told me that the Georgian people are the most hospitable people in the world, and now I know first hand how true this is.
March 14, 2008
Here is a great teacher from Batumi, Gerogia, with her Falcon Fanatic t-shirt and hat. Another teacher from New York City gave students the Yankees hats. We watched her teach a class on Economics. The students had many questions for the US teachers about the US. The Georgian students told us they like their cell phones, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Brittany Spears, until she became a "druggie". They were very curious about US students, and many said it would be a dream for them to go to school in the US. The students gave all the US teachers several gifts, and the teachers served us a very nice lunch. Well now I am off to the beach...
March 12, 2008
Our visit to School #165 was an eye-opening experience. Our visit was a REALLY big deal. The head of the Georgian Education Ministry was there, and the students were very excited to talk with us. Students preformed a Traditional Dance and gave a fascinating drumming performance, which I videotaped. The students like American culture, cell phones, etc. And I even stopped by the gym class to play some ball. The other picture is from the luncheon which the school had for us, again, delicious food, and I am sitting with teachers from the school, who are very eager for me to e-mail them pictures.
Tonight we will board a sleeper train, and we will wake up in Batumi, on the Black Sea coast. You can read about Batumi on a previous post. See you next post...
Today we had the pleasure of meeting with Kahka Shengelia, a member of the Georgian Parliament, like our US Congress, a fascinating man who went to college in the US, and speaks 7 languages. Mr. Shengelia talked candidly about the tensions between Russia and Georgia, which were much worse than I knew. He told us, during the Communits years, you could only speak Russian, by law, in all public buildings. But now as an independent country, Georgians have their freedoms back.
He also told us about Georgia's fast growing economy, which has been stimulated by opening up the economy to foreign investment and lowering taxes. Georgia was the world's #1 economic reformer in 2007. His apartment which cost $70,000 three years ago in Tbilisi now is worth 1/2 a million dollars. Georgia received $10 billion dollars in foreign investment in 2007, and their GDP is growing 10% a year.
He also talked about how all of the schools in Georgia will have computers with access to the internet this year. Still keep in mind, Georgia has a much smaller economy than ours, and it is difficult to deal with scarcity. GDP per capita is $4000 in Georgia, where in the US it is about $46,000. Overall, he was a very generous to take time out of his busy life to tell stories about Georgia to us.
March 10, 2008
I am proud to say that I survived my much anticipated first Georgian Feast Sunday night. I saw more food (all of it outstanding) on one table than I have seen in my life. Basically, we started eating one of the national dishes, khachapuri (of course), many salads, vegetables, and the like. Then the Tamada, or toastmaster, begins making toasts. The only time you can drink whatever is in your glass is when the Tamada proposes a toast. And do not make the mistake of saying a toast without the Tamada's permission, like one woman did in our group. Then the waiters bring out many different meats, and khinkhali, which is a meat dumpling, pictured above. More toasts, more food, repeat, repeat, and after many hours it was a memorable time experiencing this integral part of Georgian culture.
One Monday, we met with many Georgian economists and economics educators, hearing about the promising economic reforms here. More on this in a later post.
March 8, 2008
Gamarjoba: We arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia about 7 PM, a day later than we left DC. Tbilisi has many ancient churches, and is set in a valley surrounded by mountains. Beautiful scenery! Today we are taking a tour of Tbilisi and the ancient capital of Mskheta, so I will have more to report later.
Food Notes: Our first Georgian Dinner last night. Katchapuri: the national food, is Bread stuffed with cheese: delicious. Basically a Dinner in Georgia is this: eat a lot of great food, and after you have eaten more than you ususally eat in a day: watch as the waitress keeps piling more food on the table
March 7, 2008
This morning was our send-off breakfast on Capitol Hill. In this picture on the left is Svetlana, our tour guide for the entire trip. Svetlana is an economics professor who fluent in Russian and came to the US from Russia in 1991 after the fall of Communism. To her right are two diplomats from the Gerogian Embassy, who we also met with yesterday. They said many great things about Georgia, and, upon meeting them, it is easy to see why Georgia (as we were told) has some of the most hospitable and friendly people in the world.
The Honorable US Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, and US Representative Jim Ramstad, who represents the Congressional District that includes Armstrong HS, both sent staff members to the breakfast. Pictured here is Heather, a legislative assistant from Rep. Ramstad's office. It was great to talk to them not only about the trip, but Minnesota. And of course they wished us the best.
Next up: We fly out of Dulles Airport in DC at 6 PM tonight, and 24 hours later, we arrive in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We have a 8 hour flight to Amsterdam International Airport, and after a 4 hour layover, have a 5 hour flight to Tbilisi; add the time difference and it will be Saturday evening upon arrival.
March 6, 2008
Hello from beautiful Washington DC. It was great to finally meet the entire group of people going to Georgia, and learn more about our trip. We have quite a fascinating group of very friendly people in our group. We are staying in the area of DC known as Embassy Row, which is full of foreign embassies, as well as numerous beautiful homes and delicious restaurants.
Yesterday we spent the afternoon time learning about the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE), the sponsor of this trip to Georgia, and all of its work on helping economic education around the world. Then we had a delicious dinner, the New York Strip Steak was great.
Friday morning, we will be having breakfast at the US Capital; I invited both Minnesota Senators and Rep. Jim Ramstad and their staff members to attend. I was happy to hear staff members from Senator Coleman's and Representative Ramstad's office will be attending, and I will be able to tell them all about the trip.
This morning some representatives from the Georgian Embassy met with our group; it was apparent they were very proud to be Georgian, and we found out we are one of the first groups of US Educators to visit Georgia since the fall of Communism in 1991. Quite an impressive fact.
Also, after our plane was delayed 1 ½ hours due to snow on Wed. morning, the 60 degree sunny weather felt like a tropical paradise after the MN winter. Also, the price of a gallon of gas in DC, $3.60.