Wednesday, December 30, 2009


So many details involved in such extended stays. Sarah's conputer crashed so we had to get her a new one. That's done. It looks like our sewer system may back up so the plumber comes to check the line. Organizing signatures at the bank for Zac. Figuring out how to pay the first month's rent in Georgia. The list goes on and on. The end result is I have to accept one of life's realities that I won't have recalled all the details.

Had a nice conversation with a person from the Jewish Federation's Joint Distribution Committee who told me of a large scale effort in Tblissi to assist Jews who had relocated there from Russia and former Russian disputed Russian/Georgian areas. I have been told that there are many NGOs in Tblissi and this effort would be an example of such. I will be meeting with a person who operates an NGO that prepares and trains school administrators and I suspect there may be many such. Georgia used to have thousands of independent colleges and universities (right after the Rose Revolution). Lacking any sort of authority structure to grant credentials to an institution, it was a wide open market. Caveat emptor! I am sure. Many of these have been closed and consolidated as the Ministry of Education moved to increase educational quality and root out corrupt practices. We shall see. This is what I have been told. The place where I will teach, Illia Chavachavdze University is a new institution resulting in the merger of a former teachers college and a professional school.

Back to packing and shoveling the copious amount of snow that Lincoln has had this month.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Impressions and the Unknown

Anticipating Impressions
Years ago Sarah introduced me to a book by Le Corbusier entitled When the Cathedrals are White. We were getting ready for a trip to France and we planned to visit Notre Dame de Haut in a place called Ronchamp. Le Corbusier wrote in this book about the pleasures of anticipating a journey. I don’t know if I am feeling the pleasures that Le Corbusier anticipated. But I am certainly now feeling anticipation.
There is a lot of preparation entailed in leaving home for a period of time. I’d not realize how much. And there is no small amount of mental preparation. I am now asked if I am excited to be doing this. It’s not so much a feeling of excitement as it is a matter of trying to circumscribe the unknown in order to make this adventure slightly more predictable. I do have an apartment waiting for me—Gogebashvilli 43, #5. A picture of one of the rooms is added to photos. It took many emails to solve this piece of the unknown. And, of course, much remains to be discovered about this place.
Then there is the issue introduced by a colleague in sociology. Lory Dance says that when she does cross cultural research she is very much aware of the need to worry about “impression management.” This concept interests me. In some ways one can control the probable impressions that others will reach about one’s self. But, in other ways, this is very much out of control. I am told that being a Fulbrighter means a considerable elevation in esteem. But, I am also an American, a Nebraskan, a Vermonter, a husband and father, etc. So, I will have all these sub identities that I can’t shed which will in some ways influence how I am and thus how I am perceived. Why is this impression management important?
Well, if worrying about the unknown is inescapable, how one will be perceived in a different culture has to be part of that. But more importantly, I will be teaching at a university in Tblissi. I know little about Ilia Chavchavadze University. I am told I’ll probably be working with graduate students on research methods in education. I will also be gathering data in schools in Georgia on the extent of educational reforms, particularly as these apply to school administrators.
This later was one of my main reasons for applying for this Fulbright in the first place. On the surface of things, Georgia was one of those former Soviet bloc nations that degenerated into extensive corruption after the Soviet collapse. One bought one’s grades, one bought one’s spot in the university, one bought one’s job. The Ministry of Education has purportedly sought to eliminate such practices. One of my interests is whether or not this has been done. If it has, how and to what effect.? This could lead to important suggestions to other countries in this part of the world that struggle to increase merit and equity in their national education systems.
I’m told that posts in blogspots should be short. More in another post.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Setting Up a Blog for Georgia

I am finding that this business of making a blog work is far more fraught with peril than I thought. If you get this posting, it will mean that some things are working. If not, perhaps you will be able to read it later.

My main concern is that I am able to identify you and others who will get a notice that something new has been added and that you be able to access it at your will, not mine. As with most things web based, a new language has the potential to mislead. Imagine what I will face in Georgia where Georgian and Mangrelian is spoken.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Synagogue Sendoff

Today I was wished well by members of Congregation Tifereth Israel who held a kiddush luncheon to recognize my impending departure. And my wife and friends made a fine meal. I will hope to travel to Georgia with mazel. Several asked if I would create a blog of some sort as a means of recording my experiences. Now I have another piece of technology to discover.