A Man Must Do Two Things In His Life

Last Friday my host mom/principal told me, “Raughley, tomorrow you are going to school at ten.”  Seeing as the following day was a Saturday, I naturally responded with, “Whaaat?  That’s crazy talk, Tina!”  (In my head, of course).  She explained to me that, “Tomorrow the children are going to be planting trees at school and they want you to come!”  That sounded like a worthy cause, so I happily agreed!

The following morning, over coffee, cheese, and bread (aka breakfast), Manana told me, “It’s good that you are planting a tree.”  “Why’s that, Manana?”  “In Georgia we have a saying, ‘A man must do two things in his life: plant a tree, and raise children.’  Today you will plant a tree.”

I grabbed my notebooks (Georgian lesson was immediately after tree planting) and headed out into the slight drizzle with Tina.  On the walk to school I taught her how to say, “We are planting a tree.”  I love teaching Tina English, she’s so eager to learn and she has a very adorable accent in English.  She also clearly gets great joy out of learning English phrases and remembers them very well!  Much better than Manana, who continually confuses “bread” and “butter” and always asks me if I want “cheese and butter” with my tea.

It's been far too long since Luka has done something random and crazy. Please accept this photo with my apologies!

When Tina and I arrived at school, a handful of students were digging holes in the lawn and no trees were to be found.  A bit confused, we waited around in the mist.  Before too long, dozens more students showed up and shovels and hoes appeared left and right.  I was taking photos when Tina said, “Raughley!  Don’t you want to plant a tree?”  Of course I did!  It’s one of the things a man must do in his life!

I was handed a shovel and a girl and told to go dig a hole by this telephone pole.  I was curious as to what purpose the girl with the hoe would serve, but she immediately hoed the ground to remove the vegetation from the future-hole.

As I dug the hole, Salome would hoe the loose soil/rocks/garbage/piece of electrical wire out of the hole.

The soil was extremely soft, due to the recent rain and continual misting that we were getting that morning.  I had no umbrella, nor suitable rain-clothes, but it was not that bad.  My apprentices and I continued to dig, regardless of the slight rain.

Salome was an excellent hole-digging partner! We rocked that dirt! ...And dirted those rocks....

Some of the people at school were better prepared than others, though I really must admit that I am exaggerating the severity of the precipitation.  Nonetheless, Tina and her staff went around from hole to hole monitoring, supervising, inspecting, and enjoying the students’ enthusiasm for tree planting!

Tina had a great time that day and even contributed to the planting of several trees herself!

While I was digging the hole, I realized I had no idea how big it needed to be.  For starters, I haven’t dug a hole (except figuratively) in years, so my hole-digging skills were a little sketchy, at best.  Don’t get me wrong, I dug that hole like a pro!  I just didn’t know how deep or wide it needed to be.  And we all know that when it comes to holes, size matters.

After a good long while, a truck pulled in to the yard bearing dozens of saplings.  Everyone got a small pine tree in a plastic bag.  It looked like our hole was a bit too deep after all.  Also, somebody gave us a really runt-y tree!  With indignation, Salome ran off and came back with a better one.

Salome and I took turns shoveling dirt into the hole and stabilizing the young tree. We had two other assistants, but they were mostly there for moral support. Also of note: you can see the runt-y tree behind me in the more distant plastic bag. This tree is so much better!

As we refilled our hole, lots of people came over to criticize our technique.  They would point and yell in Georgian while we shoveled dirt onto the roots and tell us to tamp it down more or less, depending on their preferences.

Salome even got in on the instructing action. I believe she was telling me where and how to pour the left over soil from the tree's bag. Again, look at that pathetic runt-y tree in the background! Also don't know where that guy came from, but he felt like he could do a better job filling in our hole than we. He was wrong. Jerk!

Salome, Natia, and Mariam only knew a little bit of English.  Combined with my basic knowledge of Georgian we had a hard time speaking to each other.  Charading to each other was another matter entirely, and we wound up working together as a team very well!  We could convey most of the necessary ideas to each other with ease.  Side Note: When you need to discuss digging a hole and planting a tree in a foreign language, the pantomimes that you’ll need are really easy.

Even without many words we had each other laughing as we packed the soil with our hands. I believe that is Mariam holding the shovel and it's definitely Natia's torso and arm, stage left.

As the morning rolled by we finished planting our tree.  It was solidly, but not too tightly, packed into the earth at the corner of two intersecting driveways.  As my host mother Manana said, “Come back in five years and you will see how big your tree is!”  I told her, “Manana, I am not going anywhere!”  “Och!  Kargi bitchi khar!”

Fear not, overly-concerned readers! The runt-y tree got some love too! The school's mandatories, in their casual, weekend uniforms, got in on the action. Salome is helping this mandatory plant the runt-y tree next to our tree. It will be like our tree's little brother!

As much as I might’ve enjoyed sleeping in on Saturday morning, I think that planting this tree was a far more valuable and fulfilling use of my time.  I know that I’m already giving back to my community (The Georgian students’ talent and eagerness proves the success of this program!  [But seriously, it does.]), but this was a satisfyingly tangible, earthy way to contribute.  And as far as my life’s duties are concerned, one down, one to go.

Natia, Mariam, me, Tina, and Salome crouching behind our lovely, adorable tree! Any suggestions for names?

5 thoughts on “A Man Must Do Two Things In His Life

  1. Raughley,

    You’ve being there for several weeks already, and seems you still are having a good time. I’ve got a three questions for you to summarize your experience:

    1. What would you change immediately in the country, in the host family, your students and teachers – what drives you most crazy?
    2. What was the most important things you did not take with you but you found out that can’t live without them?
    3. What would you advice to people who will be coming later on TLG program so they are successful in their jobs?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Thank you very much for including the fate of the runty tree in your story. I was getting terribly anxious about him near the end!

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