Monday, August 1, 2016

TOTSI II Started or from Arrival to Survival!

by Tinatin Vardidze, ICTE II/TOTSI Participant from Akhaltsikhe, Georgia

Great ICTE II/TOTSI adventure has just STARTED! 

On the 30th of July 2016, a team of 22 enthusiastic teachers of English including me, with the help of two wonderful ladies – Nana and Lika, headed towards Tbilisi International Airport to give a start to an amazing adventure called TOTSI II. After going through a PDO session and having lots of fun the team got to know each other but the best part of a team work and unity was yet to come.
After waiting for about 3 hours and being too excited to express the anger towards a reddish hair young lady, who purposefully charged Nana a lot of money for an excess luggage, we tried to keep calm. The first flight to Munich went as it was expected, took off at 4:40 am and arrived in Munich at 8:40 which was a perfect flight with good crew and nice food. The only buzzing sound that kept producing continuous noise was the only man of our group Zura, who has never stopped talking ever since we got on a plane. As the second flight was going to be long we had some snacks at the airport and encouraged each other, we ate my final apples and the leftover of my sandwiches.

We were ready to follow a very tight schedule three flights and a bus to Vermont. After waiting long enough we boarded on a United Airline towards Washington DC. Already tired but still on track. As the plane took off a chilly breeze coming in from somewhere became more and more violent and in the end we ended up literary freezing on an airplane. Poor Marina had a blanket over her face to prevent herself from catching cold, Veriko sitting next to me looked like an Arabian lady,
Nana feeling drowsy because of sitting next to Zura was already sneezing, it had the worst effect on me: a sore throat, running nose, temperature, and a horrible headache which then lasted for days. A few of us really had hard time fighting with the cold wind blowing at our faces,  We were served lots of food to forget the cold.
Arrived in US after 9 hours a few bumps and a bad turbulence.
And the very first American Experience started.
Lining up! Huge crowd lined up for going through the passport control, it was too hard for smart Georgians not to cut in. We patiently followed the folk and spent precious 4-5 hours in a line which turned out not to be the only one. There was another less comfortable line coming up for check in. another a few hours wasted.
Having marked on a declaration paper the big American “Agriculture” guy took my valuable lemon out of my suitcase, even though it was easy to notice how bad I felt, and how much I needed it, the regulations told him there was something wrong with it. NO FRUIT, NO VEGETABLES says the declaration, NO EXCEPTIONS, says a frozen face. I am glad my honey got away safely. Well, I still kept calm, persuading myself that this was the worst part. All of us went through a strict bare feet check-in line except Maia, who was being questioned at the end of an orange line being in charge of giving right answers to “well-thought” questions. But we continued our way without her hoping that the plane would not take off without 24 passengers. Here it was Gate D2, we were late for the plane but that would be okay if we had not lost team members. Maia who was being questioned now got lost, looking for her Team leaders Lika, and Nana, stayed downstairs, we kept begging the boarding crew not to close the Gate. The airport now was announcing the names of our group members to show up at the Gate but they never did. So Natia and I decided to go back and find them as we were running out of time and the plane might have left without us. This was the best proof of our team work and unity. We all made it happen. The service officers at the gate suggested us to take the plane but we would never handle coming faults without our Team Leaders so we made a right decision and  refused to board and rushed to find the missing three. Finally we found them at check-in, Maia was still lined in a long crowd. Hopefully a kind check-in guy let her go through the control without her turn – First Broken rule! Now it was time to get back to the Gate, the announcement kept repeating “the plane will leave in a minute”. So I grasped Maia’s handbag and we three raced off the path. I was running first and the girls followed. Here was a real Olympic marathon taking place. With a German punctuality we arrived at the Gate just in a minute and they pushed us on board. Sweating and sighing we took our seats in a foggy plane thinking that it would take of immediately. But, believe it or not, it did not.  We sat on a plane shocked as no one was saying anything, people kept loading calmly, no one rushed and what’s more the fog kept coming in, even though there was none of it outside. Foggy plane, sweating passengers, and a smiling face of a flight attendant…

Finally, here it was the cabin crew talking. “Due to the bad weather we can’t take off right now, maybe in an hour around 7 o’clock, so please get off the plane take your stuff and come back in an hour.” What? Okay, we followed whatever was said. After wasting a full hour on a plane we got out of the plane and made ourselves comfortable on the floor at the gate. After two hours of waiting we were called on. Boarded on a plane happily that we were finally heading to Boston, after unbelievable 12 hours spent at the airport, again, we went through all the procedure, fastened our seat belts, listened carefully to the flight attendant who gave safety instructions twice as they let in two new passengers, and then what? Another culture shock!  The cabin crew announces that the captain’s on duty hours are running out, he has to go home at 9:01 “if we fail to take off before 9:01 he will have to leave and we will have to find a new captain”. What? – is this really happening in US? But we kept quiet. The plane started taxing. And we sighed with relief. Finally we would go to Boston and then take our bus to Vermont, exhausted and sleepy team members sat comfortably, in a foggy frozen plane hoping to take off soon. After 20 minutes of taxing the captain’s working hours ran out and the plane stopped. A calm voice from somewhere told us that unfortunately the captain had to leave and the furious passengers? – No one cared!  We left the plane, it was already 9 p.m. and we had been at the airport since 2 p.m. Not having enough power to negotiate we found our places between crowded Gate seats and tried to wait patiently.
After two hours we were told to proceed at Gate 11, there another couple directed us to Customer Service again in a line. All hundred people waiting in front of us and behind us lined up like obedient soldiers and moved forward in a snail speed. Even more precious hours wasted. Finally our turn came with one more surprise. This time it was not a culture shock at all but a company shock, we could take a train instead of a plane but the company refused to pay for the transportation or a shuttle, explanation - if the flight is cancelled because of the weather the company “United Airlines” is not responsible for anything. Again with the help of Nana, the unhelpful rude lady decided to give us train tickets which took 3 hours to issue. Here is the time we gained great survival skills. She said we would have to pick up our suitcases - Okay, Done – this is what everyone thought, but regulations do not make exceptions - surprise surprise, 19 suitcases on baggage claim area and the rest 5 in Boston airport. Anyway, we collected money to pay for the shuttle which came hours late and took us to the train station. The van driver was another culture shock, of course he knew where the only train station is but he double checked with a smart instructor GPS. We arrived at the train station around 3 o’clock, the train was going to leave at 5:22, so we had enough time to relax and have a cup of tea. But a strict looking American guy, equipped with arms and a police dog locked us in a room towards Gate. What? They closed the door saying we could not leave the area. But we, as a typical Georgian would do, escaped and had a cup of hot tea which I needed so badly. It was around 5:15 and we were guided towards the train, we grasped our suitcases, did our best to get close to the train but it was closed. The guy came with the dog ordering to go back to the locked room, we took our heavy suitcases and locked ourselves in the room, a minute later a fat chubby lady comes and orders us in a strict voice to leave the room and get on the train. This was too much, but because of a lack of energy and the ability of speech we modestly followed her instructions.
Finally our group thinking this was the end of drops, got on the train settled ourselves comfortably, held our tickets and prepared to take a good nap. 10 minutes later a conductor came to collect our tickets, and here is what he says “we are sorry but these tickets are not valid, the United has not reserved the tickets for you”. We thought we would go nuts. What a day? Again Nana found the solution and we managed to arrive in Boston after 7-hour ride, but a question keeps bothering my thoughts, why on the earth would a person set air-conditioning when it is already freezing outside and even inside? Why would you put an ice in cold water when your skin shows how uncomfortably cold it feels – the answer CULTURE!
Finally we arrived in Boston, here it was our bus, and Jonah, happy 24 faces started to cheer up. This was the end of two day trip, full of failures and drops. We experienced plane, shuttle, train, bus ride and in the end arrived in a place where we don’t have to think of survival, but of a coming 18 wonderful days that are yet to come.

We were met by amazing people who are going to take good care of us. Now I am sitting in my cozy tiny little dorm room and writing this blog post. Please read this from a perspective of a tired, exhausted, sleepless, sick colleague who tried to do her best to reflect step by step memories of past two days.
I will be looking forward to more positive and informative posts from you guys, about the best days that we are going to spend!
Love you all!


  1. thanks a lot for writing such a wonderful bog post and giving me an example how to follow you tomorrow..really good job!!!

  2. We will really spend the best and productive time....All of you are amazing teachers,,,

  3. Good job my girl.I recalled all the minites of our long lasting journey, tiring but still great to remember.👍👍👍👍😊😊😊

  4. Great job, Tiko.This was an enjoyable piece of writing,even though it made me recall the worst moments of our ever-lasting journey.

  5. Great job, Tiko.This was an enjoyable piece of writing,even though it made me recall the worst moments of our ever-lasting journey.

  6. Good job Tiko! You didn't forget any moment of our adventure :) I am sure I will read it many,many times in order to remember these days spent with you :*

  7. Great! Here starts an American adventure that is described here perfectly