In January 2021 I moved to the country of Georgia. Georgia is a small country bordering Russia to the north and Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan to the south and east. I had visited for a brief holiday in February 2020 and liked what I saw. I was looking for a place where the cost of living was much lower than in my home country of the United Kingdom. I am self-employed and my income is variable. In recent years, I have not done so well financially because of the high cost of living and as everyone knows, that is only going to get worse. My only son left home in 2018 leaving me free to choose my place of abode. He currently lives in Australia as it happens.
I tutor mathematics and physics for a living online so I can work remotely. Since the pandemic, online tuition has risen in popularity. I now have temporary residency in this country. I live in the centre of Tbilisi, the capital city.
Living here suits me. Though rental prices have risen since the influx of Russians escaping the draft, it is still cheaper than the UK and I don’t need to pay any council tax. I do currently pay tax in the UK still (the rules on that are quite complicated) but from next year, I should be able to pay only voluntary pension contributions. In Georgia I pay 1% tax on my gross turnover as I registered as an Individual Entrepreneur.
My work is mostly late in the evening due to the three or four hour time difference between the UK and Georgia. It is relatively easy to get flights back to the UK although there are no direct flights.
Tbilisi is a city with no clearly-defined centre. It is surrounded by hills, is oppressively hot in the summer and never gets very cold in the winter. It is easy to manage without a car because from where I live, the old city is walking distance and taxis are very cheap. They cost about $1 per km. I rent a large apartment in the area popular with embassies. The Slovakian embassy is just down the road. There are many cafes to choose from.
In 2018, I bought a domain through Bluehost and began trying to make my own website to promote my tuition business. This is where I began to run into the many problems seemingly built into the experience and aimed at making you pay more for every single element or design feature.
WordPress is a very well-known platform for designing a website. Looking back, I can’t exactly say how I managed to circumvent each problem I encountered (actually sometimes I hit a brick wall) because it was a process of trial and error. I signed up to a WordPress account and then assigned the site to my Bluehost domain name. That was quite easy. There were some issues that I had to resolve, for example using Cloudfare to mitigate DDOS attacks and protect my site. But that was fairly easy.
What is very complicated is using the WordPress control panel to select plugins to use on my site and to get them to work the way I expected. I had no idea about what AMP was (Accelerated Mobile Pages) but I have a vague idea now. I signed up to get access to the paid Basic All In One SEO plugin version and this was useful. However you very quickly discover that most of the features are only available on the most expensive Pro or Elite plugin and when you register the plugin with the provided license key, it defaults to the free version after a day or so and you have to do it all over again.
As for AMP, I think I know what it is but try as I may, I just can’t get it to function correctly. It is very unclear. Does the device you use determine whether the site viewed is the AMP version or the non-AMP version? All I can seem to see in the non-AMP version unless I select Appearance -> AMP in the WordPress control panel. It makes no difference whether I delete cookies on my device. I always see the non-AMP version of my site. In that case, what is going on? I have a PhD in physics and I still can’t seem to figure it out. Everything is menu-driven in the plugins and it is very confusing.
I read that AMP increases the speed of your site and prioritises it in Google search. So it is worth doing. But the whole experience is so off-putting.
Am I stupid or something? Or is it just that people who programme these plugins and interfaces don’t have a clue how to communicate?
It would be wrong to say that I never enjoyed teaching in schools but it’s true that in general I did not enjoy it. It all depended on the class and the school. But for the most part, I did not have an easy ride. Most often, it was not the kids but the management that was the problem.
In October 2019 I visited Oman to tutor a student privately in the family home. I stayed there until March 2020 with a short trip back to the UK in February.
Oman was oppressively hot even in the middle of October when I arrived. Daytime temperatures were typically in the mid to high thirties and it was very humid indeed.
The lad I was teaching was seventeen years old and in the final year of high school. He was not doing well and struggling in all subjects. I supported him in mathematics, English, Biology and Physics. The examinations are in two parts in the final year. They are held in January and July. However due to covid, the dates of the first examination session were postponed, often less than 24 hours before the exams were due to be taken. There was a lot of assessed work too.
He passed all his examinations in January and the examination session in June was cancelled due to the pandemic. I had disagreements with the father because he seemed unwilling to accept that his son had learning difficulties. I tried to make him have more realistic expectations but it was a struggle.
The boy had no interests apart from watching Youtube and had no understanding of the world so it was a challenge.
I recently came across this website which is a huge repository of films, television programmes, audio books, images and so forth. I listened to “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad read very well indeed by a gentleman with a hint of an Australian accent. I also watched a François Truffaut film. I recommend it whether you want to watch an old movie, read or listen to a novel or simply have a browse.
A few years ago, after a holiday in New Zealand, I fell in love with the country and really wanted to move there. I researched the options for emigrating as a qualified teacher and decided to go for it. It was a slow and expensive process. I had to get all my home qualifications certified in New Zealand, get letters from every school I had ever worked in to confirm my employment and get an expensive medical examination. I went through an agency. They offered some different schools and I decided on one in Auckland. It seemed like a decent school. I had a Skype interview for the job.
Time passed and I must have spent in the region of £2000 on visa fees and other fees. Finally my visa came through. I was quite anxious about starting in a new country even though I have worked overseas a lot in the past. There was also the added worry that my stepfather was elderly and had dementia. I had really wanted my son (who was 20 at the time) to join me but he did not seem interested. He was on a working holiday visa in New Zealand at the time and had decided to do the same in Australia. So I was on my own.
Furthermore I had not taught in schools for some years. I had instead been private tutoring and I was not prepared for the behaviour I would encounter.
I decided to have a bit of a holiday in NZ before starting work. I arrived in country about 5 weeks before the start of the new term. I met the staff as it was the end of term and they were still in school. I met one of the teachers whose year 9 class I would be taking over as she was going on maternity leave. She proceeded to tell me how I would not be able to cope with the kids in her class and went through a list of all their problems. It was all very off-putting.
I had a lovely holiday and drove all the way down to Wanaka on the South Island, stopping at Fox Glacier to see friends..
I was renting an Airbnb in Auckland while I began to seek out a place to live. I was depressed by the cost of some of the accommodation and what I could afford was very pokey indeed. The school was in Henderson, a deprived area of Auckland. In fact all I read in the local newspaper was about the high levels of crime and gang violence.
I had been taking antidepressants for many years. But I had decided to make a clean break and stop taking them. I had not realised how difficult this would be. I had also not declared this to the school (that I was on antidepressants). So sue me.
The new term was approaching and I was about to start my new job. I felt strangely detached and yet at the same time quite anxious. The staff in my department (science) were lovely and very supportive. But as I took on each of my new classes, I was concerned at the low standards and very poor behaviour. Sone kids in my year 9 class constantly tapped on the metal legs of their desks and that was when they weren’t shouting unprintable obscenities at each other. I felt that I was losing control and by the second week this was happening in two of my classes. I had to ask for help from the year 9 pastoral head. By the end of Tuesday of the second week I ended the day so depressed that I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was mostly concerned at the reaction of other teachers as I could only see things getting worse with these classes. I was on my own in the country so I had no-one outside of the school to talk to.
I went home that day feeling empty and just knew that I couldn’t cope at this school. That evening I stayed up late thinking about the predicament I was in. I booked myself onto a flight at 8am the following morning and went half way round the world to get home again. At the airport, I had to dump a lot of my possessions as I was over my weight allowance. In the bin went my tent, sleeping bag and a load of my clothes.
I had even shipped all my worldly possessions out to New Zealand at great expense.
Once I was about to board my flight I emailed the school to tell them the truth. I was so ashamed.
The whole experience cost me the best part of £10 000. I decided to leave so abruptly because I thought that they would try to persuade me to stay otherwise.
I had to return later that year to collect my possessions which had followed me to New Zealand. I could not afford to ship everything back so when I returned, I sold most of my possessions (bookcases, books, a bed, mattresses, a whole load of kitchen appliances, furniture, lamps, my TV, a full-sized desk, you name it.) I gave away my entire CD collection and more to charity shops. I even threw away my entire collection of exercise books from my school days. I shipped a fraction of what I had sent back home. Then much of what I shipped home got pilfered by the shipping company.
It took me two years to get up the courage to write to my former head of department to apologise. She said that they had been worried about me.
It was a learning experience for me and a very tough one. Not only was it a big financial hit for me, but I had failed. I was very embarrassed about the whole thing. No more teaching in schools for me.
On my return, I stayed in a friend’s static caravan in Folkestone while I got my private tuition business up and running again.
I visited Tusheti in early September 2022. To reach this northerly region of Georgia, you drive for about 2 1/2 hours before reaching a dirt road at Pshaveli. From here, you need a 4WD vehicle to take you over the Abano Pass at 2850 m above sea level.
The weather was dry and in fact there had been very little rain this summer. The region is cut off from the rest of Georgia in the winter and only a few shepherds stay here then. Access in winter is only possible by helicopter because the dirt road is impassable.
In 2007, I travelled to the Orkney Isles with my young son who was then ten years old. We visited the little Italian Chapel on the islet of Lamb Holm, which was built by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s. My stepfather was stationed here for his National Service in the early fifties. It is a remarkable piece of work. Every feature is lovingly made out of whatever was available to the Italian men. The building is an old Nissen hut.
I’m a maths and physics tutor based in Tbilisi, Georgia.. I’ve lived in eight countries since leaving home all those years ago. I have an adopted son and like running marathons and ultras (35 so far since 2014). In a past life, I worked in Zimbabwe and Swaziland and learned to fly in South Africa and skydive (not at the same time). I love reading and in 2020 I got into writing in a big way for the first time in my life. My other big interest is genealogy.