After attending the Republican and Democratic national conventions, the vice prime minister of the Republic of Georgia swung by Charleston for some pizza and a school tour before heading back home today.

On Saturday, Ekaterine Eka Tkeshelashvili toured Charles Towne Montessori School along with Tamar Tchelidze and Mirian Popkhadze, who work at the Georgian embassy in Washington, D.C. However, the side trip to the Lowcountry had as much to do with visiting friends who own La Pizzeria in Mount Pleasant, one of whom is from Georgia, as it did with anything else.

Since Tkeshelashvili and Tchelidze also are interested in starting a Montessori school in the former Soviet state, they heard about Charles Towne and wanted to visit. A few students also came to school on a day off to demonstrate a typical learning day.

Im glad to have time to visit the school, said Tkeshelashvili, who is 35 years old. We are reforming schools in Georgia and trying to provide more diverse opportunities. Montessori is a good brand, and we wanted to see how we could apply it in Georgia.

Edward Jackson, the head of school for Charles Towne, stressed to them the benefits of choosing Association Montessori Internationale certification because of the more extensive training and global scope of AMI. Charles Towne is one of 68 AMI-certified schools in the nation and the only one in South Carolina.

The Georgians also were welcomed to the school by David Shimp, vice president of program development for Maybank Industries, who has done extensive business in Georgia and other countries in eastern Europe.

Shimp, also an honorary counsel for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said the country shares more things in common with the Southeast besides the same name of a neighboring state to South Carolina.

The country, which has the same land mass as the Palmetto State, is very independent and capitalist, having endured decades of Soviet communist rule.

Tkeshelashvili agrees with Shimp about the commonality with the South and was thankful for the invitations to attend the conventions to witness the process and forge partnerships.

The United States is the biggest strategic ally of Georgia, so we appreciated being invited to the conventions. It was exciting. Its the practice that we dont have because we are such a small country, but the energy was thrilling in both places, said Tkeshelashvili.

It was exciting to see how many people from different professionals and states take time and are motivated to make what they think are the right choices for the good of their country.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.