Monthly Archives: May 2012

Job Shadowing —— Tom in Batumi

I finally arrived in Batumi about 4:00 PM and as I said in the previous post, knowing how and where to stop is important as the driver did not stop at the train station but the marshutka station, a few kilometers down the road. It all worked out well as my megobari (Georgian for friend) Richard was able to locate me very easily.

First off to a small restaurant, owned by Richard’s host father, for some ludi (beer) and Georgian breads (Kachapuri, a cheese filled bread, and Tonis puri, a bread baked in a kiln) both nice and hot. Pictures to follow.

After a short ride down by the beach we headed to a wine shop for a tasting of some very nice wines. Finally off to the host family house where I met Richard’s host mother and many other family members who live near by.

Dinner was good and filling and just as we were getting ready to settle down there was a knock on the door!! We were invited to one of the relative’s house a few doors down for a going away Supra (celebration meal) for one of the member who was leaving in the morning to work in Russia. The food was delicious and the home made wine and chacha (home made vodka) flowed freely.


The weather forecast for Sunday was supposed to be sunny, but I awoke to a cool breeze and rain. Thankfully the rain was short lived and the sun broke thru the clouds. Breakfast was delicious , breads, eggs, cheese, and coffee what more could I want except sharing it with Suzanne but I am sure she is also enjoying her meal.

Off to tour Batumi.

Richard is a most gracious host so he started the day with a bus ride from his house to downtown Batumi.  He doesn’t live in the city but in a small village by the Batumi airport. I guess it is considered to be in Batumi but when giving directions he was referring to it by another name, almost like a suburb.

There is a lot of construction happening in Batumi with new hotels, restaurants and other attractions being built. My descriptions may not do the city justice, I only hope I have some good pictures. There are sections of Batumi that if you didn’t notice the Georgian letters on the store fronts you would think you were in New Orleans. Here are old churches, mostly Georgian Orthodox, but I did see one Catholic church which was rather new.

Around three o’clock Richard and I met up with Amy Harris, another PCV who lives and works in Batumi. Together we finished our walk through the streets of Batumi and headed to the Boulivard, a long walk along the Black Sea coast, about 6 kilometers long. The beach is not sandy rather rocky but it was filling up with people. It wasn’t long before we ran into another group of trainees and PCVs who traveled to Batumi to enjoy some of the sunshine. We all stopped at a beach front restaurant for snacks and drinks.

Later in the afternoon we said our goodbyes to the other volunteers and headed to have a bite to eat at place new to Richard and Amy.

After dinner we walked Amy most of the way home then Richard and I raced off to catch the bus home only to have the last one pass us by 😦 We had to get a taxi for our return trip home.

I was looking to retire early Sunday evening but that was not to be the case. About 10:00 PM there was a knock at the door and Richard’s host mother came in to invite us to a going away party for one of the family who was heading to Russia for work. Little did we know this was a full Supra ( a Georgian celebration). There was food, food and more food. There was wine, wine and more wine. There was chacha, chacha and more chacha (Georgian homemade Vodka). And there was the tamura (toastmaster) giving toast after toast. This continued for a couple of hours until Richard and I had to excuse ourselves because Monday was a work day.

On the Job:

Monday I became a shadow to Richard as he went to work. It was a short day as he wanted to show me all that he did which was not all with the same organization. He works for the Institute for Democracy, a NGO whose mission is to look out for people’s rights, government transparency and assist people at risk with legal and social services help. The other organizations Richard works with are the Education USA which works with Georgians to perfect their English language so they can apply for scholarships and grants and finally an organization that works with children with hearing problems. The one other thing he does is teach English to the children in his neighborhood.

Monday night we spent with Richard’s host family on one last spin around the city taking in the evening sights.

Back to Telavi.

Tuesday morning started early with a bus ride to the marshutka station and the 6 hour ride back to PST. Along the way two other trainees, Ryan and Heather joined me on the ride back.

To say the least this was a much needed but tiring break from the grind of PST.

The link below should take you to the pictures I took. Enjoy:

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Week Three and off to job shadowing!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week three has come to an end. It was exhausting and just as stressful as week two. While some of the Georgian words are starting to make sense, we have been bombarded with hundreds of new ones and a multitude of case usage. Suzanne has been working in the classroom with a teacher counterpart and current volunteer getting use to the classroom routine and all the other duties around her teaching work. I have been learning the ins and outs of the Georgian CBO (community based organizations) and NGOs. Training included project design and management and grant writing. Most all of the work I will be doing will be in the grant writing area as that is the way most CBO and NGO get their money.

Right now I am on a marshutka (minibus) heading to the city of Batumi. This is a 6 hour trip. There I will meet up with a current PCV to spend a work day with him and observe what a SEOD volunteer’s life is like. Batumi is a resort city on the Black Sea so I seem to have been given the prize location for this task, hope it doesn’t rule out final placement as this is suppose to be very nice, pictures to follow.

Where is Suzanne? She is on her way to Khoni, a town about 2 hours North and a little East of Batumi. She is with another trainee and they will be shadowing a current PCV teacher on Monday.
So we are on our own this weekend returning to our lovely town of Telavi on Tuesday. I mean really on our own as no one in this marshutka speaks English so getting directions and understanding how and where to stop is important.



I will add more later this evening.


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Week two….2 people gone

It’s Saturday evening and our host family is downstairs preparing a “Supra” celebration for our host sister who turns 18 today. Supras are a big party with all day preparations of food and drink! The meal is served with continual layers of food….and drink. Since this is a girl party I’m not sure how that will progress. We’ll report at the next blog.

Our second week was possibly more exhausting than the first. The language classes are more difficult and folks are up late doing homework. Did we mention we have 4 hours of it 6 days a week? For the rest do the day those in education go to school and start their practicum with counterpart teachers. Those in business are learning about Georgian community based organizations and NGOs. They are also practicing with tools designed to assess their needs and develop programs to satisfy these needs. Both sections also require preparation.

We have eaten bread at every meal. Cheese is also put out at every meal but it is very salty as is a lot of the food. We eat VERY little meat. Tom & I have been buying bananas and apples to supplement our diets. We also bought some eggs this week and now will scramble some for breakfast. Our host family won’t let us do much …..not even put our dishes in the sink. Gender roles here are very different and we must respect them as we struggle to be “ourselves”. Today in our culture class someone said the gender roles here remind them of the U S back in the early 50s especially where the men are concerned. I’ve yet to see a male teacher in school. We do hear a lot about the Minister of Education and how he is pushing to change things. There are no organized sports in schools and most have outhouses.

The weather is getting hot and it is a humid climate so we are not looking forward to summer. This week we’ve had a few storms that were horrific with lightening and thunder. They have been thru the night and wake everyone up.

The title on this post may be misleading….we have lost 2 of our number who have found it necessary to go home. We wish them the best for the future.

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We survived Week One

The learning curve is like climbing Pikes Peak! A new household and location…a new city…..a new culture and language. Language is the hardest. 33 letters in the alphabet but 7 syntax cases (nominative, vocative, possessive, dative, etc….) Reminds Tom of Latin class. This has been the most stressful time we can remember. Suzanne wakes up and goes to sleep trying her best to remember one more word in Georgian. Tom’s memory for this seems younger! We sit at the dinner table with a dictionary trying to learn a word or a phrase to use or ask a question. Last night we learned our host Mom is Orthodox. We haven’t ventured to any churches yet which may change today.

Friday was Hub day…..a day when all the new G12 trainees come together to attend common classes and get more shots (rabies and hepatitis). It was a good time to reaquaint ourselves with those not in our cluster who traveled with us from Philly. A highlight of each day is lunch at one of the Host families homes. We’ve tried lots of new food prepared in many ways and we look forward to these meals. A highlight has been the most delicious strawberries you can imagine. They are the very small ones unlike most of the ones we get in the U.S. They are so flavorful and juicy and usually we are served a huge bowlful. These will only last for a month or so and when they are gone that’s it for strawberries.

Bathing is interesting. In our home we have a shower BUT no one seems to use it because water is not always available. So we have learned the art of “bucket baths”. You stand in the shower area with a huge bucket of hot water which has been heated with a big emersion element go from there. For us, we take turns….pourer or bather. Don’t know how the singles do it!

Our daily schedule is arising about 6:30….studying for a short time…..dressing…..eating and off to language classes at 9 for the next 4 hours. Suzanne is in a local school (School #2) which is a 15 minute walk away. I join up with another volunteer on the way who lives around the corner. Tom walks to the USAID office which is 20 minutes away in the opposite direction up a very steep road. As mentioned before, language clases are intense!! Suzanne is waiting for the Ah Ha moment to occur and so is Tom.

After lunch we both attend technical session about our respective programs, education for Suzanne and business for Tom. We arrive back at our host family’s house somewhere between 5 and 6 PM hungry and exhausted. After dinner it’s time to study and do homework all while tring to stay awake.

We also have sessions which cover culural similiarties and differences, mostly differences between Georgia and America.

We hope to post more pictures soon.


Meeting our host family in Telavi.


Grandma Zizi, mom Nana, daughter Nino. Son Zura is not in the picture.

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PST village placement selection.

Well we are in Telavi for the next 11 weeks. I will try to upload a video when the bandwidth improves!

Suzanne got a scare when the training director said they were trying a new plan and that the couples would be separated for PST. The look on my face must have been striking as he quickly said he was only joking. Everyone seemed to get a great laugh at my reaction as many of them told me afterward.

The level of excitement was very high at that point and all were ready to get on the buses and go to their homes. The ride was about 4 hours and we saw a lot of the countryside including some terrible road conditions and snow covered mountains in the distance which had some skiers very excited. When our bus arrived at its location all the host families were there to greet us with smiling faces. Each name was called out and the family ( or person) can forward to greet us with a warm kiss.

We are with a family of 4….Grandma, Mom, Nino girl age 17, and Zura a boy age 14. They live in a nice sized house but it is very disconnected, almost like parts of several houses put together.
The bathroom which consist of a toilet and shower is nice but you have to go outside to access it.
When we go upstairs to our room we pass thru a section that seems like it wasn’t part of the original building and that is where the stairs are located. Upstairs there is another bedroom and 2 other large rooms like sitting rooms. There is a lovely piano which Nino says she will play for us.
Tonight she is off to a very special party.

Nino was so excited when we arrived she was bubbling with chatter and wonderful manners.
I think it is likely that she convinced her Mom to have PC here. She speaks good English and wants to travel!

Time for study now and it’s raining. I hope it’s over by morning.

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On to PST (pre service training).

We spent three days at a training facility getting us familiar with what to expect during the next 11 weeks. Tonight, May 5th, we are packing for departure to our PST site and host family’s house. More to come, but we are not sure when we will have Internet connection to update….



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Buses to our orientation site.

The trip from the airport to our orientation site first included a stop for supper and our first taste of Georgian food.



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Georgia under our feet!

Safely in Tbilisi gathering our bags before heading out to the waiting public, Peace Corps staff, dignitaries, and press.




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Made it to Istanbul

The flight to Istanbul was very tiring but we made it. Now another wait for the Turkish airlines plane to Tbilisi.



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The wait is almost over!

It’s 2:55 and the flight is finally posted. Boarding is only about an hour and fifteen minutes away.


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