Monthly Archives: June 2012

It was bound to happen. . . the trials of week 7.

It all started last Saturday when we were on the Marshutka to come home from our site visit in Batumi and Gonio.  გააჩერე !  Stop ! Tom has to up-chuck….not once but twice!  I thought we were in for 6 hours of misery but luckily no more stops were needed.  However, the week still had its health issues as Suzanne came down with the cold from hell and Tom’s stomach was ‘off’ until Friday.  We had the help of the excellent P C doctor who took great of our symptoms with meds and lots of good advice.  We both missed a day of class because of Stalin’s revenge  aka “the runs”.   As we write on Saturday night, Suzanne is still coughing a bit but Tom is good.

In language class we struggled with pre, post and prep…ositions!  In place of our prepositions, the Georgian language uses post positions and direction pre-verbs.  They are a joy to learn. So now we can come & go, go in and out, go over and go in all directions.  All of these use different verbs. We need more time to study but it seems impossible to find the time for it.    An added joy this week was that we received Book #2 of the Georgian Language Handbook.

The Good News is that in just four short weeks we will be sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers and able to use that term proudly.  The ceremony will be here in Telavi with as many as 300 guests present including members of the State Dept., Peace Corps folks, new directors, host family members and current volunteers.  Tickets are at a premium so if you want to come, let us know asap.  🙂  Seriously though, the mood has changed dramatically with everyone just wanting to get going to their permanent site.

It’s Saturday night and we should be at a cafe or bar having a beer with friends but the sky just  opened and we are here chatting with our friends at home instead.  We wish we could send some of this rain to the fires in Colorado but hopefully they will get some soon.

The pictures for this entry are from a Supra we had with our ‘cluster’ mates on Saturday.  Each week we have a session on some aspect of the Georgian culture.  This week it was the “Supra”.  That is a  meal with traditional Georgian foods and lots of it!  Toasts are made in a very strict order by the Tamada who begins the process which then can be extended to others.  The food is endless.  What you see in the pictures is our attempt at making one of the most loved foods….ხინკალი Khinkali.  They are basically a dumpling with a filling of meat, potato, sour cream or mushroom.  They are cooked in boiling water and served hot. Enjoy!

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By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea — Batumi and Gonio

Site placement has come and gone.  Suzanne and I drew the western most towns of Batumi-Gonio.  We will be living in the town of Gonio which is just about 6 miles south of Batumi and the same distance north from the Turkish border.  This is a beach town but nothing like Malibu.  The drive from Tbilisi to Batumi takes about 6 hours and after our supervisor’s conference we were off to do our site visit.  We were lucky in that my supervisor drove to the conference site and provided us with a comfortable air-conditioned ride instead of a stuffy marshutka.  Unfortunately our return to PST in Telavi will be on a marshutka.

We are settled in with our new host family and heading for bed as Suzanne will be off to school by 9 and I will wait to be picked up by someone from my new work office.  The purpose of this trip is to familiarize ourselves with our future surroundings and work environment and get those whom we will be living and working with a chance to know us.

It’s my turn to write….The school I will be working in is much nicer than the one here in Telavi where I did Practicum.  However, it is still a far cry from the poorest school in the U.S.  Resources are limited, the bathrooms are an outhouse, the rooms have outdated maps and not much else on the walls, etc.  Our Host Mother teaches Physics at this school and the Father is a Medical Doctor.  They have 2 teenagers who are just lovely kids and they speak some English but the parents do not.  They have 2 cows which the Mom milks in the am before getting ready for school and about a dozen chickens.  Like everyone else, they also have a veggie garden.  Oh…I forgot… Grandma also lives with them and she is 83 and speaks 4 languages (Russian, Armenian, Turkish and Georgian).  She was sitting ready Victor Hugo in Russian yesterday as I sat with her.

Tom’s placement in Batumi seems to be a great opportunity for him and for the organization in which he will be working.  I’ll let him tell you about that.  I will say, however, that his supervisor has been totally generous to us driving Tom to and from Gonio and taking us places.  On Friday afternoon, he took us along with a program manager from his office and his interpreter, on a walking tour of Batumi explaining many buildings and how things had changed in recent years.  He grew up in this area and knows the history very well.  In parts of the city you might think you were in Budapest with the lovely narrow stone streets.  These however are juxtaposed by the large, very ugly apartments that were built by the Russians and still house many families.  After our tour, we were all treated to a lovely Georgian meal sitting by the Black Sea.  The 2 young ladies who were with us were very capable in every way and had many, many questions for us about America including what did we think of McDonald’s and Wal-Mart!  I’ll let Tom tell you more now.

What can I add.  On Thursday morning my supervisor and NGO director Mr. Levan picked me up at our host family’s house and drove us to the office.  I was greeted by the entire staff with a banner that said Welcome Tom and the word Tom used as an acronym To Our Motherland.  I will attach a picture of this at the end of the post.

The organization has been in existence since 1998 and started off working with youth, thus the name “Young Scientists Union “Intellect””.   It has evolved and is working with all ages.  they are active in promoting good government and economic development.  they have conducted many trainings for the people in the five regions of Ajara covering voting rights and I believe voting registration.  They have also helped local residents get local concerns added to the municipalities budgets.   I will be assisting with locating new sources of funding and hopefully new and fresher ideas.  It is important for me to remember that I am a volunteer and not just another employee so my role is one of guidance.  We must help the NGOs to increase their capacity to function.  These are new areas for me so the learning curve in August will be steep  but I feel up to the task.

I do believe I will be traveling in the five municipalities of Adjara and conducting focus groups and trainings.  A truly exciting time.

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Week 5: Living through mid-term assessments

Week 5 is over and are we glad. This past week we had the usual daily classes as well as mid PST assessments. First there was the technical areas (for Tom: business) (for Suzanne: education). PC requires a 90% passing grade on these tests. Neither of us achieved that so we have re-answer the questions that we got wrong. It’s like being in school again but we get to retake the questions we missed. Then there was the interview with the PST Program Manager. We each met with Tengo (that’s him) and generally discussed how “things were goings”. Did we have any concerns and, if so, what were they. How were we doing with the language? You get the picture. Then came the final nail in the coffin….the individual 20 minute interview in Georgian. We stumbled our way through that and will receive some feedback as to our level at this point. Novice Low is what I expect and Tom agrees with that. You can probably guess that Friday night couldn’t come quick enough for most.

Today was a rare free day…not really. It was a “cultural trip” day when we could take a day trip or even an overnight in the country as long as we were back by Sunday at 7 PM….and Tbilisi was off limits! We decided to go to Tsinandali a village about 15 minutes our side of Telavi which has a beautiful museum and lovely surrounding park. The museum was very enlightening view of some of Georgia’s history in the late 19th and early.20th century. It was interesting to learn the connections of some of the aristocracy with that of other European countries and the connection at that time of Georgia with Russia. Sometimes it seems that not much has changed.

Tomorrow, Sunday 10 June 2012, we have another breather day but we will have to do some review of the material for our test retake on Monday.  We are also going through our things to repack two of our suitcases for our trip next week.  You will get more information about this trip in our next posting.  Here are some pictures of recent activities.

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We’ve survived a month!

We are finished 1/3 of our PST and it is quite a milestone. Despite needing to adjust to food, language, cultural norms and bathroom etiquette we are doing well and have luckily avoided becoming sick. We had our first language ‘quiz’ yesterday and this week we will all have 2 personal interviews with someone on the staff. One is a mid-assessment interview and the other a language proficiency interview. We’ll let you know how those go but everyone keeps assuring us that the PC does not want to send us home. In the near future (June 11th) they will announce our permanent sites and 2 days after that we will all go to those sites for a 3 day visit. It gets more real every day.

Tom chatted about his job shadowing in Batumi last weekend so I will tell you about my experience. Another volunteer (Kim) and I went to a town called Khoni in the Imereti region about a 6 hr. ride on the marshutka (mini bus). We got to see a lot of countryside and pass thru many, many little villages where the particular products of that place were often on view and for sale. In Khoni we stayed with Vivian and Adam who are G11s and they are both teachers, each in a different school. They live alone in a very small apartment and are enjoying their stay. We followed them around for 3 days….to the bazari (Georgian for market) for fresh produce, to the school where we were the attraction and on long walks around the village as well as a wonderful meal with their former host family. They were so great to be with that we were able to totally relax. We spend hours just talking. We learned so much about what to expect in our placement as well as how to be ourselves and be culturally sensitive at the same time. This is a topic which is discussed almost daily as the differences are many and some difficult for us Americans to handle. Gender roles are quite static although some say that you can begin to see small changes in the very big cities, mainly Tbilisi.

The surprise of our visit for me was that V & A have a house in Parker, CO! They are from Ohio but moved to CO many years ago and love it there. At present their house is being rented to friends. They both have MBA degrees and hope to return to the business world when they return to the states. In the schools here, after the 9th grade you can go on to 12th which they call “college” or you can transfer to a tech or vocational school or just stop. When you go into a 9th grade classroom you can tell almost immediately what options they have chosen. Our host daughter, Nino, just finished college and is looking toward working in a bank. She says she needs to learn German and may travel to Germany to live with a relative in order to fulfill this ambition. I think she is very bright but University doesn’t seem to be an option for those who can’t afford it. I need to do more research on that topic.

On Friday we had what the PC calls a HUB day when all the volunteers come together and do general sessions on culture, safety and health, interviews, shots for those who still need some, etc. Tom and I got our last rabies shots on Friday. I think we are still do a Hepatitis shot in a few more weeks. We also had some sessions on HIV with a terrific video of 5 volunteers who returned home HIV positive. It was very well done and hopefully will fend off such terrible results. There isn’t anything that isn’t discussed here as openly as possible. We even had separate “gender” sessions. All the local staff are present and available during these times which is very good.

Tonight we have been invited to a jazz concert at the music college so we plan on attending that (if I get my homework done this afternoon)! This week I will have the last of our Practicum sessions in the schools as they are done on Friday. I’m sticking to the early grades as their enthusiasm is so great and they are adorable. I’ll be passing along any needs you can help with once we get settled into our permanent sites.

Among the many strategies we learn is to have a GO BAG ready for any emergency. This is probably a backpack with your passport, a change of clothes, some money, medicines you need, etc. And we are constantly quizzed on many aspects of daily living such as how we are integrating into the culture, do we know where to go in an emergency or who to contact, where the nearest police station is located, etc. I’m sure there are many parents out there who are delighted to hear that our safety is a constant issue with the staff.

Well, it’s time to get back to that homework I mentioned. We miss all of you so much and your presence in our daily lives. We are making new friends for sure but old friends are the ‘gold’ ones as the song goes. And we count ourselves among the very richest in that regard. Please comment and send us your thoughts on the blog….hopefully you all have discovered how to “follow” us at the bottom of the blog. We promise to send more pictures as Tom as time to get them on here. Pray for us always. Love, Suzanne

Here are a few pictures from my job shadowing weekend:


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