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: