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a far cry from the poorest school in the U.S. Resources are limited, the bathrooms are an outhouse, the rooms have outdated maps and not much else on the walls, etc.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.