Can you believe it has been a year since we left Colorado for the Peace Corps?

Well it’s true. We left our house in Aurora, CO on April 26th 2012 and headed for Philadelphia, PA for visits with family and friends before heading to staging with the other new PC Volunteers. We would soon become known as G12s the newest volunteers for the country of Georgia. Now it is the beginning for a whole new crew who arrived April 23rd and are full of enthusiasm and excitement and questions!

We’ve decided this time to take a look back at our year with pictures we’ve taken, some of which reflect the theme “what you would never see in Aurora”! We hope you enjoy looking at them and reading a bit about our journey in this country.

Sunset over the Black Sea.

Sunset over the Black Sea.

This is the place to be in the evening when the weather is warm and balmy.      It brings peacefulness and splendor to the end of a busy day.    It reminds us of how small we are in this world of many cultures but also presents possibilities of moving across the water to find something, someone new to greet.

The high Caucasus mountains.

The high Caucasus mountains.

From the Black Sea to the majestic Caucasus Mountains…..this view in winter is taken in Telavi where we spent our first 3 months in training.  The grey band in the middle is really a heavy fog bank covering the Telavi valley.  The many small villages normally seen from this location are blocked by the fog while the white caps capture your eyes.

When you want to really fill up, tilt the bus.

When you want to really fill up, tilt the bus.

It is an oddity here in Georgia……  for some reason many vehicles are raised on the gas tank side so that the tank can be filled to the brim.  We have yet to figure out the need for this other than it might be many miles before the same type of service station is available.  What we don’t have pictures for the many times we have seen customers fill all sorts of plastic bottles and jugs with gasoline.

The sign spells out HAMBUGER.

The sign spells out HAMBURGER.

Fast food!  This is one of many Hamburger stands in the local bazaar.  Now the hamburger is really half a loaf of bread pressed between the hot plates of something similar to a George Forman grill.  It is filled with sausage slices, cheese, onions, a cooked egg and, if you want some spices.  Mayo and ketchup are also an option.  The finished product is a sandwich that is about a 1/2 inch thick.

Giant Azalea bush.

Giant Azalea bush.

Yes, this is an amazing Azalea bush in one of the larger parks of Batumi.  We took this in early April.  The weather was still changing from cold to warm but it didn’t seem to bother the many flowering plants.  You find almost every kind of plant life here from tropical palms to holly bushes and trees.  Many of the trees don’t ever lose their leaves even in the coldest winters.

Oh Christmas Tree, Georgian style

Oh Christmas Tree, Georgian style

Chichilaki is the name of these cute little Georgian Christmas trees.  They range in size from 6 inches up to 3 feet.  They are made from walnut branches that are shaved to form the shape.  Just a few decorations are added.  Our familiar Christmas tree is also available both live and fake but most families don’t buy them.  After Christmas these walnut trees are burned in the home fire.

Winter comes and so does the "petchi" stove.

Winter comes and so does the “petchi” stove.

Our host family (Dad, Mom, Grandma) are putting up the petchi stove for the fast approaching winter weather.  The stove is put in the main living room and stays in the house until today (May 4th).  New pipes are installed each year.  It is used to heat part of the house, bake the bread and cook some food.  There is always hot water for tea (chi)!  The room gets a bit crowded when we are all trying to stay warm….7 bodies!

Mr. Ambassador and Nicole serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Mr. Ambassador and Nicole serve Thanksgiving dinner.

The U.S. Ambassador,  along with fellow PCV Nicole, are graciously serving our very own Thanksgiving dinner.  We were well over 100 people gathered and the volunteers did all the cooking except for the actual turkeys which the Peace Corps staff supplied.  We had all the fixin’s’ including pumpkin pie with cream whip (if you were lucky).  This was truly a fun evening of fellowship and conversation along with a good supply of wine!

Georgian barbeque.

Georgian barbecue.

This is our host family member, Aleko, at the barbecue pit.  In Georgia, the word “barbecue”means only the food you eat.  As you can see they set up the cooking elements from cinder blocks and some type of grill pan.  They don’t understand what we call a barbecue grill or that it can be a meal without meat!  So our experience is that we have chicken on a skewer cooked over a wood fire.  No charcoal briquettes here!

Meri picks oranges from the family grove.

Meri picks oranges from the family grove.

Time to pick the lemons, the oranges and the mandarins!  And our host Mom, Meri, is just the lady to do it.  She is a physics teacher,  a gardener , a chef, a farmer who tills the field, plants and harvests, and so many jobs that I can get tired just watching her.

No driers in Georgia.

No driers in Georgia.

When traveling through a village it is usual to see folks’ laundry hanging in the front of their house.  We haven’t seen any clothes driers at all in this country although there probably are some in the big cities. They don’t hang in the back of the house because that area is usually full of large trees.  In the apartment houses, there are many lines stretched out over the parking lots attached to free-standing poles.  No need to be bashful in this country because everyone has seen your underwear!

Cows have the right of way.

Cows have the right of way.

This poor cow is all alone.  This is very  unusual as these beasts mostly travel in herds.  It is a common sight to see them on the road stopping cars and buses….much to the dismay of many drivers.  They are protected, however, by law and hitting one will cost you plenty.  They are considered someone’s livelihood and are given the respect they deserve.  Just always watch where you are stepping!

Now we know where Elvis lives.

Now we know where Elvis lives.

Who knew????  We found this bit of Americana quite by accident when we were traveling around Tbilisi.  They advertise all sorts of goodies familiar to us (hot dogs, fries, shakes, pizza, etc.) but it was still morning so we didn’t partake.  BUT we will go back and check it out when we get really homesick for a good hotdog and shake!

Easter Vigil, 2013 -- Church of the Holy Spirit, Batumi, Georgia.

Easter Vigil, 2013 — Church of the Holy Spirit, Batumi, Georgia.

Christ is Risen!  (That is the translation of the banner held by the angels.)  And how could we not go to the Easter Vigil?  Luckily, Suzanne has most of it memorized as it was all in Georgian language.  2 Adults and 2 children were baptised amid a crushing crowd of relatives, friends and several television cameras.  We made the TV the next day!  Some of you may have seen a picture of the Easter fire which put our churches to shame.  It was a lovely, memorable, grace-filled evening.

We end this post with a series of pictures of other events we have yet to see in Aurora, Colorado.  If anyone has seen these things in recent memory please don’t let us know.  We want to keep our innocence.

****

Construction of the Gonio Boulevard.

Construction of the Gonio Boulevard.

The Black Sea is to the left.  Here I am standing on the “New Boulevard” being built along our beach in Gonio.

Cable car (Funicular) in Tbilisi

Cable car (Funicular) in Tbilisi

In Tbilisi there is this cable car which takes you up the hill to a park and the Georgian Church of Saint David.  Quite a sight and ride.

Public water fountain.

Public water fountain.

Most water public water fountains at home have on-off valves.  In Georgia you will find many fountains just bubbling away waiting for a thirsty soul.

A street during the rainy season.

A street during the rainy season.

Paved streets are only in the big cities.  Here in our village we have to navigate around the many puddles after the rain.

Georgian ჩურჩხელა (churchkhela).

Georgian ჩურჩხელა (churchkhela).

Suzanne helped make the Churchkhela this year.  These are hazelnuts dipped in a thick grape juice mixture.

Shirt Mop on a stick.

Shirt Mop on a stick.

The caption is correct.  You do see regular mops in some of the bigger stores but most often you will see women using this contraption – a T shaped device with a damp old shirt wrapped around it.  Interesting and it works.

Fresh water from the mountain spring.

Fresh water from the mountain spring.

For good clean and cool water we take trips to the local spring to fill up our plastic containers.  We still run ours through our water filters before drinking.

Men straightening out metal rebar.

Men straightening out metal rebar.

Nothing seem to go to waste here except trash and plastic bags.  In this picture men are using sledge hammers to straighten out bent rebar salvaged from a building just demolished.

Georgian wheel chair ramp.

Georgian wheel chair ramp.

We are used to the Americans with Disabilities Act and all the changes made for wheel chairs.  Here in Georgia they are making progress.  Here is an example of wheel chair accessibility on a set of stairs going up to a road cross over bridge.  Just don’t lose your grip on the way down!

This final entry is a short video of something you should not see in Aurora or all of Colorado for that matteer.

Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Can you believe it has been a year since we left Colorado for the Peace Corps?

  1. Sarah & Kelz

    Wow! Great summary, Tom & Suzanne. One year already. You are amazing. We will miss seeing you this summer in Aurora. We look forward to your return from this incredibly enriching adventure, dear friends.

  2. derwoodsnd@comcast.net

    Oh, gosh!

    It is Sat afternoon. You are with David and Tasha.

    ML is at a meeting on finances…..at our SND home down the road a piece.

    I sat down to this computer after making a batch of pizzelles and…..have spent the last half -hour reading every bit of your year:repeats and new stories…loved every minute of “being with you” Suzanne and Tom.

    ML just came in..I’ll bne back tomorrow.

    Today, we are accepting an invitation to go to Mass at 5:30 pm at St Thomas in Glen Mills, Pa.  with John Iacono as he celebrates Dorothy’s 87 birthday in heaven. Dinner is to follow, so I will be back tomorrow.

    My love and continued admiration,

    Aunt Marcie

  3. Hazel Kutac

    Amazing photos. So much of that reminds me of growing up on the farm. We took our stove down every summer, too. I guess it was for making room in our already small house with 10 children. Colorado also has a law about cows’ rights. There were a bunch in the yards of the houses around our cabin and no one could do anything about it because of open grazing laws. We congratulate you on successfully making it thru this year. What a learning experience for you! Shouldn’t every American go to one of these countries to see how the rest of the world has to live!! We take a lot for granted.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. We think of you so much.

    Love, Hazel

  4. Lori Kinney

    Tom and Suzanne,
    It’s absolutely crazy how this year has flown by! You’ve experienced and learned so much, and I’m confident that you have made an impact on the lives of a few, which will ripple into the lives of many. Hope to connect with you, of course, when you return to “terra firma USA!” Peace!

  5. mcheeks@cox.net

    Wow–where did the year go! Have been following your blog and pictures with curiosity and interest. Makes me appreciate how individual and unique each volunteer’s experience is. Sound like you and Tom have assimilated well, making me wonder about volunteering at different ages in our life. Have a friend, Linda, a volunteer with me in Nigeria, who just returned from a Response tour in Zambia. Response offers 3 to 6 mos. tours for RPCV. Linda has done 3 or 4 of these short term assignments and really enjoys herself. She returned to school for nursing so has that skill as well as her teaching background. How are your language skills developing? do you shop and interact with locals in their language? Costa Rica was a great respite for you and family. Hard to believe, but you’ll be preparing to come home before you know it. Stay well, Love Mary

  6. Nan graber

    thanks for always keeping us uptodate with you! I have learned so much about a new country–Georgia—by reading your blog. This last one was esp interesting. Keep up the facinating cultural experiences. We are with you in spriti! ………Nan and Don

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