Sunday, June 12, 2011

A quick glimpse

For those who want a glimpse into my awesome new life, you can check out a few photos that I just posted. I included some photos in my village and Lagodekhi, which is where I job shadowed a few weeks ago. Me mikvars sakartvelo (I love Georgia)!! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

6 weeks down, 5 to go!

It's hard to believe I've reached the halfway mark of pre-service training (PST). On one hand, I feel like I've already been here a year – but on the other hand, I feel like I just got here a week ago. It's been an interesting and humorous 6 weeks, that's for sure! I can say with 100% certainty, though, that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I love this crazy country in a way I can't really explain but I will certainly try…

Georgia is amazingly beautiful, fascinating and bizarre – all at the same time. The people are so incredibly warm and friendly; they're more than happy to invite you into their homes and serve you more food than you could eat in a week (literally). We even had complete strangers offer to drive us to another village, wait for us while we finished our errands, and then treat us to lunch. That's just the way they are here! 

As for the country itself, it's absolutely breathtaking. As one of my fellow trainees put it (while looking out of the window on our bus), "it's like we live in a postcard." And it's true… everywhere you look is beautiful – and I've only seen two towns! I can't even imagine how the rest of the country looks, especially during fall. I promise to post some photos soon so you can see what I mean. 

And my life… well, there really is no way to describe what my life has been like for the past 6 weeks, or how amazing the Peace Corps' training program is, but I think 'surreal' sums it up. I'm incredibly happy and I laugh to the point of having tears in my eyes pretty much every day. I've made some great friends already, and my host family is quite possibly the best family in all of Georgia. I have a host mother and father, and three host sisters (20, 18 and 14) who are awesome. I really couldn't imagine a better family than mine! I still wake up most mornings and think, "I can't believe I live here!"

It hasn't all been sunshine and happiness though. I actually started out in another village, living with another family, and unfortunately had to move out due to an incident with my host father. My host mother was away for the evening and he had been drinking… you do the math. But the Peace Corps responded immediately and removed me from the situation before it escalated. I was devastated at first because I had to move out of my village, away from my friends, and basically start over. 

But it all worked out in the end! Not only did I end up with an amazing family, I'm also living with another trainee who has become a wonderful friend. It's very rare for two trainees to live together (the PC wants you to integrate with your family, not hang out with your American friends) but there were no other options. So now I live in Kvibisi, which is about 5 minutes outside of Borjomi, with my friend Rachael. It's a picturesque little village, complete with meandering cows, roosters and pigs. I've only lived here for 4 weeks but I know I'm going to be sad when I have to leave (which is in 5 weeks…yikes!).


As for pre-service training (PST), well, it can easily be described in one word: intense. We have Georgian language class 6 days a week, from 9am-1pm, and by the end of the morning, your brain literally can't absorb any new information. But it really is a huge testament to the PC's program when you consider how much Georgian we have learned in just 6 weeks. We know about 40 verbs and are now working on past tense, a million or so nouns, adjectives and adverbs, and can create fairly complex sentences. For example, we can describe our daily activities (in complete sentences, mind you) and talk about our favorite fruit/vegetable/season/sport/color/etc. We can tell you about our families, our homes, our jobs and how we prefer our coffee. Or if you want to know what we did last week, we can tell you that too! It really is crazy how much we know already. After language (and lunch), we have business training from 2pm-5pm. Then we have homework, practicums and projects we have to work on – plus spend a few hours hanging out with the family – so it's usually 11pm by the time we crawl into bed. 

Georgian language class!

I did have the opportunity to take a short break from all of the training recently and job shadow a current Volunteer. I ended up traveling about 5 hours east to a town called Lagodekhi, which is really close to the Azerbaijan and Russian borders. It was nice to see how Volunteers live after PST, what "real" Georgia is like, and what kind of jobs they have. It sounds like I'll definitely be doing a lot of grant writing, conducting trainings and possibly teaching English. Or, if there's something else I want to do in my village, I have the option of taking on secondary projects. I'm excited to find out where exactly I'm going to be living for the next 2 years and what I'll be doing. The anticipation is killing me! We find out this Monday (June 13) so fingers crossed that I end up somewhere good!!

Living in Georgia is certainly going to be interesting and challenging at times, but so far I'm enjoying every minute of it. I've honestly laughed more in this past month than I have in the past few years – it's the best feeling. Plus I LOVE my fellow trainees, our country director and the PC staff. I feel like I really hit the jackpot. Awesome friends, awesome staff and a gorgeous country filled with warm, welcoming people. What more could I ask for?!