Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The boss

Everyone knows it can be intimidating meeting your boss for the first time. You have a million questions running through your mind… wondering if you'll get along, if your work styles will be similar, if he'll like you, etc. You want him to get a sense of who you are, and at the same time get a sense of who he is. You want to impress him. And you want to make a connection. The pressure is on. We've all been there. Except now imagine you don't speak each other's languages. Talk about nerve-wracking!

The first time I met Alex was during PST at the Supervisors' Conference, where we were paired up with our future counterparts. We were all standing in the lobby of our hotel… 42 Volunteers on one side, 42 Georgian counterparts on the other. One by one, they would call our names, and then that person would walk to the center of the lobby and meet the person they were going to work with for the next 2 years. It was exciting and terrifying, all at the same time. When I heard my name called, I started walking to the center and then I saw Alex walking towards me. This was him... my counterpart! I immediately noticed his kind smile and a little twinkle in his eye – but most importantly, I noticed he was rockin' a denim jacket. I, too, was wearing a denim jacket that day. That's the first time I thought maybe, just maybe, this was going to be a perfect match!

Over the next several weeks, I was able to see Alex interact with his family and his two little girls. He clearly loves his girls and is so playful with them – always kissing them, tickling them, playing with their toys. I was at his house one evening for a supra (a big Georgian dinner), enjoying the company of his family and several of their neighbors, when I first saw the affectionate side of Alex. His oldest daughter Nata is four (going on 14) and loves, loves, loves to entertain. She struts down the catwalk and poses with her hand on her hip (with no less than 5 outfit changes); she proudly recites Georgian songs; she performs Georgian dances; and she loves to tell me the words she knows in English. She also refuses to wear pants (and I quote: "Mom, don't you know princesses don't wear pants?!”). She is, in every sense of the word, a girly girl. That evening, she decided to perform a few of her songs at the supra. Next thing I know, she hands her daddy a pink, plastic Barbie microphone and asks him to please introduce her next song. He smiles, takes the microphone, holds it up to his mouth and says loudly, "Performing for us next is… Nata!" She beamed. He beamed. Yep… I definitely like this man.

I've been here almost nine weeks now and I grow more and more fond of Alex every day. He's been nothing but kind to me since the day I met him, and he always has a smile on his face, even when I know he's exhausted and overworked. He always asks how I'm doing, how my family is doing and what my plans are for the weekend. He's eager to meet my friends and wants to know when they are coming to visit. Last week, he told me to let him know when my mom is coming to visit so he can take a few days off to show her around. He's given me more bottles of wine and other thoughtful gifts than I know what to do with. He's taken me to several places around Kakheti and has introduced me to everyone in town. Basically, he’s one of the warmest, kindhearted, genuine, hardworking people I've met in a really long time. And he's my boss! I'm definitely one of the luckiest Volunteers in Georgia, that's for sure.

And then last week happened. We had spent the day in Telavi – a city not too far from here – and we were in the car, driving back to Kvareli with his family. The car was packed, it was hot and everyone was tired. But that didn't stop him. He pulled the car over, turned off the engine and got out. He started walking around this tree, in the middle of nowhere, looking at the ground. I had no idea what was going on, and chalked it up to another random Georgian moment. Then his wife, who speaks fluent English, explained… he loves rocks and stops to pick them up all the time. He's collecting white ones right now because he wants to use them in a cellar he's building. So there we were, on the side of the road, watching my boss search for the perfect rock. And that's when I knew for sure… this was definitely a perfect match.

My counterpart, Alex

P.S. For those who don't know me well, I have been known to collect a *few* rocks in my time. I may have even moved a box of rocks from Colorado to South Carolina, may have snuck an entire bag through customs in Costa Rica, and may have a special rock that I rub when I'm stressed. So I have a special place in my heart for my fellow collectors; those of us who understand there are times when you just can't control the need to find that perfect rock. 

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