The letter 'ყ' in Georgian is the hardest letter for me pronounce. It sounds a little like the letter 'k' yet you have to say it from the deepest part of your throat. No matter how hard I try, nobody ever understands what I'm trying to say. So you can only imagine my excitement when I moved from Kvibisi (which always sounded like Tbilisi to Georgians when I tried to say it) to Kvareli – both of which begin with my beloved letter ყ. So to make it easier for all involved, we're just going to call it the Kwa from here on out.
I've been at my permanent site for 7 weeks now (without a single blog post… sorry) and I have to say, life is finally starting to feel somewhat normal. I no longer feel like a guest in my house, and I'm learning my way around town; I've even learned how to do my own laundry, which is a big deal considering everything is in Russian. The days are going by quickly, which is a good thing since this summer has been unbearably hot (that is, until my family installed a rockin' AC unit right outside my bedroom), and I feel like I'm adjusting and integrating fairly well.
My days in the Kwa are pretty routine. I wake up between 7-8am, go for a run (and get stared at like I'm a lunatic who's running through town naked and screaming), shower, eat breakfast and then walk to work around 10am (and get stared at again). I'm there until 5-6pm, and then I walk home (with the whole town watching to see what the crazy American might do or say), eat dinner and either read a book, watch a movie or catch up with other Volunteers. Like I said, it's a fairly normal (albeit Georgian) life.
I'm not doing very much at work right now. The entire country takes the month of August off (figuratively speaking), so most projects are put on hold until September. However, I'm in a very different situation from the rest of the business Volunteers; they all work for NGOs that support at-risk youth, internally displaced people, minorities, abused women, etc.… I promote wineries and tourism. And August is a prime month for tourism, so while I didn't have many actual projects going on, we did have countless tourists coming through Kvareli that kept us busy. I conducted a wine tour for a group of Israeli tourists, which was a little nerve-wracking but also pretty fun, and I've been able to join my counterpart on a several tours and meetings around the region. I'm also editing wine labels, brochures and websites, and have started working on plans to exhibit at a trade show in DC next spring. Over the next few months, I'll be helping my organization create a one-year plan, design and launch three separate websites, and write a few grant proposals. I'm also going to start teaching English in a few weeks and will be conducting a few marketing-related trainings in October. Photos of Kvareli...
Everyone has been asking what my biggest challenge has been so far. It is, without a doubt, the language. There is so much I want to say (especially to my wonderful host grandmother!), but I simply don’t have the vocabulary yet. At work we rely a lot on the translate.ge website and my counterpart's wife who speaks English fluently, but I still feel completely lost most days. I'm hoping it comes in time, but right now I'm wondering if I'll ever really be able to communicate.
I have ventured out of my community a few times to visit other Volunteers and see new parts of the country. I've been to Tbilisi twice now; once when it was so hot I thought I might die so the sight-seeing was extremely limited, and another time to "support" the Peace Corps basketball team, which for me meant relishing a quiet day alone in the city, visiting museums and enjoying a latte at an adorable little bookstore. We're only allowed to spend two nights in Tbilisi each month, but I'm looking forward to taking advantage of those nights and exploring what I think is a pretty cool city. Here are a few photos from my first weekend in Tbilisi...
|Tbilisi at dusk|
I also traveled 9 hours across the country to visit my PST roommate, Rachael, who lives about 30 minutes from the Black Sea. We spent one day in Batumi, which is an interesting resort town, and two days in Kobuleti, where we did nothing but relax on the beach and enjoy a few ice cream cones. While it certainly wasn't Hilton Head, it was still really nice to enjoy a few days at the beach with an amazing friend.
This is one of my favorite photos from the weekend… it's our lifeguard, hard at work. Good thing the waves weren't big that day!
So now it's September and fall is approaching. I'm looking forward to cooler weather, camping trips in the mountains, the leaves changing and the annual grape harvest, which is a huge event in Kakheti with a lot of celebrations and big dinners. But until then I'm going to retreat to the comfort of my air-conditioned room…