Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Year one: done.

It's so hard to believe that exactly one year ago today, I left my family and friends to move overseas and start a whole new life in a whole new world. It's also hard to believe how normal this new world feels to me now. Things that used to freak me out a year ago don't even faze me anymore (which is both good and bad!). Holes in the ground (aka, toilets) don't bother me, showering once a week is no big deal and food left in the cupboard… totally fine. 

In the past 12 months, I've learned a new language, made new friends and discovered new foods. I've attended birthday parties, funerals, engagement parties and even had lunch with the U.S. Ambassador. I've had ants in my food, flies in my drinks and ticks on my back.

I've also come to realize that time has lost all meaning. Some days I feel like I've been here for years; other days I feel like I've only been here a few months. Some days drag on forever; other days are over in a snap. Some days I just want to pack my bags and leave; other days I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. 

For the most part, I would say I have adjusted well to my new life and at the same time, have developed a new appreciation for my old life. So in honor of my one year mark, I've made a list of the things I love most about Georgia and miss most about the States. 

What I love about Georgia:
  • My incredibly generous and kindhearted host grandmother; her son and his family, who have now become my close friends; and my counterpart and his family, who will always have a special place in my heart
  • The never-ending hospitality (ex: you can walk into anyone's house – unannounced – and they will feed you like royalty.) Guests are considered gifts from God.
  • Khinkali
  • Piso, my sweet kitten who meows outside the door all day long
  • The delicious fruit! Peaches, strawberries, kiwi, watermelon, figs and these little purple berries that stain your fingers the minute you touch them… mmm!
  • The simplicity of life, despite the hardships
  • Their beautiful alphabet and the fact I can read it!
  • The breathtaking nature
  • Their rich, dramatic and colorful history
  • Georgian dancing and music
  • The affection men show each other
  • How much family means to everyone
  • Our hardworking PC staff; I'm pretty sure I couldn't have made it this long without them!
Beautiful Georgian writing
Morning fog in Tusheti

My PST village, Kvibisi
New friends, Gus and Rachael

Things I might not ever adjust to:
  • Watching the sad, skinny, hungry dogs look for food and occasionally passing a dead one in the road
  • Their immense love of mayonnaise, salt and oil (um, sorry, but mayo does NOT belong on pizza!)
  • The copious amounts of cilantro used in every single dish (to say I detest cilantro would be a huge understatement)
  • Animal parts on the dinner table: heads, feet, tails, eyes…
  • The Tbilisi airport and its 5am departures and 3am arrivals
  • Getting stared at by the same people every single day
  • The incessant noises: cars honking, dogs barking, turkeys gobbling, chickens squawking, brakes squeaking, mufflers roaring
  • Incredible amounts of trash scattered across the entire country and the amount of water that is wasted
  • The daily torture to my lungs: car exhaust, burning trash, second-hand smoke (maybe this explains why I've had bronchitis 5 times…?)
  • Riding in a car or marshutka on a beautiful, 80-degree day and having all of the windows closed. Why, Georgia – WHY!? 

What I miss most:
  • My family, friends and sweet furry boys
  • Food! Specifically sushi, cheese, sandwiches, Mexican, Thai, seafood (oh, Maryland blue crabs, how I do miss you!)
  • Pedestrians having the right-of-way!!
  • Personal space – 18 inches should be an international law, in my opinion
  • Being understood and having a clue what's going on around me
  • American sports, especially college football and basketball
  • Common courtesies like thank you, please, you're welcome
  • Random acts of kindness and friendly smiles from strangers
  • Drip coffee and free refills

Sydney & Pierce
Mmm... crabs!

What I don't miss: (hmm… these all seem to be work-related!)
  • DC traffic 
  • The rat race
  • Having to be at work by 9am, 5 days a week

Living in Georgia has been interesting and fun, to say the least. Over the past year, I've had incredible days, good days, regular days, bad days and downright miserable days. I've had both the scariest and the most joyful moments of my life. Being a Volunteer in the Peace Corps is truly an experience I will never forget and I'm excited to see where the next year takes me! So here's to year 1… done!