Thursday, October 4, 2012

So maybe blogging isn't my thing...

It's been 4 months since my last post, and before that, a month. Clearly, blogging isn't for me. Although I have enjoyed posting updates, it's been hard to keep up with it in addition to writing in my journal every day, replying to emails, and working on projects. But with only 8 months of service left, I'm going to do my best to keep writing. So here's a quick rundown of my life over the past 4 months...

June was fairly uneventful. I spent my weekdays working on projects like creating English menus for local restaurants and designing certificates. On the weekends my boyfriend Gus and I spent time relaxing at Ilia's Lake in Kvareli, and exploring new places in Georgia including Uplistsikhe, a cave city near Gori. 

Uplistsikhe, an ancient rock-cut city
I also enjoyed a much-needed girls' weekend on Black Sea, where I managed to leave with yet another mullet (my second in 18 months). This one is actually worse than the one I got back in the States… it's a combination of the Jennifer Aniston '94 cut and a full-on mullet. It's awesome. Then on June 20, I received exciting news from home… my brother and his wife had welcomed their third child into the world! I have yet to meet the little man, but he has already stolen my heart!

2 days old!
3 months!

In July, my mom came to visit for 3 whole weeks!! There are really no words to describe how I felt when I saw her walk through customs at the Tbilisi airport, so let's just say there were tears. I hadn't realized until that moment how very alone I have felt since leaving 17 months ago. Yes, I have my Georgian friends and family, as well as my boyfriend and Volunteer friends but for the most part, nobody really knows you here, and hugs are pretty much non-existent. To say I was deprived of love and affection would be an understatement. Having my mom wrap her arms around me and hug me was exactly what I needed. A mom's love. Nothing beats it. 

After my tears dried, we spent 11 days roaming around Georgia. We stayed in Tbilisi the first night where she was finally able to meet Gus. They hit it off instantly, which didn't surprise me at all. Gus traveled with us to Borjomi (our pre-serving training site), and Vardzia, an ancient cave city near the Turkish border. After that, my mom and I headed to Kvareli to meet my host family and see where I had been living for the past year. She definitely got a taste of the Georgian life… she attended supras, made khinkali and churchkhela, visited several churches, sipped on Turkish coffee, rode in marshutkas and drank lots of Georgian wine! She was a good sport and enjoyed being a part of my life for a few days. We then met up with Gus again and headed to Kazbegi, a beautiful town high in the Caucasus Mountains, followed by a day of site seeing in Tbilisi. 

Making churchkhela!

My mom with my host family

That wrapped up our Georgia trip, and then we headed to Turkey for 9 amazing days! We spent 4 days in Istanbul seeing all of the sites and eating delicious food, and then another 4 days along the Aegean Sea in a small town called Cesme. After so much traveling, it was nice to relax on the beach and soak up the sun. We also went to Ephesus, an ancient Greek city, before heading back to the airport. The tears quickly returned as I had to say goodbye to her for a second time, knowing it would be another year before I saw her. But I am so incredibly grateful for the time I had with her and thankful that she took time out of her summer to come here. Thank you, Mom. You're the best mother anyone could ever ask for and I had an amazing time with you!!

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

August was another month of tears and traveling. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to change sites. I don't want to get into the reasons why, but suffice it to say, I needed to feel like I had accomplished something during my time here and I wasn't sure I would get that chance if I stayed. Breaking the news to my counterpart and my family was extremely emotional and heartbreaking. I was in tears for several days, questioning my decision and wondering if I would regret it. Moving day quickly approached however, so I packed my bags, said my goodbyes and left for my new town.

I'm now living in Telavi and working with an organization called Georgian Society for Nature Friends (GSNF). Telavi is the capital of the Kakheti region (same region I was in before) and is a bigger city (20k) with a lot of resources. I have cafes, markets, stores, festivals and site-mates… none of which I had before. I'm also partially living on my own. I live in a house with a family, but I have separate living quarters, which has worked out well. It's nice to be able to cook for myself, while also having a family close by in case anything goes wrong. As for my job, GSNF is a great organization that focuses on conservation and preservation of nature, as well as eco-tourism. My counterpart is extremely passionate about his work and is thrilled to have me on board. He's keeping me busy too! I've already written projects to develop tourism in a nearby area, open a geo-tourism center in Telavi, create a tourism club for university students and conduct environmental seminars for the public. I've been here 2 months now and so far, so good. So do I regret my decision? Sadly, I do. I love and miss my Georgian family SO MUCH, as well as my counterpart. But I also believe that everything happens for a reason, so I'm trying to stay focused on that and enjoy this new experience. And really, Telavi is only 20 miles from my previous site, so I'm able to go back and visit my family whenever I want. 

Towards the end of the month, Gus and I traveled with another couple to Svaneti, which boasts the highest inhabited village in all of Europe. Hands down, Svaneti is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The mountains, the glaciers, the views… it was absolutely breathtaking! The hikes were challenging but well worth it, and it was nice to get away of the oppressive summer heat for a few days too.

Hiking in Svaneti

That brings us to September, which was busy with new and old projects, exploring Telavi, and getting up at 3am to stream college football games online. Speaking of… how 'bout them Gamecocks!?! Gus's parents also came to visit for a week, which was great. I was so happy to finally meet them and be able to spend time getting to know them, not to mention hear stories about Gus as a child! 

Now it's October. It's so hard to believe another summer has come and gone, another winter is quickly approaching, another group of Volunteers has arrived, and I only have 8 months left in Georgia. I'm excited that it's coming to an end, but with each day that passes, I realize more and more how much I have grown to love my host country and the people here. While I certainly won't miss the water outages or slow Internet, I will miss a lot of things about Georgia. So over the next 8 months, I plan to take advantage of the time I have left here and enjoy it while I still can. Before I know it, I'll be back in the rat race, wondering where the last 27 months went...