GAnother list – part 1

Peace Corps bloggers are fond of making lists – stuff they love, stuff they hate, funny stuff, sad stuff, sometime some pretty provocative stuff – lots of different stuff. I’m not different. I started making a list even before I came to Georgia. That list was all about what I would miss about L.A, and what I wouldn’t. For the most part, I was pretty on the mark, especially the things I wouldn’t miss!

A recent anniversary got me thinking about making a similar list for Georgia. About 2 weeks ago, we all hit our 1-year mark. We’re not quite half-way there – that date will come sometime in mid-June, I haven’t calculated the exact date and probably won’t. I’m not really thinking that much about it, and don’t intend to until at least August, after I return from Paris. Maybe not even until the beginning of 2016, when I return from meeting up with my son in … wherever we decide. Then I’ll begin counting down, I think. But for now, I’m just living my life – work life, social life, Peace Corps life – it’s all pretty good. It’s just in a different place. Here’s a very short video (7 seconds, I think) of some of us marking the moment – Rachel had her eyes dilated that day for an exam, so she looks like Beelzebub, I hope she’ll forgive me for this.

So, here’s a list of Georgian things I think I will miss. I’ll talk about what I won’t miss in a separate blog, or this will be too long! I’ll look back on these in a year or so and see how they hold up.

What I’ll miss:

Of course, like everyone does, I’ll miss people. I’ll miss my host families, both from training and here in Gori. Both of these families have been so good to me, and well beyond the time when Peace Corps was paying them for keeping me at their homes. Eka and Tsira, in Khashuri, welcome me with open arms each time I visit, along with all the mezobeli (neighbors) on the street. I leave each time with food and wine. My host family here in Gori feeds me a sumptuous feast pretty much every week. They give me honey from their backyard hives, preserved fruit, bread and all other manner of food. They care about what is going on with me, and call me when I’m sick. They help me whenever I need a handyman of some sort. You know … like a family. Best of all, for me, the mother of one child – a son – their two daughters, aged 13 and 15, have finally given me a little taste of what it must feel like to have girls. It’s … different. In a good way.

The other person I will undoubtedly miss a lot is my counterpart, Marta. She has taken me under her fashionable wing from the moment I arrived in Gori. There’s really nothing she wouldn’t do to help me out. Sometimes I have to fight her off just to venture out to do some errand by myself. But I really couldn’t make her without her, not just at work, but personally, too. She’s found me an apartment, sat in it with me all day calling internet company representatives, taught me how to make my favorite sweet bread, kada, and countless other favors. Not least, she can be very tough with me when we are writing grants together. The words “No, Sara!” said in just the right combination of strong will and amusement will always resonate with me.

I will also miss my Director, Eka. A small, slim woman with a gigantic personality and what I can only call a lilting voice and laugh, she is the passionate heart of my organization. If I were younger, I would see her as a model mentor, but being on the other end of my career, I just stand back an gaze in awe. Eka is a IDP from Abkhazia who takes her mission very personally. Married with two little boys, she still somehow manages to do it all.

Then, of course, there are a lot of volunteers I’ll miss. Though the whole “age thing,” as I call it, has proven to be a little tougher nut to crack than I anticipated, I’ve grown close to a lot of them. That’s a topic for another post, though. In the meantime, here are a few pictures that I think kind of capture the gestalt of it:

Next, of course, I’ll miss the food! There’s not a huge variety, but what there is, is darn good. I did a post about food here, so I won’t reiterate all of it again. But a few things I may not have mentioned … homemade cherry cognac in a coke bottle, fresh bread straight out of a stone oven, fresh fruit in summer, especially watermelon, and carbonated pear “lemonade.” All so good. And, oh yeah, Turkish coffee. Last week I saw a new volunteer drain his little cup, sludge and all, apparently never having drunk it before. That guy won’t sleep for about a week.

I will miss Gori. I’ve grown quite fond of the place. I love my flat here – I love the view, the Caucasus mountains, the sound of the river rushing by, the night train wheels on the tracks just beyond, Gori Castle, the arches of Stalin Museum (even if I don’t like what’s inside of it!), the kids and young people thronging the park outside the Museum in summer, the traditional kiss at greeting, the blooming trees, the grapevines outside every house … I lucked out with this site. I don’t know that I would want to live out the rest of my life here, because I’m always restless for new places and experiences, but for now, it fits me very well.

I’ll miss my work here. I work hard, and I try to bring something of value to the table. Being a volunteer always involves an element of frustration, because there’s always so much more that could be done – in theory, anyway. But here I think my age and experience is a big plus, because I can manage that frustration a lot better. I’ve just been there before, a lot of times, and I know how to handle it. Not that I always succeed; cultural frustrations, in particular, are hard, but I do know it will pass if I am just patient, allow myself to feel bad for a while, and then pick myself up off the floor (or out of the bed, more likely) and move on. I’ll also miss my Peace Corps work. I really like the grants committee that I serve on, and I also am enjoying our IDP discussion group, helping with training of new volunteers, and writing articles or pieces for various PC publications. It’s all fun, really. Here’s a couple of work photos:

Well, that’s about it for now. It’s a lot to miss, but by the same token, it’s a lot to feel good about. Next post, I’ll talk a little about what some of the challenges are – what I won’t miss, in other words. But I’m glad I did this one first.

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