Summertime has arrived in Georgia in full force. The last two or three weeks have been hot and humid (my least favorite weather), punctuated by violent thunderstorms. And when I say violent, I mean the full story – crackling lightening, thunder so loud it shakes the room, hail the size of golf balls, heavy rain … well, I’ll let this little video speak for itself!
Last weekend was no exception, so I had to fight off the characteristic lethargy that is my usual response to such weather, to travel into Tbilisi and then further east to the region of Kakheti for a special event put on by several G13 PCV’s. All the G13’s are about to leave the country this month and next – their two years are up – and they want to transition the project to some of us G14’s.
Here’s the official description: “The Kakheti Special Needs Field Day will bring together members of the special needs community and their Georgian student peers for a day of integrated fun and activities.” And indeed, that is how the day played out. We all met up at Village Gurjaani Public School in the morning, about 10 or 12 volunteers, and got to work setting up tables, signage, arranging different areas for games, distributing equipment, etc. My assignment (wisely, I have to say, given that I know nothing about any sport) was the food. And there was a lot of it! Here is just a small sampling … those are fresh-picked cherries we are holding, btw …
We had arm wrestling (a favorite for some reason), tug-of-war, vollyball, soccer (ok, I do know something about soccer, but do not ask me to explain the offside rule), baseball, frisbee, and a few other activities. The special needs kids (and adults) were a varied bunch. There were about 100 people there – some were in wheelchairs, some had obvious physical or mental disabilities, and others had disabilities that were not immediately evident. There were lots of students there as well, mostly recruited from PCV’s schools or by regional organizations/NGO’s that work on behalf of the disabled. The program was supported by the McLain Association for Children, a Georgian NGO founded by an American psychologist and a Georgian educator, and several other organizations. It’s a good organization that does excellent work in Georgia – here’s a link to their website: http://www.macgeorgia.org/.
I had a lot of fun feeding everyone and watching the games. I also was deeply impressed by the buoyant good spirits of the participants, who were wildly enthusiastic and so happy to be there. We were told that such events are nearly unheard-of here in Georgia, and that everyone wanted to do it again. We made certificates for the kids (Georgians love certificates to a degree I really wouldn’t have believed had I not personally witnessed it). I often think that these things are a bit of a waste of good paper, but the joy I saw on people’s faces as they received their certificate showed me otherwise. Here’s some photos to give you a sense of the day (with special thanks to Tom Kerwin for sharing his photos, since my camera was inoperative due to the fact that the battery was back at my hostel and I was in Gurjaani … whoops).
I will definitely be working on this project in the future, and hope to have more good news to report as it moves forward.
In the meantime, I’m traveling a bit more now that the weather has improved – this weekend, I will be visiting the city of Sighnaghi, aka “the city of love” 🙂 It’s also in Kakheti, so I’m definitely seeing more of the east of Georgia these days. I’ve also been participating in some fun outdoor activities, like “American Days” held in different cities throughout Georgia by the US Embassy. American Days presents information about NGO’s and agencies operating in Georgia, and also features live music concerts. This year the group was Dangerflow, a hip-hop band from Florida. My gutsy host sister, Salome, snagged them for an interview for her ongoing series, “Salome’s Reports.” She has been doing these short video reports for a few years now – she reports on pretty much everything that happens here in Gori, and posts them up on Facebook and her blog. She’s pretty fearless, having interviewed politicians, activists, singers and plenty of “man on the street” reports. I really love her video of Dangerflow, most of which is in English – here is a link:
Here are a few picture of us Gori volunteers participating in the information fair in Stalin Park (yes, I see the irony):
On Sunday I say goodbye to a good friend, a volunteer in Batumi who has been accepted into the Foreign Service, no easy achievement, and so is leaving to start his training. I’ll miss him … nakhvamdis, James!