So, as the new year settles in, my life starts changing in some unexpected – though planned-for – ways. Considering new futures, and trying to live some different presents.
As far as the present goes, the biggest change is this – after much consideration, number-crunching and very close review of the rules governing early Social Security, I decided to go ahead and do it. As of January 1, I am the happy recipient of enough money deposited in my American bank account to not need to work at all. This only occurred after protracted and sometimes heated discussions with the SS office in Greece, and then the U.S. Apparently, the “expert” at SS who reviewed my account was unaware of the fact that Georgia had been removed from the list of banned countries for receiving Social Security payments – over a year ago. Getting that reversed was not easy, but I succeeded, with the help of a woman customer service representative who was actually helpful. Thanks, Heather.
So, of course, the fact that I’m lucky enough to live somewhere that is actually affordable on a SS pension doesn’t mean I want to stop working completely. I would be bored senseless. And I want to save money for the future. But – I did make one major change. I left my 3-day per week job at CHCA. I’ll continue to consult for them, as well as other clients, but my plan is to control my workload – and my time – much more firmly. So far that plan is in shambles, as I am super-busy with existing and new clients, feverishly writing grant applications, but hopefully this is a temporary situation. Grant writing is so dependent on outside factors – namely, when donors put out calls for applications. If several do it all at once, I’m kinda squeezed. Here’s a few pics of the CHCA farewell festivities:
The other reason I have to watch my workload is that SS limits the amount of money I can make every year. That’s a drag, but in a way I’m glad, since it forces me to take it easy.
So what will I do with all this hypothetical time? Well, I have some plans. Indeed, I do. Here are some ideas, hopefully the fruits of which I’ll be sharing in this blog in the future:
I have an idea for a photographic study, having to do with hidden courtyards in Tbilisi. I’ve always loved these sort of hidden peeks into private space. I’ve been walking around a bit, taking snapshots as studies, but the real project won’t start until the spring. Here are a few shots – nothing artistic, just documenting what’s there, but they intrigue me.
I joined an informal knitting group made up of young women in all sorts of interesting professions and with fascinating life experiences. We generally meet at Volver, a wine bar in the old area of Tbilisi, so there tend to be a few dropped stiches, haha. It’s really fun to meet new people, and I’m getting a lot of help figuring out how to fix errors, which has been my biggest challenge. When I used to weave, I knew how to fix pretty much everything. It was a something that could only be done by someone who really understood the structure of the fabric, and all the advanced techniques. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to fix errors, like I really knew what I was doing. I don’t have that feeling yet, but at least I now have the feeling that I might get that feeling sometime in the future! Here’s a shot of some of us (not at Volver, another place, also very nice):
And, the biggest desire for the present, is to have time to travel. I am realistic – I know my days are numbered when it comes to travel. My recovery from back surgery has been protracted and difficult. I don’t think I’ll ever have the full mobility I had before. But I’m doing a lot better these days, and I’m going to take advantage of it while I can! I have bigger two trips planned – one for sure, one a “maybe” – more on that later. The one for sure will be pretty much the whole month of September, in Spain and Portugal. This is the fulfillment of a life-long dream, one that I thought for a while would never happen. Now it is, and I could not be more excited. I’ll be meeting my son for the first two weeks, and then my old friend Malcolm for the last. The plan is for a giant loop from Madrid to the south, through Cordoba, Seville, Granada, over to Portugal and all the way up to coast via Lisbon, where Malcolm and Eli will finally meet, after over 25 years, for one evening, then on to Porto, after which I will head back to Madrid to fly home to Tbilisi. Here’s my very rough map of our route. It’s not all of either country, but it’s a good chunk!
So, along with work, those are my present/short-term plans. Going to Batumi for Passover with some Peace Corps volunteers – we’ll be renting an Airbnb and making a feast. I might continue up to Poti and visit Zugdidi as well. There are still places in Georgia where I have not yet been!
Long-term … well, that’s a lot more uncertain. Right now, I am here for the foreseeable future. I have no desire to leave. There are some rumors flying around that the government is going to stiffen up immigration/residency laws considerably. This may be a reaction to increasing populist/racist popular movements here, which I and many others perceive as a very vocal, small minority. But the Georgian government does have a tendency to overreact (note the draconian drug laws here, which a much larger minority protest on the street on a regular basis – see here: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/search/?kw=drugs&sb=) . People who are in a position to know have expressed doubt that the strongly pro-foreign-investment government will do anything too crazy, but, we’ll see. Hopefully nothing will happen to accelerate my plans, which are still very much in flux. Suffice it to say I am thinking of two scenarios: 1, return to the U.S., probably though not necessarily SoCal, purchase of a house with Eli, build a ADU (accessory dwelling unit, popularly known as granny flats) in the backyard; 2, immigrate to Israel, take citizenship, and benefit from their generous senior and medical plans. I’m particularly interested in Haifa, and may take a trip there to explore in late spring this year.
To be honest, I would just stay here permanently if I could, but the medical experiences I have had here, while not at all disastrous, have convinced me that that it’s not a place for an older person – and one who will, eventually, be without insurance – to age in. Definitely not. So, in that regard, Israel is far superior, and becoming more so every day of the Republican administration. On the other hand, the U.S. is home, where my friends and family are. So – it’s a tough decision, and one that will take a very long time to make. I’ll update on this blog on how it’s going from time to time. Any feedback/opinions welcome.