Sunday, July 09, 2006

This is a pretty good one the Gori castle, which is actually an ancient fortress but I keep calling it a castle.

A candid shot of Tim, Jane, Amy, Lyssa, and Seth hanging at the castle in Gori.

So, this is me sitting atop the castle wall in Gori, pondering the meaning of life. Actually, I was thinking about food because I had skipped breakfast and was starving at the time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

In case you were wondering, this baby is NOT drunk, and is in fact sober. Sometimes Georgians were American t-shirts even though they don't know what the shirt actually says, which I'm hoping is the case here. For example, my 8 yr. old host sister always wears a shirt that says "American Sexy." It's pretty funny sometimes.
This is the church in my village, Sveneti. I took about a million pics of it, but this is my favorite. This is about a five minute walk from my house.

I am considering this my first official post from Georgia since I had about two seconds to post last week!! I tried again on Sunday but the computers in this Internet café near our hub site in Georgia are sooo slooowww that my time ran out before I could post! So…I’m in Georgia! I feel like I’ve been here for a month at least, and it’s hard for me to grasp the fact that I’ve only been here for almost two weeks. So much has happened and is happening that I don’t know where to start, but first you should know that I am perfectly fine, happy, and genuinely glad to be here! After we arrived in T’bilisi we spent 4 days in Tabakhmela, a village basically on top of a mountain above T’bilisi, for pre-training orientation. It was just a bunch of workshops, classes, and such, but it gave us all a good chance to get to know each other and hang out. My fellow trainees, all 50 or so of them, are very cool, nice, fun, (mostly) normal, and I am extremely grateful for this! Between playing whiffle ball, getting shots, and slaughtering the Georgian language together, we’re getting pretty tight! Georgia is just as beautiful (lamazi) as it looks in pictures, and I’ve already seen a few things in real life that I’ve been looking at for months on the Internet.
We are divided into clusters of 4 or 5 trainees for training, but the villages are all very close to each other and the “city” of Gori. Gori being the birthplace of Joseph Stalin…yup. My village is called Sveneti, and my cluster consists of Jane from Illinois, Seth from CONNECTICUT (not Wisconsin, sorry Seth), Tim from Chicago, and me, Paige from Texas. And it should be known that my cluster is definitely the best, and probably the only one with the high aspiration of translating our favorite songs into Georgian. “Shabati, shabati, shabati…” Anyone? Anyone? It would probably help to know that shabati means Saturday. Anyway, Sveneti is only a 10 minute marshutka (mini-bus) ride from Gori and it is very small. Maka, my LCF (language and culture facilitator), says there are 500 families here, but I just don’t see how that’s possible. By the way, Peace Corps LOVES acronyms, so I’m sure I’ll be using them like crazy before long!!!
My village is truly beautiful, wrapped in rich green mountains, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about the situation at this point. My host family is beautiful too!!! My host parents, Soso and Marika, own, I am proud to say, the best store in town! Or village, rather. They have three awesome kids: Tamuna, 12, Vickor, 9, and Taona, 8. They are always giving me little presents and helping me with my homework, and learning a little English from me along the way, and they’re just really incredible. Oh yeah, none of them speak any English. Did I forget to mention that? Taona and Vickor speak just a little bit, but no one else. It’s been pretty hilarious. They spend a lot of time trying to explain things to me, and I just laugh and say “Bodishi, ver gavige” “Sorry, I don’t understand,” and they laugh back. It’s pretty amazing how much you can communicate to people who can’t understand a word you’re saying and vice versa. I’m learning a lot of Georgian, though, in addition to my 4 hours of language a day. We seem to be making progress today, though, and the kids love explain things to me and get really excited when I understand something, it’s pretty funny.
Training is pretty intense, and learning the language is absolutely the hardest things I’ve tried to do with my brain in a very long time. The sad part is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of this language and it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever be able to speak it fluently. I am getting better, and I’m doing about the same as everyone else, so I’m trying not to worry about it too much. The great thing about being really busy is that you don’t have time to sit around and worry about stuff. Sadly, as my Georgian improves, my English deteriorates at a rapid pace. In a few months, I’ll be speaking two languages very poorly! Can’t wait!
I’ve got to cut this off because it’s turning into a novel, but I have one more story. When we arrived in Gori, all 50 or so of the host families were waiting for us and it was a complete madhouse. We were just kind of getting off the bus and then standing around waiting to get adopted or something. Anyway, Jane, Tim, and I rode in Soso’s marshutka, along with out respective families, to Sveneti. None of the families speak any English, we spoke (and speak) no Georgian, but everyone was just laughing uncontrollably. Tim and I were looking through our dictionaries for things to say, but it was too bumpy, so everyone was just laughing at us. Each person in the van, no matter what language they spoke, was simultaneously thinking, “What have I gotten myself into??!!!” and finding the situation completely hilarious, thank God. I guess my point is that all through staging and pre-training, everyone kept saying that the single most important thing to have in Georgia is a sense of humor…and I definitely get that now.