This is the true story of a Puertorican who joined the Peace Corps in June 2006. This blog chronicles my misadventures in the Country of Georgia and in NO way represents the Peace Corps, its mission or its views. It is my personal blog!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Secretary of State with Ambassador Teft

The Future

Last week Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Georgia. Though she was in GE for only a brief period of time (16hrs), she was able to meet with Peace Corps Volunteers. It was the only time in two years that I ever wore a suit.

June 06- July 08: My Peace Corps Life

I'm down to my last 11 days as a PCV. It's a bizarre thought. I will update once I get over the shock of this knowledge.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mmm yey spring

So the good news is that spring has arrived. That means that I have all my winter clothes divided into piles labeled: give away or burn. I've been waiting a long long time for this. No more long johns, layers, scarves, etc. Although not quite flip flop season yet (Gori is Georgia's windy city) it means I can get away with a short sleeve t-shirt...and that's huge news.

So with Spring, comes the inevitable question. How long is too long in between taking showers. See with winter you don't sweat. You can easily get away with a week...10days...maaaaybe 12 days without showering. My host mom knows my shower day is Sunday. Each person has a special day. So anyways, now it's been 4 days since I last showered and I'm noticing a faint hint or something. Now, granted it could be my clothes. I was those less often than I wash myself. But I'm thinking it's my "glow" that's emitting that...amorous scent. So now I have a dilemna. Take a bath today and throw my whole shower schedule off, or just be a little more liberal with my scented body lotions (courtesy of a trip back home this past summer). Hmm decisions, decisions. If I take a bath today will I get a weird look when I ask for another in a couple of days. Or am I working myself up over nothing and maybe I should just change my shirt.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Deep Freeze 2008

Trust me when I say that I've been composing this latest blog in my head for a's just taken a while, laziness on my part, to actually write it out. It's cold. I mean cold.

The New Year greeted us with a gift, the "Deep Freeze."

This was the coldest winter Georgia has had in 75 years. My room was literally an ice box. Ice covered both sides of my cracked windows for over 10 days. The thermometer in my room mocked me as it hovered around 20-30s deg. And that was on a good "sunny" hour. Once I accidentally tracked snow into my room, and an hour later it was solid ice. Took a while for me to chip away at it. That's just giving you an idea as to how we rough it in the Caucasus . School was canceled for 2 weeks, meaning all I could do was hover over my heater or huddle under my sleeping bag. What made things so bad was that it wouldn't snow. It was just so very cold. And since there's no system in place to clear streets or de-salt. Ice is everywhere. And it never ever melts.

Then last week in 4 days, we had 3 blizzards and white-out conditions. Walking through town, I saw numerous cars skidding and sliding and taking nearly every pedestrian on the road out with them. But what makes it worse, is that so many people are suffering and dying. There is no insulation to help keep the heat out. People are poor and can't afford gas or enough wood to heat their homes (especially in the villages). Food for sale in the bazaar had actually been frozen solid. The amount of people that I knew in one way or another who have passed away because of these harsh conditions keeps rising. At least once every week, I find out of someone who died (usually the elderly) and get invited to their funeral and the funeral supra. Yeah, I know this isn't one of my more uplifting posts so I apologize. But it is depressing to be living in a developing country, which is difficult enough as it is. And in the Caucasus where winter lasts 6 months, it just makes things grimmer.

But it hasn't all been about the winter.
I didn't move to the Caucasus to escape the sunny Floridian weather. I moved to do...stuff? So here's my "New Year and a bunch of other stuff" post:

New Years 2008
Location: Gori , Georgia

In Georgia , you can hear fireworks going off throughout the month of January. Sold for cheap at the bazaar, boys like to buy them, light and throw them at unsuspecting people. People throwing them from balconies onto the street, opening the door and throwing it in a classroom, in a get the idea?

I spent New Years with my host family. We setup the supra table with special Georgian New Year food which includes treats such as churchela (a dessert made by mixing flour and grape juice together, boiling it and then coating a string of nuts with it), nigozi (honey and nuts), Satsivi (cold chicken with delicious walnut sauce), etc. But the supra doesn't start until midnight. So I went to the concert in Stalin Square . At midnight, there was lots of fireworks, hugging and kissing. Then all the families disappeared into their homes to supra and eagerly await their first visitor known as "First footprint-er." The first visitor is very special and if it's a good hearted person, that means good things await you this New Year. As for the New Year's supra it's a week long event. Literally. You are expected to gorge on food and wine, sleep, repeat until all the food is gone. This usually takes 4-5 days.
Between Jan 1-3, I went to 6 supras. 4 oh which took place when I went to visit my 1st host family in the village. In 36 hours I went to 4 supras. Supra'ed out. (BTW I am hoping that after 20 months you remember what a supra is. Supra= huge feast with lots of wine). I swore off all wine and supras for a good month after that intense experience. At least I tried to get out of as many as possible, which is not easy since January is full of holidays. There's Orthodox Christmas (7 Jan), Orthodox New Years (14 Jan) and Epiphany. Supras included. Your choice of wine, vodka, brandy or Cognac .

And perhaps one of the things I'm still squeamish about after 20 months is drinking with my students. The last week of school in December each grade hosts a Winter Carnival, which consists of singing, dancing, and skits. The students, teachers and parents sit at different tables with traditional Georgian foods and alcohol, and you supra while you watch the festivities. Having my students call me out if I didn't drink enough when a toast was given...well that's just Georgia .

Well I'm getting ahead of myself. I have to give a shout out to my boy, Uncle Joe. December 23rd was Stalin's birthday. So I joined the celebrations at the Stalin Museum . Gathered there were what I assume is left of the WWII veterans in town. There were about 20 veterans battling the cold so that they could talk about the good old days and praise Stalin (Stalini to the Georgians), the "Man of Steel." They had Soviet flags, Stalin portraits and were selling the Georgian Communist Gazette for 10 cents. They also had an anti-NATO banner and were handing out anti-NATO propaganda. The government is pro-Western and pushing for NATO membership. After numerous speeches the group proceeded to parade to Stalin Square and lay wreaths and bouquets at the foot of Stalin's Statue. It was all very touching.

In other news, I had the opportunity to go to the baptism of 2 fellow volunteers who were converting to the Orthodox tradition. The ceremony was held in Sameba, the largest cathedral in the Caucasus . It was done in a small chamber and only the Godparents were allowed to watch. The rest of us waited on the other side of the door. The ceremony varied slightly from the Catholic ritual. The candidates had to be barefoot. They were crossed by the Priest on various parts of the body, they had to walk around the basin 3x, and hair was snipped. I'm sure there was more to it, but like I said I didn't witness the events. Oh right, and instead of pouring water on the foreheads of babies, they were dunked them 3x in the basin and then clothed them in white. And after the ritual, guess what took place. You guessed it, we supra'ed.

But there is other stuff going on besides supras, seriously! After an intense 2 month campaign period, President Mikhael Saakashvili was re-elected President of Georgia in January. And the political situation has calmed down somewhat, though the opposition remains outspoken and contests the results. In May, the parliamentary elections will take place.

And on the Russian and Georgian news channels on a nightly basis is coverage of the US elections. Yes, Clinton, Obama, and McCain are all well known people here. It’s amazing to me how extensive the coverage is of our election process, and quite frankly how intense and long it is. And how confusing it is to foreigners.
On Saturday, I hosted "Writing Olympics," an English creative writing competition for students in 6-11th grade. It's part of a trans-Caucasus project with volunteers and pupils in Armenia and Azerbaijan participating. At the end, there are regional, national and "Best of the Caucasus " winners. There was a good turnout in Gori with over 200 students from the town and nearby villages participating.

The end of my service is quickly approaching. This second year has gone by so much faster than the first. I've already received "Close of Service" documents. Only 5 months left and then I'll be moving on. But to what is still unknown, and isn't that the adventure?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Stalin

Today is Stalin's birthday and since I happen to live in his hometown I was able to witness a yearly tradition. A group of communists (none under the age of 65) gathered in front of Stalin's musuem. They gathered despite the awful weather conditions to celebrate the anniversary of Stalin's birthday. They had Soviet flags, stalin portraits, anti-NATO banners (Georgia is seeking NATO membership), etc. One lady was distributing copies of the Communist gazette making a nice souvenir for me. Then a string of speehes took place praising Stalin, reminising about the USSR, their opinion on NATO, etc followed by lots of singing. Quite a sight and I'll be sure to post pics soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tis the Season to be Jolly

You know it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas when Stalin has to share the limelight with the
"New Years Tree."

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the Holidays


This is a long overdue update...not because I missed my monthly update, but due to the sheer volume of stuff that has happened in Sarkartvelo since November. I won't go into the nitty gritty details. For that you can go to, but to sum up events very quickly there were protests that lasted 5 days in the capital in front of the Parliament building. On Nov 7, the protests ended violently. The President activated a nationwide State of Emergency that lasted nearly two weeks. The President decided to call snap elections. Instead of presidential elections taking place in Fall 08 they'll take place on 5 Jan 08. And that's a very brief synopsis as to what has been going on. Again, I encourage you to check online news publications for more info.

But life is not all about politics.

For Giorgeba (23 Nov), a Georgian holiday in honor of St. George, a Georgian family invited me and my site mates to participate in their traditions. WARNING might be a tad graphic with the blood and all. 9 of us piled into a car the size of a Corolla and drove to the bazaar. We went to the animal pens and selected a sheep and rooster. After being tied up they were *gently* placed in the trunk of the car. Then we made our way to Gori Jvari (Cross) Church which is high atop the mountains overlooking the city and villages. Every time we hit a pothole we'd hear a "bleeeeeeeap" from the trunk. When we finally made it there, we piled out with our offerings. We, as well as every family in the Gori region, went to the church. To bless a sacrifice, you have to walk the animal 3 times around the church. After doing that we walked to a special sacrificial area and paid a guy 5lari (not even $3) to kill and skin the sheep. The area where they did this was DRENCHED in blood and scattered around were misc organs, cut off feet, decapitated heads, etc. So won't go into detail but the sheep was killed, decapitated then hung by its foot from a hook while the guy went to work and started cutting and gutting away.

Meanwhile as we're watching this we hear "Amerika! Amerikeli!" Uh oh our cover was blown. The guys who'd been killing animals all day long called/dragged us over. Then brought out the wine and handed us cups (blood stained cups). So we proceeded to toast and drink for awhile. Later, we took the sheep minus the head and wool back home. Beka laid it on a tree stump and proceeded to hack it into cook-able, eatable sizes. The 6hr supra was indeed one of the best and tastiest I've been too.

I celebrated Thanksgiving in Gori with my fellow regional volunteers. We held the dinner at my site mate's NGO. Unfortunately there were no turkeys available in the bazaar so we made due with chickens. We had a joint Georgian-American Thanksgiving dinner with some of our local friends and colleagues. And in true Gori fashion, one of the toasts was given to Stalin. Then someone recited a poem he had written while he was in the seminary. Who knew he was such a talented, feeling man?

At the beginning of this month, we had our annual All Volunteer Conference. It was held in Bazaleti, just outside the capital. It was in a brand new hotel complex (we were its first guests) built by a large, beautiful lake. The last day of the conference, we held our annual PC Thanksgiving dinner. This time we had actual turkeys! Plus yam, stuffing, and all sorts of goodies you can't find here. The Ambassador attended the dinner too.

As far as school goes, holiday cheer and merriment is in full swing. I've been teaching Christmas carols. Jingle Bells is a big hit and everyone knows it since there is a Georgian version. We've been doing a lot of arts and crafts activities too including creating and decorating a Christmas tree. On the last day of school (28 Dec), we'll have a holiday party/supra in the English Cabinet and the students will be having their annual Winter Carnival. Here, New Years and Christmas are celebrated in January. And New Years is the major holiday. That's when Santa comes and puts presents under the New Years tree. I'm looking forward to celebrating the holidays in Georgia this year since last year I was in Turkey.

Well that's all for now. I wish you all Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Raktebah Gorshi? (What's going on in Gori)

(Super belated post...shoulda been up last month)

Light snow now tops the mountains surrounding Gori. Each morning I anxiously look out the window to see the how far down its crept. I'm not looking forward to the day when it's at street-level. At least I'm comforted by the fact that we had an actual autumn season which lasted about a month versus a week like last year.

A few weeks ago, I was able to go to my first host family's grape harvest. Each family in Georgia has their own vineyard with several different types of grapes. Then in the fall the grapes are harvested and huge celebrations take place. The harvest took four days to complete. It's hard work! Crates upon crates upon crates were filled with grapes. Then off to the presser, which can either be done by stomping on them or using a grape presser to squeeze the juice out. The result is the most delicious grape juice ever. After that, they start the wine preparation. Once the harvest is finally done, a huge supra takes place. And since harvest time occurs roughly at the same time, "supra season" lasts for weeks.
But alas, life is not all about matter how sweet they are.

The school year started in October and things have been very busy. A few exciting things have happened in school:

1. The grant proposal I wrote over the summer was approved and we are anxiously awaiting the new furniture for our English Cabinet (English resource room). The EC has been a great addition to our school. Dare I call it the social center...because it really is. Everyday the EC is full of teachers and students who are checking out books, practicing their English and attending club meetings.

2. We held our first Halloween party. Last year, I taught the kids about Halloween and our traditions...haunted house...carved pumpkins....fake blood..."guts" (pasta in a bowl). There's no similar Georgian holiday so needless to say the kids loved the idea. This year, I was approached by several students who wanted to do an American style Halloween Party. So we spent a few weeks putting it together and it turned out to be a big hit. It was a high school party for 8-11th formers. It was held on a spooky Sunday night in the school gym. We spent all weekend decorating it. Black drapes over the windows, candles and jack-o-lanterns, stuffed dummies, "Be afraid...death is coming for you" posters, etc. Everyone came in costume. There was a lot of creativity involved because we didn't have the luxury of going to the nearest Party City to buy them.

We had an opening dance sequence to MJ's "Thriller." After the haunted house there were lots of games and competitions. Teams were scored on the scariest team name, best scary story (my favorite part), dance-off, "pin the nose on the witch" game, and lastly a costume contest. Then the room turned into a huge disco as the faculty and invited guests were whisked away to a supra upstairs that included a pink and green Spiderman cake. Everyone had a great time at the party and the school director said he'd have it again next year. My legacy in Gori has been cemented.

3. Peace Corps Director Tschetter visited Georgia for a few days as part of his Caucasus trip. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few volunteers he visited. He along with several other PC visitors visited my school. I had members from my English club put together a presentation baptized "Georgia 101." The students talked about Georgia's history, culture, traditions, famous people and places. The students also talked about their community involvement in different clubs and organizations and then had a Q&A session. They designed posters and other souvenirs for them. The school presented each guest with student-made handicrafts. Afterwards, Nona and I showed them the EC and spoke about our work and accomplishments. All that followed 15min photo-op before our visitors left to visit my sitemates. Everything went smoothly and my students were all a little star-struck. We were really honored by their visit, especially since we were the only school they visited while in Georgia.

It's been an eventful couple of months and now that I've started my second school year, I can't help thinking about this time next year. There'll be no more PC. But beyond that I have no knowledge of where I'll be or what I'll be doing. I think that I have more ???'s about my future now than when I did before starting PC. My experience here was supposed to help me focus on what I wanted to do in life...oh well.

Here's a quick blurb about a project fellow PCVs have been working on. It's the official PC Georgia Podcast. Who knew PC could be so high tech eh? It's a monthly, 30-minute podcast about Georgia. The first episode of Sakartvelo: Stories of Peace Corps Life in Georgia has been posted on the web.

You can check out the blog website at:
It's also available on iTunes by searching at the iTunes Store or through this link.
Till next time dear readers. Thanks for all your support and emails. I look forward to seeing you all in the not too distant future!