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!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Brrr Itś Cold in Here, There must be some snow in the atmosphere!!!

And today marks the first snowfall in Gori!!!! I can´t live in denial anymore. Winter is here!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Colors, colors everywhere

I left the house early Saturday and was able to catch the sunrise over Gori--gorgeous! My goal is to go to Gori Sikhe (Fortress), which is the highest point in Gori, and see the sunrise. It'll make for a breathtaking view. Even though it's November, it feels like autumn has only begun. The leaves have started changing colors and Georgia seems to have had a facelift. It's a refreshing change from the depressing scenery I've gotten used to (old unpainted soviet bloc apartments).

Spent the weekend in Tbilisi at the Nika (PCV hostel aka haven). In Tbilisi, I went to a new Italian restaurant with Mark and had a dish with actual brocolli--something I haven't had/seen since the States. Afterwards we went to the famed "junk" bazaar where they sell all sorts of things Georgians consider junk like USSR memorabelia. There were Soviet flags, medals, uniforms, pins, coins, gasmasks, etc. It was very cool. I ended up getting a patch and medal. The bazaar will definately be one of my last stops before I return to the US. Sunday, I went to the main bazaar on a quest to get some new sneakers that wouldn't fall apart after 2 wears. Though I saw some cool "Adibas" sneakers, I decided to wait until the new shipment of knockoffs comes to town. In other news, I stumbled upon Baskin Robins!!! It was inside the movie theatre on Rustaveli Avenue. I ducked inside since they sold some dvds and I was hoping to find some english ones. And there before me was BR! Mmm, I had the banana-papaya ice cream and it was heaven!

Sunday night, the volunteers in Gori got together for a Mexican dinner, courtesy of our Country Director who brought us food (taco shells, rice, beans, tabasco sauce) during a site visit last month. We got together at Eve's (G5) apartment to prepare it and dine on lovely non-Georgian food. Unfortunately the electricity went out so we had to use headlamps while cooking. It was done true PC fashion!
That post was written last night from the safety and comfort of my sleeping bag. Today I was greeted by the COLDEST day in Georgia. Bitterly Cold. It's 2degC. You do the math.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Knock Knock

Wow, is it possible that I've posted 3 times in less than a month? Amazing! Well it's been a great week because I finally found my niche in Georgia. I've been working at the school for a few weeks now and have a semi-routine down. In Georgian schools, the class schedules are entirely subjective. They change on a whim and it's very chaotic. For instance I showed up for my 1pm lesson today only to find out the schedule changed and it was given during the morning. Damn!! My 45minutes of work for the day and I missed it!! The "Me" from last year would have had a conniption since I like to lead a very structured life. Hah I laugh at that now, during training, all the G5s (volunteers who have been here for a year) kept saying to survive here you had be super flexible. I had no idea how true that was until I moved to my Permanent Site and got a real taste for life here. Oy, "Georgian time" is a phenomena all its own.

So the other day I was enjoying having the house to myself and decided to do some laundry. It'd been about a month since I last did it so the pile in the corner of my room desperately needed to be attended to. Just as I finished loading my first load into the agitator ("Georgian washer") the doorbell rang. Wearing my bright orange "Crush" shirt and awesomely cute plaid boxer shorts I went to see who it was. Before me were 2 of the sharpest dressed men I'd ever seen in Georgia. In my awesome Georgian I told them that the HFam was out, but they just gave me a blank look. So in my awesome Georgian I again reiterated the fact that no one was home and to come back later. Then they started speaking in Russian. *Sigh* Despite my "nyets" they continued speaking until they realized I don't speak Russian (yet!). I said the magic word "America" and they whipped out a small book. They flipped it open and showed it to me. "Hello Friend........." Holy crap! These 2 were Jehovah's witnesses! Wow, I guess I'm not that far from civilization if I have them knocking on my door! So I took their flier and proceeded to do what I'd do back in the States "Thanks" and shut the door. I left the flier on the table for the HFam and went back to my laundry. That night the HostDad called me down and asked me about it and I just shrugged and did the international sign for crazy. Trying to explain people coming to the door trying to save you is not within my Georgian vocabulary yet. The HostDad looked at the paper, shrugged, and tossed it in the petchi (small wooden stove) paper pile.

It's been a good month overall since I'm working and out of the house most of the day. I have language tutoring 4 hours a week with a former PC Language tutor, which is fun because we can gossip in Georgian and PC will pay for it. As a PCV, there's not a lot to talk about most of the time and the grapevine becomes a key resource! In 2 weeks the All Volunteer Conference is going to be held in Tbilisi. I'm going to have another LPI, language proficiency exam, and I hope to score Intermediate low. My language skills have definitely improved since to my Permanent Site and I'm forced to speak it at home and at work.

In other news I met my future fiancé. For the last few weeks a teacher at my school has been telling me that her son, Evan, and I are meant to be. I was given all the stats on my dashing hubbie-to-be. So I was crossing Stalin Park to go to my sitemate Mark's NGO and "say hello" (aka beg for free internet use) when I run into her. "Maritza! Rogor khar?..." After exchanging the mandatory pleasantries, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour, she grabbed me by the arm and told me we were going to meet her son. But my free internet... So seeing as how I' was unable to escape her clutch I decided to go ahead and get the meeting over with. "So where does your son work?" "Close, very close. We go now!" Oh my, he works at Stalin's Museum! Dzalian Kargi! So I stood at the museum entrance of the museum while she banged on the window trying to get her son's attention. And what ensued next was the most awkward conversation I've ever had in Georgian. He's 28, knows 2 words of English, and is too shy to speak to me in Georgian. But he's a steal...right? Okay, so after that she wanted to take me back to her apartment, but I managed to talk my way out. As I walked back across the park I ran into another teacher who grabbed me and took me to see her apartment. I felt like a human yo-yo. So after she pointed it out and I promised to visit next time, I sprinted across the park. Couldn't take any chances. "Maritza..." Hah too late I had reached the office and shut the door.

So it's no secret that relations between Georgia and Russia have been worsening. I won't give my opinion, but needless to say it ain't pretty. Just in my short time in country, it seems like my life has been a rollercoaster ride with all the developments and escalating/de-escalating tensions between Tbilisi and the Kremlin. This week, Russian giant GazPron announced it was more than doubling the price of gas to Georgia. This sucks. No, really it blows. Last year for about a week gas was cut off here and it was hell (frozen of course). I'm more than a little freaked out because my current HFam heats their house via gas. They've got a small woodpile, which won't last more than a week or two. Most Georgians purchased their wood supply during the summer while prices were cheap. My training HFam spent about 400Lari on theirs. The wood was delivered in big piles and blocked most of the streets. For weeks day in and day out men were chopping the wood and moving it into the house. Most everyone is done except for a few homes here and there.

From my house I can get a really nice view of the Caucasus Mtns on a clear day. Of course in Gori clear days usually only occur on frigid days. Otherwise this thick haze just hangs everywhere. Fits in with the petchi's burning and the hundreds of chain smokers you can spot on any given day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween

Gilosavt! Georgians don't celebrate Halloween, but that didn't stop us from having a party!

The pre-party began on Friday when some volunteers arrived early. For dinner we went to Orbi's, which is my favorite restaurant in town. We ended up staying there for 5 hours. As a group of Americans, you tend to stand out. Being in Georgia means that you are treated to worldclass hospitality. Georgians kept coming, some stumbling, over to our table to talk to us and offering to buy us food and drinks. By the end of the night we had graciously accepted and thoroughly enjoyed 5 pitchers of wine and mstvadi (bbq pork). Then we taxi'd it back to our homes.

The annual "unofficial" PCV Halloween party was held on Saturday at the Intourist Hotel. The Intourist is located in the center of Gori and is the hotel so let me be your tour guide. The hotel rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Lucky volunteers had rooms on the 2nd floor. There's a reason why we nicknamed the 3rd floor the "orphanage." It's amazing what a difference 10Lari will make in terms of a hotel room. Those on the 2nd floor had nice clean rooms with working hot water. Those on the 3rd floor (myself included) were treated to an authentic orphanage environment. Dilapidated rooms, brightly colored mold, chipped paint, exposed floorboards, rusty washbasins...the works! Placed next to the rusty toilet was a bucket full of water AKA no water pressure. Luckily, living here for 4 months teaches you to carry hand sanitizer at all times. The Intourist doesn't have many rooms so those who rsvp'ed too late had an entire hallway to call home for night with mattresses on the floor. I told you it was an authentic experience!

For the costumes, we had to be really creative since we couldn't go out and buy them. When it comes to being a successful volunteer there are 2 words to live by: flexibility and resourcefulness. It's amazing what a little creativity combined with sewing and/or flipchart paper can produce. Appearances were made by the Ninja Turtles, Captain Crunch, a White Trash couple, "Georgia," Staliness the Dominatrix, gypsies, Waldo (Where's Waldo?), "God's Gift to Women," etc. I went as Rocky Balboa- had to bring a little Americana to the party. The party was awesome as expected. Anytime a bunch of volunteers can manage to get together, fun is always to be had!

I gave a presentation about Halloween to all my students. I told them all about different Halloween traditions, "Trick or Treating," and focused a lot on pranks (egging, toilet papering). Then I talked about the costume shops and the crazy things you can find for sale like blood capsules, fake appendages, masks, etc. To really build up the momentum I spoke about Haunted Houses and as I walked up and down the aisles talking about the creepy things inside them I yelled, "boo!" There were so many screams that the teacher next door ran over to see what had happened! Ah, yes the little things are what counts- like making your counterpart and students pee their pants!