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!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's that time of the year already? G7s you're almost here!

In a few short weeks the new incoming group of volunteers will be arriving in Tbilisi. This blog post is dedicated to helping calm their jitters!

If you're anything like I was this time last year, then there's a lot of freaking out going on. My first piece of advice--don't try and learn the language ahead of time. You'll get PLENTY of training during PST. Enjoy the last few weeks you have at home. Go out, party, gorge yourself on your favorite foods. Just indulge youself while you still can.

Packing wise. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail since so many other volunteers havedone so on their blogs. I'll just jot down a few important things.

Bring lots of underwear, undershirts and socks. The heat is intense and nobody digs the sweatstains. Remember you'll be handwashing and you're not going to want to do that every week. As far toiletries go you can find everything here. The one thing I haven't been able to find is flouride rinse. Contact lens solution is here but can be hard to find sometimes outside of major cities so I recommend bringing at least 1 bottle. Also, bring lots of hand sanitizer. Though there are wetwipes, I haven't seen any that are antibacterial. For winter, bring a winter coat (shipping is less than reliable), gloves, scarf and hat. It's hard to find good quality items here. Also bring LOTS of wool socks and at least 3 pairs of longjohns.

As far as "non-essential items" those tend to be the best comfort items. Don't bring along too many books. We've got a loungeful of them. Bring an Ipod or mp3 player. Bring a digital camera. You can find rechargeable batteries and chargers here for good prices. If you have a laptop, and I can't stress this enough, BRING IT! You will find it to be great for projects as well as zoning out. There are also a few volunteers who brought Gameboys, PSPs or DSs with them (myself included). Those are definately worth their weight in gold.

Other little comfort items that help would be a small candy bag full of your fave munchies to help you through PST. The fun-size candies also make nice gifts for kids. Any flavor packets AKA Crystal Lite is great too...for yourself. Also if you're into word searches, crossword puzzles, suduko, etc bring along a few books. Don't worry about bringing and CDs or DVDs to burn for future use. They're readily available here. For guys and girls alike I recommend bringing either a small backpack or messenger bag for small trips. Also bring a pair of comfortable sandals (good warm weather) and hiking boots (crappy winter weather). Regarding clothing, to save on space pick items that you can wear in both a relaxed and professional setting. And bring along a headlamp. Those things come in mighty handy for all sorts of situations *think midnight run to the outhouse!*

Lastly, try not to freak out too much. Whatever you need, you can find here. Breathe, take it easy and I'll be seeing you in a few weeks.

Winter Took My Advice and Got Lost

I'm writing this entry from my balcony overlooking the park. Spring has FINALLY arrived. The winter gear is gone replaced by brightly colored outfits. Less layers, more skin. Finally I am no longer glued to my heater!

A lot has happened since my last entry so I'll do my best to catch you up. Last week was the TEFL Program Development and Management (PDM) conference. It was held in Bakuriani, which is a ski resort town. Skiing indeed- it snowed twice while I was there. The conference provided me and my counterpart invaluable training for designing and implementing secondary projects. One of the best aspects of this training is that our counterparts took part in every session, helping to build analyze community needs, design and implement potential project plans and proposals. This is a key to our work here about creating sustainability.

Now that the school year is winding down, I'm working on potential summer projects. That...and dreaming about my visit back to the states! Sarkartveloshi I want to continue my programs at the American Corner and do a few mini-camps. Don't know how feasible that'll be though since most kids return to the villages for the summer. And who wants to hang out with their English teacher all summer?!

I've also been doing Teacher Trainings. For ToT, groups of PCVs visit different sites throughout Georgia and give free 2-day trainings. This provides PCVs with a great opportunity to explore Georgia and allows regions or sites to learn different teaching methods who might otherwise not have access to these resources or PCVs. So far I've attended two trainings in Gurjaani (E. Georgia) and Chiatura (W. Georgia). In Gurjaani I saw an abandoned musuem praising the glories of the CCCP (Soviet Union). The town also provided an awesome view of the imposing Caucasus Mtns. Somehow I never tire of seeing it- snowcapped or otherwise.

As any Georgian will tell you each region has its own distinct "personality," traditions and landscapes. Imereti proved to be no exception. On the bus, I passed several roadside cafes who were doing their best to attract customers. What did they have to offer you that the cafe across the street couldn't? Bear cubs... in cages! I don't think they charged extra to pet them. After navigating past the cubs, I finally arrived to my destination.

The first thing any visitor will notice are the cable cars (think Disney monorail). Because of the town's unique location (it's at the bottom of a gorge) it needed a creative mode of transportation. Many homes and buildings are built into the mountainside so the vehicular option is not available. The cable cars provide a great view of the city. It should also be noted that Chiatura served as a model Soviet city. It was a mining town focused primarilly on mining manganese (isn't that a fun word?). High atop the mountains you can see the ruins of where Lenin's massive, illuminated head once stood. The pedestals are massive so I can only wonder how big his head was! "Oh to wish upon a glowing Lenin..." There's also a massive clock still in place that was used to tell the Proletariat what time to go to work. Better do as the clock says lest Lenin come down from his pedestal to smite thee.
Wednesday, May 9th, was Victory Day. It commemorated the German defeat 62 years ago during WWII. It's a widely popular Soviet holiday that continues to be celebrated in Georgia. There's no school and concerts, parades, etc take place. I ate breakfast while watching the televised celebration from Moscow. It was a huge production in the Red Square with veterans present as a military parade took place. Though impressive I couldn't help wondering how much bigger the ceremony and parade would have been during the Soviet era when representatives from all the Republics would have been there participating as well. In Gori the celebration was more somber. A small ceremony was held by Stalin's musuem (Stalin won the war!). Bouquets of flowers were place at the WWII memorial to remember the 300,000 Georgians who perished during the war.