First Impressions

I’ve wanted to post for a few days but just haven’t found the time. So, here I am at 12:30 am after a very long day finally getting around to it while I enjoy a glass of Georgian wine. Did you know that Georgia is the birthplace of wine? True story.

Today marks our second full day of orientation. But I’ll go back to the beginning. On Sunday, thirty-three of us arrived in Philadelphia for staging. We came from all around the country and one brave soul came all the way from South Korea. After a day of paperwork, basic orientation, and getting to know one another a bit, we all headed out for dinner. I spent my last meal in the states for a while at Cuba Libre which I thoroughly enjoyed. Monday morning we got up and hopped on a bus to JFK where we hung out all day until our flight at 6:40 to Tbilisi via Istanbul. It was a long sleepless flight and by the time we arrived I was exhausted. But it was only 4:30 in the afternoon and we had our first Georgian dinner ahead of us. If you don’t know, Georgia is known for its incredible food. We had our first taste that night, hit a store, and then came to our training facility in Bazaleti. We’ve been cocooned here for the past two and a half days although today we did venture out for a long walk to a local lake. The area is beautiful as you can see by my new header photo. That’s the view from near our training facility. Apparently, this isn’t a particularly beautiful area of Georgia. So I look forward to seeing the rest of the country.

The last few days have been spent in various orientation sessions on health and safety, the language, etc. And today we had our first language lesson. I am deeply regretting not spending more time working on Georgian before I got here. The first course moved quickly with an assumption that we really knew it all already. NOT SO for this girl. But a long study session tonight has me feeling much better. This language is going to take A LOT of work. Fun fact: The Georgian language is rated a 4 out of 5 for difficulty by the foreign service. That means that the only languages that are more difficult are languages like Chinese. Yay me! But I’m really excited to learn it as my ability to learn the language will determine the quality of my experience. Plus, it would be a MAJOR accomplishment.

Side note: this is the first international trip I have taken in which I haven’t suffered terribly from jetlag. The major impact so far seems to be that (for the moment) I have become a morning person, waking at 6:30 am on my own. Anyone who knows me knows that this will probably not last long. But I’m enjoying it while it last by taking morning walks around the training center grounds. Training doesn’t start until 9. Ironically, I have become a morning person after moving to a country that typically gets the day started at 9 or 10 am. Go figure.

So my first impressions (keeping in mind I haven’t really been out in the actual world here yet):
– The food definitely lives up to the hype. They love bread and cheese which is all very good, but I’m avoiding it so I don’t come home 50 lbs heavier. Luckily, that isn’t a problem as they serve a lot of fresh vegetable dishes, salads, and soups as well.
– The country has a strange mix of the very modern and very old fashioned (conservative). New buildings and people dress fairly fashionably, but gender roles and courtship are extremely old fashioned. This should be interesting.
– The wine is great! How lucky am I to be posted in a country whose drinks of choice are wine and vodka?! This country was made for me!
– The Peace Corps has their shit together. They are super organized and are entirely focused on the safety and security of trainees and volunteers. Unfortunately this means I won’t have much freedom for the first three months.
– It is incredibly weird being 8 or 9 time zones away from almost everyone I love. When I go to bed it’s 4:00 in the afternoon at home and when I wake up, most people are just heading to bed.

Next steps, one more full day of orientation, then on Saturday we meet our host families whom we will be staying with for the next three months as we complete pre-service training (PST). I’m really nervous about this. It is going to be beyond awkward as I attempt to draw on what little Georgian I know to have some semblance of a conversation with them. But I’ll survive. We also get broken up into our training clusters on Saturday which means that I will then find out who the 5 or 6 people are that I will be spending the majority of my time with over the next 11 weeks. That’s pretty exciting. There are some really great people here and quite the range in age. I believe the oldest volunteer is 68 and of course there are many who just graduated college last year. But there are a number of us who are between 28 and 39 which is a big relief to me.

That’s it for now. Hopefully the next post will include some photos.

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Let’s go!

For the past several months, since this plan became real, I’ve had many well-wishers ask me to please keep them posted on my adventures. To all of them I said, I’m thinking of starting a blog. This was always met with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I’ve struggled to have the same enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong. I love blogs. Other people’s blogs. I’ve followed for years blogs of people I have never met. These aren’t famous people or even terribly interesting people. They are just people that were doing something that I was interested in at the time and then I was hooked. The majority of these blogs were started in order to keep family and friends up to date. I’m sure they don’t imagine they are writing for complete strangers. But that is the strangeness of the medium. It is out there for everyone to read.

Thus, my hesitancy. I’m not a particularly private person, so privacy is not the issue. If I don’t want you to know it, I won’t put it out there. I guess my real concern is boring everyone.  Let me restate that – not entertaining anyone. Anyone who knows me well knows I am painfully earnest. I don’t think it is a bad quality, but it certainly doesn’t make for entertaining writing. So, I guess this is my extremely long-winded disclaimer to anyone reading. I will do my best to be entertaining. But my true nature will likely win out more times than not. And unfortunately, sarcasm (my standard form of wit) doesn’t translate well to the page. So, you’ve been warned.

Also for any mid-career future PCVs reading this, I’m hoping to dedicate at least some posts to what it is like to be a PCV in my late 30s. When I (re)started thinking about joining the Peace Corps about a year and a half ago, I had a difficult time finding anyone out there in the PCV blog world that fit my demographic. The majority of volunteers are in their 20s or retirees. Not many of us step out of our lives right in the middle to volunteer for the Peace Corps. At this point, I’m not sure what, if any, significant differences there will be in my experiences versus my fellow volunteers. But I’m guessing there will be. And if so, I’ll write about it.

So, here goes. Let’s do this blog thing. Three days til staging!

Check back for updates, observations, photos, and perhaps some laments.