Written on May 8, 13
So, today was the first of three birthdays I will spend in Peace Corps. And if this birthday is any indication, they should be some great birthdays. The day was filled with small kindnesses and thoughtfulness from many people I didn’t know three weeks ago. It made my day. I woke at 7:00 am to a call from someone pretty special back in the states who wanted to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. It was a nice way to wake up (even if I did go back to sleep). That “morning person” thing certainly didn’t last long. But I guess I wouldn’t really know who I was anymore if I suddenly became a morning person. My host mom made me kashi (cream of wheat) for breakfast because she knows I like it. Normally that is reserved for a weekend breakfast. My language classmates greeted me with birthday wishes and promises of a gift of decaffeinated tea when it could be procured. Georgians don’t really get the point of decaffeinated tea (but then neither do most Americans). In the afternoon, other fellow trainees gifted me with some highly prized gifts including some awesome smoked string cheese they sell here, a giant kinder egg, Fanta (which I love), and some freshly picked flowers. After class, a couple of us then went for ice cream. Georgian ice cream is pretty damn good even if it is prepackaged and on a stick. It’s no Hedonist, but it costs about a 1/10 of the price, so there’s that. When I got home, my host family had left gifts for me on the table outside my room, some beautiful handpicked flowers and some Georgian lotion. So very thoughtful. And this evening my neighbors, who were visiting, surprised me with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Add to that the many facebook wishes (which always make me happy) and I had a pretty good birthday, which is nice because last night I was feeling a bit down (it may have been hangover induced, more on that later).
In addition to a great birthday, I also had a good day in school. My language is coming along quicker than I expected. My fears of being incapable of learning another language have subsided and, while becoming proficient will be challenging, it is comforting to know that I’m where I am supposed to be at the moment. In the afternoon, the IOD (business) volunteers all went to Gori (birthplace of the still revered Stalin) to interview NGOs as practice for the capacity assessment we will later be doing for the NGOs to which we are ultimately assigned. It was an eye opening experience. NGOs here are largely dependent on international funding as the public does not have the discretionary income to support these organizations and their own government doesn’t have much either. So, foundations like the Open Society are essential here. George Soros is a well-known name here. I’m pretty excited to get to my final site in mid-July and start learning about the organization I will be working with for the next two years. And in the process, I feel like I’m going to develop a lot of very valuable skills that will undoubtedly help me for years to come in my career.
This past weekend was Orthodox Easter; so, we had a four-day holiday. What I expected to be a relaxing long weekend turned into an extremely busy weekend. But I’ll share more on that later. For now I’ll just say it included an excursion to a local village Surami to visit an ancient castle among other things, another to a beautiful mountain town Borjomi (I’ll definitely be returning there), my first supra (Georgian feast), and a rather drunken picnic in a cemetery.