So my last real post was me preparing to find out what I will be doing and where I will be spending the next two years and then heading off to visit the site for a few days. I think I may have promised to share the news as soon as I found out. How long ago was that?
Well, I was full of good intentions. Life has certainly gotten away from me over the past few weeks. We had our site announcements, a four day visit to our sites, followed by language classes, putting on a community training series, and our first trip to Tbilisi. I know there are many other things in there but it is all a blur now. PST (pre-service training) is no joke. And about midway through I hit a wall. For the past three weeks, I feel like I’ve made little progress with my language skills because my brain is just too tired to absorb anymore. In those same three weeks, I’ve had the first of what I’m sure will be many low moments as well as my first bouts with illness. But I’ve also managed to have a lot of fun. Such is PST and, from what I hear, Peace Corps service overall. So, on to the update.
Anyone who has been following is aware that I was really hoping for an assignment in a city. I had concerns about living under the microscope that a smaller community inevitably is here. There is not even the tiniest part of me that wants to experience the “celebrity” life that Peace Corps service can often be. So, on June 10th, I finally found out that I will be spending the next two years in Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia. Score! There are, of course, downsides to being in a larger city (more expensive, harder to integrate into the community, not the “traditional” PC experience) but, in my opinion, the pluses outweigh the minuses. Have I mentioned there is a french restaurant in Kutaisi?! Admittedly, I can’t really afford it on my PC stipend, but I can scrape and scrounge when I have a serious craving.
I’ll be working with a great organization, KEDEC, that does a number of different things including working with youth civic clubs in local schools, running day centers for disabled youth, and providing vocational and employability trainings for the community. They also have a new social enterprise (handmade cards made by disabled and IDP [internally displaced peoples] employees). There was another volunteer at my organization who just left, but not before showing me around the organization and the city (thank you, Tami!). Replacing another volunteer has its benefits, but Tami was pretty fabulous. So I have some big shoes to fill and obviously they have some high expectations. I hope I can deliver. But I am already really excited about some ideas for how I can help.
On my visit, I also stayed with a host family who was intended to be my host family for, at the least, the next three months, and potentially the next two years. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to work out. They are wonderful people but there were a few things that I knew I couldn’t live with for the next two years. And I’d like to go into a host family situation with the intention of staying the full two years. As much as I’d love my independence (and my own kitchen), I’m afraid I can’t afford it in Kutaisi on my stipend. So, my host family situation is currently undetermined even though I head to Kutaisi in eight days. But the Peace Corps has taken very good care of me over the past three months. So I have faith that they will work this out.
So, now we’re in the waning days of PST. Today we took our final technical test and tomorrow we celebrate July 4th with a picnic for our PST host families. I’m looking forward to a hamburger with a little TOO much eagerness. This past weekend a bunch of us had a dinner party at my host family’s house where we made mexican food with some items a few of us had from care packages (thank you, Rachel!). Despite all of the delicious fresh food, somehow the Taco Bell Chipotle sauce seemed to generate the most excitement. My host mother LOVED it and proceeded to eat it on everything for the next few days. I love it when I can share new food with her. Just sorry that she seems to respond best to our uber-processed foods! She is also a big fan of peanut butter though. And she had the all natural, organic kind. So, I guess that’s good. The original dinner plan was for three of us to get together to cook for our host mothers. But word got out that there was some mexican food being cooked and before you know it we had TEN trainees filling my kitchen! My host mom Eka is truly the absolute best for welcoming everyone into our house and kitchen! See the photos below!
Which leads me to my final thought. Next Friday, July 12, we’ll all be swearing in as Peace Corps volunteers and heading to our permanent sites. I’m excited about this because, after all, this is why I came here. However, I am more than a little ambivalent about this move. I’ve grown pretty comfortable here in my host family and being a student again (more or less). July 12th represents radical change in which all of the support that I’ve grown accustomed to in Georgia will be gone. No more class everyday with my friends who are going through the same things as me. No more dinner and serial watching with Eka. Everything will be new. Again. When I think about how many times I’ve done this “everything new” thing over the past few years, it makes me very tired. But this is it, for the next two years. However, this is also the most radical “everything new” I’ve done in my entire life. I’ve been studying Georgian for almost three months. But don’t let me fool you. The only people who seem to understand me when I speak are Eka and my language teachers. And my vocabulary is still extremely limited. But I guess the real immersion is about to begin. Now’s the time to see how much of a BAMF I really am. I’d say “bring it”, but that might be a little too much bluster at the moment.