After a long warm fall, winter finally came to Georgia this past week. And boy did it come. We had been having 70 degree temperatures for most of November and then on November 30th, the temps dropped into the 30s and 40s and the sunny days turned to cold rain and snow. So, this week I’ve gotten my first taste of what the next 3-4 months will bring. I wouldn’t dream of complaining about this (yet) as I have friends, particularly those in the Adjara region, who are dealing with some pretty hellish conditions. I’ll share those a little later in this blog so as not to immunize you to the discomforts that I face. 😉
Although it has been snowing all around the region since last week, the snow didn’t really hit Kutaisi until Sunday night. Late Sunday night we lost power in my apartment and it hadn’t returned when I woke Monday morning. So, I shuffled my way through slushy snowy streets (plowing and shoveling aren’t really a thing here) to work. I was thrilled to see we had power and thus heat and internet at work. For one hour. Power outages aren’t that uncommon here, particularly at my work for some reason. But typically they last for a few minutes, maybe an hour at the most. Standard practice is for everyone to gather and use that time as a social hour. I join and sit with a pleasant, yet obviously uncomprehending look on my face as I still only catch one word out of three and have a hard time stringing them together in my mind into anything meaningful. Every now and then, a Georgian who speaks English will throw me a bone and tell me what they are talking about. Then everyone looks at me for some sort of reaction (laughter?) which I rarely successfully give. Well, on Monday the power never came back on. So, after sitting around for a couple of hours, going to lunch, and then returning, I was informed we are all going home for the day because the power won’t be returning until tomorrow. So, I headed home hoping I had power again at home. Nope. So, I crawled under my covers and read for a while until nappishness overcame me. When I woke, magically the power had returned. Since then, there have been intermittent power outages but they last the typical few minutes.
The hardest part of winter in Georgia will be the lack of central heating. At home, in our family room we have an electric heater which actually warms that small room so well that at times it is hot. But the door to the room is kept closed and the rest of the apartment isn’t heated at all. In my room, I have a small electric heater that I typically turn on for a few hours in the evening. It doesn’t do a lot but after a few hours, it can increase the temperature by about five degrees. Mostly, I rely on my blankets and my laptop to keep me warm in my room. And up until last night, it hadn’t been too bad. But last night for some reason, I couldn’t get rid of the chill. Perhaps it is because I had spent my day at work freezing. At work we have a rather large office. There are two rooms that have doors that close. Those rooms stay fairly warm just with a single electric heater in each. But I am in the big main room which is far too large to be effectively heated by a single electric heater (which is all we have). Add to that the fact that the door to the outside is also in this room and that people seem to be adverse to actually shutting said door, and I’m pretty much freezing at work. I sit at my desk with a hat, gloves, long underwear, pants, two shirts, a heavy wool sweater, two pairs of socks, and boots, and I’m still cold. So, last night, when I went home, the blankets on my bed which are typically enough, just didn’t do it for me. And for the first time, I busted out my sleeping bag. In my sleeping bag with my two blankets on top of it, I was toasty warm last night. Getting out of bed this morning was very difficult. In fact, it has been nearly impossible every day this week. But somehow I manage. And for some reason, we didn’t have water this morning at home.
But honestly, none of this is so bad. First, I had six years of living in Rochester in a house with sub-standard insulation to prepare me. Second, I’m Minnesotan! Third, it could be SO MUCH WORSE! How much worse? I could live in Adjara where around 4 feet of snow has fallen in the past week and they have spent the past four days without electricity. Where roads are impassable. So there is no getting out. Where all of their electronics (their source of connection to the outside world and their entertainment) have long since died. This confirms for me once again that my version of Peace Corps Georgia is indeed the Posh Corps. I try not to feel guilty about that.
Postscript: One week from today, I fly to Istanbul where I will spend three days before heading to the States for two and a half weeks. I can’t deny that this actually terrifies me. Anyone who has followed my blog knows I went through a rough patch a while back. But in the last few months, I’ve really found my footing and am actually very happy in my life here. So, I think this trip home is ill-timed in some ways. I’m worried about how I am going to feel when I get back to Georgia in January to Georgian winter and no more margaritas and guacamole. Honestly, if I were to make a choice right now as to whether or not to go to the States in a week, I wouldn’t go. But the tickets have been purchased and promises have been made. So, go I will. It will be great to see everyone I love and enjoy foods I haven’t eaten in a while, but I’m ambivalent about it.
Post-postscript: Just got an incredible care package from my friend Jenny filled with so many treats. Care packages make my week! And now to enjoy some hot chocolate!