My Second Thanksgiving in Georgia

This week is Thanksgiving week. As Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I thought I’d write a post about the many things I’m thankful for. Living in Georgia isn’t always easy, so I think it is important to sometimes reflect on the things that I appreciate in my life. So, here they are in no particular order:

  • The opportunity to break away from my ordinary life and plunge myself into a world in which I often feel uncomfortable and even irritated at times. But those are the spaces where we grow. And I’m lucky to have this opportunity.
  • The kindness and generosity of my neighbors and colleagues who take care of me, check up on me, and make my days a little brighter.
  • My site mate Ann who also checks up on me, takes care of me, and makes sure I don’t retreat too far into solitude. And is just a great friend. My experience here would be completely different, and diminished without her. Thanks to her extroverted ways, I have friends here. I imagine that without her, my life in Kutaisi would resemble that of a hermit. But maybe I would have learned that coveted skill of being able to stare at the wall for hours. Alas, we’ll never know.
  • Having my own apartment that allows me to have solitude and peace when I need it. And I need it often.
  • John. He never fails to make me smile (or laugh). His weirdness ensures I will never be bored and life will never be ordinary. Can’t wait for more adventures with him.
  • The opportunity to travel. I love adventures and I’ve had many this year. In Georgia: Vardzia, Kazbegi, and Tusheti; outside of Georgia: Yerevan, Wales, London, and Warsaw. Here’s to a lot more travel in the coming year.
  • My Peace Corps family. I’ve built some great friendships with some really amazing people here. In seven months we’ll all be going on to new things. That will be a bittersweet time. But I can’t wait to see what they do in the world. And I’m already looking forward to the reunions. But in the meantime, I’m also thankful to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, not once, but three times! Last week, we celebrated with all of the Peace Corps volunteers, staff, and even the American Ambassador at our annual All Volunteer conference. On Thursday, Ann and I will celebrate with some of our friends in Kutaisi. And on Saturday, I will celebrate with a few of my volunteer friends in Kobuleti (the beach).
  • My family and friends back home. Through skype, facebook and care packages, they help me feel connected to home and I can’t wait to see them all within the next year. Special shout out to my friend Jack who took my plea for help with accountability super seriously earlier this year and has checked in with me every single Thursday since. That is dedication, my friend! Also, a special shout out to my family and friends who helped support my organization’s project to renovate our daycare center for children with disabilities this year!
  • A certain genius named Matt at the Cardiff Apple Store who singlehandedly made my vacation, helped keep me in the Peace Corps, and made me a lifelong mac customer by giving me a brand new laptop for FREE!
  • To being almost done. I won’t deny that I officially began the countdown about two months ago. I’ve got a lot to do between now and then. A lot of work I will be proud of. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m also ready to leave. And the next bullet partially explains why.
  • Being an American woman. I know that the United States is far from perfect on many fronts including gender equality. However, I can’t help but be grateful that I was born in a country that allows women to reject oppressive social norms without too many consequences. Truly thankful that no one in the States ever utters the phrase, “It’s our tradition” to justify oppression.
  • The opportunity to work on GLOW to help young girls in Georgia become leaders, learn about gender issues, and make change in Georgia.
  • New beginnings. For me, joining the Peace Corps wasn’t just about doing something I’d dreamt about since college. It was also about setting my life on a new course. And having some adventures along the way. One never knows what to expect from their Peace Corps experience. But I can say with confidence that I have gotten out of it most of what I had hoped to gain. I have new work experience that should serve me well in my job search when I get home. I’ve got a better understanding of what it is that I might want to do. I’ve had some great adventures. And most of all, I’ve been happy for the first time in quite a while. The lows may be a bit lower here, but the highs are definitely higher. I’ve had a lot of fun. And I’ve learned a lot about myself. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Jet lag

I made a commitment to myself to not miss a single month blogging. And for the first time, in October, I missed a month. I just haven’t had much I’ve wanted to say. And I did some traveling too. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and not feeling particularly keen on sharing my experiences. My thoughts and feelings about being here have reached the point of boring me. I’ve been feeling ready to go home.

You would think a little time away would have helped with that. But it did exactly the opposite. It just fed my longing. You have no idea how much I’ve come to appreciate order and courtesy. The British people made me want to cry with joy with their reserved warmth, self-deprecating humor, and affinity for queues. I felt as if I were in some sort of dream in which everything made sense. Let’s call this fantasy land the West. Visiting Warsaw was like being gently roused from the dream only to drift back into it with the scene changed only slightly. But then I awoke boarding a plane to Georgia of all places where orderly queues are for suckers and airplane etiquette is for pansies. And the level of relaxation and peace I had reached over the previous ten days disappeared in a matter of minutes before I even stepped foot back in the country of Georgia. As we landed, the Georgian passengers cheered, they were so happy to be back in their beloved Georgia, and I wanted to cry. It took quite a few days for that feeling to dissipate. But I’ve finally returned to my former state of: I’m not crazy about Georgian culture in general, but I care about a lot of people and things here. And for the next 7.5 months, I’m going to do what I can in Georgia. So, you can see now why I’ve not been writing. Nobody wants to read that!

Here are a few of the things that have helped me get through the past rather rough week. 1. The old man who lives off of the courtyard at my office. Everytime he sees me, he lights up with a huge smile and proclaims “Amerika!” and calls me over to him where he takes my hand in both of his and slips a hard candy into it. And sometimes he goes on to ask when my boyfriend is coming to visit from Amerika and can’t understand why he isn’t coming. 2. The 14 year old girl, Ana, in my conversation class who is bright, enthusiastic, and speaks English well. She is applying for our winter GLOW camp. She wants to study international relations and visit the US someday. My goal in the time I have left is to get her on track to be a great FLEX candidate in a few years so she can achieve that goal. FLEX is an exchange program that some of the best and brightest students of Georgia participate in. And they come back and do great things in their communities. Most of our GLOW counselors are FLEX alumni.

Some other things you might want to hear about: GLOW work goes on. We are working on plans for the January camp and an April GLOW Ambassadors conference. We are also working on a new website and hopefully a new logo. And a number of other things. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m helping my organization with a fundraising campaign that will launch in December. At that point, we’ll need to get 40 people to give $10 or more to the campaign. When the time comes, I hope you’ll consider being one of our 40. We also need to raise a total of $5000 in the month of December. That is the harder part of the goal. Hopefully we can achieve it!

Also, PCVs celebrated Halloween in style this past weekend in my city, Kutaisi. Our second annual Halloween gathering in Kutaisi thanks to my sitemate Ann. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of my post trip funk. In two weeks we’ll all be gathering again for the annual All Volunteer Conference where the tradition is to celebrate Thanksgiving as a Peace Corps family. I am once again on the cooking committee which is in charge of making Thanksgiving dinner for 120 people this year. It is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. And the following week, actually on Thanksgiving, some of us will be gathering for a smaller Thanksgiving celebration. REALLY looking forward to this because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s better than an entire day dedicated to nothing other than food (and, in the States, football)?