Monday, March 18, 2013

Photos, Disappointment, and New Surprises


Inside the Blue Mosque. I was disappointed that it wasn't THAT blue.

 Another one inside the Blue Mosque. Called the Blue Mosque because 1) It's a mosque and 2) They used a bunch of blue tiles in it.

 Blue Mosque. Not blue on the outside.

Inside the Grand Bazaar. It was HUGE and pretty cool.

Georgia has given me a sense of fashion.


This is Vardzia. It's a cave monastery. It once was a cave city. It was pretty cool. Inside were like mini caves. Most of those small pockets didn't connect.

I didn't take that many photos and actually all of the photos of the trip were taken by one of my travel companions. I'm not a picture taker. I'm going to Yerevan (Armenia's capital) in the first weekend of May. Don't expect many photos. And don't expect them up until mid-July. It's just how I roll. Are there any photos of things you all actually want to see? I guess my next assignment should be taking pictures of my host family. Maybe that will be a summer thing. Or a thing that won't happen. Ever. They're not much for the whole "Let's take photos" thing. I guess that's good since neither am I.


School is still school. I *FINALLY* started my "American Club". Our first session was about American Holidays. So far we've met once out of three possible occasions. Back home I would think, "Only one of three times? That's a failure." Here I think ".333 is a great batting average." Regardless of how you might think your idea/club/project can better your community, you have to accept that not everyone will think the same way. Also, you learn to accept that not everything and everyone work on similar schedules. Even if they like your idea, there is no guarantee they'll show up. You learn to accept disappointment.

So I march on. This Friday, I will wait again as the day continues for 6th period and hope that my counterpart and students will find time in their schedules to stop by.

I recently have realized that by living in a (by American standards) conservative village of a country much older than the United States with different cultural norms and values, some things surprise me that never would have before.

1) Women smoking in public: When we first got to Georgia, we were told that though some woman smoke, you would rarely see it (in villages and smaller cities). Mother's would never know that their kargi gogo (good girl) smokes. It would be on the hush-hush and would rarely be seen. So when I do see it, my first thought is, "What *would* your mother think?"

2) Women driving: Also pretty rare. I'm not as taken back by this as when I see them smoking, but still. You don't see it as often as you do back in the USA.

3) Dogs on leashes: That not only means that the dog has an owner, but the dog is actually cared for (more than just fed and not killed). We have a dog. He is like most dogs in Georgia: tolerated but not adored. He doesn't come in the house. He's only fed. Otherwise he's on his own. He doesn't attack. Only barks when people come by. So most dogs serve as guard dogs but their level of being cared for does not exceed being thrown food.

I'm sure other things that I can't think of now.

Later days,

Saturday, January 5, 2013


This post will touch on a few different subjects: Georgia update, Istanbul update, and General update:

Georgia update: School ended (our) Christmas Eve. I'm glad for it. I am ready to begin anew. With all the trainings I have been to and my counterparts being busy, I haven't had time to get much done. This will be a good break for me to get my head back in the game and come up with some future goals. Now I just have to get motivated. On Christmas Eve, I hopped on a public transit to go across the country to the capital, Tbilisi. I stayed the night there, not having done much. Christmas Day I spent with volunteers in the town we had many of our trainings in, Telavi. It was a wonderful time with great food and friends. I went back to my site the next day.

Istanbul Update: It was a great city. I only took a few pictures but I'll be sure to (eventually) get those up. Most likely, I'll just steal the ones my two travel companions took and post them as my own. The food was good. Because Istanbul is pretty modern and tourist-friendly, there were some Startbucks and Pizza Huts. We took advantage of both. With Starbucks, I went 4 times in 5 days. I couldn't get enough. There were many tourists. I probably heard a dozen different languages being spoken. Many of the shopkeepers knew English (also Arabic, French, and some others) so it was easy to get around (as long as it was a tourist-area).

The plane ended up leaving an hour late. We were waiting for more passengers. I assumed they were VIPs. Since our airport was smaller and further away, it took longer than expected to get into the actual city. It was believed to have been rush hour traffic.
The hostel one of my friends and I booked was not in operation. We didn't find that out until we got to our other friend's hostel and asked for directions. The receptionist at our friend's hostel called the owner of the one we intended to stay at for directions. The owner informed us that the hostel was
closed for repairs. He said that there was no way that we could have booked with him because he stopped accepting reservations months ago. He gave us a hostel of his friend's who had an extra room. It was almost double what we originally planned on paying but us being in an unknown city 3 days before the New Year, we didn't have much of a choice. We only stayed there one night because the hostel next door had a late cancellation. We were able to save some money and the hostel was a much better choice. Once we moved to the new hostel, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing.I definitely recommend it.

General Update: I'm alive and well and going to enjoy my break. Hope all is well with you all. I miss you.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life (as of now)

Well, I haven't updated in awhile because, well, there's not much to say. I see cows in the street everyday, my dog follows me to my outhouse, I struggle with the language, and I have a lot of free time. That's about it. I started observing classes last week. I have one week to go. I think I will be teaching 5-7th and 10-12th grade. I will be working with both of my school's English teachers. I will try to remember to take pictures of my school and put them up here. I have still not gotten use to taking pictures so other people can see what I see. My school has 3 floors but only 120 students. I am lucky in that regards. While I don't have a class over 14 students (and my 12th grade has 4), other volunteers have classes upwards of 30+. Eek! Most of the kids I will be teaching seem like they want to learn, so we will see how it goes. In other news: there isn't much. I am reading bunches. Here are the books I have read since I have been to my permanent site (starting around July 20 something):
All 3 in the Hunger Games Series
Jesus Land,
Future of Freedom
Brave New World
Young Stalin
 Getting Stoned with Savages
A Walk in the Woods
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Cathedral (collection of short stories. Not my favorite)
Grapes of Wrath
Edit Add the following:
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (hilarious)
Naked (also funny and by David Sedaris)
The Caucuses: An Introduction (good overview of the region where I live)
A Witness To Genocide (about the war in Bosnia)
Mao II (easy read but hard to understand the symbolism)
UPDATE 7-30-13
I've read a bit since then.
Middlesex (good, but long. Fiction)
Skinny Legs And All (funny and thought-provoking)
The Geography of Bliss
Auschwitz (very thorough)
Guests of the Ayatollah
An Underground Education
Broker Trader Lawyer Spy
Cheating in Schools (a bit self-righteous)
The European Dream
Sin, Sex, and Democracy
The Beach (also made into a movie)
Tomorrow Will Be Too Late (very thought-provoking)
Flight From The USSR (a story about young Georgians in 1980s USSR)
No Easy Day (about the killing of Bin Laden)
First in His Class (about Bill Clinton up to the 1992 Election)
Omnivore's Dilemma (about food production in the US. Makes you think twice about what you eat)
Prozac Nation (a very depressing but well-written memoir)
The Purity Myth
The Hours
White Teeth
The Truth About Sex (a bit too religious for me)
The Indispensable Zinn (writings from radical historian Howard Zinn)
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
Fahrenheit 451 (a classic)
Other People's Children

Thursday, August 16, 2012


So I decided to write to you all about culture differences of Americans and Georgians (Any PCVs or Georgians reading this, let me know if something is inaccurate or you have something to add). Time: Meetings times in America mean the exact time. If the meeting begins at 11:00am, you better be there at 11:00am. In Georgia, time is flexible. Students aren't punished for being a minute or two late. When the bell rings in a Georgian school, that doesn't mean that the door closes and class begins. It means "Make your way to the classroom, the lesson is about to begin." The pace is slower here. I like it. Space: Americans have a personal bubble. We don't like people getting too close, especially those we don't know. Not so in Georgia. Even when meeting new people, it is customary to kiss one another (males and females) on the cheek. Sometimes just touching cheeks and making the kissing sound is acceptable. When you are at the ATM in America, no one will stand so close to you as to be able to see the screen. In America, it would be seen as a privacy violation. Not so in Georgia. People will stand directly behind and to the side of you, looking at your screen, waiting for you to finish your business. Georgians are trustworthy people so they don't think others are trying to steal their information. Privacy: Georgians do not feel that many things Americans view as private should be private. Though my host family does not do this, others have been known to just walk in Volunteers' rooms without knocking. Georgians will ask personal questions such as how much money you or your family makes (Sorry Mom, some lady in Bokhvauri knows your salary), if you're married (and why not), general questions about your family, and why don't you like a certain type of food, or if you like Georgia or its President (the latter question we avoid answering). These are routine questions I have just become used to. Dating: In traditional homes, the homes are multi-generational with the mother moving in with her in-laws. Typically it's a Grandpa, Grandma, the son, his wife, and their kids. Dating is nearly non-existent. If you are in a relationship with a man or woman, it is expected that you will then marry that person and if you are a woman, move in with your husband's family. There is not much time between first becoming "sweethearts" and marriage. Premarital relations are forbidden and the future husband and wife do not spend much time alone. Therefore, unmarried men and women should not be in the same room together alone. So, many men and women who are friends will also not stay the night at each others' houses. Gender Division of Labor: There is a strong gender division of labor in Georgia. Men are expected to do "traditionally masculine labor" and women do household work such as cooking, cleaning, and attending to the children. Because of current economic conditions, many women hold down jobs inside and outside the home. Unlike many Americans, Georgians live in their homes for generations. The houses have rooms added on to them. They own their homes outright, not having to worry about mortgages. This culture is very interesting and I learn more and more each day. Hopefully I can add to this post as time continues.

Friday, August 10, 2012


It doesn't exist right now. I barely remember the day. Everything blurs together. My counterpart is out of town until the 15th. Summer camp isn't until the first part of September. School doesn't begin until September 17th, so my days consist a lot of reading, phone conversing, and Internetting. Some days seem to drag on, others seem to fly by. I am just now waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Officially PCV

I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! I passed all necessary tests and jumped over all necessary hurdles. The farewell dinner was in a nice hotel. Thankfully they had a backup generator or when unaffected by the storm that ripped through Telavi (the town where all of the G12 group (the one I'm a part of) would gather for technical and general training. I believe Telavi just got their electricity and heat turned back on a day or two ago (Someone correct me if I'm wrong). The swearing-in ceremony was in Tbilisi. They told us we were going to stop for coffee at McDonalds beforehand. What they failed to tell us is we just had time for coffee. I guess they didn't know we would go crazy over getting our last taste of Americana before heading off to our permanent sites. (Thankfully I am an a litte over an hour away from a McDonalds if I ever get the urge). So many of us rushed to finish our food before boarding the bus. The ceremony was nice. Went on for a bit but it was nice seeing everyone one last time. I have been at my permanent site a little over a week now. I am only 30 minutes and $1.50USD bus ride from the beach. It's been fairly hot here but nothing compared to other parts of the country (and it sounds like back home too). The problem here is there is no A/C to turn on. I should probably get a fan but I'm too cheap and keep telling myself that I only have one more month left to go (I hope). I haven't done much here. I have met with my school director but not much is said because my Georgian is still limited and so is her English. I should be planning my summer camp by mid-August and conducting it in the first part of September. I officially start school on September 17th. I am really excited to actually start teaching, though I have to do 2 weeks of observation to fogire out which English teacher I will work with. I think I have it figured out because of the limited number of teachers but we shall see. Not much goes on here. I have to buy wireless Internet this week so I can become motivated to do more Peace Corps-related work (or at least that is my excuse). I went to the beach yesterday. Got a little burned but it was a lot of fun. Gotta go!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

8 Days Remain!!!!

When I last blogged, my cluster and I had just completed our community project. Since then, not much has gone on. Oh! My cluster and I just finished our Summer Camp. It went fairly well. You always run into a few bumps in the road with these kind of things. I have gone through 95% of training (PST). The following are items I must complete by next Friday (the final day of PST): 1. Pass Education (Technical Training) test 2. Pass Medical and Safety & Security test 3. Take LPI (Language Exam) (Though passing is not necessary, it would be great. And if I don't pass now, I am required to get a tutor then pass it at a later date) 4. Fill out Self Assessement Blue Book 5. Show up to Swearing-In Ceremony I got this! Then it's off to the village I will call home for the next two years. I will have about a month and a half to integrate into my community by any means necessary, prepare for a summer camp, and just relax. I'm looking forward to the latter the most. I'll start school (and hopefully a newly-found career) around September 15th. And I'm already making plans to be in Istabul in January for Winter Break (and hopefully Europe with my sister next summer). It will be different going from an intense 11.5 weeks with many regulations but seeing many great people on a regular basis to being alone in a village with not a whole lot to do. But, this is what I signed up for. And I'm ready for it. Sincerely, Alex