Monday, August 17, 2009

PST, VAC and no money

So upon my return home, I had really deeply missed my current host family, and they shared that they missed me too and we celebrated! It was so nice to come back to something to which I was already familiar. The three or four days being submersed completely in a Russian speaking community made it very easy for me to make conversation with my current host family, as Russian as I may have already mentioned is the language in which we converse.

One thing I realized late in college was the importance of reading for fun. It’s something I had really lost a grip with and now I’m trying to read for fun in my spare time and catch up on the classics I never read in school, given the short time frame. Right now I am reading Lord of the Flies and another book I’m going to read, one of the other volunteers, Andrew, has currently.

As training is coming to a close, I’m looking to what will be the road ahead of me. We are required to create or participate in secondary projects, and I have not yet decided what exactly will be my project. For example, already at my new school is an ECO club (ecology and environment) ,and my director also expressed the students’ strong desire to have a theatre club where they can act out well-known Russian, Azeri, and European fairy tales in English. As I do think both would be very interesting, I cannot say I bring any expertise in either area, but I feel it’s always good to branch out or jump in with both feet, so-to-speak.

Last week Monday through Thursday as well, we had a summer school for the kids in Tokhliauri, however it designed to not be strict classroom instruction, but more like playing games and having a variety activities for everyone. On the first day we watch Ratatouille, one of the movies which I brought from home and myself had not even seen. It was really helpful, as there were many foods mentioned which the students could recall. The second day, I went to a private school near the capital to volunteer for the day and we played CLUE, the game which I had previously organized geared towards teaching during practicum. The school outside of Tbilisi was in itself very different from any Georgian school I had been in so far. On American standards, this “really nice” school was probably a nice to average school in the US, however my experience so far was that it is amazing! Unfortunately I had not taken any pictures, but you’ll have to trust me on this one. I also realized that during my time here, I honestly have not taken that many pictures. I’m gonna try and step up my game in this last week of PST.

Right now my host mom is making ghinkali (a type of Georgian meat dumpling, similar to the Russian Pelmeni, however larger and in my opinion more flavorful). We just started watching “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” and I’m translating the gist to her in Russian. So far, eleven minutes in, it’s going well.

Also my first shower back from the site visit, I saw a small mouse in the bathroom and in response, my whole family and I freaked out over the incidence. Then, the next night, I go in the bathroom to find that a bird had flown into the bathroom. My whole family laughed about the whole matter, and also to give you perspective, this is a normal, relatively modern bathroom. It would be like anyone in the US have this occur, needless to say, it may have been one of those “you had to be there” kind of things.

As we are in a village there are mice, birds, and animals of all kinds. For example, in the walls of our living room and under the floor in my room there resides a small rat family. The family itself is small, however the rats are pretty big, and they are not afraid. There’s a hole in the chimney where an old stove used to feed smoke into it, however, as it is out of use, there remains just the whole. Behind the whole is a plank in the wall in which the rats travel. I saw it pass by one day, after one of them removed the newspaper blocking the hole and it had to have been head to tail 3 feet in length. My grandmother said after they took the newspaper that they like to read and that the mouse in the bathroom likes to shower.

When I first arrived in Georgia, I was running once every other day, and as it became really hot and after much fending off of dog and rooster attacks, I stopped, however I miss running very much. At my permanent site there will be no opportunity to run, so in response to this I have decided that I will get cardio from shadowboxing and strength building from squats and pushups. I am also fortunate to have thus far, never needed to use a squat toilet. I want to do an expose on all of the various kinds of toilets which I have come across. So without running I also rationalized this will help me towards my goal of gaining twenty pounds, however, as mentioned I believe I will not be eating too too much in my permanent site, and I also discovered that one of the side effects of the malaria medicine I have to take for this particular site is a decreased appetite. So I’m like, “Great, I’m guessing it is not God’s will for me to gain weight.” However, in the face of God, I have decided to struggle towards my goal. Mary, our second-in-command, did point out, however, we will be allocated additional money in our living allowance to account for a lack of food, and about this I’m very glad.

So now I feel it’s important to talk about this malaria medicine. It’s a mild dose of Chloroquine (sp?) and side effects include: vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, weakness, confusion, etc. My first dose, I felt my stomach rumble, however did not experience anything too severe, but my second dose this past Friday, was a violet reaction. Within the hour of taking it, I felt miserable, broke out in a sweat, and just wanted the excruciating stomach pain to be over. However, the pamphlet assures me that these are all “adjustment” side-effects. Luckily, some of the other forms of malaria medicine cause increased sensitivity to sunlight, constant confusion, and one even causes nightmares. Apparently the military just recently stopped using the one that causes nightmares as it was increasing the number of mentally ill servicemen. However, this was information from the grapevine, and I’m not sure if it’s entirely true.

The grapevine is something that within Peace Corps and within Georgia spreads faster than wildfire and possibly even rivals the speed of sound. If you are coming from Tbilisi across the country, it is very possible that people in that town will know you are coming, even if “unannounced”, well before you get there. Also, if anything happens to any of the volunteers, it is also possible to assume that you will not need to tell your story more than once for all of the host families and volunteers to find out. As a result of any gossip, especially, sometimes the story can be amplified, and it is important be aware of your actions as it could damage your kargi bichi or gogo status.

We have our final LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) on Wednesday for Georgian language, which will determine how many of us who don’t pass will have mandatory Georgian tutoring for three months before a retest. Last Friday, we turned in so many forms. Every week, Peace Corps requires us to submit feedback of how things are going in every area basically and we had to turn in our overall PST evaluations and everything.

Also! On a somewhat exciting note, I was elected to one of the three permanent VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) positions. There were only four candidates including myself and two spots available, however it was the first thing in my life which I was ever actually elected to. I’ve applied for positions for clubs in public school and the university, and any position actually received was usually something like a “leftover” position. That’s not to say that I haven’t been appreciative of these positions or put forth great effort, but this was a first and made me feel really good about myself. I feel also honored to have been selected to serve in Peace Corps, too! Especially with how difficult the current situation is in the job market. The VAC is a committee which bridges communication between volunteers and staff to create change within Peace Corps Georgia to better the overall experience for staff and volunteers.

That’s about all that’s going on with me! I will catch you up on some more details at a later date. By the next time I write, I will already have traveled to my permanent site, in which case I’m going to try and get internet so I will have it in my new place, as the cost is only roughly $12 per month! Take care, and I love all of you, whoever you are!


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