Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Missing Piece

Currently listening to: A charming “La Cucaracha” car horn playing on the street

Okay, so I would like to give a few words out to the folks who might be reading what it might be like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer or the G10’s that are hanging on, getting ready to begin their second year. I have discussed these ideas with some other volunteers, and it seems to be a shared feeling.
Over the course of my service, I have taken a decline in health, deserted my close friends and loved ones from back home, and had days where I wonder why I’m doing this to myself. It’s been freezing cold, swelteringly hot, and filled with problems and poor conditions.

Hopefully, you’ve kept reading for this: it’s all been worth it. I wasn’t able to say this really until the past couple of weeks. I have been able to help a girl by coaching her through an application process that might land her a fellowship for graduate study in the United States. We’ve met often, and I can say that our relationship is a friendship that I haven’t had to force. Most times, I feel like I’m struggling to make things happen, make progress, and motivate the people around me. While I definitely feel that it was not an “all-for-naught” situation, it’s been tough. I have tried so hard to make true friends in my community. Either they are too busy or just caught up in their own stuff to be able to invest into a friendship with someone new. This was the missing piece. Most volunteers in the past have said this feeling usually happens around 1 year into service. So what if it took me an extra 6 months?

Then, this past weekend, I was having a meeting with a new organization leader in my community. We’re talking, and I was using her center as an office. I would work, and we would talk, and this went back and forth between working and talking. Then, the organization leader’s friend comes in and joins into our conversation. We had such an amazing conversation about gender. Her friend has some very traditional views about marriage, but it was just a great conversation to have. Then, the org leader mentioned that I could use her space for anything. She mentioned, “I would love to start a small English discussion group for practice.” I said, “Awesome! I have some other people I could invite, if that’s okay?” She said, “Sure. When can we meet?” I answer, “Hmm…” She responds, “How about the 2nd? Does 6:00 pm work okay?”

I was flabbergasted! It just fell into place. So now I have a new conversation group. It will be informal discussions. She said she could distribute any articles, poems, etc I want to discuss before our meetings to read in advance. I have such a good feeling about this. I am just so pleased to find people who are already motivated and just wanting to learn.

I also received news this past Monday that I was not selected to continue on with the State Department, after an extensive review of my personnel file. I was kind of bummed, but I know when one door closes…

I now have a comfortable friendship with one of my counterparts at school. We go to the school “cafeteria” and I eat khachapuri (cheese bread) and drink soda, while my counterpart usually just drinks coffee. It’s nice to have some hang-out time. She’s very busy and has a family, so we rarely will hang out outside of school.

I got my new schedule for this upcoming semester. Best possible last semester: I only teach at school Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays!! That’s right suckas! I have 2 extra days off. I have long days on the days I do work, but it still makes it worth it. Those extra days will give me time I need to devote to other projects and community organizations.

I’m gearing my noggin up for a huge job application spree to take place in mid-spring, to prevent a possible spring-cleaning of my bank account when I get back to America… cheesy…

So, I have been journaling with my students I teach at the youth center, and I want to share with you some of their entries (from 2 different female students):

1.       Topic: If you could be anyone else, who would you be and why?
If I could be anyone else, I would be a boy. I will say about my town and about my choice, because in my town for girls, life is not good. If I would be a boy, I would be popular, very beautiful, free, and without complexes. I would stay with my friends watching TV, going around the world, and when I would want, go and do what I want. Also, I would help who needs help. I would be a champion and a leader in sports, in life, and of course in my own world with my own rules. My decision would be always to try. I think it’s all I need: to live as a boy.

2.       Topic: What is the most important thing you will ever do?
I want to be a lawyer, and I will work for Georgia. I want to be beautiful, kind, and generous.

From the bottom of my heart, I care about these kids, and I only want the best for them. We have 10 lessons left in their program. I have noticed a huge transformation in their writing ability, self-esteem with speaking English, and critical thinking skills. They have so much potential.

The Peace Corps’ motto: “The toughest job you’ll ever love” is starting to fill out. In the beginning, it was no doubt the toughest job, but that I’ll “ever love” is becoming more real as the days go by.

Photo #10- Pleasantries at Mtatsminda Park - I didn't get a chance to ride
the ferris wheel, but I want to in the future. The TV tower in the background
 is Georgia's Tour D'Eiffel. Location: Tbilisi, Georgia

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"The music is all around us, all you have to do is listen."

Dear Readers,

My sincerest apologies go out to all of you waiting for something fantastic to appear. I can't guarantee this'll be fantastic, but it'll do my little piggies.

The ups and downs continue, each week leaves me with the feeling like I've just gotten off of another of life's roller coasters. As with other volunteers, I take a breath out of the exit and go back through the turnstiles. Whether you are on vacation or not, every day is different. Being aware of this here, I wonder what and how I'll feel going back to the US or onto my next venture.

The cold came suddenly to my community, and before you knew it, you could see your breath in my room. The hot water stops working, and I only have ice water to wash my clothes and dishes. The days will tick by and it'll be warm before I know it.

I have been watching tons of movies, thinking about what's to come, what new shenanigans my students will pull, what lives I'll touch in the next 6 months, what my life was like before Peace Corps, and what happiness lies tomorrow and beyond. I have a good feeling and that's what I'm putting my laris on.

Recently, through film and real-life situations, I'm noticing so many people that are just trying to find their path. Some are just pacing and waiting and others have completely wandered away. To that, I stress the importance of being in touch with your emotions and reflecting. Granted, sometimes I reflect a little too much, but self-awareness can go a long way. Sometimes emotions just confuse everything. To that, I say, "Shake it off, and stare raw reality in the face." What do you see? Tap into your true desires, and go for it. If you decide somewhere along the way it's not for you: don't get down. Just re-roll, and at least you know that one thing is not for you.

I looked back on my New Year's resolutions from 2010.

1. I can say I've done some awesome lessons and projects for my students. (check)
2. I don't think my mental health could be any more clear. (meditating- check)
3. I didn't complain nearly as much as 2009 and before. haha (not complaining- check)
4. I was more proactive about nutrition, haven't really gained that much weight though. (half-check)
5. I was a more active reader. I really enjoyed the reading I did in 2010. (active reading- check)
6. Well... I didn't really get as much sleep as I should have. (full nights of sleep- ehhh)
7. I disappointed people on not meeting my word on 2 or 3 occasions, but overall I think it was a productive year. (meeting my word- 3/4 check)

On my path to a dangerously close approach to perfection, I feel pretty good about 2011. I can't say that I even wish to make any resolutions at this point. I have a plan, and I'll keep you posted.

Here's to another year of good food, friends, life, and success! A (belated) happy new year to everyone!
Photo #9- Sunset in Marneuli-- the Azerbaijan Mountains--
Appreciating the view I can only see once or twice every 2 months.