A Tribute To My Friends

Hello Readers!

Today is kind of a sad day for me. Today, I said goodbye to one of my first and most consistent friends in Georgia. School ended last week, and thus, our contracts. My friends have been flying out since Saturday the 15th, and most of them are leaving for good tomorrow.

I have mentioned my friends numerous times on this blog, and even posted pictures of them, but I would like to take a moment to retroactively introduce them to you!

The Chokhatauri Crew:

L/R: Me, Martin, Josh, Drew, Jeff, Anny, Paul, Daniel (Not Pictured: Gil)

L/R: Me, Martin, Josh, Drew, Jeff, Anny, Paul, Daniel (Not Pictured: Gil)

Chokhatauri is the name of the district that my village is in. In the beginning, there were 9 TLG volunteers in the area. Only 3 of us (Me, Jeff, and Josh) stayed on for the spring semester.

Martin: Martin is an Irishman who likes to drink and hates squatty potties. He has a kind of silent humor that can be surprising after initial, quiet introductions. He is now teaching in Korea.

Josh: Josh is an Englishman who loves to point out how American the rest of us are. He stayed on in Georgia despite having only 14 students at his school and 2 classes a week. Josh has been a fun addition to many of my Georgian excursions and I will miss him. He will join his chap Martin in Korea this fall.

Drew: Drew accompanied Amy and I on part of our Eurotrip this Christmas break. He always enjoys a good round of ludi (beer) and an impromptu trip to one of the corners of Georgia. He always encouraged me to relax and take Georgia one step at a time when plans would inevitably go awry. He is now back home in California.

Jeff: Jeff is from Oregon, so he and I often bonded over a love for the PNW, though Washington is obviously the superior state. Jeff and I also liked to bicker a lot. His intelligence sometimes borders on know-it-all but when it doesn’t he has a lot of interesting facts to share.

Anny: Anny was here a semester before I was, so she managed to educate me on a lot of the important Georgian phrases and must-see destinations. She and I bonded quickly as the only girls in Chokhatauri, and the only ones who ever wanted to start the dance party at supras.

Paul: Paul was also in Georgia a semester before me, and he and Anny knew their way around the thriving metropolis that is Chokhatauri. Paul taught me the wonderful game of Spades, and was always ready to bet some lari.

Daniel: Daniel is a Florida boy with a heart of gold. His host family loved him more than any others I have seen. Daniel was always trying to introduce a new fun element to our crew, including addictive dice games to be played at our loal cafe.

Gil: Gil is the ultimate schmoozer. Another Florida boy, Gil spent his entire time in Georgia trying to learn as much of the language as possible (his vocabulary was great, but I schooled him in pronunciation) and befriending every random Georgian he encountered. The cafe workers still ask about him 7 months after his departure.

Maisah:

I don't think anyone has ever made me laugh as much as this girl

I don’t think anyone has ever made me laugh as much as this girl

Maisah and I became fast friends at orientation, and despite being SUPER close to each other geographically, didn’t see much of each other fall semester. But, in January, when the Chokhatauri crew disbanded, we started planning trips together. Whether we’re bar-hopping in Batumi, watching Sex and the City, “hiking” in Mestia, or pilfering Wifi at McDonalds, we are always laughing together. She is from New Jersey and headed abroad again after Georgia, but I have no doubts that we will find ourselves in the same location again.

Amy:

Ringing in 2013 with sparklers!

Ringing in 2013 with sparklers!

Amy and I committed to a month long Euro trip after spending about 4 hours together. It could have been disastrous, but we managed to keep each other uplifted despite a plethora of financial issues.  After the trip, we returned to our opposite corners of Georgia and kept each other entertained with daily text messages about the WTF moments in our lives. After trips to Mestia and Batumi, we will take a final adventure together in Istanbul in a few weeks! I’m so glad I took a gamble on that vacation, because Amy is a tell-it-like-it-is type of person who manages to see the funny side of every irritating occurrence in Georgia.

Shorena:

The closest I could get to a smile. Georgians have not caught on to the art of smiling in photographs.

The closest I could get to a smile. Georgians have not caught on to the art of smiling in photographs.

Shorena is my co-teacher for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade and my closest Georgian friend (besides my host family, but that’s it’s own blog post.) Shorena always tended to my needs, offering me coffee in the teachers’ room, requesting enough bathroom breaks on the school excursion, and giving me days off when I wanted to explore this beautiful country. She helped me improve my Georgian and I helped her improve her English, and our communication with each other is so much better off for it. I hope we will have a few more lunch or coffee dates before I leave!

Others:

That’s not all! I’d like to give a shout-out to all the Volunteers and Georgians who made my experience grand, even if we didn’t spend as much time together.

To Amy’s friends from home, John and Sam, thanks for never treating me like an outside in your club.

To the Ozurgeti Crew: Matt, Alex, Landon, Conor, Sanchez, Michelle, Brittany, Mark, Adam, thanks for all of the good times in the happenin’ capital of Guria.

To the Peace Corps Folks: Gina, Kayla, Danae, Allie, Mark, Sam, thanks for accepting the lesser committed TLG folks on that trip to  Armenia.

And all of the others: Kevin, Leah, Aixdi, Brittany, Raines, April, David, Tim, Fergal, Nathan, Christine, Lily, Liane, Jana, Elizabeth, Alexandria, Sam, and the rest of my orientation crew, GROUP 46, thanks for being an ear and a nodding head of understanding to the wild world of Georgia.

Maisah, John, Josh, and Alex at Josh's going away BBQ

Maisah, John, Josh, and Alex at Josh’s going away BBQ

Peace Corps and TLG UNITE in Armenia!

Peace Corps and TLG UNITE in Armenia! (Jeff, Kayla, Alex, Allie, Gina, Danae, Mark, Me, Brittany, Mark, Sam and Aixdi)

The Mestia group: Amy, Jeff, Josh, Maisah, Matt, and John

The Mestia group: Amy, Jeff, Josh, Maisah, Matt, and John

Amy, Maisah, Me, Sam and Brittany at an official TLG function

Amy, Maisah, Me, Sam and Brittany at an official TLG function

The early days in Kutaisi! My boys Daniel, Drew, Jeff, Nathan and Japanese tourist!

The early days in Kutaisi! My boys Daniel, Drew, Jeff, Nathan and Japanese tourist

My friends, thank you for everything you have done for me. We have experienced something together, however, brief, that will always give us common ground. I will truly miss you all!

Thanks for reading,

Kacie Riann

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Health, Holidays, and Homesickness

Hello Readers,

It’s been over a week since my last post, and in that time not too much has happened. I spent last weekend sick in bed and scrapped my plans to go to Turkey this weekend for a myriad of reasons, so I have been chilling in the village for WAY too long. This coming weekend, I am going to Batumi with my host family, so at least I know escape is imminent.

It’s not that I don’t like the village, but I need a change of scenery because the inevitable has happened: I have begun my first bout of homesickness, and it’s a strong one. Last Friday, my family saw the end of a three year battle when my parents formally adopted my 3 nephews, who I can now call my brothers.

This is my entire family, minus me, on adoption day celebrating

Jesse (right), Hunter (left), and Matty (middle) have been living with my parents for three years, but the interference from the government and the ambiguity of the situation was beyond frustrating. It was really hard to lay in my sick bed and watch the cute Facebook posts and pictures pile up, knowing that I was missing from this very important time in my family history. (You can read more about my family in my other blog, Kacie’s Kinship, which is currently on hiatus.)

As I recovered from my illness I was thankful to have a short week at school, punctuated by the St. George’s Day holiday on Friday. This perfectly coincided with two events: Thanksgiving at home, and my friend Daniel’s Birthday. In Georgia, Birthdays are often celebrated with a “supra,” a grand feast with wine, endless toasts, dancing, and more wine. Daniel’s host family threw him a supra and all of the TLGv’s in our district were able to attend. It was the perfect Thanksgiving substitute!

Here are the lovely folks I have been spending all of my English-speaking hours with… 7 Americans, 1 Englishman, and 1 Irishman

This feast was a BLAST. I was served all of my favorite Georgian dishes at once, and in a country where many meals consist of just cheese and bread, it was a real treat to be fed meat, vegetables, fruit, and dessert. And did I mention the wine? SO MUCH WINE. Everytime we would drain a carafe, Daniel’s host mother would sneakily refill it. Part of the tradition of the supra is to toast many things: peace, the dead, family, Georgia, food, wine, friendship, and of course a toast to the Birthday boy. As the meal was dominated by American’s, we also saw fit to toast the things we are thankful for. As you can imagine, this led us to drink more than enough wine!

Here’s to wine! Here’s to Georgia, the country that “invented wine!”

The supra started at 4 pm, and by 10 pm we figured it was high time to head home. That put me at home right around 11:30 pm, or 11:30 am in Bellingham. Despite the amazing feast I had just had, I nearly cried during a Skype session with my family imagining the meal they were about to have as an official family.

Thanksgiving starts kind of an insane catalyst of Holidays in my family. Jenna’s Birthday is Dec. 3, mine is the 7th, and Jesse’s is the 10th. Then, of course, we have Christmas and New Year’s. This is my first time being away from home for the Holidays and it is really difficult for me, especially with the added “holiday” of the boys adoption.

A super attractive picture of me and my family, spending Thanksgiving together the best way we know how!

Overall, I know I will survive this rough patch, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re living through it. If my contract gets extended and I stay in Georgia until July, I will spend Christmas and New Year’s in Western Europe, which is not home, but will be a refreshing vacation. If my contract doesn’t get extended, I will leave Georgia in late January, and will know throughout the Holidays that my time is short, and I will soon be reunited with my amazing family.

For the record, I want my extension to be approved, but TLG seems to be taking their sweet time deciding. We shall see!

Happy Holidays everyone!

-Kacie Riann

Tbilisi: The City That Loves You

Gamarjoba!

Tonight I write to you from Gut’uri, from my home where I have finally set up my Internet, and I will give more on my placement later… but first let me tell you a bit about Tbilisi.

1 church per person…

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, and home to almost 1/4 of Georgia’s entire population! I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in my life, spending time in numerous capital cities, but I have never seen anything quite like Tbilisi. The tourism slogan is “The City That Loves You,” yet everywhere you look people are frowning. There is a constant battle between old and new, as well as a fine line between friendly and suspicious.

I actually ooh’ed and aah’ed in this city

I walked across the Freedom bridge, a shiny metal sculpture that lights up like Vegas at night (pictured above) and stumbled mere feet into a quiet, classic alley from the 1300s (pictured below).

Then I fell silent in places like this

I rode a modern gondola up to an ancient fortress, I found gated alleyways off of the bustling Freedom Square roundabout, and I dined in a restaurant that featured both traditional Georgian polyphonic singing and beer towers. Georgia has undergone major changes in a short amount of time. The TLG program is less than 5 years old, and 10 years ago many homes had no electricity. There is a really cool oldness to Tbilisi that celebrates Georgia’s place in history, but it is stationed right alongside the displays of wealth and modern architecture that are recently erected or still under construction. Georgia is quickly thrusting itself into the modern world, and Tbilisi is the visual representation.

Both the fortress and the gondola can be seen from all over the city

See that statue on the far right of the picture above? That’s kartlis deda, or “Mother Georgia” and she can probably sum up the atmosphere of Tbilisi better than I. Here’s a close up:

Notice her right hand, now notice her left hand…

The bowl, filled with wine of course, is meant to greet her friends, the sword is meant to greet her enemies. Georgia is known to be very hospitable, which I have been fortunate enough to experience, but there is also a sternness that is tangible in Tbilisi. I rode in a cab where the driver praised my friends and I for coming to teach English, but I also suffered the irritated stares of the waitress who seated the table of 12 westerners in the far back corner. I heard the word “mastsavlebeli” (teacher) spoken through both smiles and clenched teeth. I have never been so confused!

The view from the fortress

As I mentioned before, orientation kept me pretty busy during my time in Tbilisi and there is much more to the city than what I was able to explore. However, from what I saw I can say without question that I will return before my time here is done. I have never been so surprised by a city, and I can only hope that the rest of the country continues to surprise me!

Nahvamdis!

-ქეისი რამი

 

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