Friday, January 05, 2007

Free Time

In addition to our teaching, Peace Corps volunteers are involved in various other projects. We judge English language competitions, offer teacher trainings and organize summer camps and other activities. Recently Peace Corps volunteers took part in the Breast Health Awareness Walk in Kutaisi. I photographed the event, including this picture of Georgia’s first lady at the self-examination info table. I felt like the paparazzi as I jostled to get through the crowd to get this and a dozen other shots.

But we still find time a lot of time for ourselves. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia allows us the rare opportunity to explore the region along with our fellow volunteers. Here Brandon, Lyssa, Nicholas and I are standing in a “Wishing Tree.” People tear bits of cloth and tie them around the branches to make a wish. As volunteers, we dutifully pick up the ones that have fallen and retie them to the tree. We are givers, humanitarians in every sense of the word. There is no limit to our hard work over here. Please write your congressman and ask that they increase our living stipend. Without a raise I’m afraid I’ll never be able to continue touring wineries like this one.

Top row from me: Owner of the winery, Arianna (Brooklyn), Peg (Portland), Sarah (Back in the US now), Lyssa (Montana).
Bottom Row: Brandon (back in the US), Paige (Texas) and Nicholas (Sacramento).
The owner of the winery showed off former President Sheverdnadze’s personal wine cellar, including bottles of French wine from the 1800s. We purchased a few much newer bottles (2006) and Brandon purchased a bottle of cha cha—homemade booze that tastes like rubbing alcohol. And Brandon, if you’re reading this I want to thank you on behalf of all your fellow volunteers for giving me that bottle of cha cha before you departed for America. At a volunteer party we opened it and I had everyone take a shot and toast to you. Unfortunately, that cha cha was so horrid and poisonous it ended a few volunteers evenings before they could really begin. The hangovers and suffering that bottle of cha cha caused was unforgivable. We all blame you. Oh, by the way... the winter gloves you also gave me are totally saving me right now... I forgive you.

Georgia is a small country with a rich history making it an easy place to play tourist. Everywhere you turn it seems there’s an old castle or a crumbling 1,000+ year old church. On weekends we try to go on hikes, tour old churches, like this one—Baghrati in nearby Kutaisi. There is also the Stalin museum in Gori (regrettably the tyrant is a local boy and a source of pride to some Georgians).

This is an old cave monastery near Gori. The girl in the picture is Keti, one of my host sisters from my training village (Kheltubani).


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