Family, Travel, and Little Churches

My host mom lost her brother while I was away in Tbilisi this past weekend. It’s hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving, but it’s even harder to know what to say to someone when you literally don’t know the words. I wish I could tell her I know what that pain feels like; it’s that heart wrenching, all body encompassing kind of pain, that makes you bend over sobbing, clutching the table, wanting to pound on the floor until it breaks.

I run into her crying sometimes: when I get up at night to get water from the fridge, or when I walk in quickly from the garden and she’s sitting in a chair, silent, but with tears streaming down her face.

And it makes me so angry that her husband isn’t there beside her.

Then again, sometimes it’s nice to be alone.

I wish I could take away that hurt for her, but I know nothing but time will help.

Still.

She’s such a strong woman. Cooking for us all, working all the time, and now she wears black all the time in this heat, night and day. I’m worried she’s going to have a heat stroke.

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I wish I could give her this poem. I remember reading it one night, on one of those nights when I was thinking of my dad. For some reason it just helped. And it didn’t help as in it made everything better. It didn’t make me stop crying; maybe it didn’t even help at all, but it did something. Because for a moment after reading it I felt something other than that pain I had been feeling for such a long time: that emptiness that I had been feeling, that was turning into a dull ache where my breast bone was, disappeared if but for a second. That throbbing twinge in my throat eased up and I could take in just one, easy breath.

If I could translate this poem so it could mean what it meant to me, I would do that in a heartbeat. But grief hits us all differently. That I know only too well.

I hope my being here hasn’t put an extra burden on her, and instead seeing me brightens her day, just like seeing her brightens my day. She’s the one person I look forward to speaking with, laughing with, drinking tea with, etc.

My heart goes out to her and the rest of her family in Russia, Mtskheta, and Tsinandali.

It’s never easy to be left standing when someone you love leaves.

This is one of those times when I think about what Peace Corps has taught me. It’s taught me how to try and show empathy when I’m at loss for words, how to listen, how to be patient when all I want to do is try to explain how I feel. Peace Corps isn’t just about teaching English, writing grants, or digging wells. It’s about getting to know humans and what others have gone through. It’s about learning, and being taught, not just doing the teaching.

Makvala has taught me so much in the few months that I’ve been here. It is my hope that by the time I leave here, I’ll have done something worthy enough to have earned so much of her praise and generosity.

And while this may be a somewhat sad post, it’s also a happy post.

Colin’s family came to visit this weekend and we got to enjoy some comforts of home… like nice food.

We took them around Tbilisi and then we took the 2 and half hour ride to Kazbegi. It’s known for its gorgeous mountains. And wow was it beautiful.

While in Tbilisi we went to the “Dry Bridge”, which is basically a flea market. His mom and dad, I think, really enjoyed it.

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You never know when you need to buy a suitcase full of junk 
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Or this “special” phone

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Puppets

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Walking around Old Town
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Our favorite place to get ice cream

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On our way to take the gondola to the park
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Colin and his Brother

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The ride to Kazbegi wasn’t too bad, but I don’t think Colin’s family appreciated it too much. There’s a little church about a 50 minute drive up hill from the hotel that we stayed at, and 2 hour hike (we decided to take the taxi).

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Church from a distance

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Priest

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We stayed at the Rooms Hotel and that place was amazing. I might be so used to Georgia that, now anything is nice, but, really. It was nice.

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A church closer in town

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Of course… Bimbi (who likes his new toy I bought while I was away)

But. I’m exhausted. And happy to be back in my little village now with Bimbi, Makvala, and Emzari. Just a couple more weeks here and then I’ll be off on one last adventure before school starts (not counting a training in Borjomi!).

 

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16: 10

Ten months. Ten months is nothing, right? In the grand scheme of things, sure, ten months doesn’t seem like a long time, and sure, after living here for, what, sixteen months, I’m sure I can stand another ten; but sometimes, sometimes, it’s hard. When I first came here I told myself I was going to blog, and after my first post I decided face timing my mother and chatting with family and friends was just so much easier. Yet, there’s something relieving about putting your thoughts down to…screen. So I’m giving it another go. Yeah, after sixteen months. Hey, I have another ten to get it right.

Summer, despite what Colin thinks, is brutal (not all of us can live in the mountains). I told him it’s 6 degrees hotter here! It didn’t start off so sweltering and unbearable like it is now. I think it’s only been this way for about two weeks but I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. The good thing about the heat though, and I’m going to regret it the moment I say this, is that the number of mosquitoes has gone down exponentially. I still have bites up and down my legs, though not the amount some crazy volunteers have, (put up your net you crazy freaks).

One of the reasons summer annoys me so, is the dullness of it. I’ve been studying for the GRE (math is kicking my ass), working on some visuals for my classroom, and also working on some new lesson plans to add to our gender equality committee resources. While that seems like it would take up some time, I find most of my days boring and try to find ways to fill the gaps: watching t.v. listening to music, watching the top vine videos of animals of 2015… I can’t even count how many books I’ve read.

Since this is one of my first posts I’ll explain about my site, even though, most of you who read this will be family and friends (thus already knowing). Who knows, maybe this will be interesting to you.

I live in a little village called Tsinandali, in the region of Kakheti. None of the people in the villages are my age, so it’s a little difficult to find friends. Most of the people I tend to “hang out with”, if I do hang out, are in their mid thirties, and have children who are at least ten already. People my age are already in the capital at the university, or working there. Though I have other volunteers to both sides of me. What up g15’s!

My lovely little village school
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Kid uh…. running away from me? or to school. Can’t tell.
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Watering Hole

I used to live with another family called the Nikolaishvilies. They were a very nice family and I had a grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, brother, and sister. However, some things happened about a year in and my host grandpa, who was a very prominent person in the family fell ill, and I felt like it was time for me to move out. While I wanted to move out on my own it was thought unsafe due to a security risk in my village, and instead I moved in with my current host family.

My first permanent family’s kids and niece: Mari, Tika, and Nika
Mari, My first permanent host sister

I absolutely adore my new host mom and host dad though!

Makvala and Emzari are the sweetest people I have met here in Tsinandali and possibly Georgia. Besides my very first host family during Pre-service training, they are the first people to make me feel at home here.

This is Maya, my first mom in Georgia. This was taken in Surami (my first home here). Her and Makvala have a lot in common; they’re both super sweet and love making me eat!
Maya and me making croissants one day after Georgian lessons. I miss her.

One of my favorite things to do is watch Makvala cook, or go out in the garden with her. She’s such a kind, old soul. She loves caring for people and is always watching out for me.

By the way, the above photos aren’t of my current mom and dad, mainly because they haven’t been home while I’ve been taking photos, but I’ll upload some soon!

Makvala’s a nanny for the director of my schools grandson, and sometimes she brings the sweet little boy over to the house when they’re walking about. Although not anymore because it’s too damn hot.

I’ve been living with this family for about two and half months, and so far it’s been wonderful.

This weekend Colins parents are coming to visit and we’re going to show them and his younger brother around Tbilisi, as well as visit Kazbegi. I’m excited because I have yet to be to Kazbegi.

Summers an exciting time because it’s a time when us Education folk are allowed to travel. We have a few days during the school year off, (okay who am I kidding, Georgians take every chance they get off), but summer is a time when you’re allowed to leave the country.

Colin and I went to Greece for ten days in July and visited Crete, Santorini, and Athens. It was a crazy couple of days, but totally worth it: Full of sunburns, yelling, saying sorry, yelling, driving around on ATV’s, wine, bankruptcy, sea food, amazing views, and perfect memories.

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If you get a chance to go to Greece, go to Santorini. It’s probably one of the more expensive stops, but you won’t regret it.

After this weekend’s trip to Kazbegi we’ll have a trip to Tusheti for the summer and then it’s back to school for me!

To be totally honest I’m looking forward to September if only because it means we’re closer to the end, but also because it means I’ll have something to do again every day. I miss the routine of getting up in the morning, walking outside, having children greet me, “Hello mas!” “Abby, Abby!”

I say that now.

As I was taking some photos today to show you all what my house looks like, I heard what can only be described as an animal crying in my host dads garage. I never go in there, because, well, why would I? One, there’s no reason for me to, and two, I’m terrified that it’s infested with rats for some reason. I mean, it looks like it would be. So anyway, I was walking around in the garden when I hear a cry, and I decided to go check it out. I get closer and this is what I find behind a gallon of gasoline!

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Bimbi. That’s this little guy’s name. Vocative form: Bimbo… I’m in love. This is the room I found him in…

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While it’s better than some way dogs are treated, the cat we have is treated much better, and not being much of a cat person, that pisses me off. But, I can’t wait to go to Tbilisi this weekend and get him an anti flea color, among other things. I know my host family will think I’m insane, but it’s so worth it for this little Bimbo. Getting him made my month!

So to wrap it up I’m going end it with top five thing I love about summer, cuz I’m trying to be positive here…

  • ხილი or in English: fruit
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  • Travel
  • Seeing Friends/Colin (though let’s face it, the snow doesn’t stop me…)
  • Getting some sun
  • The ability to do more things than just teach

I’ll also leave you with some pictures of this summer versus last summer, though this summer is not over yet.

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