Every Thanksgiving, my family goes around the table and each person says one thing they are thankful for before we begin our meal. This year, I will not be home to participate in this tradition, but this doesn’t mean I can’t say what I am thankful for.
Things I am thankful for in Georgia:
1. My host families. I have been lucky enough to have lived with two amazing host families in the past six months. My PST family, though very small, was very supportive while I muddled through conversations in Georgia and adjusted to my new life. I went back to Ruispiri to visit Tsiana and Soso for a night this past weekend and they were very excited to see me. We spent the night chatting away in Georgian and they were impressed by how much my Georgian had improved. They were disappointed I had to come for such a short visit, but I promised to come back again soon for a longer visit.
My host family in Bakhvi is very different from my host family in Ruispiri, but I enjoy living with them. It has taken some adjustment for us all to get used to each other, but now I’m really beginning to feel like part of the family. My host mom still insists I don’t eat enough, but at least now she has figured out what I do and do not eat. My 7 year-old host sister, Nutsa, is the family member I spend the most time with. We study English together (I also teach her class) and usually spend the evenings teaching each other new games and playing.
2. The unseasonably warm weather this fall. If you know me well, you know I am a wimp when it comes to the cold. When I found out I was coming to Georgia, I instantly panicked about the cold winter, especially because of the harsh winter last year. However, the cold seems to have yet to set in. The nights are chilly, but the days are still warm. I know winter has to come some time soon, but for now, I’m enjoying the last of the warmer weather.
Bakhvi’s church in November
My school in November
3. My students. Sometimes, my students drive me nuts (e.g. when they scream “hello!” at me a hundred times a day, when every student in the 7th grade talks the entire lesson, when students steal markers and pens from my classroom). But generally, I have great students, especially in the lower grades. They are constantly giving me hugs and goodbye kisses, little presents like sweets or fruit, and drawings that say mikvarhar (I love you). One girl in the six grade even wrote me a long letter about how much she loves my classes and me. That letter put a big smile on my face for a long time.
9th graders who participated in the school’s spelling bee
10th & 12th graders
4. My puppies. As a huge dog-lover, I was very happy when my host family got two puppies this summer. I think my host dad is training them to be hunting dogs, but I appreciate them for their companionship. I try to show my host family how we treat dogs in the US (i.e. not kicking them), but still find myself yelling in Georgian at the puppies when they sneak into the kitchen, where they are not allowed. When the weather is nice, the puppies and I spend lots of time reading and cuddling on the swing (which, of course, they aren’t allowed on) outside.
5. Amenities. Peace Corps Georgia is considered “posh corps.” We don’t have to be afraid of black mambas coming in our huts, walk three miles to the nearest town, have no running water, and more. When I signed up for the Peace Corps, I accepted the fact that I may have no real toilet, shower, or electricity for two years. However, with my placement in Georgia and my host family’s house, I have all three. And I am very thankful every day. Along the same lines, I am very grateful to have regular internet access here. It makes communicating with friends and family back home much easier and helps me miss everyone less.
6. All-Vol Conference. I spent the entire last week at the training compound in Bazaleti (where I originally had my orientation) for the All-Volunteer Conference. Though a lot of serious work was done, I really enjoyed it because I got to see lots of fellow PCVs. For the first two days, I attended several Georgian lessons and cultural classes. The last day I attended volunteer-led sessions (and led a session on yoga), was elected onto the Life Skills Committee, and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with over 80 volunteers, PC staff, and the American ambassador to Georgia. It was a really nice break from school and made me realize how happy and thankful I am to be in Peace Corps Georgia!