Cuttino's Georgian Life

A journal of my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Georgia, 2006-2008.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Does my insurance cover flea collars?

Hello everyone! Fall has officially arrived in Georgia. Last week, the temperatures suddenly dropped--from a high of 100 degrees to something around 65 or 70. Its been a shock to the system, but not all that unwelcome. It's nice to be able to sleep without sweating everywhere. I wonder, though, how some of the Georgians manage to survive winters. Yesterday, as the temperature dipped to around 50, I walked into the living room to find my host sister dressed wrapped in a blanket and shivering. They've been complaining all week about the cold.

In other news, I get to add one more parasite to my list: fleas. While undressing the other day, I noticed a flea crawling up my undershirt. I found two more and realized that the line of bites along my left arm where not mosquito bites, as I had thought. How I got fleas is beyond me, but I suspect it may have something to do with the hundreds of stray animals all over the city. Not to worry, fleas are relatively harmless, the worst thing they ever did was spread the Black Plague. I'm just glad I don't have lice (yet).

Life at work is going well, we are deep in the middle of strategic planning for the year. I've been joking with the director that getting the group to write the plan is a bit like getting someone to eat their brussels sprouts...I've been pushing it for a week now! But, fortunately, they made a lot of progress yesterday while I was away (go figure). I chaperoned a trip yesterday to Tbilisi and Mtskheti, the ancient capital of Georgia. Along the way we stopped at a radio station and a TV studio. Our group was made up of the older students at Biliki as well as some students from various schools in Gori. The goal of this group is to get the Biliki kids better integrated with their peers through trips and discussion groups. Most of the kids are in the eighth or ninth grades. The trip was....well, like an eighth grade field trip. Only this time, I got to sit in the front and tell everyone to be quiet. The weather was very cold and rainy yesterday, not fun in Tbilisi, but it created an appropriately gloomy atmosphere in Mtskheti. Here's a picture:

Speaking of field trips, school is starting up throughout Georgia. Some of the Peace Corps English teachers (or TEFL--Teaching English as a Foreign Language) have already started, others will wait until October. We NGO volunteers have it good compared to the teachers. School is a completely different world over here. Mark, another PCV here in Gori, explained the differences pretty well on his blog:
"School is not mandatory for a child to go to. It is very common for the kids to break some of the windows in the classroom. . . Just the other day a TEFL volunteer was telling me that at her summer camp she had two fights break out resulting in her host sister getting black eye. One chair thrown out the window on the 3rd floor of her school. To make matters worse her counterpart and supervisor. . . sent her 36 kids to handle for 3 hours. When she told me this it was only day 3 of a 6 day camp.

Another thing that is very common from what I have been told is that in the winter it gets so cold that the kids will start to chop up the desk and chairs for firewood since they are all heated by wooden stove and there isn’t enough wood in the class. Insulation does not exist here. It is simply a room with 4 concrete walls.

From the TEFL volunteers that I know of they say school might start in october for them. School is supposed to start in September but several are being remodeled right now and because things move slow they do not know when it will start. The TEFL volunteer living in Gori with me was told that her school should start in October from her supervisor but everyone else said that it could be later than that, maybe in November or December. I give mad props to the TEFL Volunteers because they have to deal with so much more than I have to. I will have a gas heater in the winter at my office. We have a generator for when the power goes out and high speed internet almost everyday."
These school renovations are going on throughout Georgia. Hopefully they will improve the situation. Until then, there will probably be more stories from the English teachers of students chopping firewood out of the desks and chairs. So, keep that in mind all you prospective Peace Corps Volunteers--be an NGO volunteer...or at least pack an ax.


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