Cuttino's Georgian Life

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Friend, The Petchi

I blink and it's already December. It feels like training ended yesterday. The temperature holds in the low 40s-upper 30s during the day and dips below freezing at night. Not quite a Siberian winter but it's getting there. One of the problems I'm encountering is the lack of central heating. Most Georgian homes don't have gas heating, and even if they did, the gas is so expensive at the moment that nobody could actually afford it. Insulation is nonexistent (I wonder, what did the Soviets have against that?) So, our homes are heated by the petchi--a wood stove. My host family has one petchi, placed in the living room, that is stoked all day. These things are surprisingly efficient; when it really gets going, it's almost uncomfortably hot. Life in the house now revolves around the petchi--we sit around it, cook food on it, use it to dry our clothes. Unfortunately, while the living room stays piping hot, my bedroom hovers around freezing. The Peace Corps has issued all volunteers a heavy-duty sleeping bag, which keeps me warm at night, but its never a good feeling to wake up in the morning and see your breath. One day I'll break down and buy a kerosene heater, or maybe my own petchi. I have an abundance of things to burn--stacks of old Newsweek magazines, training handouts, old letters. And, if I'm really in a bind, there's always the Peace Corps' Volunteer Handbook.

Peace Corps in the 21st Century- The most recent edition of the worldwide Peace Corps newsletter was devoted to the communication revolution and its effects on the volunteer experience. Gone are the days when it takes weeks to communicate with the folks back home. Even the volunteers deep in the jungle have cell phones. However, according to a survey, only 9% of volunteers have daily Internet access at their sites; 67% have no access at all. So I guess I'm in a lucky (albeit spoiled) group of volunteers. But before all you old guard former volunteers howl that Peace Corps has gone soft, there's still a huge technology gap--as I type this, I'm dressed in five layers and huddled beside my antique wood stove.


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