May 9, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Carrie De Vries’ Peace Corps Web Page on the Republic of Georgia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Georgia: Peace Corps Georgia : The Peace Corps in Georgia: May 9, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Carrie De Vries’ Peace Corps Web Page on the Republic of Georgia

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Carrie De Vries’ Peace Corps Web Page on the Republic of Georgia

Carrie De Vries’ Peace Corps Web Page on the Republic of Georgia


Thursday - October 31, 2002: The Trip to Georgia and My First Day

Left Muskegon at 1:35 PM, after having lunch with Penny at the Brownstone restaurant at the airport. Scott left Maranatha and Janel came from home to see me off. It was a quick 37 minute flight to Detroit Metro airport. Northwest’s new terminal is quite large and wonderful, but was about a mile or so from the British Air Terminal, and so I had to walk quite a ways, and then take a shuttle! An hour later, I was checking in, and going through security. Had to remove my shoes, and had to wait 10 minutes while a guy unpacked my carry-on, and then I had to put it together myself. He also swabbed a white cloth inside my shoes, and then put it through some other tests. I called Emily Vredeveld while waiting for the flight to London, and then talked for 20 minutes to Wanda about their new cottage. The plane left on time at 6 PM, and I had a good seat behind a bulkhead, with lots of leg room, and nobody sitting next to me. Watched Men in Black 2, the in-flight movie.

Friday-November 1, 2002

Arrived from the overnight flight at 6:30 AM London time. The airport was virtually deserted. So I walked most of the length of the main terminal. The stores and shops seemed very exclusive, with better stores then in most malls in America. I felt quite tired and kind of in a daze, as I probably only slept 1-2 hours on the plane. At about 9:00 AM London time (3:00 AM Michigan time), I stopped in a café and ordered some eggs, toast and hash browns for breakfast. By now it was light enough to see it was a foggy, drizzly, gloomy day outside. Found a “quiet room” with easy chairs and foot rests, and dozed on and off for about 3 hours. Then I bought a plug for my shaver, and spruced up a bit for the rest of the day. The flight was originally scheduled to leave London at 1:35 PM, but already postponed to 3:35 PM for an unknown reason. Finally posted a gate for flight at 2:30 PM, and I found it crowded with people! After loading, and finding my aisle seat at the back of the plane, we were delayed another hour by a plane blocking us from behind with mechanical problems. Finally got off the ground close to 6:00 PM, a lengthy 12 hour lay over at Heathrow. It soon became dark, and so another night of trying to sleep on a plane. The woman next to me was a Georgian citizen returning after 5 years of working in an upstate New York nursing home. Next to her was a deaf Georgian man. Finally arrived in Tbilisi at 1:30 AM Georgian time (5:30 PM Friday Michigan time) for a total travel time of about 28 hours. After going through Georgian customs alone, exchanging some British pounds for Georgian lari alone, and renting a cart for my four luggage pieces alone, I walked out of the airport receiving area and finally met Carrie in a waiting area by the outside door! We arrange for a cab ride into Tbilisi, and I had my first taste of Georgian driving! At night, on poor roads, with a broken down car, it just about scared me to death. We passed several bare bulb-lit roadside kiosks, so close to the road they are almost on it. Finally we reached the Peace Corps hotel, the Nika, and crashed on a hard bed at 3:00 AM!

Saturday-November 2, 2002

Awoke up to a peaceful scene outside the courtyard window, after Carrie’s cell phone rang at 8:30 AM. Outside the window was sunshine, some grapevines and garden furniture, and a few colorful sheets hanging over a railing, a very peaceful scene. Had a wonderful breakfast of eggs, cereal, fruit, sausage, and juice (delivered to our room by the Nika staff) and a hot shower!

This was my first view of Georgia, outside the Hotel Nika.

The phone call was our ride “home” to Surami. We were picked up by two men (relatives of Carrie’s home family, men she had never personally met), and we again braved the highway, this time during daylight. A two lane road in Georgia is really a three lane road, even with on-coming traffic, as there are no center lines! Passing is allowed almost anytime down the center of the road with both lanes moving over slightly. If the on-coming traffic is a bus or large truck, you might not try passing, but if it’s just an automobile, they always go for it, even on a busy city street, with lots of pedestrians around! I am partly in shock from the flight, but mostly in shock at my first look at a third world, poor, struggling, country. Bridges and roads in dis-repair; cows wandering the side-streets; men standing everywhere doing nothing but smoking and standing in groups; police men standing half-way into the road waiting for their next car to wave over for a “ticket” or bribe, all quite new and astounding.

This picture is of the Caucasus range to the north, as we traveled west towards Surami. This view is west of Gori.

Upon arriving at Carrie’s family’s home, I met all of them at once, streaming out of the house into the driveway, all hugging me and greeting me with a kiss on the cheek. Immediately, even without letting me unpack, the supra began! There was lots of strange foods, and toasting with wine, but not drinking until a toast is given or responded to (verbally). I was not very hungry at all, and hoped I didn’t offend them by eating lightly. When it was finished, about two hours later, our driver and his friend took off with a lot of fanfare.

This is Carrie's family in Surami. From the left they are: Ecka, mother of Mari, the girl in front, then Maka, the oldest of the sisters, Carrie, and finally Dali, the mother of Ecka and Maka. Both Dali's husband and Ecka's husband have died in traffic accidents.

This is the front porch of Carrie's home. On the far right is the stove Carrie bought and hopes to use when the family finishes the upstairs renovations.

This is Carrie's woodpile she purchased for the upcoming winter. It is stored now in front of the house in the yard.

This is the driveway of the family home. Many Georgian homes have a fence facing the road, with a gate to walk through and a larger gate to drive a car through. Carrie's family does not own a car. On the left is the outdoor pit toilet, which I did not use during my visit as they had indoor plumbing. But, the water was shut down all week as the city was cleaning the pipes, so we still had to bring in water from the well in the front yard for "flushing". Notice also the metal tubes and grape vines all covering the driveway. Every Georgian yard (and I mean just about every one) has grapes and makes wine. There were very few grapes remaining on the vine this time of the year.

This is the view down the hill from the family's driveway. Carrie's school, Public School #3 in Surami, is just to the left, only about 100 meters from where she lives.

Besides grape vines, many Georgian yards have roses growing in them.

Next Carrie and I left to go over to Carrie’s language teacher’s home. We walked a block to pick up a marshutka (public transport bus). Rode about three miles towards town (Khashuri), and then walked another half of a mile to her home. Tea (pronounced Teah) is 24 years old, lives at home with her parents, and teaches English at a private school. Her father raises bees for honey, and has hundreds of hives stored for the winter in the back yard. Her mother is semi-retired from a textile mill, and is the lone administrator still working, even though the plant is closed down. They asked us to taste the honey, then sat fresh bread in front of us, then drinks. Then plates and silverware, then the father joined us with a strong bottle of vodka, and another mini-supra had begun! A visit to a friend, a snack, and then the alcohol, and the reputation for “Georgian hospitality” was starting to make sense to me! While we were eating and drinking, the mother had arranged a car and driver for us to use the next day. When we left 2 hours later, it was pitch dark outside, and so the father and Tea walked us back to catch the bus, with a flashlight to avoid the puddles on the shoulder of the road. There are no street lights along this road, even though it is in the town itself. Then we walked the last 100 yards home in the dark, at the end of our ride. So my first entire day in Georgia, I’ve had two supras, met two families, and had a large taste of Georgian hospitality. Back home, and Carrie and I had a “Christmas Day” of opening all the gifts that had been packed for her (and for the school). The climax was the goose down comforter, which I used the next four nights to sleep under, since I had no heat in my bedroom. Carrie at least had a Peace Corps issued kerosine heater in her bedroom, which could warm up the room a little before turning it off and hoping into bed. The temperature at night was down into the 40s (4 degrees C) this time of year.

Return to Carrie's Georgia Home Page

Sunday - November 3, 2002: Trip to Gori and Uplistsikhe

We awoke at about 9:00 AM, with a breakfast of fried eggs, bread with cheese inside known as khachapuri, and shindi (cornel) juice. Carrie’s language teacher, Tea, picked us up at 10:00 AM, with the van and driver know to the family, since he used to work in the mother’s factory.

Tea did most of the translating for me on this trip and at my birthday party!

We drove to the Joseph Stalin museum in Gori, a larger town about twenty miles to the east towards Tbilisi. We saw the cabin he was born in, as they had moved it in front of the museum, and built a permanent shelter over it.

Carrie and Dale in front of the cabin Joesph Stalin was born in.

Then we had a guided tour of the main building, a two story, unheated and unlight building. The old Georgian woman guide (which Tea hired for us without us knowing) would lead us around quickly, from room to room, and Tea would quickly translate to Carrie and I what was just said. It was a grisly tour, with lots of battle poses, tank models, and finally, Stalin’s death mask in a dark room, illuminated by a spotlight.

The front of the museum.

Lastly, outside we viewed his personal bullet proof train car he lived and traveled in. Georgians regard Joseph Stalin as a great world leader, and are proud to have this museum in his home town.

Then we had the driver take us to a central downtown street in Gori, and let us off in the bazaar or market area. We agreed to meet him in an hour and a half, and have lunch on our own in a café. The market sold food, building supplies, toilets, CD’s and tapes, all out in the open air. Only the clothing sections had a metal roof overhead. We were warned by Tea to hold tightly to our billfolds and purses, and I didn’t dare take a camera or camcorder, as that would draw attention to us. We looked for a café down another street, and visited a small pet shop underground, and were charged .30 cents admission to the “zoo”.

This monkey was kept in a small cage in the back of the underground room.

We eventually found a café on a street corner that served us warm “khachapuri”. We met up with our driver again, and headed out of town for our next stop. We drove out of Gori, along the river about 5 or 6 miles, through a very poor suburb. The driver would go slowly, and pick his way along avoiding potholes, driving on the wrong side of the road, and even the left shoulder if necessary to avoid the larger ones. Our destination soon appeared across the river, set up and back from it. The name of this old cave village is Uplistsikhe, and there are many ruins of older villages around it on the plain of the river. While Carrie and I were organizing what to take for the climb out of the van, Tea again paid our admission for us on the sly. We spent about three hours climbing, sunning, and visiting the church at the top. The highlight of the visit was a group of young Georgian girls who sang religious songs, acappella, inside one of the caves. The music was beautiful and I felt close to God here in this cave, with old women selling candles and many drawings of Christ inside their cement walled church.

Carrie and Tea at the caves.

Then it was a twenty mile ride back to Surami, and the driver was in a hurry this time! No less than four times was he passing cars on the left (middle of the road) and I whispered a quick prayer under my breath, from the third row of the van. Through busy intersections, pulling out on hills, pulling out around a bus already going about 50 mph, there was nothing stopping him, we were the fastest car on the road! Except, of course, until the policeman that waved him off the road just 5 miles from home. He took away the driver’s license and passport, and then let us to continue on our way. Our driver refused to pay “the bribe” to the policeman, so he would deliver us home, then return to argue with the officer. I wonder if he paid the ticket (I thought he was speeding, and Carrie said everyone was speeding) or paid the bribe. I wonder if he got in trouble with Tea’s parents for this incident.

When Carrie and I got home, the family had already eaten, so dinner was just the two of us. It was Mtsvadi, which is pork chunks, in fried potatoes! A real meat and potatoes meal at last! Then Carrie and I both “chilled” at the dining room table for a few more hours, since we were both tired and had headaches, Carrie working on her cross-stitch Christams present and me writing in my journal.

Return to Carrie's Georgia Home Page

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