Winter is Coming

Posted on November 9, 2011 by

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The Stark words occurred to me for the first time this season when TLG sent around an email about getting heaters in host families. Word is, host families must provide space heaters (that is to say, electric heaters) in volunteers’ rooms upon request. I was surprised to hear this, as last year stories abounded of volunteers huddled under blankets and whatnot and it was considered part of the experience of teaching in Georgia that schools and houses were often without heat.

It seems to me that having a heater for every volunteer is downright luxurious, especially for families who rely on a single gas heater to heat their entire house or apartment at a relatively cheap rate.

It also seems to me that this is going to get real expensive, real fast. Even a small electric heater costs at least 100 lari per month to run in the winter, if not more. When I moved in with my host family it was already well into February which meant that my heater was never even on its highest setting and rarely if ever on during the day, and even then the family’s electric bill shot up to about 150 lari. When I lived in Gldani during the winter I ran my electric heater every night and the bill was in the 200-300 lari range.

Frankly, the issue of money between volunteers and their host families has been a question on everyone’s minds since day one. I remember rumors from Group 2 – back in August 2010 – about host families asking for money and volunteers being told to pay. Then around December or January TLG instated the standard 100 lari payment – more than some people were paying, but perhaps less than others were paying. Even still, 100 lari isn’t really enough to cover every cost that a volunteer incurs, and that will be especially true if there is a space heater in the volunteer’s room. Personally, I opted to pay my host family more than 100 lari when I ran my space heater, because I knew that they were not only paying for electricity, but for food, water, gas, internet, and (in Tbilisi) garbage collection proportional to electricity usage. Anyway, I guess we’ll see what, if any, impact this latest news has on those situations.

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Anyway, that was Saturday. On Sunday I noticed that the leaves were falling off the trees with increasing rapidity, and the leaves on the ground seem to have reached peak levels.

On Monday, it snowed.

Now, of course, none of it stuck. Tbilisi is a notorious tease about snow, and we only had decent sticking snow like twice that I remember last winter, and that was up in Gldani. Downtown we had a morass of slush and runoff that made me wish I had hip-waders rather than my trusty Timbs. So we had a bunch of snow that resulted in the streets being cold and wet. Mtatsminda got a nice white dusting, though, and now all of the mountains around Tbilisi have a faint frosty white coating, which I imagine they’ll keep until mid-March. Still, it hasn’t dipped below about 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) during the day and I suspect, based on the lack of ice crystals on the morning puddles, that it hasn’t hit freezing even at night.

But it’s a lot colder than it was last year at this time – if memory serves – and so I wonder if this winter is going to be like, for reals, yo. I’ve been told that last winter was atypically warm and mild, so we TLG Sophomores might be in for a bit of a surprise this year.

I’m prepared. As far as winters go, Tbilisi’s got nothing on New York.

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