Last week marked the two year anniversary of my arrival in Georgia. After a week of orientation I went to Javaxi, a village in Kvemo-Kartli that showed me why it was worth staying longer than I planned.
I kept a journal from that day forward and I’d like to share a couple entries.
21 October, 2011
The last twenty-four hours have been the most interesting of my life thus far.
I’ve been in Georgia for one week, but I didn’t really arrive until today, when my host family picked me up from the hotel and drove me to my new home.
I’ve been stuck in the hotel for orientation. Our group was small—only ten volunteers—so the staff were able to keep close tabs on us. Although we ventured outside of the hotel three or four times, we never went too far and we stayed together. We saw a bit of central Tbilisi, but our herd mentality kept us from being fully exposed to the culture beyond a few touristy restaurants. It was anti-climatic to be placed immediately in a hotel and confined there during training, with the Soviet-esque decor and repetitive food. But my initial impression—or lack thereof—paled in comparison to the charm, excitement, and anxiety that I experienced when my host family drove me to their village.
One has a vision of what a country like Georgia would be like. My vision was confirmed on the car ride from Tbilisi, through Kvemo-Kartli to Javaxi. The beauty of the landscape is more overwhelming than the photographs I’d seen before I left. The people are authentic and hearty. They have strong personalities, and compete to show hospitality. As an American these qualities are foreign to me.
22 October, 2011
Today was my first full day with my Georgian family. The day carried no disappointments. My host father is a warm man who enjoys toasting to the friendship between Georgia and the United States. There was a miscommunication regarding my origin: I said I was from Minnesota, which is next to Canada, and they referred to me as a Canadian.
My host siblings are the only language connection I have with the others in Javaxi, as nobody else I’ve met has attempted to speak to me in English. My host siblings carry around a dictionary to search for words. Their presence and guidance has helped me adjust to being unable to speak Georgian, and their upbeat personalities have cleared away my initial anxiety. Their English is far, far from perfect. But even a few words of English strung together makes me feel better when I’m feeling isolated.
I took my first tour around the town. The school and church are just up the road. The school is a small building for only sixty-five students. There are two English teachers. One of them I met on the car ride to Javaxi.
The town itself is a very charming place. It sits upon a hill overlooking a river. The entrance to the village descends into the river gorge and passes over an old bridge. It’s a beautiful place. I believe I’ll spend many lazy afternoons sitting near it and reading a book and drinking wine.
I’ve also thought a little bit about the potential for some of my friends back home to come and visit me. The house is large and the host family is welcoming. If any of my friends are able to make it they would have a wonderful time experiencing such a gregarious culture. The constant emphasis on food, drink, and hospitality matches the best parties I’ve attended in my homeland—and unlike what I’m used to these great parties are spontaneous.
I lived in Javaxi for two years with my host family. The last paragraph proved especially prescient: my two best friends came from Minnesota to visit me for several weeks, and we spent a few days at my host family’s house. My friends had a great time, as well as my host family. I’m now living in Tbilisi but I’ll always be great friends with my host family in Javaxi for their affection and loyalty during my time in their community.