17 Nov 2013

Round-trip 2.11.2013 Green Monastery, Vardzia, Rabati, Sapara, Borjomi

by Eva Čajková

This trip wasn't concentrated only within one day. Laura and Christine planed it for weeks. We rather prefer to call it excursion cause it was really kind of educational. It was a really full day which might seem quite exhausting and I must confess: first I didn't like idea of such a day. However now that the trip is over, I'm grateful to have participated.
I simply want discuss the facts about why we visited each place (Green Monastery, Vardzia, Rabati , Sapara, Borjomi). They were all so interesting, amazing and all other imaginable superlatives ‒ no need to highlight the facts that you can very simply find online. For facts just click on links above. But if you interesetd in my impressive diary style, you've came to the right place.
The day started in the time which I am used to count to the previous day, departure at 7am means waking up at 6am which I consider as a sleeping time sticked to the yesterday. Let's talk about marshutka experience for first time: it's always like drinking energy from tank ‒ you can't fall to the lethargy. One (except Georgians) simply have to be vigilant while sitting in marshutka. Naturally we rented "our own" marschutka with "our own" driver for such a trip so the aim was to occupy every simple chair. So finally there was really various composition of participants: "pure" Georgians, EVS volunteers from SIQA, EVS volunteers of GYE and Peace Corps Volunteers (from different organisations).
So, there were more fields for exploring: historical facts, current-day culture (concentrated mostly in our driver) and comparing the variety of volunteers's experiences.
Our first destination was Green Monastery, a calm and peaceful place close to Borjomi. There I had first opportunity to watch and listen (!) to a Georgian church service. Well, as I'm not informed enough yet, I can't even judge if it was actually mass or if they were preaching at Green Monastery 24/7. Still I have another eleven months to find out how churches works in Georgia. So far it sounded like the recitation of complete list of georgian names again and again and again in metronom allegro rythm.
Our second stop was Vardzia. We spent more time there than at other places because it would have been a pitty just to fly through. This cave town is really unique and; moreover, it's really an adventure to explore all these mysterios holes while thinking about the purpose of each hole; walking down steep and totally dark steps carved of stone, imagining that this is how the path to the hell looks. Unbelievebly charming!
The next place on the list was Rabati. While walking zig zag through this huge complex, I remembered the passages from my reading on postmodernism. Pastisch. Asamblage. New and old at once. Rabati is under restoration. I guess they are trying to be authentic and historically correct, but still such an old buildings seems to loose some of its aura if the bricks are clean, wood is not rotten and metal is not rusty. Nevertheless it is not such a surprise that Rabati is such a culture mix (within the complex there is a Church, a Mosque, a Minaret and a Synagogue). It can seems to be  somehow unsuitable in the context of its Georgian Orthodox surroundings. Let's keep in mind that Georgians is at the cross roads of cultures and still manages to keep its own so proundly and strictly; so I must confess that the allusions on postmodernism are very often on my mind.
After visiting Rabati we traveled to an Important world heritage site. Sapara Monastery is a registred UNESCO site. Second time that day we were part of mass and it was really useful, kind of getting hope to live again after that crazy ride in marshutka up to hill while getting dark. I felt unesthetised by listening to russian pop and  looking out of the window to the deep bottom of mountains.
The idea of such a round-trip wasn't accepted very possitivily when it was announced. To imagine sitting half a day on a tiny marschutka's chairs, marathon running through monuments, and not even beeing able to breath the atmosphere of places ‒ what a school trip! But as the collectiv saving goes of  "if him then me too" is true, finally all GYE volunteers joined the trip. It was exhausting, but after that day I felt really satisfied and that is the best evaluation of all.

12 Nov 2013

Levan in Latvia - story of my EVS

So it’s finished, my nine month project in Latvia. Country of beautiful nature and amazing sky. It wasn't always so easy to be amazed about country and people, but time made me understand its culture, habits and traditions. Now it feels like I am home, another home which is far from real one. It is so strange how my life changed last nine months, I learned how to live with less, how to communicate with people better, traveled more than I expected and meet interesting people.
My EVS project started in October 2012, for the first time it was quite hard to feel cozy in Latvia, without speaking language, understanding people and more weird was understanding the weather which was quite strange for me. It didn't take much time to start to communicate with youngsters who were coming to youth center, and now after nine months I feel that they are my friends. Every time I went somewhere for longer time and came back they were the ones who were asking: Levan where have you been so long?

My main activity to youth center was making video workshop, and teach how to make good quality video. It was quite interesting for starting, we were making short videos on almost every second class and also in the end we tried to make silent film, which might be considered biggest challenge of my EVS. Yes, I guess there is not bigger challenge more than working and filming outside for hours in – 15 or even less.

My planned kind of sport activities such as tennis and table games competitions, and also cooking workshops were quite famous between kids. Every Monday and Thursday I was seeing children motivated faces, and in their eyes I could read one thing, they all want to be winners and champions. I guess it was good start for them to motivate themselves that they have to be winners, and all life is fight for success. So, I’m finishing my project and I have to fight for my own success.
It feels like starting from zero, after nine months of being cast away from rest of the world I have to go back to normal life, to my family, friends.  I guess the experiences which I gained from my EVS project, will be useful, especially language skills, but I feel like it’s not the end. Everything starts right now! 

Levan Jugheli

Duration of EVS service 01/10/2012 – 30/06/2013
Hosting organisation: Alūksnes Bērnu un jauniešu centrs (www.abjc.lv)
Sending organisation: Association "Georgian Youth For Europe" (www.gye.ge)
Project was supported by Latvian National Agency of Youth in Action programm

1 Nov 2013

First impressions - Coming to Georgia
by Eva Čajková

On the 1st of October, fate-destiny day for another 7 people, seemed to me kind of cutted. One moment in my home, my bed, with my family cut Vienna airport, all kinds of people cut Kiev airport, all kinds of stereotypical eastern elements cut high magic peaks which I've known just from kitsch pictures in my homeland. But yeah, guys, I finally believe that I will live in Gergia for a year... and I'm pretty sure that it will be a great time.

Moments before landing, only a few hundred metres above the ground, I still wasn't very calm. From my small oval windows, I could only see land, cows and a few woodden shelters. What's going on? Are we landing on a field? I've just tried to calm myself down by thinking about whether or not it would be a field of potatos or corn. It was concrete finally.

Before departure from Czech Republic, I was warned about culture shock. Well, it's quite impossible to avoid, everyone should have some, it's natural and actually it's quite a nice experience. My culture shock was like a big injection of adrenaline. My culture shock lasted just twenty minutes. My culture shock was the journey from the airport to our flat in Rustavi. Everything seemed more that good there were two very nice guys waiting for me on time (!) helping me with luggage. I finally felt the real Georgia: sitting in a car with a Georgian driver. After he drove for a few metres, I was wondering why I was telling my friends and family 'See you again', because I felt that I would definitely not make it out of the car alive. Believe it or not, after one week here I really enjoy the driving manners.

Our first weekend was really amazing. GYE (Georgian Youth for Europe in Rustavi) staff prepared a lot of fun for us. Already, on the second day they took us to pick grapes and afterward we took part in a real Georgian supra. Great teambuilding!

People here really seem to know how to live, how to enjoy life. Even though it's not easy here, often beeing without work, from time to time without gas, water or electricity, they are still such an easigoing, smiling and happy people as far as I've seen. I really want to be part of this culture for at least one year.

I am pretty sure that I'm speaking for everyone of the seven people when I say: We Love Georgia!