11 Jun 2014

Here Comes the Sun.

After the cold Winter and rather iffy Spring, I’m glad to finally be soaking up the Summer Sun. Rather surprisingly for an introvert and recluse such as myself, I have been spending a decent amount of time outside in the “fresh” Rustavi and Tbilisian air. My trips to the capital are becoming more frequent and longer, the usual peruse around the Dry Bridge market and nearby shopping centre is always a welcome break from Rustavi.

The English conversation club has finally finished after many months of thinking up new topics for talking about with the locals. I believe that me and Ania have made a difference and an improvement, even if it’s only a small one.
by Elliott Cunningham

A week or two ago was my first visit to the GYE Eco-village called Pona, I was rather surprised and impressed by the size of the place. Three buildings, a camp site and a huge amount of land seems to be owned by GYE and a few of the locals. The task set for myself and our Estonian short-term volunteers was to continue the construction of a fence to cordon off the land. The first day was very successful but I underestimated the power of Georgian Sun and consequently ended up resembling a roast turkey.

Skipping forward a few days, I headed off to catch up with other Caucasus EVS volunteers for our Mid-term meeting in Bakuriani (a skiing resort to the west of Tbilisi). It was fantastic to see the “On-arrival-lot” again and to see some new faces. I’m mildly ashamed to say that I got absolutely plastered on the first night and was wearing sunglasses indoors for the next day. On a more sober note, we we had a fantastic trip on the local train down the mountain to Borjomi Park for a walk around in the real fresh air.

The most recent adventure here was our trip to Racha for a camping and sport weekend in the mountains. Some GYE volunteers, our Coordinator plus two bus loads of Georgians and a few other interesting characters in a camp, competing in Rafting and Kayaking. The weather was fantastic (I used SPF 50 this time so remained my pale self) and the atmosphere was great. My team and I paddled hard and destroyed the opposition in rafting .

Finishing off the weekend by chilling with a group of Georgians round the table and campfire was wonderful. We left the camp the day after, bodies aching from exertion, minds and phones full of new memories and contacts.

30 Apr 2014

The Taste of Georgia

by Jana Ďaďová 

Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're gonna get.
When I came to Georgia, I couldn´t imagine what would be waiting for me here.  And my experience was really like tasting various chocolates.  I like chocolates but not all kinds.  I love the ones with caramel, nuts, cappuccino and coffee flavours very much.   And I dislike chocolates with marzipan, cherries and mint.
I will always remember Georgia as a country of peace, beauty, life, sunny days, untouched nature, amazingly hospitable people, breathtaking dances, colourful bazaars, unbeatable spirit, Supras and great values...
On the other hand I could also see Georgia as wild, cruel and unpredictable - a country full of dust, strange conservative people, streets with rubbish and limping dogs, grey houses, resigned faces, hidden meanings, unfulfilled promises...
Behind every word there is a story of my experience that once I might write or talk about. But usually we want to remember and to tell others just what we enjoyed very much.  So my short story will be about the best „chocolate“ I tasted in Georgia.
For me it is Supra - a traditional feast with lots of Georgian food, tasty wine, music, dancing and singing, merry people, endless toasts, ghosts of the past and mainly Georgian hearts ready to accept you as a friend.
My last Supra was (for Georgia not typically) planned weeks in advance and until the last minutes I didn´t believe it will happenJ.  But a marshutka full of excited people arrived at Achiko´s village on time, the table with food was already prepared and we could feel the scent of baking khachapuri in our empty stomachs.  Then first toast, wine, food, second toast, birthday wishes, wine, food, third toast, wine, white Lada, fourth toast, wine, dance, more toasts, more wine, more dance, more delicious food... and finally care of Achiko´s fantastic grandma who was like our own mother J.
So much good atmosphere, joy, laugh, emotions, excited people and good wishes at one place I haven´t witnessed for very long time and I can just say I love Georgia and the hearts of Georgian people. I feel grateful for this experience and for all friends I found here.
And after all that, I can just add: Georgia is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're gonna get.

PS: Achiko, thank you, your grandma and the rest of your family again for this damned-great experience and the best birthday celebration everJ.

21 Apr 2014

First impressions of French volunteers

by Marine Helfer

April, the 2nd: arrival during the night, after a fifteen hours travel… We really didn’t know what will happen the first days, so we felt excited, a bit afraid and curious. But we were especially tired!

After a good night in our new beds, new rooms, new flat, we unpacked the 40 kilos of luggage we brought with us. 

Actually, the welcome and the help of other volunteers have been very helpful since the beginning of our adventure! All we needed we could ask them, they were available and so lovely. That’s why the transition between France and Georgia hasn’t been as hard as we imagined.

First shopping, first cooking, first walk around the city… Everything came quite naturally. The only thing not so natural was to speak English. As French people, our level of English is for the moment quite ridiculous but of course in 6 months we’ll be bilingual... Or maybe trilingual with the Georgian classes?! We’re looking forward to these classes to learn some words which can be helpful in the everyday life. “Pardon”, “Au revoir”, “Non merci”. There are so many words I would like to remember in order to integrate into the local culture and to be able to understand more or less all it’s written in the street. For the moment, “Gamarjoba” and “Madloba” are the only words I can say in Georgian. Better than nothing…    

For the moment, my activities in the association are only Sapovnela and a Spanish class so I think it’s not enough to give me a real picture of GYE. I can only say that I’m glad to have a lovely mentor and that the French evening was a good idea because it was a good way to integrate ourselves and to present quickly our country to others. Now, I’m looking forward to discovering our new country, Georgia.    

25 Feb 2014


by Ioseba Amatriain Losa

Once upon a time there was a boy who wanted to keeptraveling around the world, meeting new
people and experiencing new cultures. Lets call him “Soso”. He had been in his little town for
almost a year, and even though he was doing many things there and was comfortable surrounded by
his family and friends, he decided that it was not what he really wanted, and he decided to change.
He had been looking for a job for a long time, but a very bad witch in his country didn't allow
young people to get a job easily. He said to himself that this powerful witch was not going to decide
his future, so he looked for a voluntary job far away from his small town where he could get rid of
the witch. He tried to go to some different countries, but it was in Georgia that he found a lovely
organization to spend time working for young people.
When he arrived where he was going to live for a while, a very quiet and peaceful city, he felt
straight away that Georgian people are very warm and hospitable. He received a very nice welcome
and he met a lot of people who were going to be hisfriends and colleagues for the next months. He
felt very lucky to be surrounded by people from Georgia and other countries around the world. He
knew that it was going to be a very good experience. He learnt a lot from all of them.
He felt very confident in this new experience. He had traveled around the world and lived in many
places already. He thought it was going to be easy to fit in that new environment. It was not. The
first month was not easy for him. Everything was different than other experiences he had, and very
different from his own culture. The main issue was  the language. He had to start from scratch. It
was a very strange language for him. New alphabet, new logic, and above everything, new sounds
which he could not even make. At the beginning, he was afraid to go out to do anything. He could
not communicate which put him on edge. But he started to learn, and after a while he was quite
independent and was able to do anything he wanted.
He was happy around there. He enjoyed all the activities he was doing. Everything gets easier if you
are surrounded by nice people who support you. Of course, life there was not as easy as he thought
it would be, but time flies and now he only remembers the positive things he learnt and all the
anecdotes and funny situations he experienced. Everything became good memories.
One day, he received a good offer to move to another country. It was a very interesting job where
he could keep learning and improving himself, both personally and professionally. Before he knew
the position was for him, he did not want to make the decision to leave. It was better to be rejected
than to have to decide to leave Georgia. The good/bad news came, and he decided that it was an
opportunity he could not let go.
For the next few days, he had very weird feelings. Was he happy? Was he sad? He did not know.
The only thing he knew for sure was that he did notwant to leave anybody in the lurch. Finally,
everybody understood he had to leave. He thanked his friends, colleagues, and everybody he had
met. It had been a very good experience and he would remember it forever.
The little boy packed his stuff and he started his new adventure. He was glad the bad witch was not
standing in his way again...
The End

10 Feb 2014

How Georgia taught me to appreciate small things

by Anna Cwynar

I woke up with the feeling that I had overslept. I slowly opened my eyes and noticed that it’s seemed dark outside. Is it possible that it’s still early morning? No, according to my phone it was 10:20am. Time to get up. But why is it so dark? Maybe…
I opened the curtains as fast as I could and realized that I’m right. NO sun!! Clouds are everywhere. And I could even noticed a tiny puddle close to my window. So it must have been raining during the night. Oh! What a pity that I didn’t hear the rain. Maybe that’s why I slept so well: the sound of raindrops makes me feel relaxed.
I would have never imagined how much I could love the rain.No, in Poland it was the opposite – waking up with the sun was like a promise of a good day. But here, in Rustavi, on a semi-desert, when the rain comes only once in 2 months (at least during the winter time) it made me so happy! Less dust in my room! No cleaning on Saturday! Taking a walk with truly fresh air!
I went to the kitchen and asked my flat mate whether she has noticed that it was raining.
-Yes, she replied. It made me so happy. “I want to know, have you ever seen the rain” she hummed quietly.
I started thinking about the role of water in our Georgian life in general:
·         No water more or less once in a week.
·         Boiling hot/freezing cold shower every day.
·         Bathroom and kitchen full of water bottles (in case there is no water)
·         Washing machine crying and begging for water – Hee haw, hee haw, hee haw!
Information from someone: “No water again” often totally changes our day.  Not only our plans (“How can I clean when there is no water”), but even moods are dependent on it (“I woke up and there was no water, so I went to bed again”).
One can say that living in Rustavi isn’t very comfortable. Yes, that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. But it makes us appreciate the things that we wouldn’t notice in our normal European life.
How could I experience the pleasure of a warm shower without my stay in Georgia? Would I notice that having a water is a luxurious thing and not something obvious? How about the rain: could I even imagine that it would make me simply happy?

20 Jan 2014

Number’s Changing

by Edita Štulcaitė

Der Blogeintrag wird dieses Mal eher persönlich ausfallen. Während der Adventszeit fiel mir zunehmend auf, dass ich mich hier fast genauso viel mit dem Kennenlernen Europas beschäftige wie mit dem Kennenlernen Georgiens bzw. des Kaukasus. Selbstverständlich hat es einerseits mit meiner von Georgien erst einmal unabhängigen Situation zu tun: dem Mischmasch aus Litauen und Deutschland. So versuche ich während des Aufenthalts hier womöglich verstärkt, Kontakt mit beiden Seiten aufrechtzuerhalten, sei es durch direkte Kommunikation, sei es durch das, was die weite Welt des Internets so hergibt (es lebe die kritisch-satirische Art deutscher Fernsehsendungen und Alinos Orlovos, Ryčiai Zemkauskai…), durch Bücher und Filme (danke an das Internationale Filmfestival Tbilisi für meine erste filmische Begegnung mit David Sieveking). Nicht zuletzt ist es auch der Tatsache zu verdanken, dass ich die Uni immer noch nicht hinter mir gelassen habe.

Andererseits hat die schwerwiegende europäische Dimension in meiner kleinen Welt in Rustawi mit meinen hiesigen Aktivitäten und insbesondere mit anderen Freiwilligen zu tun, die mich mit einigen neuen Blickwinkeln vertraut machen. Bereitet man sich auf die Sitzungen des Human Rights Clubs vor, bemüht man sich, das nicht immer so einfache und heile Europa mit ihren Konzepten von Dingen wie Freiheit etc. zu verstehen, um diese dann in einer gemischten Runde diskutierbar zu machen. Wie ich letztens bereits erwähnt habe, möchte man außerdem nicht immer so rüberkommen, als würde man ständig auf irgendwelche Schwachstellen Georgiens hindeuten, also bemüht man sich durch zusätzliche Beispiele aus Europa aufzuzeigen, dass es nirgendwo nur Schwarz und Weiß gibt. Und auch um den Deutschunterricht etwas knuspriger zu machen (ja, es wäre schade, wenn das tatsächlich nur ein Unterricht ohne Unterhaltungswert wird), bemüht man sich, zumindest manchmal, die Sprache nicht gänzlich aus dem kulturellen Kontext zu nehmen… Manchmal tauchen dabei gar sentimentale Gefühle über Dinge auf, von denen man das nicht erwartet hätte, zum Beispiel, wenn man für die Teilnehmer Weihnachtsplätzchen bäckt oder wenn man in ihren Gesichtern die Faszination über den (geräuschvollen) Christkindlesmarkt entdeckt. Oder wenn man im English Conversation Club die Architektur Litauens präsentiert und sich anschließend fragt: Wann?
Der Höhepunkt des Europäischen war womöglich, wie angedeutet, die Weihnachtszeit. Da wir, die Freiwilligen, überaus motivierte Menschen sind, haben wir unsere georgischen Mitarbeiter am 24. Dezember zu einem weihnachtlichen Festmahl1eingeladen. Dafür sollten Vertreter jedes Nationalstaates etwas „Typisches“ vorbereiten. Am Ende hatten wir balandėliai (man kann sich streiten, aus welchem Land diese letztendlich kommen: gekocht von einer Tschechin, aber üblich im ganzen (ost- und ostmittel-)europäischen Raum), Kohl- und Paprikasuppe (aus der Slowakei), einen Karpfen (Slowakei), Kartoffelsalat (wiederum ganzer ost- und ostmitteleuropäischer Raum), rote Beete Salat, spanischen Käse und SchinkenSpinatrollen, unzählbare Sorten von Kuchen und Weihnachtsplätzchen und noch einiges aus der georgischen Küche.

Während der Weihnachtstage kam dann Zeit für mal bessere, mal schlechtere (Weihnachts-)Filme aus Tschechien und der Slowakei und für unsere nächste Exkursion – dieses Mal war unser Marshrutka-Reiseziel David Gareja (Dawit Garedscha), ein Ort in der hügeligen Wüste im tiefsten Osten des Landes, direkt an der aserbaidschanischen Staatsgrenze, die wir von der Spitze eines der Hügel betrachteten. Nichts Außerordentliches, diese Grenze, nur weiße Säulchen, die die Wüste in the middle of nowhere aufteilen. Jenseits und diesseits der weißen Pünktchen die gleiche Weite und Adler im Himmel. Zu David Gareja selbst: Dass der Ort als eine der wichtigsten Sehenswürdigkeiten Georgiens gilt, liegt daran, dass es eigentlich eine Höhlenklosterstadt ist und dass dieses Kloster bereits im 6. Jahrhundert gegründet wurde. Außerdem hat es als ein (ehemaliger) Grund für Grenzenkonflikt zwischen Georgien und Aserbaidschan eine große Bedeutung.

Und zum Schluss: ein frohes, erfolgreiches (in Aspekten, die euch persönlich am wichtigsten sind) neues Jahr an alle, bis bald!
1Georgische Weihnachtszeit beginnt am Silvestertag, dieser gilt hier außerdem als das wichtigste Fest, und dauert bis Mitte Januar an. Die Reihenfolge der festlichen Zeit: Silvester, georgisch-orthodoxe Weihnachten und schließlich das georgisch-orthodoxe Neue Jahr. Während dieser Zeit erwartet jeder Gäste, so wurden meine tschechische Kollegin und ich mal zu Besuch unmittelbar nach Silvester eingeladen. Solltet ihr mal von jemandem in Georgien zur weihnachtlichen Supra eingeladen werden, zögert nicht!