July 1st all the trainees traveled to Tbilisi to visit organizations useful for our work in Georgia. My group visited Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science and Charley’s group visited Centers for Civic Engagement. Before we swear-in as volunteers, we will share the resources with the other trainees. The Ministry of Education and Science sent us an English version of their national English curriculum for volunteers’ lesson-planning.
Of course the two of us arrived in Tbilisi later than we intended but a Georgian stranger helped us navigate the metro system and ultimately reach the Peace Corps Office. The man could see that we had no idea how to buy a single pass for the metro (because they don’t exist). He encouraged us to buy a metro pass and when we told him we just needed to use it this once he used his own card to let us in; basically, he paid our metro fair, helped us find the correct metro, change metros and gave us a nudge at the correct stop. He works in the same area as an IT expert (Linux, for you computer programmers out there). I saw the man later that day when I was walking with my fellow Education trainees. I waved, surprised, and he gave me a knowing look and a wink. I think there are angels in Georgia!
After we finished a tour of the Peace Corps office, a Foreign Service Officer from the consular section spoke to some of us about study abroad programs in the US for Georgians. It seems many Georgians assume that there only option is the FLEX program which is just for high-school aged students. There are many more opportunities for a variety of lengths, ages and experiences. Unfortunately, some programs do not receive many applications. The FSO expressed that participants from all the programs return to Georgia with a great appreciation and affinity toward the American region or school they visited.
My group had a chance to witness this affinity later that day; the two Ministry representatives we spoke to participated in American exchange programs. The importance of these events in their lives was evident when they spoke of their schools or time in the US. One representative attended Miami University in Ohio (shout-out to Charlotte if you’re reading this!) during her PhD research. I’ve never been to or heard much about Ohio, but this Georgian woman loves Ohio! The other woman we met has visited more states in the US than I have. Both women expressed their appreciation for Peace Corps’ work in Georgia and for our growing Georgian language skills.