Tim in Georgia

This is a blog to chronicle my experiences in the Republic of Georgia as a Peace Corps TEFL volunteer. *The views expressed herein are mine and are not necessarily those of the Peace Corps or the US Government.*

04 March 2010

Moving On...

As usual, I have struggled to find the time to keep this blog updated. Therefore, I will bring it to a close with this post.

First, the name of the blog is no longer apropos. I am no longer in Georgia, although I would love to return. It was the most interesting time of my life, full of fantastic times and stories and even better friends.

It's been a tough year and a half for Georgia since I left, and this fills me with sadness. Not only for the people there whom I miss, but also for the country, which deserves better, and its future, which shines less brightly now. But more than that, I feel sadness for the changes that have taken place in the global attitude. The invasion forced a change in perspective in viewing the post-Soviet space, and for this the world (and not just the world allied with the USA/EU) is worse off.

I remember leaving Georgia in the morning and taking the long bus ride to Istanbul. I arrived there a day later and my friend Cuttino met me for a meal. He mentioned the war and I was dumbfounded. Had it not been for the detail he provided, I wouldn't have believed him. I was just there, 24 hours ago, and there had been peace. And my first instinct was to get back on a bus and go back to help. Not to fight, obviously, but to try and assist those who were losing everything during that horrid time. I still think about my decision not to go back, but that's another topic for another time.

The next few days I was glued to the news, like I never had been before. As the disparity in forces became evident, and Georgia's fate sealed, I was dumbstruck. I would sit there, staring at the words but not reading them, wondering if it was really real. How could the images on tv, of the place I had just left, be true?

I always smile to myself when I look at someone else's photos of Georgia because I can usually recognize from the photo the exact spot where they were standing. I guess it's like being able to walk around your house in the dark – it's just so familiar. And I knew where the cameras were perched, too, as they captured the tanks going by and the bombs blasting. The tanks were rolling past the countryside that I had rolled past so often, gazing out the window of the marshutka at the land that Georgians say god had reserved for himself. To know something that well, and then see it invaded...

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The other reason I mention moving on is because I'm starting a new adventure soon. Next week I will (finally!) begin work for the State Dept., at the Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. To be sure, Georgia has set a high standard, but I still think I will enjoy myself. I've been itching to get abroad again, and the opportunity has finally arrived.

Despite numerous requests, I haven't decided yet whether or not I will keep a blog for my time in Monterrey. I realize the advantages, but there are also many differences between Monterrey and Gonio. The most obvious is that, as a State Dept. employee, I am more in the public eye than a Peace Corps volunteer. This is both good and bad, of course. But, on balance, it's a disincentive for blogging. On the other hand, though, getting to know a country from the level of its citizens, like I did in the Peace Corps, is one of the fundamental reasons that I joined the State Department. And blogging allows me to really pursue that side of living abroad with more curiosity and vigor. Getting caught up in the diplo-bubble is something I fear, as I know it's not the lifestyle I would find most enjoyable.

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To bring this back to where I started – don't all stories seem to end that way? – I know I'll never really be able to move on from Georgia. Some cynical people say that you never forget and will always think highly of your first second-home – the first place you live abroad – just because it was the first. There might be a little bit to this, but I will dismiss it anyway and hope it's something more. Not because I really loved it there the majority of the time or because I chose to put on the rose-colored glasses when I loved it a bit less (although both of those are true), but because adopting cynicism displaces you from the moment – and what is our memory but for a collection of moments? Having pleasant and vivid memories is not something that should make you want to move on, but rather want to move again. And, with fortune, I'm moving again.