Thursday, August 19, 2010

Georgian President

We got to meet President Mikheil Saakashvili or Misha as the locals call him.  We met him at a swanky club in Bat’umi called the Boomba Room.  The club seems to be a place where Paris Hilton is more likely to hang out than the local Georgian.  There was a concert at the club the night before and tickets were 400 Lari or over 200 dollars.  The president addressed all 100 volunteers that are now in Georgia.  There was tons of media there.  I wish I fully understood what he said in Georgian to the national media because I know that he mentioned Russia several times.  The arrival of the 2nd wave of 50 volunteers means that there are now more volunteers in the country with this program than with the Peace Corps.  The president was there for around an hour and answered a few questions from volunteers.  A guy named Evan from San Francisco asked the president about the litter problem in Georgia.  The answer was lackluster and I find it difficult to break what appears to be a tradition of just littering any where you damn well please.

I have been constantly surprised just how small our world really is.  The previously mentioned Evan grew up in the same hometown as my friend Paigelee Hodges in Hayward, California, just outside Oakland.  Another volunteer lived for 2 years in Oxford, MS, and was living in Tuscalousa, AL, before he came to Georgia.  Bob, another volunteer, got his doctoral degree from Ole Miss.  When we were flying from Amsterdam to Tbilisi a Georgian boy was sitting beside me.  He was reading a book in English so I started to talk to him, come to find out he was returning to Georgia after spending the summer learning English as what he called the University of Mississippi.  He and 13 other students from his school had been living in Martin Hall.  I was walking down the road the other day and was stopped by someone who heard me speaking English, he asked me where I was from and I told him.  He responded that he lived for 10 years in New York City where he lived near my friend Dustin’s office on the west side of Manhattan. 

I must begin packing.  I am leaving for Istanbul, Turkey, in a few hours.  It will be a 20 hour bus ride but I am looking forward to it!