What a weekend! The weather was great, the food was good (I wasn’t in my site) and I had a lot of fun with some of my good friends.
One of my fellow volunteers took the initiative to work with the local softball federation and write a grant similar to the one that I did in order to build my English Room, but he used his funds to help them rebuild the one and only softball field here in Georgia. He’s also doing another great project at his organization and you can keep up with him at his blog: (http://bbamberger.blogspot.com).
As part of every USAID funded grant that we do through the Peace Corps, there has to be a training element involved. So, I and a few other volunteers agreed to help him this past weekend and we ran a softball clinic for around 30-40 boys and girls in the capital of Tbilisi. We all just had a lot of fun working with the kids and teaching them a game that we all love was just great. The girls here (and this is pretty much the case in just about every aspect of society) just don’t get as many opportunities but at the same time are just so much easier to work with. They were all about trying to learn new things and get better. The boys were more interested in showing you how much they already knew and not listening when you tried to explain things to them. But, overall we had a great time and I think this was a wonderful volunteer led initiative in cooperation with the local softball federation founder Gia Kemoklidze who is a wonderful man to work with and a credit to his country.
Every night after the trainings, we went back to my buddy’s house and cooked our own food and then made breakfast every morning before going back to the capital. We got our hands on some chicken breasts and real bacon, so… YUM!
We still have one more training to do at the end of this week and then the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia will come out to join some Peace Corps Staff members and other volunteers to play a ceremonial game and celebrate not only another great project but the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary. (I know the Peace Corps has been getting some bad press lately, but it’s still a great organization that does some great work around the world and for better or worse, I love it).
After the weekend I had a reporter come out to Muganlo from a Caucasian TV station (televised in Russian for Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) and do a story about my work in an Azeri village and my life with a Muslim family. It was an ok experience and marked my 7th time being on television since I’ve been here. Ho-Hum. Really the story was more about me being an American and spending two years working in a rural village full of minorities that don’t share my same beliefs, culture or culinary habits. I talked about what I liked and disliked (diplomatically) and my host-family talked about what it was like to have me there for two years. I was bored with it for the most part until I heard my host-dad Akif talk about how much he loved having me around and how much he would miss me when I leave. While he was talking and I was preparing my reaction (since all the interviews were in Russian and I didn’t want to make a grammatical mistake on international TV) it really hit me that despite all the problems I have, I’ll really miss my family here once I leave.
Anyway, after the interview was over, Akif had to go back to work. He asked me to come along with him since he would be visiting several oil drilling sites that day and “maybe it’ll be interesting for you.” I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’ve got nothing else to do today. And in case you don’t’ know, Akif is the materials manager for a medium sized oil company here in Georgia and is well respected at his company because he’s known as a guy who gets stuff done.
So, first we went to this one rig way up in the mountains about a 45 minute drive from our village that was shut down for the Spring so they could clean it and repaint all the generators and whatnot. I’d never been on an oil rig so for me it was really interesting. One of my fellow volunteers said, “Isn’t that dangerous? I don’t know that I’d go on an oil rig in America. And we have regulations!” Hahahaha. True, but I had a hardhat. On this rig it was kind of funny since the core of the rig goes down 5 kilometers and has produced over $30 million in oil over the past 10 years using a combination of American, Russian and Chinese parts. While I’m standing on this thing all the generators are running as they are being tested and everything creeks and makes so much noise that it’s unbelievable. However, now I understand how Akif can put up with all the noise at home. Eleven people running around seems quiet compared to the rig.
After the visit there, we went to his main office where they separate the gas from the oil and then pump it out to trucks that then haul it off. This was also really cool because I got to see the oil that comes from the rigs get pumped into huge tanks and one tank that was being filled from oil directly from the ground. Akif let me stick my finger down in the oil to smell it and look at its color and tell him what I thought.
“Smells like kerosene,” I said.
“Yes, yes. Everything comes from this. But what about the color?” he asked to test what I had learned from the rig.
“Looks too light maybe? I think it should be darker,” I said.
“Good! This is the oil that we’ve only separated out the gas from. We still need to take out the water and some dirt. Good!” was my reward for paying attention on the rig.
This location is also the place where my oldest host-brother Levan works as a welder. We said hello to him quickly, Akif told him to get back to work and then we went on our way. Next was a trip to the workshop where my middle host-brother Aslan works basically tearing things that are broken apart, fixing them and then putting them back together. I watched him work on some pipe while Akif told him how he was doing it wrong. (Fathers are the same everywhere). Once they got the pipe all broken apart we all went home and had dinner with lots of vodka to celebrate a day of being on TV and me meeting about 100 of Akif’s coworkers. Some of them I had met before at Supras, but a lot of them I was meeting for the first time. Overall it was a fun day and I learned a lot about oil and what Akif really does.
This week I’m in the capital for my final medical exams so lots of poking, prodding and blood drawing. More updates on that and my future plans in next week’s blog post.