Archive by Author | kjschaefer

the end.

my dad sent me an email today. in the subject line were two words: the end. for me, this is the end. of my peace corps service, spending time with some really great people and living with the best host family any volunteer could ask for. i leave georgia in the early morning on the 21st and i can tell you right now, i will be back here. whether it’s next year or the year after that, i will be back. 

saying good bye to my host family was probably the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do. even when i left for the peace corps over 2 years ago i didn’t really cry. i knew that i would see my parents again. but this, this was different. my heart ached, i was gasping for breath and all of this on public display in the bus to the capital. 


        i fell in love with these people – badri, luda, margo and nutsa

on friday all the teachers from my school came over to the house for a massive supra filled with food, drink and music. it was nice to see all the teachers one last time. so many of them have made my time in georgia more meaningful. especially since i didn’t particularly enjoy teaching, but going to school and seeing the teachers i was closest to made my day brighter. and getting pinches on the tush often were slightly uncomfortable, but they were done out of love. i’m convinced that’s true.


                                    all the teachers at the house

on saturday evening, i went over to my counterpart’s house one last time. i wanted to say goodbye to her family and her little girl. we ate and drank some more and nutsa danced for us. she is such a beautiful little girl and i can’t wait to come back to the village and see her all grown up.



as for any regrets i might have: sure, i have some. but at the end of the day i did what i could with the time i had and the resources that were around me. volunteers melissa and her husband sam summed my thoughts and feelings up perfectly in one of their blog posts here: Go Kartli: What we expected (melissa and sam’s blog is great! take a peruse for a glimpse into what life was like for a married couple in a minority community).

tomorrow morning at 4 am i board a plane with some friends bound for turkey. in 10 days, i will be home. i am no longer a peace corps volunteer, but will always be a peace corps volunteer.

i do want to go out with a positive note. my peace corps friends and i all got together over the past few days to rehash stories of uncomfortable belly sicknesses and counterpart craziness, lots of sangria and promises of keeping in touch and getting together back in america. we’ll all see each other again. and when we do, we’ll have this one experience that will bind us forever. as corny as that sounds, it’s undeniably true. peace corps is one of those rare experiences that is shared by all those who’ve done it, regardless of country of service. and when we all get together, we’ll only remember the great times we had. as it should be.

i do believe that ernest hemingway said it best:

 “it is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

thank you for reading, for coming along on this journey with me and for all of your kind comments. 


 ნახვამდის საქართველო. თქვენ ყოველთვის ჩემს გულში. 


my (host) family

i love these people.

some photos


the sunrise in the village


putting together the gingerbread house my parents sent for christmas – with my counterpart and her daughter


badri putting together the tabletop christmas tree




staying cozy by the fire – with the cat


grade 1 – they’re cute, but it’s deceiving


the cat being his adorable self



i’m an emotional mess. no joke.

i realize that i haven’t posted since january, but as my mother knows, my blog creative process involves a lot of thinking about what i’m going to write before i write. plus, i’ve been an emotional wreck lately and i didn’t really know how to contain some of my more nastier emotions. on the bright side, i think my emotions have evened themselves out (i’m sure the entire bag of peanut butter m&ms that i just ate helped with that) and i’m ready to write.

fortunately/unfortunately time is starting to run out. as of today i have a little over a month and a half before my official close of service (COS) date. on june 21st i’ll be flying to turkey to spend 10 days with fellow volunteer danielle traveling around the country. june 30th will be my official return to america. i say fortunately because 2 years is a long time to be away from home and on a constant emotional/mental rollercoaster. honestly, this experience has been THE best experience of my life, but realistically, it’s time to come home. i’m at that point in my life where i realize it’s time to get a job and carve out some sort of niche for myself on my home turf, whether that’s in michigan or elsewhere. i do know i’ll be heading outside the country again, whether as a peace corps volunteer (2.0) or in some other capacity. but, for now, america is where i need to be. however, when i get home am i just going to want to escape again? quite possibly (the 2012 presidential election probably won’t help). and i’ll deal with that when i the time comes. 

will i miss georgia? ehh, i’ll definitely miss certain aspects. but i can say with complete conviction and truth that i will miss my host family the most. in fact, tears are running down my face as i write this. THAT’S how much i’ll miss them. i have no shame in saying that one of the reasons (if not THE reason) i stuck out these past 2 years is because of them. i like my school and my counterpart just fine; the students not so much, but it’s my host family that has gotten me through the hardest bits. coming home to a loving family, in a foreign country no less, after having a less than stellar day at school is beyond amazing and i know that i will never feel this amount of love from a group of people that is not my own flesh and blood again. is it horrible that the things that i will miss about this country are few? i don’t think so, mostly because that’s honestly how i feel but also because my host family introduced me to or gave me the opportunity to experience all the other things i’ll miss. and i’m forever grateful for that. i read a blog post from a peace corps volunteer i went to university with who did her service in cambodia. one of her final posts in country was about the things she will miss, not the things she won’t miss. i also plan on doing that before i leave here. i think that’s a good way to end my time here while reflecting on all the positives. i’m also considering how to keep this blog up and running when i’m a returned peace corps volunteer. it will transition into something else, hopefully. or, it will just go on hiatus until the next adventure. i don’t know yet, but i’m open to suggestions.

so, i’m both excited and sad to go. leaving my host family will be the hardest thing i’ll have to do here. i’m not looking forward to that at all, especially since they won’t be able to come see me off at the airport. i’ll say goodbye to them at site and still be in the country for a few days afterward. that’s no fun. the chances of keeping in touch are slim. i’m facebook friends with their sons so that’s good and i plan on installing skype on my host mom’s computer, but i know that my georgian skills will get worse (than they already are) and our ability to talk to each other will diminish. and that depresses me. a lot. 

needless to say, i’m dealing with a lot right now. conflicting emotions about leaving, the anxieties of finding a job in the u.s., making up some sort of plan to lose weight when i get home, moving back in with mom and dad, having to talk about what i’ve been doing for the past 2 years to people who don’t really care….and the list goes on. i think the first 3 weeks will be fine, but then i’ll realize that i’m not going back and that will be hard. i’ve asked that my parents be understanding and that my peace corps friends be on hand for any mental breakdowns. that’s not too much to ask, right?!

on a less somber note, i received usaid funding (in the form of a SPA grant) to buy equipment for and deliver a series of technology trainings at my school for teachers. the equipment has all been purchased and the trainings have begun. other than that, we had our COS conference at the beginning of march (after i got back from a week and a half in the states) and then i went to yerevan, armenia with a friend for a couple of days. after 3 weeks of not being in my village and going to school it was hard to come back and get back in the groove of things. i had a mini mental breakdown after it snowed again unexpectedly…after 3 days of BEAUTIFUL spring weather. that was a shitty couple of days. there were a lot of teary phone calls home and to other pcvs. i’ve started giving things away that i’m not taking back to the states with me. my closets are becoming more and more empty as days go by. my suitcases are pretty much already packed and have been since march. ha. thinking ahead or just plain crazy? i don’t know…. i’ve made all my final appointments for medical and programmatic things and bought all of my post-peace corps flights. that just makes it more real, i guess.  now it’s just a matter of getting through the next 6 weeks, finishing up last minute projects, getting in some last minute traveling around the country and preparing myself to say goodbye to a family (and country) that has been my home for the past 26 months. 

easter came and went here. i was pretty much in a debbie downer mood because my allergies were in full force the entire weekend, but at least it was 5 days of no school! my host brothers and host uncle came to the village from tbilisi, but we didn’t hang out much since they were out gallivanting with friends and i was in bed blowing my nose obnoxiously (and culturally insensitively) loud. then it was a full week in tbilisi with volunteer danielle and erin facilitating adult english conversation classes for 3 days. it’s always fun to work at these tbilisi city hall-organized classes because a lot of the leading questions we ask provoke some very interesting responses. my favorites were: “mayans (yeah those guys who lived down there in mexico) were actually ancient georgians” and “other countries need to adopt georgia’s respect for women (all that respect that encourages women to marry young, stay at home cooking and cleaning and bearing kids?)”. sometimes i just get angry at the responses and other times i can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous they are. oh georgia. 

tomorrow is friday so that means the weekend is within my sights. i’m not doing anything super interesting because i’m saving up my moolah for a trip to svaneti (northern georgia, bordering russia) with some other volunteers at the end of the month. 6 more weeks until the end of school, 7 until i leave for turkey, 8 until i’m back in the u.s of a. 



There has been a lot of activity in the yard of late. From a new calf to chicken-turkeys and the cat’s first birthday, things have been going wild (Har. Har).

I have to say, the cow had the looooooongest pregnancy ever. Maybe it just felt like a really long time. I actually thought that it was a hysterical pregnancy brought on my host family’s desire for a calf. Turns out it wasn’t a hysterical pregnancy and a baby girl-calf was splayed out in the neighbor’s yard when I got home (from where, I can’t remember. Maybe the beach?).  We named her (meaning I named her) a name I can no longer remember….because the names don’t actually stick. But anyway, she’s healthy and super cute. She also thinks that everything is a teat, and will stick anything in her mouth.

The mother cow also got sick. And then it got better. I don’t actually know what the deal was. The milk wasn’t flowing or something? Oh, the joys of living among livestock.

You always hear stories of humans being raised by wolves (oh wait…that was the Jungle Book) and kittens being raised by dogs (like those cute pictures my mom always sends you guys via e-mail). Well, we had a gaggle (?) of chicks raised by the family of turkeys. I didn’t realize until the chickens started gobbling like the turkeys. Funny how those things work. I’m not exactly sure what happened to Mama Chicken, but I do know that the chicken that’s normally popping out eggs like nobody’s business isn’t their mother. She’s been having her own broods. So that means we may have eaten her.

One of the neighbor’s sows had 14 piglets. 14 PIGLETS. That’s going to be a lot of  bacon…that I won’t be able to enjoy because Georgians don’t eat bacon. SAD.

The cat has taken on the habit of ridding our house of bats. He then leaves them in the foyer half dead. I was told by a fellow PCV that cats do this because they think that us humans are lesser beings and can’t do things for ourselves. It’s probably true.

Efron, the male chicken I’ve spoken about previously, was not killed to feed my friends and I for my birthday supra. This time, he got  lucky.

In other pig news: our sow was killed for food. My host dad left her hanging in the shed. THAT was a fabulous thing to wake up to one morning. I also don’t understand where she all went to. I’m guessing she was distributed among the neighborhood, but I, of course, have no idea. I do have pictures of her final (as a whole pig) resting place, but I feel they are not for the weak at heart (or members of PETA), so I will keep them to myself.

OH! So, the mysteries of the male cow have been solved! This topic of conversation was breached when I asked about whether or not our female cows were pregnant. I don’t remember how we actually got onto the conversation…I can’t imagine this question just POPPED into my head. But anyway, I was told by Luda, that yes, the cows were most likely pregnant. Well, then I asked how and where were the boy cows (you only ever see female adult cows out and about). Badri ended up taking our 2 female adult cows over to the neighbor’s house for a bit of a livestock love-fest, if you will. The magical moments happened about 2 months ago. Why I was never called to attend-because I know my  host family has caught on to my farm-frenzy fascination-I do not know. But alas, in 9 months time NEW BABY COWS. Side note: the youngest female cow (who bore the calf from above) has small teats and that makes it hard for Luda to milk her. It worried her in the beginning. I don’t know; don’t ask.

The pig may or may not be pregnant. I guess we wait and see if anything pops out?

Simba the dog built himself a bunker on New Years Eve because of all the firecrackers going off. I also thought the cat had run away because of all the noise. Bella Bitchi did come back, eventually.

oh my! is it 2012 already?

you know what that means?! i’m 5 1/2 months from finishing up my 2 years in the peace corps. however, that also means it’s time to stop fooling around and get on with ADULT LIFE. that, in itself, is daunting enough.

luckily, the world did not end on the stroke of midnight, january 1, 2012. that means it either a) will not end (until the zombie apocalypse or we all drown from the ice caps melting. whatever comes first, i guess)  or b) will end later in 2012. all i hope is that i am not in georgia when it happens. take note of that end of the world gods. i’d like to be in the dollar aisle at target or in the neiman marcus shoe department. just fyi.

i had quite the merry (american) christmas! i went over to volunteer lacey’s apartment  and myself and some other volunteers made christmas dinner. complete with stuffing/dressing, turkey (i’ve never pined more for a good ol’ butterball), pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes and rice krispie squares. yum! we watched christmas movies and all slept in lacey’s living room because it’s the warmest room in her apartment. my belly has never felt so happy.

i celebrated new years in the village, fire works and sparkling wine and all. then it was bedtime at 12:01 am. i’m a barrel of fun. oh, lest i forget. julio iglesias in concert on tv. BARREL OF WEIRD!

i spent georgian christmas (today) sending out resumes and cover letters!

next week i leave for 4 days in istanbul, turkey. i’m hoping for good weather, good food and cheap enough gin & tonics. then it’s a week and a half in the u.s. at the end of february. then it’s our close of service conference for 2 days in march. then it’s easter break in april. then school is over in june. then AMERICA!

that’s it for updates. honestly, it’s been a very, very lazy winter vacation. still no snow and the temperatures have been springtime-worthy. i have a lot on my to-do list that needs to be tackled before school starts again on january 20 (yes, that is a friday. am i going to school on that day? no. because it’s dumb to start back to school on a friday).

merry (extra belated) christmas and best wishes for 2012!


new year’s resolution: get through the next 5 1/2 months with a positive attitude (and my sanity in tact). ready. go!

i just couldn’t resist!

my counterpart's 1 year old with the gap teddy my parents brought for her from america

volunteer erin and volunteer conor "balomde" (basically, chug) at my birthday supra

and....introducing....THE WASHING MACHINE!

i totally left out the fact that we have a brand-spanking new washing machine. that might have been the best part of summer…sorry parental unit. clean clothes > 1 week visit with the best parents ever. haha!

and, the header image is a view on my walk to school. and the hill i have to ascend and descend every day.  i think this was taken in mid-september.

have a happy and safe (and sweet!) halloween! i’ll be trick-or-treating with classes thursday and friday of this week and then the rest of the classes on monday. the 4th graders seemed to enjoy it last year, so we’ll see how this year goes. we also carved jack-o-lanterns in english club today. the students weren’t all that impressed, but i think they enjoyed watching ‘hocus pocus’?

cheers, guys! and thanks for reading!