One annoying thing about posting is that everything appears in reverse order. I had to post pictures while I could and then wait for to explain post-posting (hahaa...eh).
My dear friend Beth, who is a RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer...get used to this new acronym!), came to visit me in Azerbaijan. Beth served in Madagascar and woa! her experience in the Peace Corps couldn't differ more than ours in Azerbaijan. This shouldn't be too hard to imagine. For one thing, Beth was three days of travel from the capital...I'm a 4.5 hour bus ride (buses leave daily...her buses might leave in a day or two, who knows). Also, they didn't have cellphones so just imagine what would happen in case of medical emergency! Or don't imagine...
Anyhow, we had a great time. First we traveled through Azerbaijan visiting the cities/villages of: Baku, Quba, Xaniliq, Mingechevir (my site), and Sheki. Sheki was lovely minus the continual rain. That part blew. Afterwards, we took a taxi from Zaqatala strait to Tbilisi for a total of approx 16 manat a person (20 bucks). Not bad, I say.
In Georgia we did a whole lot of relaxing. We also traveled with two other PCVs (Chris and Colleen) and became very practiced at the arts of eating, drinking, and being merry. Not to say we didn't take day trips, which we did (see posts below this one).
While in Georgia we also met some Georgia PCVs. When my group first came to Azerbaijan, Georgian PCVs had just finished getting evacuated do to the fresh Georgian/Russian conflict. So, the PCVs we met had only been in country 10 months...newbies. Still, it was interesting to compare notes with our cultural neighbors to the West. Yes, the countries are very very different. But, they are still both Caucasus and share similar geopolitical and social-political problems. In short (which is never a good idea....but I'm doing it), men in Georgia are also sexist, but Georgian women drink wine. I met a fellow female runner in Georgia and she also has been followed and somewhat harassed, but she still ran...like me. Although I find Georgian food to be rather tasty, yes it is still horribly unhealthy (mmmmm melted cheesy bread).
One interesting note: although there is still a ton of corruption and political upset in Georgia, there is a a political process. People can gather in support of candidates without trouble from the police. Georgians speak their minds about politics to foreigners continually. Many of them are very upset with their current state of affairs and they blame their leadership and Saakashvili. And boy oh boy did I enjoy hearing about it. Not because I necessarily agree (I'm not stating my opinion on this either way), but it was GREAT to hear citizens and youth expressing an opinion that differs from the party line. In Azerbaijan it is incredibly rare to hear anyone disagree with any of the status quot. The ability to dissent, to argue, is a vital aspect to any hope for democracy. At least this is very present in Georgia, despite anything else.
Now, I am back at site and working my butt off. My SPA grant funds have come in and I need to work work work until I go HOME for vacation in late June...YAY!