TelephonesAll trainees receive cellphones as part of Peace Corps/Georgia’s safety and security plan. You are expected to have your cellphone turned on and with you at all times. Calls to Peace Corps/Georgia staff and Volunteers are free, as are incoming calls. You can buy credit for texts and outgoing calls to those outside of the Peace Corps’ plan. Calls to the U.S. cost approximately 10 cents/minute on your Peace Corps-issued phone. If you have an unlocked smartphone, you may also bring it; data plans are about $10/month.
InternetInternet access in Georgia is growing but still limited due to occasional power interruptions and a lack of phone and internet cables. Most Volunteers’ host families do not have internet, but host organizations and schools may provide it. There are internet cafes in larger towns and portable modems are available from cellphone service providers. It is highly recommended that trainees consider bringing a laptop. The Peace Corps office in Tbilisi has a Volunteer resource room with computers with internet access and printers.
Housing and Site LocationDuring pre-service training and for the first three months of service, trainees/Volunteers will live with a Georgian host family. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to live with a host family for the duration of service for integration, language practice, and safety reasons. After the first three months, some Volunteers may be able to move into separate housing if available. About 85 percent of Volunteers live with host families throughout their service. In most areas of Georgia, continuous electricity and running water is not guaranteed. Bathroom facilities are not what most Americans are used to, and may be detached from the main house. Some villages only have a few hours of electricity a day in winter, and the natural gas supply may be nonexistent or intermittent. Buildings generally don’t have central heating systems; Volunteers should be prepared to tolerate cold in the winter, especially at schools. Georgia has type C electrical outlets (two round-prong plugs) and operate on 220/240 volts, 50 cycles. Adapters are readily available and inexpensive. Electricity will be weak, sporadic, and/or irregular, particularly in winter. Most Volunteers live and work in small rural communities or former industrial towns with populations ranging between 1,200–60,000 people, frequently one or two hours from another Volunteer. A few Volunteers are assigned to district centers, but there are no site placements in the capital, Tbilisi. Some sites require a day’s travel to reach the Peace Corps/Georgia office.
Living Allowance and Money ManagementVolunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. For this, credit/debit or ATM cards are preferable to cash. There is no reason to bring extra USD or travelers checks from home. ATMs are plentiful in Georgia and easily access American bank accounts and even dispense U.S. Dollars if you desire. The Peace Corps office does not provide safekeeping for valuables. Using your US credit or Debit card to access funds is the most convenient and relatively inexpensive method. Note; Travelers checks are very, very difficult, if not impossible to cash or use in Georgia, do not bring them.
Food and Diet
In Georgia, the cuisine is an important expression of the culture. Eating, hospitality, toasts, and the supra (feast) bind family, friends, and visitors into long, table-bound interludes. Georgians are justifiably proud to their delicious and varied cuisine.
Standard Diet: The basic Georgian diet consists of bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Seasonal, fresh, locally grown produce is available throughout the year, but vegetables are generally limited to potatoes, beans, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Seasonal fresh fruit is also readily available, but is limited in variety and quantity in winter. During the winter months, cabbage, potatoes, pasta, carrots, beans, bread, and meat are the mainstays of the Georgian diet. However, canned or jarred fruits and vegetables are available. Volunteers in smaller villages may not have access to as wide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as those closer to district centers. In addition, many host families have extensive gardens and make their own wine, cheese, preserves, and honey.
Vegetarians: While meat is important in the Georgian diet, vegetarians can maintain a meatless diet throughout service, especially considering the relatively higher cost of meat. However, be aware that fresh produce is not as readily available in winter and you may need to preserve or purchase produce in Tbilisi or regional centers. The most difficult aspect of being a vegetarian in-country may be explaining it to your host family. Many families prepare meat frequently in the first few months to show your importance as a guest. It is easiest to tell your family about your diet preferences as soon as possible.