… I just had one of those "Peace Corps Moments™." And it, silly as it sounds, it made my day.
A long time ago I asked my mother to ship me a pair of boots, as the snow was clearly getting the upper hand on my poor New Balances I stupidly thought would do the trick. Well, she bought me this wonderful pair of boots that I eagerly opened at the Peace Corps office in Tbilisi, only to discover … two lefties. Something went tragically wrong in the actual boot selection process.
I'd let them sit for months in the office up north unused until my host father mentioned an idea, that he knew someone who'd lost his right foot, in an accident, the 1980s Afghanistan war (this was the USSR's Vietnam, essentially), something. Point is, he could use them. So the next time I went to Tbilisi I brought the boots back with me to Ninotsminda and gave them to this man, decked out in fatigues and crutches, now running a tiny produce market. He was incredibly, incredibly thankful—the boots were of far better quality than anything you can find in these parts, and he'll get to use them for twice as long… once one wears out, he's got another lefty waiting for him. These'll likely go for a good five years on him. He thanked me graciously, and I jokingly responded "ничего... это подарок от американского народа" ("it's a gift from the American people," like the signs on all the well-known USAID-completed things that have been done here (including a park and an open air market). We laughed, shook hands, that was that.
This was several months ago, and today I was passing by his produce shop, and he shouted out at me "Ryder you're totally not allowed to pass by me, come in and say hi!" I was greeted with a warm handshake and a heaping bag of fresh fruit. The value of such a thing cannot be underscored enough—for one, fruit is an incredibly rare part of my diet, as nothing grows here but potatos and garlic so it all has to be shipped from the really fertile parts of the country up north. And thusly, this bag was probably a good ten lari… seven dollars worth of food… several bananas, apples, oranges and even two pomegranates for good measure. Ten lari worth of fresh fruit inventory at the start of the season is a hell of a gift back. As I walked off, I peeled open the first banana I've had in probably a good seven months, and couldn't help but smile like it was going out of style.
Sounds hokey, but I think it's as important to note the good stuff like this as it is to say OH MY GOD I DON'T GET ANY SLEEP IT'S SO COLD I WANT A HAMBURGER RA, so forgive the snippet, but I'm having a great day today, because a one-legged veteran is making use of a stupid mistake a Tucson hiking gear store's manager made in my shipment. As is hung in my mom's kitchen back home, "when life gives you patches, make quilts…"
Ryderito for some, Rodya for others, Radik for yet others, Rubik for the next group, and Muttonpockets to a few of the PCVs (long story).