With many great memories we look back on the wonderful ten days of volunteering in Telavi. Guga and Nutsa, a young Georgian couple, welcomed us with open arms in their future guesthouse “friendly home”. We immediately felt at home with them and their animals (two dogs, four cats, two rabbits and two ducks) and lived together like in a great flat-sharing community. Each morning the tireless dogs greeted us with expectation and wagging their tails. We couldn’t have asked for better hosts with Guga and Nutsa!

Our volunteer work was about helping with the building of the “friendly home”. On the evening of our arrival, we were able to see the state of renovation and were free to choose what we would like to work on. Obviously, the electrical wiring needed to be fixed before any further construction steps could be taken. David was a little hesitant because he had experience with electrical design and wiring of industrial machinery, but not with home installations. However, after an initial look at the wiring already in place, it quickly became clear that he would certainly do the job no worse than the local electricians.

In Georgia, it is the case that craftsmen have minimal technical training at best and are often not accurate or trustworthy in their work. Since the way they are paid also encourages them to bungle, Guga always had to keep a close eye on the workmen: The floor workers are paid by the square meter and the electricians by the number of switches, sockets and distribution boxes. No surprise, sockets are never mounted at the same height and detach from their holders when the cable is pulled out.
Workmen rarely show up at the appointed time and bring no building materials. Since neither construction plans nor offers exist, it is unclear which and how many materials are needed. The client has to buy everything himself, which is a nerve-racking task: Often, various stores have to be visited, and when the electricity goes off (which happens several times a week), one can easily wait half an hour at the checkout. Patience and serenity are qualities that Georgians definitely have 😀

The first thing David did was to draw an electrical diagram of where which sockets, switches, lamps, fans and distribution boxes should be mounted. Then he had to figure out which cables were already installed and what purpose they served. This task took a lot of time for the five rooms, particularly since there was a huge mess with the cable colors. Often the standardized colors for ground (never used and connected), neutral and phase were mixed up, so we had to check every connection.
David and Guga worked through the rooms step by step, looking for faults, pulling cables, drilling holes in the drywalls (insulation is not used in Georgia despite the cold winter), buying materials, installing sockets and switches, etc.

Thanks to David’s good instructions, I was able to help with the installation and wiring, which was a lot of fun. We all enjoyed seeing the result of our work and the progress on the construction site. Since our hosts had little time (and muse) to cook, I was happy to take over this task. After five months of cooking on a gasoline stove, I enjoyed being able to work in a kitchen with running water, a stove and an oven. Aside from cooking, I was also able to give myself to shoveling the trench for the drainage around the house.

In our free time we visited the town of Telavi several times and took part in a very exciting and informative wine tasting. Sitting together with our hosts we learned a lot about Georgian traditions, history and culture. The difficult political situation in the Caucasus was also a topic. ZDF recently produced an interesting documentary (in German) about this, which shows the different perspectives (somewhat theatrically packaged).

We are very happy and grateful for the enriching time in Telavi, for the valuable encounter with our hosts and for the exciting insight into Georgian everyday life! Many thanks to Guga and Nutsa!