Magic beans

Once upon a time, in a faraway land a United States Peace Corps trainee (me) spent the night with her Macedonian host family at a table sorting beans from their garden. They were not just ordinary beans, they were magic. The beans represented food and income for a family of four. You see, this hard-working, always-generous and friendly family had dug the earth, plowed the fields, planted the seeds, watered and weeded the plants, and then harvested the tiny beans to provide sustenance for their family.  And, that is only part of their magic. 

The final step of the process was to sort the beans – to discard the bad, select the best for sale and store the remaining beans for meals during the winter months ahead. The beans were the main focus of the evening, and were piled high on the dining room table on a clean worn cloth used for this and many other cooking purposes. I quickly learned that sorting them was serious business, but not so serious as to inhibit the magic powers of the beans as they transported me back in time . . .

Suddenly, instead of being a woman in a faraway land with grown children of my own back in the States, I was a 10-year-old girl in a bedroom suburb of Cleveland, Ohio enjoying the company of my family around a small kitchen table that – in shifts – presented food for nine boisterous kids and their parents. Instead of a tablecloth and beans, our white Formica table was covered with playing cards as we trumped and Rummied our way through many a night. On occasion the competition got the best of a younger sibling and tears were shed, but most often laughter and fun filled the evening. It was there at that table, and at the larger (still formica, but darker) one in our dining room that I learned about winning and losing, fair play, math and the magic of being with family and friends. Although the settings were very different and were separated by time and distance the warm feeling of being with family and friends was exactly the same.

Today, I find myself in a new country, the Republic of Georgia, and I am again living with a wonderful host family. Yesterday evening I walked into the kitchen and my host Mom, who is much younger than me, was sitting at the kitchen table with her older sister, who is also younger than me, and they were talking and sorting beans that another family member had grown and shared. The tiny room was cozy and warm and overflowing with people laughing and carrying on different conversations, and the beans worked their magic again – I was 10 years old and felt completely at home.

I hope you find time in the busy days ahead to share some activities with family and friends around a table, whether you are preparing a meal, making crafts, playing cards or board games or simply counting beans!

And, I hope that when you find yourself table-side, you will look around at the faces of the people you are with and pause to savor the moment. Let it sink in from your head to your toes as you realize how lucky you are, because spending time with the people you love is where the magic truly begins. 

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like!

 As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi, the capital

 of the Republic of Georgia with a wonderful host family on a 3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment.

‘Tis the season to be PIFing, fa la la la la, la la la

 

“It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can just seem that way, depending who you do it for.”  PIF Foundation 

My first PIFing post was December of last year, rereading it the other day brought back fond memories of the moment described and then brought on the cold realization that I don’t do nearly enough of what I say I’m going to do – like PIFing: “Paying It Forward”. So, this post is more for me than you, but since you’re here . . .  

You see, the small things really do count, and there is no better time than the holiday season to reach out to others in teeny, tiny wonderful ways. Not only is PIFing a nice thing to do, it feels good, and studies show that altruistic behavior is a great stress reducer. (Anyone stressed at this time of year?) And, the positive effects of PIFing last far beyond the energy expended.

So this holiday season hold a door; pass-up the primo parking space by the mall; share a table; make the coffee or the copies; surprise a friend; call your mom; let the one-item guy go ahead of you; give up your seat; pay an extra toll or two; shovel the driveway; babysit; bake or buy the cookies; or even better – sit with, hold or listen – really listen to someone at little longer than you normally would. The options are endless; PIFing is fun, and in most cases free – or at least extremely inexpensive. 

The only rule to PIFing is you can’t PIF and expect anything in return. The goal is to PIF and let it go! 

If you like the idea of PIFing, share this post on FB or email it to friends – the goal is to making PIFing an everyday event in 2012 for as many folks as possible and the best way to do that is to keep it in front of as many people as possible. I really believe the nicer we are, the nicer the world becomes. I’ll be posting PIF reminders throughout the year, so I do not forget!

This week, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of these warm and wonderful PIFs, each touched my heart and made me want to PIF more and more:

1. A ride to work with great conversation along the way

2. A seat on the bus

3. A hug from an anonymous coed holding “Free Hugs” sign in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia!

Happy PIFing. Get started today, and let us know what you are up to.

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like! 

As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi, the capital

of the Republic of Georgia with a wonderful host family on a 3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment.

Georgian National Ballet “Sukhishvili”

A week or so ago I was lucky enough to see a performance by the Georgian National Ballet “Sukhishvili” at the Tbilisi concert hall.

“Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili founded the Georgian National Ballet in 1945. Filled with determination, the couple made its dream a reality: reflecting the emotionally daring spirit of the Georgian nation, its invincible vitality and touching romanticism through traditional Georgian dancing. The Georgian National Ballet, first professional state dance company in Georgia, has appeared at the Albert Hall, The Coliseum, The Metropolitan Opera, Madison Square, and dozens of famous venues. In 1967, La Scala welcomed them as the first and only folklore group performing there. The curtain was lifted 14 times, a record. Three generations of Sukhishvili family, now represented by Nino and Iliko Sukhishvili Jr., dedicated their lives to the Georgian National Ballet. The Georgian National Ballet has seventy dancers and a small orchestra.” (From the Portrait of Georgia web site.)

I can’t get their beautiful images out of my mind. The dance troupe is huge and extremely talented. My brief Facebook posting about it doesn’t begin to properly describe their work or the traditions of Georgia, and yet 10 days later, I can still think of no better way to describe the troupe other than as an amazing combo of ballet, Riverdance and Stomp – with swords, shields, and knives! 

My favorite were the women pictured here. They glide in such a way it looks as though they are floating across the stage. And, even while moving they barely look real.

 

 

The following dancers represent brides and grooms; their unified movements were dazzling, dignified and oh, so delicate. Click on a photo below to see it in a larger size and slide show format.

 

There were so many regional styles of costume and dance represented. To see more of the troupe, click here, and to see them perform in the snow on the Caucasian Mountains, click here.

Wishful Thinking Works is on Facebook; visit for posts and other weekly updates, and to “Like”, if you like! 

As part of creating the life she really wants, Patrice Koerper is currently living in Tbilisi,

the capital of the Republic of Georgia, on a  3-month Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignment .

10 Days of Tbilisi, con’t

Back again, with more photos from my 10 Days in Tbilisi, which began at Thanksgiving. This issue includes photos from Mtshekta one of the oldest cities and former capital of Georgia. Just to give you an idea of how different the perspective on history is in most places outside of the U.S., when Georgians say “former capital” they mean 3rd century BC – 5th century AD!

Clicking on any photo below will increase its size and display it in a slide show format.

I am completely taken with the wool felting process in Georgian, the art and clothing from felt is amazing. I want to buy it all, but so far have limited myself t a few pieces, which you saw at the end of the photo gallery.  If you want to learn a bit more about wool felting, click here. (I don’t know these artists, but their web site gives you a good idea of the process.)

That’s it for now, still more photos to follow . . .

10 Days in Tbilisi

I’ve been working and living in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia for six weeks. I live and work at opposite ends of the city; my one-way daily commute takes about an hour via bus and minibus. For the first few weeks my sightseeing was limited to the view from the windows of buses, but I made-up for it over Thanksgiving weekend when I met-up in Tbilisi with an American friend and former Peace Corps Volunteer from Macedonia. We rented an apartment in the center, which was perfect for seeing the sites in and around Tbilisi. We had a great time. This weekend I will be posting a bit of what we saw then and what I have seen in the following days. Clicking on any photo, will display all of them in a larger size and in a slide show format.

It all began with Thanksgiving in Tbilisi, we shared an eclectic assortment of food, and  one of my fellow Peace Corps Response Volunteers brought this lovely table decoration. Good company in a foreign locale more than made-up for our lack of traditional Thanksgiving fare . . .

The last photo is the sign of a restaurant with a sense of humor in Old Towne Tbilisi. The bookstore in the photos is Prospero Books, a wonderfully caffeinated literary oasis in the center of Tbilisi. The cappuccino is rich and foamy, the atmosphere is cozy and warm, the clientele is interesting and friendly, and the experience perfect.  

*Food photos and lots more to follow. * The static photo on the left side of my main page is a piece of art my friend purchased. Again, I love the Georgian folksy, whimsical style.* The snow is compliments of WordPress!*

Out of the minds of babes

I love the messages along the bottom of the painting.

There were 70 paintings displayed in the art gallery of a beautiful hotel in the center of Tbilisi. The room was filled with happy kids and proud parents. The event was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment Protection, which is where I’m assigned as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer.

The talent and insight of children never ceases to amaze me, the kids captured some really special moments and messages with their well-placed brush strokes. These are just a sampling of their work.

Each of the students who participated received certificates presented by the Deputy Minster of Environment Protection and a t-shirt designed by the sponsoring organizations.

I love that art allows their environmental messages to shine through no matter the differences in language and culture.

I swear, no one at the exhibit looked like they could have been the subjects of the following paintings; be prepared to smile. I’m sure the kids’ parents and grand parents enjoyed the way their offspring portrayed them . . .

This is the Peace Bridge, which connects the left and right banks of the Kura River in Old Tbilisi.

The last two paintings offer particularly poignant perspectives.

“Honeymoon with My Brother”

One of the many joys of being a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) is you often end-up reading books you might otherwise miss. PCVs are always searching for something to read, and I’m no exception, so I was very happy to be able to gather a stack of books when I first arrived at the PC office in Tbilisi, Georgia.

I’ve was so busy settling in, I didn’t get to read “Honeymoon with My Brother” until last Saturday, but it quickly turned into my favorite of the bunch. It was published in 2005 and was written by Franz Wisner, who at the age of 33 got dumped five days before his wedding, and a week or so later was demoted at his job. Bad week, huh? Yup, but the really interesting part is what happened next . . .

The first person he called when realizing his girlfriend of 7+ years was backing out, was his kid brother Kurt. They weren’t close, but he realized Kurt was the one he really wanted to talk to. His brother arrived in a day or two, and convinced Franz to go ahead with the wedding even without a bride since the location and accommodations were already paid for and many of the guests were en-route or had tickets in hand.

That turned out to be a great decision, having close friends and family around got Franz through the first couple of days, and gave him the stamina to deal with his demotion the next week. His relationship with his brother and the support of his friends ended-up being the calm in the eye of the emotional storm swirling around him.

In an odd turn of events, Franz soon convinced his brother to join him on a mega-trip using the already paid for honeymoon plane tickets and hotel reservations as a starting point, and as they say, the rest is history. Their plans for a one-year trip evolved into series of  3-6 months stays on various continents and expanded to two years, punctuated by short trips back to the States. Their journey of a lifetime cemented their relationship; ignited their passion for travel and led to “Honeymoon with My Brother”.

“Honeymoon with My Brother”, details not only their travels but the path they followed to rebuild their relationship. What I truly enjoyed about the book is Franz never sugar-coated his pain and confusion, but also never let if get in the way of a good story. He  deftly weaves dealing with the aftermath of his failed relationship, stalled career, and guilt for not being there for his brother when his brother’s marriage fell apart a few years earlier with entertaining travel tips and tales.

I highly recommend the book, both as a travel and a life guide.  But most of all, because it’s a great read. Here are a few of the insights I gleaned from its pages . . .

Things don’t matter as much as people do. Yeah, yeah. We all know this, but I’m guessing most of us find it much harder to actually live it.

Life can sting and burn, but that doesn’t mean it will end-up in flames – and if it does, rising from the ashes just might be the way to go. An homage to creating the life you want, even when you are not sure or keep changing your mind about what that life is or even thinking about wanting something seems like too much effort.

Slowing down, taking time to think, and to heal is hard to do. But I know from firsthand experience, it works.

Honest reflection is a part of growth and necessary whether you are standing still or traveling the world. Don’t fight it; invite it.  

Action and courage go hand-in-hand. Note to self: the first step may seem the hardest, yet sometimes life gets even worse before it gets better; try not to worry and just keep moving forward.

When traveling, don’t forget to pack patience and a sense of humor.Happiness is my constant traveling  companion, if I only remember to open my suitcase.”

Time is our friend – even when it feels heavy – and it can help heal wounds, if we let it. Life is a marathon not a sprint.

After writing “Honeymoon with My Brother”, Franz and Kurt headed back on the road, which led to a second book; a happy marriage and two kids for Franz. He and his brother Kurt are best buddies; their lives are good. To read more about Franz, Kurt and their journey, click here, here or here.

To get a new look on life, scroll down and see the view from my host family’s home in the eastern suburbs of Tbilisi, Georgia . . . 

Close-up view from my bedroom window.

 

Stepping back from my bedroom window.

Long shot from my bedroom window.

Nearby house on sunny day from bedroom.

Early morning rainbow from the balcony.

Second shot of the morning from the balcony.

Wider view – see my bus stop?

Mountains can be seen everywhere!

Broader view from the balcony.

This is a good example of the thousands of apartment buildings in Georgia.

PS As always, the book cover is included for illustrative purposes, not to suggest you buy!

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