One of the fun things about living in New York is that I’m pretty close to some of my favorite people and places in America! The crappy thing is that I’m far from my friends abroad, but at least I can drive up to Maine on a weekend, dropping my buddy Jay off in Connecticut. Or hop a train down to DC to visit my sister on the 4th of July. You know, cool things like that!
I moved to New York after my trip to Europe. It seemed that things on the Financial Services side of our company weren’t taking off in the USVI as my boss had hoped, so it just made more sense for me to relocate to New York. I lobbied mildly to get relocated to London instead, but that has been postponed for the foreseeable future.
I really liked my time in London, though. I’ve only ever spent a few days there back in 2008 when I visited my dear friend Haven following my study abroad in St. Petersburg. My Russian-studies buddies and I spent three days exploring London and doing touristy things like cramming into a phonebooth and watching the changing of the guards (they changed into guards from Singapore!!). Now I was back for three days of working from an office and meeting my international colleagues.
But at the end of a long work day was pleasantly reunited with some friends from TLG! Specifically, two colleagues from my time working on the TLG staff at the Ministry of Education! Shorena and Keti Kukava (Keti Kukava always gets her last name mentioned because there are so many Ketis I worked with in the Ministry) have both been living in the UK for well over a year. They are finishing up masters programs before heading out into the wide world to continue making a difference. Keti Kukava is spending some time this summer in Georgia while Shorena has come to Pennsylvania to work for CTY! Small world! Also! Not a coincidence! (AKA, She’d heard of CTY from me.) We had a great time reconnecting in London and Shorena and I even briefly revived “The Council” to watch some Game of Thrones. Back in Georgia, Shorena, Gvantsa and I formed “The Council” who watched The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones together. Shoren was pretty jealous that I had just spent a few days in King’s Landing itself.
Back in America, I decided to head down to Baltimore and DC for the 4th of July weekend. Despite getting yelled at by my boss for neglecting my email over the weekend spent at my grandmother’s internetless house, it was an awesome few days! I crashed CTY to discover that I have been deified by the new batch of RAs and my protégé, the excellent new DRL there. Not a bad state of affairs to leave behind!
I took the MARC train down to DC to spend the day with my sister and my good friend Marcia, a Californian “from” Georgia. I caught up with Marcia at a house party near Union Station where I was made to feel very welcome. I got to meet all her friends from work, from DC, from social gatherings, etc. Everyone was somehow connected to Russia or the former Soviet Union. People had studied International Relations or worked at American Councils or studied abroad in Russia. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming.
“I went to grad school with someone who has been to Georgia,” the hostess said, “Do you know Ian?” “Ian Hansen? I stayed over at his house in Martvili where we had Thanksgiving! Of course I know him—I just haven’t seen him in five years.” Ian was on his way over and we all agreed that my presence would be a surprise.
When Ian arrived, he gave the hosts some beer he’d brought. “Do you know everyone here?” the hostess asked. Ian said that he wasn’t sure and began to scan the room. As he saw me, he froze and his jaw dropped, “Raughley??!?” The surprise had worked!
We spent a good while catching each other up on the past five years and reminiscing about that time I almost died during training, that time that we almost died on the road to Svaneti, that time Max almost died from drinking too much in Borjomi, that time Brian took his shirt off at Thanksgiving and almost died from falling down and getting beat up because he was such a jerk.
It was an awesome example of both what a small world we live in and how TLG has made a lasting and positive impact on all of us. From London to Lancaster, DC to Dubrovnik, Prague to Pennsylvania, TLG reunions happen all the time and couldn’t be more fun. It’s random and it’s unplanned as often as planned, but we’re always grateful for all the times we shared in Georgia not dying. In fact, I cannot wait until my next TLG reunion, wherever and whenever it might take place!