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A Piece of America in Georgia

04/07/2011 03:23 (1020 Day 23:47 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- The American Chamber of Commerce celebrated the Independence Day of America on 2 July with a non-official outdoor event held in conjunction with the US Embassy in Georgia.

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This type of celebration became a tradition nine years ago. This year has been remarkable because of its unlimited surprises for the 1,000 participants of the picnic. Films for children, clowns, painters, caricaturists, two baseball teams and fireworks - this is but a small list of the fun and entertainment that was available to guests on 2 July.


26 year old Seth Voytek comes from the American town of Wallingford in the State of Connecticut. His father’s family came to America from Slovakia in the 1920s and his mother came from Portugal in 1967. His love and interest of different cultures initially brought him to Georgia and since then he has felt most at home here.

“I first came to Georgia in 2006 as a Peace Corps Volunteer,” said Voytek. “After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut I wanted to volunteer abroad and I came to Georgia as an English teacher.” From 2006 to 2008 he worked in the First School of Chiatura. In 2008 after completing his Master’s degree in Education he decided to come back to Georgia. Today Voytek works with the Agency for Protected Areas in Tusheti as an English language specialist.

“I love the Georgian people first and foremost,” answers Seth to the question “what does he like most about Georgia?”. “They are an incredibly kind and warm people who have a wonderful sense of hospitality and love. I have been lucky to have travelled all over Georgia and have met such interesting and helpful people. I consider myself lucky to have many Georgian friends and my life is richer because of it.” Seth thinks that while the traditions in the two countries are very different, Americans and Georgians seem to appreciate each other. “I have seen that good relations generally exist between Americans and Georgians.” And he hopes that connections between Georgians and Americans will be strengthened in the years to come.

There is a very interesting American lady who lives in a small village near Batumi called Ortabatumi and came to Georgia a year ago. Her name is Emily New. Emily is currently serving and teaches at the local village school as well as at an orphanage in Urexi and a newspaper in Batumi.

“I also assist translators at the Constitutional Court in Georgia, situated in Batumi,” said New.

“I can appreciate a country for its beauty, food and culture but I cannot love a place unless I love the people there.” She loves the friendly, warm and hospitable Georgians. Although she’s very far from her home and family in terms of time and space she has been able to find family here. Emily has already formed friendships which, hopefully, will last her whole life. Besides this, her second favourite thing about Georgia is the “Supra”. “I love this tradition, specifically the toasts. I love making toasts and through them showing appreciation to the elements or aspects of life that make it meaningful. I also love Georgian dance, especially the Adjaruli,” remarked New.

This past week, after planning and organizing it, she ran a sports and self-esteem camp in Kobuleti for 30 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 from the Guria and Adjara regions. “The girls were all amazing and I had such a great time getting to know them and watching them come out of their shells and try new things throughout the week.” She hopes to repeat this event next year, but on a larger scale and in different locations throughout the country.

Emily considers that the connection between Georgians and Americans, in all those areas, is our shared desire to improve conditions, whatever those conditions might be.

“Living here and discovering who Georgians are I have learned both how important, how significant culture can be in forming an individual but also, on the other side, what traits and desires are shared amongst all human beings. We all want to give our children a better world than the one we have now. We all want to be accepted and to be understood. Despite different love/marriage rituals, the question, the joy and the challenges of love are fundamentally the same across language and culture. Negotiating the various cultural differences has been, at times, frustrating but ultimately my personal growth and the broadening of my own capacity for understanding others and other cultures has made it all worth it. Our people and our cultures are connected mainly in our desire to make the world a more peaceful and better place.”

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