TIFTON--Most people who stay in Georgia don't have to worry about Al-Quaida operatives in their backyard and the lack of running water, yet that's just what Tifton native Dan McBrayer faced during his two-year tenure with the Peace Corps.
McBrayer was sent by the Peace Corps to Georgia; the Republic of Georgia, near eastern Europe, that is.
McBrayer was part of the first Peace Corps team to be sent to the former Soviet territory.
"I always wanted to travel and the Peace Corps offered me that chance," McBrayer said. "I had also gone through a rough time in my life and I began to think outside of myself. I wanted to help people; I wanted to affect someone's life in a positive way."
When McBrayer arrived in the country, roughly the size of South Carolina, he made his way to a small village called Kvishkheti. It was there that McBrayer met up with his host family and began his work as an English teacher.
McBrayer said that while he was in the village, he taught fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 11th grade English courses.
Despite the expected hardships like a lack of electricity and running water, McBrayer said that the worst thing he faced in one of the poorest nations on earth was the obvious depressed psychological state of the Georgian people.
According to McBrayer, Georgia went from being one of the wealthiest Soviet provinces to being one of the poorest nations in the area after the government fell.
This fall from grace has caused the people, who face daily hardships that didn't exist before the 1980s, to be caught in a perpetual depression.
The mood only worsened, according to McBrayer, after Sept. 11, when the war on terror struck close to home.
"There is an area near the Chechen/Georgian border called the gorge where, after the war on terror began, U.S. forces trained Georgians who found two Al-Qaida operatives. They were literally hours from the village," McBrayer said.
Knowledge and experience aren't the only things McBrayer brought back with him from Georgia. While there, he found the love of his life and, in typical Georgian style, got married in a seventh-century basilica in the village.
McBrayer said that out of everything he learned and did while in Georgia, the most significant cultural aspect that he brought back with him was the strong Georgian hospitality.
"Everyone always talks about southern hospitality, but I think that we really have gotten away from that. In Georgia the people really accept you into their homes. If you live with them, you become their family; you own what they own. It's really great," McBrayer said.
As for the future, McBrayer plans on temporarily settling down with his wife in the U.S., although he does want to get involved with the Peace Corps again farther down the road.
The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 and continues to help impoverished and underdeveloped nations by sending some of America's brightest and most talented volunteers to work there.
To contact Reporter JD Sumner, call 229-382-4321, ext. 207.
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