Buying a Car Overseas Can Land You in Prison

May 28, 2015

debt-79929649-wordpressThe banking laws of many countries permit expats to finance cars and other large ticket items. What most expats don’t realize is this: When you take out a loan in a foreign country and then fail to pay it off in full, you may end up in prison.

It has been reported to ISR that more than one expat is now serving prison time for failure to repay a loan, reporting that their banker never disclosed the severity of the consequence associated with an inability to make timely payments and/or pay in full.

If you are planning to go into debt overseas, you definitely want to have assets available from friends/family to pay off your loan should it become necessary to leave the country. Some countries won’t allow you to depart the airport unless all debts are satisfied in advance. And be aware: Selling off the car you bought to pay the loan is not an option since you cannot sell the car until the loan is satisfied. Obviously, a situation like this adds an entirely new dimension to the sense of being trapped at a school you may wish to leave.

Of course, there’s also the scenario where an expat debtor pretends to be leaving on vacation and then never returns. Although this strategy sounds viable, it’s not advisable as such debt can follow you around the world. For example: The UAE is a signatory to the Riyadh Convention and as such has the right to enforce a judgment in all other signatory nations. Furthermore, banks in Dubai have successfully sold debts to collection agencies in the UK, and the UK-based agency then successfully sued the debtors in their own country with significant collection fees added!

A “pro tip” on the Qshield web site warns that expats leaving Qatar should contact their bank 2 days in advance of departure in order to ensure a banking fee has not been levied that could result in being detained at the airport. You thought you had closed out your bank account, paid off any debts, utilitity/phone bills, etc., only to find the bank levied a minuscule fee which suddenly surfaced at departure time. Imagine being detained at the airport in Qatar for a few cents you owe your bank!

In an article entitled The Dark Side of Dubai, Karen Andrews tells how her husband’s health deteriorated while overseas and during that period debts mounted. Karen’s husband had planned to use a “pay off” he was slated to receive upon leaving his employment to satisfy his debt. But he ended up getting far less “pay off” than his contract indicated. For this he was sentenced to one year in prison and Karen is living in her car until he gets out. Not surprisingly, it has been reported that expats are found sleeping in the airport and behind the sand dunes as debtors’ prison applies not only to car loans but to local credit cards, personal loans and co-signing a loan for someone else (such as a host-national friend).

It’s never a good idea to get in over your head financially, but when moving abroad debt has a way of sneaking up on us. If you must buy a car or another expensive item overseas, it is highly recommended you take advantage of the personal loans many schools make available to their teachers. Often these loans are interest free with very manageable payments proportioned for the length of your teaching contract. At the very least, try to get your school to co-sign should you deal directly with a bank.

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Teacher Fired for Confronting Bully Issue

May 21, 2015

bully50259047After watching one of her students blow his nose on other students, push them down and call them inappropriate names, Nicole LeMire, a fifth-grade teacher at Glen Oak Elementary in Ohio, decided to discuss the incident in her classroom. She addressed the bully by saying, “Do you know how your actions and words are hurting other students and your friends?” From her own account of the situation, “That is all I said.”

It was after the bully’s parents reported the discussion that the school board claimed LeMire had displayed poor judgment in trying to resolve the incident. The board fired her at an open meeting in front of her supporters. District Assistant Superintendent Linda Martin said, “By encouraging an entire classroom of students to bully this one student, LeMire had gone too far.”

Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational philosophy at The University of Illinois is an expert on bullying. She tells us that publicly confronting a bully is exactly what teachers should be doing – “We want teachers to have an open conversation about bullying in their classrooms.” She stresses, at the beginning of the school year teachers should talk to their students about creating a class atmosphere that says We do NOT accept bullying.

Are we, as teachers, expected to turn a blind eye to bullying? Are we supposed to pretend we just didn’t witness bullying? What message would such actions have on the victims of bullying? If bullied kids don’t feel supported, then what? The incident that led to Nicole LeMire loosing her job took place in the United States, a country that presents itself as a land of laws and procedures. Transpose this incident to a country where wealthy parents intimidate school directors and manipulate legal systems to yield to their demands, and LeMire could well have found herself imprisoned, or worse!

A Google search for Nicole LeMire will bring up many newspaper and magazine articles on this event.

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Why I Went & Stayed Overseas

May 14, 2015

airplane20129981Friends & family are convinced I’ll be moving back to the States any day now. But after this, my 12th year overseas, I’m sure to disappoint them again. I’ve accepted a teaching position on the continent of Africa. So…not this year, not next year & not for many years thereafter will I be moving back “home.” I know this is hard for some people to understand, unless of course you’re like me.

The question everyone asks is “WHY?” Their usual inquiry goes something like this: “Why don’t you like your family/friends/hometown life?” “Is it seeing new places & meeting new people that keeps you overseas?” “You must just love to travel.” “Do you like trying new, different foods?” “How many languages do you speak?” “What’s your favorite place?” All good questions but they miss the true essence of why I’m overseas.

What I most thrive on living overseas is the feeling of freedom. Maybe it’s because as a foreigner I don’t intrinsically sense the societal restrictions of a particular culture & as such, experience a strong sense of freedom. When I’m overseas I’ve escaped the tangled web in which my own culture traps me. It’s a web of endless bills, mortgages, car payments, pricey medical insurance & extraordinarily priced medical care, materialism, consumerism, never-ending taxes & a subtle sense of alienation from my fellow citizens. I’ll call this web the “grind.” The “grind” is not for me.

Overseas, instead of the “morning commute” I suffered back home, I walk to school. The walk can be an unpredictable, exciting experience of camels in the road, colorful motor rickshaws, aromas, smiling faces & interesting architecture. There is something newly intriguing every single day & combined with the sense of freedom, the overall effect can be elating.

Life overseas can take on a depth that just does not exist for me in the U.S. It’s a state of mind. It’s an emotional state. It’s hard to put into words, but I wanted to put this thought out there for comment by other ISR readers to expand upon. Why do YOU stay overseas?

Retroactive Reference Retraction

May 7, 2015

file-final31726256Did you know that the director from your previous school can request that a confidential reference they wrote years earlier be retracted from your professional file? Unfortunately, they can! And without anyone telling you. Just imagine the consequences to your resume.

This exact scenario happened to an ISR Member, as shared in a recent ISR School Review. The following is the letter from a recruiting agency to the candidate when he tried to reactivate his professional file:

(Dear Candidate) “I was contacted by —– (school director) with a request that his reference be pulled from your file. Obviously, I had no other choice but to delete his reference. You still have a reference from the Principal, but losing —–‘s reference will decrease the strength of your file, in my opinion.” 

(About a week later the recruiter sends a second message) “I was contacted the other day by —– (school principal) asking that her confidential reference also be withdrawn from your file. As you know, we cannot keep a reference on file without the consent and full permission of the referee. After very careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we cannot accept your request to reapply.”

ISR Members: Click here & scroll to Evaluation #7 to read complete, unedited Review.

In his school Review the author tells us that, “The last conversation I had with —– (school director) was the exit interview in June, 2014. He asked if I had access to the first class lounge in Amsterdam as we were sharing a flight. I said no and he said he would see if he could invite me. Then 9 months later I receive this email from the recruitment agency about his pulling his reference.”

Why would anyone take the low-road, go behind a teacher’s back & secretly destroy their recruiting efforts? One would think a school director & principal would have the presence of character to notify the candidate so he could at least stop using them as a reference. Was this just an oversight on their part or was there an intended consequence?

There are two sides to every story & we are not privy to what motivated these two administrators. In his Review, the teacher explains he is leaving his current school early. Did the director of this current school contact his previous school? Can your performance at your present school retroactively affect previous performance letters of reference? Maybe the long rumored directors’ network IS real!