Host City Hidden Treasures

November 2, 2017

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As world-traveling international educators, moving on to a new location introduces us to the special features that make our host city unique, that make it a definite must-see, must-experience kind of place. Whether it’s the boisterous beer (!) festivals of Germany, the delightful art & handicrafts of Indonesia, the world-class shopping experience of the Middle East, or the gastronomical delights of India, there is a special something about where YOU live that makes you say to others “You just have to come here for the ____.”

Sometimes what makes a country appealing can be surprising:  Thailand and Mexico are known for their affordable dental care. Costa Rica is gaining a reputation for reasonably priced orthopedic surgery. Africa and Central America are a draw for people who enjoy ‘voluntourism.’ India and Nepal appeal to Yoga & meditation enthusiasts.

We can all read travel magazines and blogs to hear the party-line about what makes a city great, but the insight of our fellow international educators can really give us the inside scoop on why a location, YOUR location, stands out as a “hidden treasure.”

..ISR would like to know:  What are the five-star features that make YOUR host city worth a visit?


The ABC’s of Cooks, Cleaners, Drivers, Nannys, Gardeners & Night Guards

September 14, 2017

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Like me, you’re probably not used to the luxury of household &/or childcare help. Geez, last time I checked it was a minimum of $80 to have someone spend a couple hours vacuuming & cleaning my tiny apartment in the U.S. Here, in South America, I can afford help. Problem is, it’s not going so well…

My first maid stole stuff from me, the cook had an affair with the second maid & both were asked to leave. A new cook was not dependable so the first cook returned but left soon after for personal reasons, the gardener ran off with my lawn mower, the night guard sleeps on the job, & on & on…This is my second year here & quite honestly, household help is getting to be more trouble than it’s worth!

At times, I feel like the local bank — my driver asked for $90 to help cover his child’s school tuition & uniforms, the cook needed $30 for a doctor’s visit & medicine (What?! He’s sick?). Then there’s the double pay for various holidays. I’m usually happy to help but I’m not sure how involved I want to become in the lives of my household staff & afraid each one of them believes I’ve adopted them & their families. Still, the utter lack of compassion displayed by my host national neighbors toward their staff bothers me & I do want to be a better person. Is this part of the ABC’s of household help?

By giving directly to people who work for me it means every cent goes into their pocket rather than giving money to a charity where there will, most likely, be some CEO taking home at least $100K. I feel good knowing they are cared for. But beyond the monetary considerations, I have to wonder: How do parents of young children & teens check out all they need to know about hiring a trustworthy nanny or a careful driver for their active children? It’s mind-boggling! Is this more of the ABC’s of household help?

Being somewhat new to the overseas lifestyle, I could use & would appreciate any advice from other overseas educators on the topic of household help. How involved should I become in their lives? What is my responsibility to them? How do you find a responsible, loving person to care for or transport your precious children? Who do you, CAN you trust? Please, tell us about YOUR ABC’s of household help.


What’s YOUR Real Reason for Going Overseas?

April 20, 2017

..If asked by family and friends why I teach overseas, I usually respond with something short and simple along the lines of, Oh, I love to travel. Or, I want to see more of the world. I’m convinced it’s best to stick to answers that resonates well in my loved ones’ world — travel, adventure — keep it simple.

..If the conversation dictates, I’ll take my ‘stock’ answer one step further and talk about how life overseas is slower, how people take time for each other. If my listener is still interested I’ll go on to talk about how there are less rules/regulations overseas, which makes life feel far less regimented and a lot less stressful. My longer answer to the question, Why do you live overseas? is usually well accepted because everyone wants a less complicated life with more benefits.

..I avoid going into my more personal, deeper reasons for living overseas. I’m afraid that if I open up to my loved ones, they won’t get it. And when people don’t understand where you’re coming from, they often reject you and see you as somehow different from them. I don’t want to alienate friends and family so I stick to what rings true in their world.

..Because I’m interested to hear from other educators about their more personal reasons for going overseas, I’m going to share with you my well-guarded reason for living overseas, one I don’t ordinarily share with those close to me. As international teachers, I know you’ll understand me, even if you don’t have the same exact motives as I do for living overseas.

..So, here goes…Beyond all the logical benefits of overseas living, I became hooked on living in developing nations because they make me feel alive in a way I never experienced living in the States. Not to sound morbid, but the fact that death feels so much closer and more real here makes me appreciate my life and live it more fully. Back in America there’s a perpetrated, false sense of immortality that caused me to waste life on insignificant things that don’t matter. Overseas I’m free from this illusion.

..On a basic level, walk into any open-air market abroad and you’ll see chickens and small animals pulled out of cages, their necks slit, and then sold ‘fresh’ to shoppers. Pigs and livestock are slaughtered in the open and served in nearby restaurants. Death is not hidden, disguised in glossy packages in brightly lit supermarkets. Americans have divorced themselves from the concept of death in every way possible, further enforcing the false sense of ‘this is forever’ and reducing life to obsessing over trivialities, what other cultures would consider minor annoyances.

..While living in Guatemala in the mid-90’s I had my first life transforming experience based on death. At the corner of my street two policemen had been shot to death by a man who’d stolen a truck. Two bodies lay in the dirt by the side of the road, face up, uncovered, waiting for family to identify them. It startled me that the bodies weren’t covered, yet no one seemed concerned death was staring them in the face. The thing that most deeply impacted me was that at least 50 people,  including lots of children, were standing around the crime scene. Most were drinking beer from the nearby market, socializing, catching up with neighbors, and in general enjoying themselves as if they were at a social event. I’d never seen anything like this but it made me understand why the Guatemalans were so full of life and music and took every opportunity to enjoy themselves. Death was very real to them — they weren’t in denial!

..That bloody scene mere meters from my front door, helped me further understand what I’d seen previously in a cemetery during a national holiday. Hundreds of family and friends gathered at the grave sites of their ‘dearly departed’  to barbecue, drink, listen to music, dance and in general, party down with their deceased loved ones. Imagine the results of playing music and dancing on a grave site in Los Angeles!

..Guatemala is only one of many cultures that don’t deny death, thus making life more meaningful, rich and full. Tibetan monks, for example, actually go to the extreme of meditating amidst corpses being prepared for what is known as a Sky Burial (performed by hacking bodies into pieces and laying them out for vultures). They do this to instill in themselves a deep, intrinsic acceptance that life is only temporary. The message is obvious — live fully NOW!

..These days, when I spend any length of time back in America I feel myself slowly slipping into the Western world’s denial of death and soon I’m caught up in the same dulling nonsense that occupies the minds of most Westerners. That’s when I know it’s time to leave again and start living my life to its fullest.

..I would love to hear what motivates other international teachers to leave home and stay overseas. If the spirit moves you and you’d like to share, please do!

Note: This commentary was submitted to ISR for publication by an ISR member who wishes to remain anonymous. 

 

 


INDONESIA, Where International Teachers are imprisoned on insufficient evidence and convicted terrorists are set free for ‘good behavior’

April 30, 2015

  The high profile case of Jakarta International School teacher, Neil Bantleman, is a prime example of Indonesia’s current corrupt “legal” system and apparent growing disdain for Westerners. Without entering into a discussion of guilt or innocence in regards to the claim of child abuse, the trial of Neil Bantleman, if you can stretch your imagination to call it that, points to a judge and jury with an unobscured agenda: “Find him guilty!” even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. See: Thirty-Things You Should Know About the JIS Case

  Neil Bantleman was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison on insufficient evidence for an alleged crime against the child of a parent now pursuing a $125-million lawsuit against Jakarta International School. This, after Indonesia released convicted terrorist Muhammad Cholili from prison on ‘good behavior.’ Even Cholili was surprised by his release. He had been convicted for helping to assemble more than 20 backpack and motorcycle bombs, some of which were used in the October, 2005 attacks in Bali, killing 20 people and leaving more than 120 others injured at the well-populated tourist areas of Kuta & Jimbaran Beach. He served less than half of his 18-year sentence.

  We are speechless. A foreign teacher is imprisoned for 10 years on inconclusive evidence and a known terrorist convicted of killing and maiming tourists is set free because he was behaving himself in prison? Based on this model, Bantleman should have already been freed. The question is, were deals cut in both cases? Is each case an example of a corrupt system where money in the right pocket gets the desired results? Is Indonesia sending a message that Westerners are not welcome? We all like to think it can’t happen to us…at least until it does. Comments?


Is America Safe for International Educators?

April 23, 2015

flag22588370Cher Monsieur, I have been offered a job at a French International School in California but I am worried about my safety in the United States. Every time I see BBC TV the United States looks like a country of civil unrest and a people divided. Is this true?

I’m a French national with advanced degrees in science. I am teaching in my home country of France. I’m French/English bilingual. Coming to the United States to teach will be an international experience but I am concerned it could turn out to be a bad one.

When I watch the News I see police shooting and beating people in America, and especially men of color like myself. A woman is raped on the beach in broad daylight in Florida and people do nothing but stand and watch. The Boston Marathon is bombed. Everyone has a gun, there are lots of shootings. Racism looks strong. I have read school reviews that criticize the Middle East for human rights violations but there is not much written on your web site about American hatred for each other and for foreigners.

If you would be so kind and display this letter to your readers for comments it would be quite helpful to me so I can decide if I should accept this job. 

Cordialement,
(name withheld)

ISR invites readers to respond to this letter with pertinent information


Schools In Dangerous Locales

November 13, 2014

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    In response to our previous article, What Would it Take?, ISR asked international educators to weigh-in on the topic of salary packages attractive enough to get you to overcome your resistance to work in a country previously on your ‘no-go, no-way, no-how’ list of places to work.

     Signing on to a school in a local that doesn’t meet your criteria for language, geographical location, political and social outlook is one thing. But when rampant crime and the potential to get hurt are a very real possibility, that’s an entirely new ball game

     Of course we all have a different tolerance for dangerous situations and some people seem to thrive on danger. One thing I’ve noticed for certain is that school directors seem to have the highest tolerance for such situations and can even make light of them, especially when they are trying to sell me on their school.

     Lets stay safe and help each other avoid unforeseen dangerous situations. We’ve started a list of Crime Ridden Locations and encourage you to add locations and personal experiences. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!

We’ve started off the conversation with excerpts from ISR  School Reviews, Forum and Blog posts from ISR members and site visitors:  We invite your comments:

Venezuela

It’s not safe to go out after dark, and during the day most people keep their phones hidden and carry “rob money” just in case. 

My friends have been robbed in so many different parts of the city at any hour of the day.

When I walk outside, or when I take the bus or even when I take a taxi, I am always alert. I know who is behind me at all times and constantly taking precautions no matter what I am doing.

A young college student in my guarded condo complex was robbed at gunpoint at the bus stop right outside our gate.

I was only robbed once and it was only for some small change. I consider myself lucky.

I worked there for years and left because I knew too many people who had been shot, kidnapped, or had their homes robbed at gunpoint. No one is safe there anywhere, especially not if you’re a Gringo!

My wife was mugged and I was nearly gunned down just outside of our flat. And we lived in a rather posh area.

Bratislava

I was robbed twice in 4 months! If you go there you will regret it.

Philippines

I had two people pull a gun on me, and one was just outside a mall. So it is dangerous enough, and even more so if you were actually involved with drugs.

D. R. Congo

They broke in and tied up the teacher. Then they ram shackled the house and took everything of value. She wasn’t hurt and her maid found her still on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope.

Ecuador

When my husband left the bank the teller must have had accomplices waiting outside because at the first traffic light he was approached by two men with guns. He had no choice but to let him in. They had him drive to a secluded area and tied him up in the back seat. Then they used the car to rob two houses. They left him tied up in the back seat of the car and fled. This sort of crime is not uncommon here.

Guatemala

About half the expats I know have been mugged/held up at gunpoint/pick-pocketed etc. But the number of ways in which your personal freedom is curtailed in societies like these gets old

When they can’t get ring off your finger they will cut off the finger. These robberies happened on the city busses. Don’t wear jewelry and if you do, make sure you can get it off.

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What Would it Take?

November 6, 2014

calculator6923345There’s more than a few places in this world where many of us would not be willing to live & teach. I had my reasons for wanting to avoid Pakistan, but the salary/package was so attractive I could hardly say YES fast enough. I loved Pakistan & my bank account literally grew exponentially. The Congo wasn’t on the top of my list, either, but the package was so absolutely alluring I couldn’t say NO, and again, I banked a ton of moohla & got in some outstanding travel adventures.

When I did finally land a job at my top-pick school, I took a 60% pay cut for the “privilege” of working there. It wasn’t long before I started to feel I was being taken advantage of, especially since the cost of living was far, far from cheap. I went from banking thousands a month to putting away a measly few hundred, if I was lucky. As a trade-off, I had completely derailed my progress towards financial security.

While money isn’t my top priority, it’s an important factor considering international teachers have no pension plans like teachers I know back home. So, while I want to see the world & live internationally, I do need to continue planning for the future.

Would I go back to Pakistan today? How about Kuwait, Liberia, or Egypt? From the comfort of my desk I will say NO. But, sitting across from a recruiter & in the excitement of the moment, bolstered by the promise of a great salary? I have the feeling I would say YES!

I think it’s fair to say we all have a figure in our head of what constitutes a great salary. Of the places in the world where you would not be willing to live & teach, what sort of salary/package would it take to get you to change YOUR mind?

Name your place & package: