I rejected a great job offer because Venezuela just wrung it out of me.
I was offered the position on the spot after a 25-minute-long chat, with a clearly defined goal: teaching Arts in English in classrooms with fewer than 10 students, from Monday to Friday, only in the morning shift from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. They gave me a couple of days to think about it, but a job I love and with a competitive salary? What’s not to like?
Well, I was happy until I really thought it through.
See, being a teacher is a matter of passion and devotion. In Venezuela, and in many other countries, salaries aren’t enough to compensate everything a teacher has to give so students feel attracted to the course and find empathy with you. If you can’t see the difficulty in that, try managing a classroom with 20 teenagers. In our case, we have hyperinflation on top of the usual stuff, and it shatters any salary in local currency, for any job. Earning in dollars doesn’t protect us against the economic disaster, but it does help considerably.
That’s why I sent my curriculum to an English-speaking school. Part of the wage would be paid in dollars, $100 that wouldn’t last a day abroad, but here, where the minimum wage stands at Bs.S. 4,500 a month (about $5.6 by the time I wrote this, so it’s gonna keep depreciating) they’re quite useful.
How could I realistically overcome the collapse of the transport system?
Aside from my heritage (both my parents are teachers as well, so I grew up admiring the work) I was a tutor in university, and now I teach Arts and French. I really like it, I have experience and qualifications, so that wasn’t the source of my anxiety on the day of the interview: due to public transport problems, I arrived 45 minutes late (from La Vega in Western Caracas, to Los Samanes, deep in the southeast). Two hours and a half to move from my house to the school. I got there stressed by the trip, yet they still gave me a tour through the facilities and offered me the gig then and there.
But how could I get to my post on time, moving from one end of the city to the other, every day? How could I realistically overcome the collapse of the transport system?
I though through all possible solutions: hiring a taxi (or a mototaxi) to take me to the school’s bus stop; moving to an apartment or a room near the bus stop; I even considered staying with friends by turns.
But this is Venezuela now: very few taxi drivers are taking fixed rides in Caracas, and those who do don’t go out as early as I needed it, or were charging me between $16 and $20 a week. Monthly, I would have to spend $80 just to go to school, because getting back home was a different story.
You still with me? It gets worse.
I must say that, although my case seemed dramatic, it wasn’t the only one in that school.
Moving would be even more expensive, because I’d have to deposit between two and three months of rent in advance, a normal procedure that required money I didn’t even have at the time and still lack right now. My friends? Well, I could bunk over for a couple of days, but living with them is different. Remember, the stay would’ve been practically permanent, and living in someone else’s house brings complications that only those who’ve done it could understand.
I must say that, although my case seemed dramatic, it wasn’t the only one in that school. Among the security guards and the teachers, there were people who lived even farther away than me, an unsustainable way of life centered exclusively on working. The case that got me the most was the story of one of the guards: he lives so far from the school, that he must get up at 2:30 a.m. every day to get to his job at 6:00 a.m. You tell me, reader, how someone is supposed to live properly that way, and what dangers he could face in that twilight Caracas.
And this is how a golden opportunity slipped through my fingers. The worst of this crisis is that it deprives you of opportunities and prospects even when you have them right in front of you. It doesn’t always happen, but when the crisis touches you directly, it’s like falling in quicksand: the more you struggle to get free, the more you sink.
There are days when the crisis is unbearable, so I’ll admit it: the country defeated me.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.