Photo: La Verdad de Monagas, retrieved.

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.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Ana Victoria, lo siento. Has pensado en Italki? Quizá eso te pueda ayudar, dar clases a través de Skype, aunque en Venezuela Internet es una mierda. Yo he practicado idiomas a través de ese medio. Los profesores cobran dependiendo del paìs, el idioma, la experiencia, etc, de 5 a 40 dòlares la hora aproximadamente, aunque la media para español, creo, debe estar por los diez. Si eres buena, puedes claramente cobrar más.
    No es gran cosa fuera pero en Venezuela…
    Por cierto: cien dólares si no tienes que pagar vivienda te puede alcanzar para un par de días en Alemania.

    • Tengo un familiar buscando por ahí. Aparentemente iTalki no está buscando profesores de español en este momento. El tema del internet en Venezuela no ayuda mucho tampoco, quizás por vivir en Caracas sí tiene acceso a proveedores de internet alternativos, cosa que no tengo en mi caso por vivir en el interior.

      Hay otra alternativa, que se llama preply, la pueden buscar en google y aunque no pagan tan bien como italki es menos complicado entrar ahí.

  2. Ans Victoria, of course you couldn’t accept this teaching offer living so far away (even the Metro now takes often 2 hours for a 15 min. trip, when it’s working; when it’s not working, users often must walk long distances on its tracks). You might try Escuela Campo Alegre, in upper Las Mercedes; they used to hire mainly U.S., paid in $, but always were looking for local hires at very competitive salaries.

  3. And going to the big perspective: everywhere in the world there are lots of people with long commutes but the commune time in Venezuela for many became madness a long time ago and now because of the whole chavismo socialist idiocy it is not worth at all.
    Here you can see some stats on average commune time for a few countries:
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/521886/travel-time-spent-work-study-countries/
    Most Venezuelans long lost the meaning of time, costs.

  4. El país no te derrotó , el país nunca derrota es el mal gobierno que tenemos; más temprano que tarde caerá y cambiará todas nuestras condiciones de vida que ahora es muy baja hasta para los grandes profesionales que somos. No perdamos la esperanza que este año 2019 Venezuela resurgirá entre las cenizas .

  5. A “Dream Job teaching Arts in English for less than 10 students with competitive salary”?

    I thought she was talking about Switzerland or London.. Who pays for the salaries for all school employees, from janitors to teachers plus all school expenses? And what children go to such schools, Chavista Enchufado millionaires? I though children in Vzla were starving, forced to work instead of going to school, and if lucky to be in school, just barely trying to get a high school degree, subsidized by Chavismo. I doubt the dictatorship pays for elite “Arts in English” classes, so I wonder where the money comes from..

    Next thing you know they are offering 19th century French literature, in French, in las Mercedes.. while the poor are digging for food through their garbage in the back alleys.. go figure.

  6. In all honesty, this happens all the time in the real world. Not just in Venezuela.

    A friends daughter just turned down a a dream position at a highly regarded employer because she couldn’t make the numbers add up. It was where she wanted to live, the employer was bending over backwards to get her, and the stars were aligned. The problem is she couldn’t live the lifestyle she wanted because the cost of living was so high. And as we have seen in Venezuela, arbitrarily raising the salary of everyone because of economic malfeasance/cost of living only results in inflation.

  7. Who pays for the salaries for all school employees, from janitors to teachers plus all school expenses? And what children go to such schools, Chavista Enchufado millionaires? I though children in Vzla were starving, forced to work instead of going to school, and if lucky to be in school, just barely trying to get a high school degree, subsidized by Chavismo.

    —–

    I’ve been asking this question in so many words for ages now – and I DO have immediate family in CCS. Sounds like there are some, at least, who live in a parallel world. But where the money comes from remains a total mystery to me. Anyone?

    • Have you ever lived in Venezuela? The kind of people that send their children to those schools are usually business people, professionals with relative high salaries (in us dollars), expats from multinational companies that still keep operations in Venezuela (yes, we still have some left) and “chavistas enchufados” that can get as many dollars as they want. It’s not a mystery, everyone living here knows where the money comes from.

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