I know some international teachers are still signing contracts and I know that Venezuela has been in the news lately, which might deter some people from signing contracts in Venezuela. I thought I would write up a little overview of what my experience has been so that international teachers thinking about moving here would have a little more insight into the current situation.
The two biggest cities in Venezuela are the capital Caracas, and Maracaibo; I don’ t live in either of those cities. In fact, I don’t live in Valencia, or Puerto La Cruz, where there are more amenities and international schools. I live in a tiny city called Ciudad Ojeda.
For the past year and a half I have been teaching in Ojeda without many problems and I personally have found great satisfaction living here because of the friends I’ve made and my personal lifestyle choices. I’m not sure you would hear many people say that they liked it as much as I did while I was living here last year (soon I might interview some of my friends who are staying on another year).
I’m still returning to teach in Venezuela next year. I have signed a contract to teach at CIC Valencia, so obviously you can see that I still love this country, but I will provide a pro and con list so you can make your own informed decision.
Salsa and Latin music and dancing EVERYWHERE: I am obsessed with salsa dancing! I have been taking classes from my local salsa academy since August 2012. In Venezuela it is very popular to dance Cuban salsa, which the locals call salsa casino, and you dance it in a circle with many people (thus helping a gringa like me make friends quickly). While waiting in grocery store lines and driving down the street you can hear music that will make a fellow salsa enthusiast want to dance! Dancing makes me VERY happy!
Currently driving anywhere and shopping anywhere is very difficult because of protests.
If you are paid in dollars (most international schools here pay 80-85% of your salary in dollars and the rest in Bs), you have access to a black market exchange rate that is $1=85bs so your money goes a LONG way. Someone else can do the math regarding the Bs portion of my salary which is paid at the official rate of $1=11.3 bs.
Where I live, in Ciudad Ojeda, it is difficult (or nearly impossible if you don’t know the right people) to find items such items as toilet paper of any kind (I haven’t personally seen it in a store since June 2013), sugar (not since June 2013), flour (found once every other month), milk (every other month), dish washing soap (not since December 2013), laundry soap (since beginning of January), and now coffee is becoming difficult to find as well. I have just learned to stock like the locals do once I see an item I want and to ask the locals if they know where I can buy something (or the parents of my students who might own stores).
It is very common for teachers to have a maid. My housemate and fellow teacher and I share a three bedroom, three bathroom house with an enclosed porch at the back. We have white tile floors. Neither of us is particularly fond of cleaning floors… or cleaning really, so we hired a maid! Our maid comes to our house for 3-4 hours while we are teaching. We pay her 250 bs per day (black market rate is almost $3 USD), provide her with simple food and drinks for her to have for lunch, pay for Venezuelan holidays, taxes, and Christmas and end of year bonuses. It is a great deal for her and it is an AMAZING deal for us!
The locals want access to dollars and the only way for many of them to get dollars is to travel. This means that they buy most the tickets out of the country so seeing more of South America and the Caribbean can be really difficult.
There are AMAZING things to see in Venezuela!
Angel Falls (tallest waterfall in the world)
Parque Nacional de Morrocoy (AKA Los Cayos)
Parque Nacional de Mochima (stayed in Puerta La Cruz and went there earlier this year)
Pico Boilvar in Merida (I’ve been to Merida twice but haven’t climbed it)
Los Roques (hopefully I will go there in May of this year)
La Isla Margarita (I will hopefully go there next year)
Mount Roraima (I would love to go here next year too)
I’m sure I could go on, but this post is getting long, and as you can see, I clearly love this place!