One thing I haven’t talked much about (because it doesn’t apply to my life at ALL) is what it is like to be a family teaching overseas. Today I’m going to share an interview with a couple of new parents at my school. They will hopefully answer all of your burning questions about what it is like to have a teaching family in Venezuela. If you still have questions after reading their interview please post them in the comments section below!
I met my friends Christi and Dave the first year I taught in Venezuela. Their lives were slightly different than mine because they were a “married teaching couple” (a hot commodity on the international teaching scene). Then everything changed they were offered a dream job at our current school, in Valencia, Christi got pregnant, and now they are the proud parents of a sweet little boy.
Can you tell us a little about your teaching background?
Before teaching in Venezuela, we were teaching in South Korea. I was there for nearly 2 years. Being uncertified, we knew if we wanted to continue our dream of exploring the world and having summers off, we needed to be licensed teachers. We were certified in Ontario, Canada and decided to embark on a teaching job in Venezuela because of the cost of living, David’s extended family, and my desire to pick up some Español.
How did you meet your husband?
We met while working at different schools in South Korea.
Did you always plan on starting a family while overseas?
Not really. However, after learning about the benefits of having a child in Venezuela, it seemed like the most LOGICAL idea. (ha, guess it depends on one’s definition of ‘logical’).
Are your families supportive of you raising your child in Venezuela?
It’s honestly the most difficult part of raising a child outside of North America. They wish we were closer so they could be a part of our son’s life more and are concerned when they hear news of Venezuela (because it is usually negative news). We too, wish we were closer – or that we could just have all our family in Venezuela!
What was it like seeing a doctor in Venezuela about your pregnancy? What were the costs like?
There are two options when it comes to choosing healthcare in Venezuela. You can go private (and pay out of pocket, with whatever healthcare your work gives you to help) or choose governmental (free). I chose to go with a private clinic.
The “costs” are interesting to consider, as you should understand the Bolivares and how it values against the dollar. As many of you know, there is more than one exchange rate in Venezuela. For ease in explaining we are just going to call 1) government, 2) black market.
We spent 900 Bolivares on each visit (and they recommend you come every month). At the time, we were getting an exchange of around 75-80. That equals out to about $11-12.00 a visit. To me, it was worth getting a good doctor with top equipment. We saw the 3-D visuals every time we went (if we wanted). When I filed for my monthly reimbursement through TIE Healthcare, they reimbursed me at the government’s exchange, which I don’t recall at this time. Nonetheless, each visit was reimbursed into my US account for about $125. Do the math on that! Spend $12, get paid $125 = $113 in pocket. So, basically, I made money to go see my little boy growing inside of me! Had I stayed in the Venezuela to give birth, I would have also made money. However, I wanted my son to be born in North America.
Did your doctor give you advice in Venezuela that was different from what a doctor might have said in the US?
I find Venezuelan doctors to be overly careful. I am an active person. I was hiking, running a 5k race, jogging, etc. throughout my first trimester. When my doctor found this out, he was very quick to put a stop to that. He said I could walk. Telling a runner/jogger they can “walk” is like renting a corvette to park in your garage. No fun. So, after boring walks, I didn’t do too much. I was already on my feet all day teaching.
What I didn’t like is that they didn’t give you any guidelines about foods to avoid. I did my own research on things I couldn’t eat. Which was fine, but a pamphlet would have been so much easier!
Did you consider giving birth in Venezuela?
Not so much. I knew that having a child in Venezuela would be hard on my family and me–I wanted their support and I wanted him to have birth citizenship in North America.
What are some of the perks of being a new mom (or a mom to be) in Venezuela?
As a pregnant woman, you are (good or bad) treated very delicately. Like I mentioned, they don’t encourage much activity and sometimes act like you’re sick because you’re pregnant. In the same manner, pregnant woman (and elders) get to go in the ‘preferential’ line in markets/stores — a great thing in this country because there is ALWAYS a line.
Maternity leave is a total of 26 weeks–6 weeks prenatal and 20 weeks postnatal. I stopped working and flew back to North America at week 35, thinking I still had 5 weeks until my little nugget came into the world. He came early, so it was a good thing! If you don’t use all your prenatal time, it gets pushed to postnatal. Vacations don’t count! So, in sum, I left school May 25th, 2014 and came back February 2nd, 2015. My son was 7 months old before I came back to school.
Now, I get what’s called, “Lactation hour”. After recovering from Nestle’s push to feed all babies formula, Venezuela now boasts mother’s milk to be the best. This “hour” allows for 1.5 hours every 3 hours you are working until the child is one year old. I had the option to go to work, then home, work, home, etc….but I decided to push all the work together and just leave 3 hours early from work. Now, when I am not swamped, I can leave school at 12:40.
What are some of downsides of raising a baby in Venezuela?
A few of the biggest ones are safety, supplies, and lack of community. Keep in mind, this is subjective to my personality, but I don’t see myself calling up other mom friends like I would back home…thus, lack of community. As for safety, I am careful the hours and places I take the stroller with my son. Daycare doesn’t have the same kind of standards that North America has. Luckily, labor is fairly cheap and we pay for a trusted in-home nanny. Lastly, supplies: diapers are hard to come by and I have never bought baby clothes here. We stocked up for a year supply of 2month-12month old clothing for my son before we came here. It’s easy to buy nice, second hand clothing in North America. No such thing exists here!
Is it safe for expat families with young kids to live in Valencia?
Safety…see above? You don’t want to be too routine about your outings. You need to have an EXTREMELY reliable vehicle because the roads can be nasty. AC. I have a baby who gets warm easily. He warms up and is irritable. We need AC in our whole apartment, or would need an apartment with a good breeze–but then you face the mosquito issue and we all know some carry viruses.
Maybe I’m missing something…
Do you have any last words of wisdom for women thinking of having a child overseas (or in Venezuela specifically)?
I would recommend informing your administration that you plan on starting a family. Once we told our first director (Ciudad Ojeda) that we wanted to start a family, she pretty much said, “Well, then, you should apply to another school.” She was fully aware of the fact that the school would have to pay 100% of my salary and she would have to find a substitute. She was, in general, not a very family-oriented person. One’s administration really makes a difference.
When we signed on with our new school (Valencia) our director warmly welcomed our family growing and informed us our school was a family school. And, they follow all Venezuela’s laws.
Also, look for other new moms to connect with. They know the ins-n-outs of the area including pediatricians, vaccinations, places to buy baby stuff, things that work, baby-friendly foods native to that country…etc. This may even be a mom of one of your students who have youngins still!
Lastly, find time to have family visit so they can understand your situation and your living conditions. It’s easier for them to have peace about their grandchild growing up somewhere ‘else’ if they understand it!
Post your thoughts below! Do you have any other questions about having a family in Venezuela, being a teaching couple, or anything else for Christi?