This has been a busy day and I plan to get some extra sleep tonight to deal with it.
This morning I had an appointment at 10am with Astrid, the manager of the Ibague language center, Native Tongue. My taxi driver took me straight there, too, so I was quite early. Astrid didn’t seem the least bit impressed with me. I’d say she’s done this orientation many times and had too many native English speakers leave after a short stay. I can’t blame her. I’m sure she has a tough job scheduling around all the changes. She doesn’t really do the recruiting, either. That seems to be done in the Canadian office. While it’s nice to have someone else go through the hassle of recruiting, it means she doesn’t get to choose her teachers. She gets the results of the recruiting sent to her. I’m sure things don’t always work out. Let’s hope this works out well for both of us.
Astrid did an initial orientation with me, concerning the benefits and the process to get a work visa. Honestly, the work visa system seems fairly straightforward compared to most countries. It takes about 20 days. There are more benefits than I expected, including decent health care, a bonus for staying the year and some vacation days. The pay isn’t fabulous, but costs are reasonably low here, so I think it will be enough to cover expenses in country. The school has about 500 students, and 15 teachers. Most of the upper levels are taught by native English speakers. There are 15 classroom levels, plus 5 more that stress conversation and preparation for big English exams (a total of 20 levels). Some classes are intensive (four hours a day), some not (4 hours each Saturday). There are also children’s classes, mostly on Fridays. I’ll have Sunday and Monday off. Scheduling sounds confusing and I’m sure it will take me awhile to get the hang of everything.
I’m set up with Alejandro, the trainer, for a thorough orientation in the morning at 7:30. He’ll give me my books for Saturday’s Review 3 class, which I’m teaching. There’s also a teacher’s meeting at noon on Thursday. So I’ll have some time to prepare. Not sure what my week day classes will look like, but everyone works on Saturday mornings.
Next, I met with the school’s real estate agent, Hector. He has a few properties, where he rents shared rooms to teachers. Unfortunately, he has nothing available at the moment. So, he offered me his guestroom in his penthouse until a place opens up! It’s lovely, as the photos show. The 6th floor apartment is only 5 blocks from the school and overlooks Carrera 5 (similar to Fifth Avenue) and the mountains that surround Ibague. The apartment is ringed with balconies. I’ve got a private bath (but still no hot water!), access to a kitchen and laundry, private bedroom with large closet, and a doorman. The best part—there’s an elevator that opens into the living room! No climbing the stairs with my books every day as in Peru! It’s too pricey for a long-term stay, but I’ll enjoy it while I’m here.
He took me in his car to the hostel where I quickly packed up my things a day a head of schedule. After a nice lunch, with a lovely young couple who seemed to need his assistance in some way I couldn’t determine, I moved in. Phew! That’s a lot before 1pm.
AND I’ll be forced to learn a lot of Spanish. Though Hector is a US citizen and lived 30 years in the DC area, he speaks very little English. He understands almost everything, but he’ll force me to speak in Spanish. I’m sure it’s what I need. He does EVERYTHING quickly–especially speaking. This won’t be easy.
The photos were all taken today.