So I have eventually got round to setting up a blog to share what I am sure for one reason or another is going to be an exciting couple of years.
I will be attempting to blog semi-regularly to keep anyone who is interested updated on my movements in and around Latin America.
Not so long ago I was drinking beer with all my friends on the beach in The Hague and looking forward to a busy summer;Togo, Paris, Scotland and then on to new adventures in Venezuela. Leaving behind so many great friends, team-mates, colleagues, students was always going to be tough but the omnipresent feeling that something new and exciting was on the horizon has kept me in good spirits.
My two years in The Hague far surpassed all expectations. When I was thinking about teaching internationally I was thinking sunshine, jungles, salsa and foreign food. Not so much rain, canals, clog dancing and bitterballen. But as is often the case it is not so much the place, but the people that make it. I was fortunate to fall into a great school and an even better PE department. Chantal, Mike, Loes, Claudine, Nikeh, Ana, Ana and Alex, it was a pleasure. I also joined Wilhelmus International FC where I met lots of other great people,on and off the pitch. 2 seasons, playing for all 5 teams, most improved and then player of the season, no goals. Between these two, De Paap, 7 bicycles, lots of beer and a few ill advised sambucas I had an unforgettable 2 years. Although I could have happily stayed for another 20 I had put off the salsa and sunshine for long enough, so when I was offered the role of Whole school PE teacher and sports coordinator at The British School of Caracas I knew I had to go for it.
A fairly incredible 2 weeks in Togo, 1 in Paris and another couple in Scotland and I was ready to see if the murder capital of the world would live up to its billing.
Touching down in Caracas and getting through security without being strip searched, mugged or anything else vaguely unpleasant was reassuring. The journey from the airport to our apartments was around 30 minutes and showed both Venezuela’s beauty and difficulties. The stunning mountainous scenery was juxtaposed with thousands of shacks clinging to their steep sides.
I would be staying in Suites Palace a large 18 story apartment a couple of miles from school. In the same block would be Brummie Sean Ayres, another young bachelor who would be teaching geography. On first viewing I was blown away by the incredible view from my apartment. Being on the 18th floor with a massive balcony overlooking the city meant a pretty incredible wow factor. On closer inspection the carpet needed replaced, the shower did not work, the main toilet didn’t flush, there was no toaster, microwave, lamps, fans, bins, TV or much else of use! However it clearly had potential to be quality. With a bit of work…
After dinner myself and Villa fan Sean (with it being a Friday) went on to local watering hole Bar Excellente to check out the scene. As it turned out it was pretty interesting. A getting on a bit Venezuelan lady was singing some karaoke in a low cut top while locals salsa-ed around the many small tables. After all of about 10 minutes I was given a bit of paper from the waiter from an admirer on a different table. My accomplice who after a few years in China seemed a bit more versed in this behaviour invited the girls over. As it turned out she was an accountant with pretty good English, a car and a friend with a talent for tonsil tennis – she found a willing partner in Sean. I found the whole thing fairly bemusing, but if this was the standard for meeting attractive well educated girls then who was I to complain…
The first week was spent being wined and dined and getting to grips with the surroundings. Although everywhere has security – person on the door, metal detector, no gun signs similar to our no smoking ones there seems (at present) to be no real drama. Locals always say don’t speak to strangers, take taxis, be careful and although I am sure they are right the people seem to me to be helpful and friendly. That said since being here one new family have been burgled – someone climbed through their ground floor window and one girl was mugged for her phone – she was on it as she walked up the street. If anyone can make it into my 18th floor window they are welcome to whatever they find and my 20 dollar Samsung is also whoever’s if they want it enough to ask.
However it isn’t all good. Shortages mean that basically anything you might need, eg. shampoo, shaver, milk are almost impossible to find in the shops… and due to the government racking up a 2 billion dollar tab with airlines flights are impossible to find / insanely expensive if you can – 4,000 dollars to go to the US for xmas via Panama. Anyway I guess these are just the challenges of living here.
This weekend my new carpet was fitted, I had my first temperature controlled shower and my furniture arrived, including a fold out double sofa bed – bookings are being taken. I also have a new toasting oven, microwave, TV, kettle, bin and working toilet so the pad is starting to look sweet. On top of this flight to Trinidad and Tobago have come through for the end of the month – all inclusive for 1 week to get my visa sorted : )
Other notable trips have been a Jazz fetstival out at El Hatillo and a weekend trip to a resort with 7 private beaches.
I have volunteered to coach the schools Infantile C soccer team who will be competing in the Caracas school league. Playing all the local teams from all over town should be pretty cool although they wear very distasteful green and white hoops due to a recent Glaswegian Celtic supporting teacher… Hoping to get them phased out shortly…
Anyway, life here is good and although I am missing family and friends the constant excitement here is keeping me busy. I will try and update sooner so the next blog is shorter… Also trying to get more into Social networking after a recent inset speaker stated that having 200 followers on twitter is worth more than a degree these days! https://twitter.com/PeteADawson Currently zero…