Right after writing the first post about not finding or putting together sustainable work teaching English, I got a job teaching English in Temuco. Temuco is an hour and half bus ride from where I live. The job was with a one of the major language institutes here in Chile, the name is like a popular ’80 SciFi move inside a computer, with light cycles. Full time was going to be 383,000 pesos a month. That is 40 hours a week for about $750 dollars a month. I know you are thinking, “but it’s South America, that should be fine.” But this this is Chile. If you are ok, with a falling down shack in the worst part of town, eating only fruits, vegetables and bread with water. And doing NOTHING, but going to work, and sitting in your living space (because you have no money) then yes, this is a fine wage. But on top of that, I had travel, which worked out to about $200 dollars a month.
OK, so this was a living wage and it was some income, which I needed since I had depleted my life’s savings and was down to about $300 dollars, I will tell you that being trapped in a foreign country, no work, and no money if an awful feeling. Thankfully my girlfriend whom I live with was able to support both of us for a short time and her and our newborn daughter gave me hope. So back to teaching. The institute was just opening in Temuco and needed native speakers, this was great since I could not find any other work. All the work at the universities, which pay almost double, was taken by native speaking students going to school their. So while they were building their new facilities, classes were being held in their offices. I was working part time till the facilities were ready, which was to be in a month when I started ( and later turned out to be three months ). So I was making half as much but still had the same travel expense. The First two weeks I worked, was just enough to pay for travel for the next month. I was still in the hole for about two weeks of travel just to find, interview and do the paperwork to get the job.
About the third week I was there, I was told it was going to be at least six more weeks till the facilities were ready, (by this time I was they were already suppose to be ready and I working full time). So was going to be working for the next at least month and half, just to pay to go to work, and cover my food bill at home. Then I one night, I was asked to give class in the main office area, where everyone comes and goes, so they could have a small class of German language students where I usually taught. Luckily no one showed for class that night (it was Friday), and I did not have to try to give class in the lobby. I was rapidly becoming unhappy with the working environment. Also, being a “gringo” I was running up against the culture here of no one saying when something is wrong. I have always been one to say when I thought something was not right, in a professional manner of course, but this is not the culture here and was becoming a source of tension with management. I was also the only “gringo” native speaker on staff.
As luck would have it, the next week, after five months of no work, I was hired on full time to a contract programming position with a company in the States. I make less than I did in the States, but well above Chilean median income. I’m not rich here, but at least I am saving again. I am still at the job and have had to turn down work in the last few months. Things are looking better financially for me I am happy to say. As for the institute, well they have offices in five other locations in Chile, and the one in Temuco seems to be having problems I hear. Turns out, I am not the only one who is having trouble gainfully teaching English in this region.