Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paraguay...Settling in

I think the hardest thing about this move is that I'm trying to do 3 really hard things at the same time. 1. Adjust to a whole new country, including the language. 2. Find a place to live, furnish said place, and move in, and 3. Change jobs and get a new classroom all set up for the school year.

All in the span of about 2 weeks.

It's all really exciting but very stressful too. For starters, even when I moved into my first apartment, I had SOME stuff. Here I am buying absolutely everything you need to furnish a place, which unfortunately here also includes a stove and fridge. So because of that I'm still staying in the hotel, but should be moved out in the next day or two. Also the hotel does my laundry, and I kind of hate doing laundry, so why leave?

Last week I spent *very* little time in my classroom because I was so busy looking for a place. This week I'm pretty busy getting settled in my class...I mean it's Wednesday night and school starts Monday, yikes! I'm also returning to the classroom after 5 years of teaching ESL in Colorado. But I have this amazing thing in my classroom. An aide. A full time instructional aide. It is glorious and she has been SO much help in getting the classroom set up and answering my thousand questions about all the little things. So I'm pretty sure I just might pull this off. :)

Oh yeah, I forgot the fourth, and maybe biggest adjustment. IT'S WINTER!!! WAAAAAH! And not just that, it's like the coldest winter ever, or something like that. Boo hoo! But the forecast is definitely looking up.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paraguay, my new place!!!

When I first got here, there were some initial things that had to be figured out as far as housing. The teachers already here were already established in their places (or had done "dibs" on a place of someone leaving!) so we new teachers had to figure things out. Who would live alone? Who would have roommates? Who would the roommates be? Anyway I was kind of undecided on whether I'd rather live alone or with others, but it worked out better to get my own place. And I couldn't be happier with it! It is within walking distance of the school, but there's also a bus line a couple blocks away that stops RIGHT in front of the school (for those rainy or extra hot days). Here are some pictures and explanations!

Also, so it's not just a repeat of what I post on Facebook, here's the story of getting my keys and meeting my landlord. Yesterday, when I closed on the place, I signed a contract and handed over a bunch of money and got the address to get keys from...that was pretty much it. So this morning I walked over (it's only a few blocks from the hotel) and found the address and rang the bell. The cutest little old man came out. "Senor Florentin?" "Si!" and from there I introduced myself. He showed me the house, speaking in Spanish all the while. For the most part, I couldn't really understand him but could figure it out from the context. If he is opening the door and gesturing to the patio, I figured he was saying something like, "This is how you open the door. See, you have a patio." We went through the house in this manner, switching fans and lights on and off, running water, and the like. He gave me a bunch of keys. Why so many keys? I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Then we walked back to his house, next door, because I'd asked him to write down the address for me so I could start ordering appliances and furniture. Very important side note: Houses and apartments in Paraguay do NOT come with stoves, fridges, or much of any appliance except hopefully A/C. If it doesn't have A/C you don't live there. Anyway we went to his house and I met his wife or daughter? He was much older, in fact, they told me, he is 81! So they ask me to come sit in the living room and the lady speaks Spanish to me. The slowest, clearest Spanish I have heard here, she must have some strategies for working with language learners. ;) So mostly she talked and I tried to answer. Then she showed me her kitchen, explained something about the appliances. I think she talked about a maid...then I got totally lost and couldn't understand any more and she could tell "una otra dia" she declared. So I went back to the place, took pictures, and started a major shopping spree that ended with me ordering a bed, a stove, a fridge, a washing machine, and a microwave. All in a day's work, I guess. I have the very basic necessities--or I will, when they are delivered Monday--but the rest will take some time.

Except for a coffee pot. I am not moving into that place without a coffee pot!

So my place is basically the orange paint. You go in the door in the middle. My garage is to the left. You go up the stairs to get to the apartment. 

At the top of the stairs to the left: a living room area (would be lighter if it wasn't cold and drizzly so I could open doors and windows!)
On the opposite side of the living room from the main door, there is a short hallway with 3 doors.

To the left is my bedroom.

It has these built in closets, conveniently

and the doors open up to a little patio thing.

Straight ahead is the bathroom, complete with 1970's avocado green fixtures!

And to the right is another bedroom identical to the first. It's sideways and I'm too lazy to fix it. The window looks into the laundry area.

Here and below you have the kitchen. May not look like much but is one of the nicest, biggest kitchens in all the places I looked at. I'm sure it will look even better with a stove and refrigerator!

Here was a huge selling point for me. When you come up the stairs, directly over the garage, it this big outdoor terraza area. Lots of room for outdoor eating, entertaining, maybe a container garden...

Laundry room with a built in quincho, or grill. Pretty much every house/apartment in PY has one. 

And if you go up the ladder in the laundry room, you come upon....

Bonus terraza!

Just don't have too many beers on the bonus terraza, this is what you face to get down!

Friday, July 19, 2013

First Days and Impressions, Part 2: The School

I know many of you think I'm here for an extended, 2-year vacation. The truth of the matter is, I am also here to teach! I found out awhile ago that I don't make enough money to just travel all the time, but I can see a lot of the world by working. So I'll dedicate this post to writing about the school.

The disclaimer first: I've only been here a week, the other teachers have not returned, let alone the students. Maybe it's just the honeymoon period. However, I've been nothing but impressed by how the school has treated us and really helped us get adjusted to life here. Things that can be intimidating, and take days even if you *do* speak the language well, have been pretty easy. They've helped with stuff like setting up bank accounts, applying for a work visa, and getting a functional cell phone. The focus of this first week is to find housing, and they find places online, contact realtors, and set up appointments. Everything has been extremely organized. They've also made sure that we are fed, have money, and a roof over our heads in the hotel we're put up in.

I've never worked in a private school before, and they don't have the best reputation in the U.S. because their teachers don't have to be licensed. But this school has a reputation of the best in the country. Because of that, a lot of care goes into giving us good teaching conditions so we can give the education that the clientele expects (and pays for). A couple examples: every single elementary classroom has a full time aide. Elementary teachers have about 2 1/2 hours of planning time a DAY. That's about what most U.S. teachers get in a week. It's also on a really nice campus. Here are some pictures of the campus and my classroom. Remember, these are "before" pictures: hopefully, next week, I'll get the room put together a bit!

We took a walking tour of the neighborhood the school is in.

My 5th grade classroom! Look, I even have a Smartboard!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paraguay: First Days and Impressions, Part 1

Well, it's been a whirlwind week but I feel I'm adjusting well and moving toward getting settled.

Getting here took a long time...27 hours, but no delays and crying babies were at a minimum. It would've been much faster to fly direct from Miami, but then we couldn't have brought all the bags we did. You'll notice I'm going to write a lot of this post in the plural form, because since I got to Sao Paulo, or even Miami, I've been part of a group! I don't think anyone wants to read about this flight and that layover, so I'll skip ahead to my arrival here!

Almost the whole group arrived in Asuncion together, and the teacher liaison and elementary principal met us at the airport. I got my visa ahead of time in the US so getting through customs was a breeze! All my bags arrived, yay, and we headed over to the hotel. My first impression was of all the green and trees, even from the air. Winter here looks very different from Colorado! Another thing I noticed right away was how warm it was! It was probably in the 70's when we arrived.

The "back yard" area of the tropical!
If you've ever been anywhere in Central or South America, you may have noticed that a lot of the cities are...well...kind of ugly and impoverished-looking. I'm sure Asuncion has some of those areas, but every part I've been in has been really nice. The school I'm working at is pretty much regarded as the best school in Paraguay. It's not cheap, and it's in a really beautiful part of town. Great because it's a nice place to be, but a little pricey when it comes to finding your own housing! Anyway I was really struck by how pretty this city is.

Our first day, we were brought to the hotel to drop off our bags, brought to lunch, brought back to the hotel to rest, and then they took us out for dinner. A pretty nice way to start out after the overnight flights and exhausting travel!
Our lunch place had a ton of ice cream flavors to choose from for dessert!