Monday, August 19, 2013


We recently had a school holiday, and our mentors arranged a bus and trip for us to nearby Aregua! It was only about 45 minutes away, but a world away from the big city of Asuncion. I LOVED it! It was really nice to get out of the city, see a little bit of the countryside, and walk around and shop in Aregua. It is kind of an artisan/hippie town situated on a big lake. It is also strawberry season, so you can sample and buy every possible strawberry concoction!
Entrance to the beach

Lake Ybacarai

The gang

The gang, enjoying our boxed lunch of empanadas.

There is lots of shopping to be done in Aregua, especially if you are in the market for pots.

Lunch outside in the garden...beautiful!

The view of Lake Ypacarai from the church.

Strawberry festival!

My buys for the day!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Move Abroad Part 1: Money

I've decided to start a little "how to" series, basically of things I wish I'd known when I decided to move! I hope this will be helpful to others who are thinking of doing the same thing.

Hopefully it's not too for those of you who know me and are hoping for personal updates...or I guess if it is you can just pass on to the next post!

So far, here is my biggest piece of advice for anyone thinking of moving abroad: Have some money in the bank. You will need it for expenses that inevitably come up, and to tide you over while you wait for that first paycheck!

Luckily I had some money saved, and I got some money when I sold my car in the U.S. If I hadn't, I would have really struggled. Even though my current employer paid a $1500 (US) moving allowance and a $500 shipping allowance, I found that I needed a lot more than that to get just the basics. (The point of this post is *not* to bash them at all-I'm lucky they paid some expenses! My point is just that it is expensive.) So what is all that money going to?

#1: Moving in expenses
If you're lucky, you'll have to pay 2 months rent up front (just like a deposit in the states), plus 1/2 month rent as the realtor's fee. I say if you're lucky because I had my employer co-sign a lease, and provide a rental agreement. Often renters want to charge up to 3 months rent up front!

#2: Appliances and Furniture
I don't know how it is in other countries. However, here in Paraguay, unfurnished apartments and houses are *really* unfurnished! That means when you move in you have to buy, not just the regular furniture like a bed, couch, and kitchen table. You also have to buy appliances like a refrigerator, oven, and washing machine. This adds up quick!

I basically bought the cheapest appliances I could find (new). I spent about $1300 US for my washer, fridge, stove, and microwave. It is possible, but difficult, to find used stuff here. No craigslist! If you're a teacher moving overseas, your best bet is to ask around for contact information for other teachers who are leaving your school/city and see if they are selling stuff.

Then there is furniture. Some stuff is more expensive than I expected, but it's also possible to buy other stuff for pretty cheap. I want this post to be helpful specifically to those in Paraguay, but also as a general guide to moving abroad so with that in mind:
-If you are in or near Asuncion, it is worth it to go to Mercado Cuatro for most of your furniture purchases. There are all the shops you could want nice and close together and they have reasonable prices. See if you can get a discount for buying multiple items. Delivery is always included. See if you can ride in the truck when they deliver your stuff to your house, and save yourself a cab fare.
-I bought a bed at a bed store, didn't see those at the mercado.
-Ask for the cash price. It's almost always cheaper, just make sure you know what your ATM limit is so you can have the funds ready upon delivery. You never pay when you buy, you pay when it's delivered. Mercado 4 delivers on the same day. Appliance and bed places might; it depends on how early in the day you shop and how busy they are.
-Personally I spent about $1000 US on a bed, night stand, couch, and dining room table and 4 chairs. It isn't terribly expensive, but it certainly adds up and I'll need more. That is just what I felt I needed to feel comfortable enough to move in!

#3 Everything under the sun
For the first couple of weeks after I moved into my apartment, I shopped like it was my 2nd job. It seemed like every day, after work, I'd go shopping. There were a few big shopping trips I took right after I got my apartment, where I'd buy a LOT of stuff. But after that it was still lots of random odds and ends I needed. I don't feel like I was being extravagant...a can opener, a broom, measuring cups, an iron, cleaning supplies, a lamp. It took awhile, even after I bought the main stuff like dishes and of course a coffee pot, until I had the basic necessities. All of these purchases definitely added up too! I'd say that is an easy $500-1000 US, even if you buy the cheapest stuff possible. After all, a well-stocked kitchen is still cheaper than eating out every meal!

What I wish I'd known
Personally, I got a shipping allowance to cover extra baggage fees. I wish I had bought a giant suitcase and filled it up with kitchen stuff and other gadgets I had to buy. If you get a shipping allowance, it is worth using it, because it is probably cheaper than buying all that stuff over again. Of course you are still going to have to buy a ton of stuff, but it's probably cheaper to take at least some of that stuff with you. I'm not talking cast-iron pots here, but smaller things.

If at all possible, contact the people in the place you're moving to and ask a lot of questions. What is cheap to purchase? What is expensive, or really difficult to find? For example, once I got here I found that coffee pots and hair dryers, things that you can buy for $10 in the states, can cost easily $50 each. Just because the cost of living is known to be low, doesn't mean that *everything* is cheap. Towels and sheets are a little expensive here, and are much lower quality. Knowing these things ahead of time will make it easier to decide what to pack and what to leave at home.

I've always prided myself in traveling light and not bringing more than I could carry. That is great for travel. However if you are MOVING you need to change your standards and just do your research!

My house, "after"

I just realized I never updated my house pictures. Probably because it's still a work in progress and I want to keep adding to it, but at least it's not as empty as it was! Bit by bit it is starting to feel like home. I'd still like a living room rug, some decorations/wall hangings, and maybe a little tv in the future. I'm also still working on my patio so I'll update that when it's ready!

Dining/living room area. It's funny, the windows are so bright that it actually looks dark (if that makes sense) from this viewpoint.

Standing in the doorway to the balcony looking in, you can see how much natural light there is!

Another look out the balcony

Kitchen, with appliances

Bedroom, feeling cozier...

But I still feel like I'm missing something....
Oh yeah. Friends. Now it feels like home!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

My Classroom, "After"

A couple of weeks I posted pics of my classroom. Now it is pretty much set up. I'm still adding things to the walls but I like to use posters I create for a lesson, so those will come in time! Here are a few pictures of my room.

I had to bring just a little bit of Colorado with me!

Speaking of school, it started last week! I have 22 students. Here are their statistics. They're pretty cute, too, but I don't post student pictures. Guess you'll just have to come volunteer in my room and see for yourself. ;)

  • 13 boys, 9 girls
  • 18 born in Paraguay, 3 in the US, and 1 in Peru
  • 19 speak English as their 2nd language (their accents are so cute!)
  • 0 IEPs, 0 ILPs, and GT isn't a "thing" here or I'd have a bunch
  • Socially advantaged (which is to say, rich kids).
  • 88: approximate number of cheek-kisses exchanged on the first day of school. 22 students x 2 parents x 2 kisses per person. 
  • My team is 2 5th grade teachers, 2 aides, and 1 Spanish teacher. There are 3 adults in my room (or at least with their desks in my room) a lot of the day. 

They are "social." That's a nice way of saying they never stop talking. :) This group has a reputation for being extremely bright, and their MAP scores show that. They also are known for being "advanced" socially, which means they act about 14 sometimes and the girls can be clique-ish and boy crazy. I have a few boys who I know will be pills, but nothing like the behaviors I'm used to! I'm sure there are girls that have issues too, but you educators and parents know how it is. The boys, you know when they're being naughty. The girls are sneaky.

Did I mention I have 2.5-3 hours a day of planning time? I know, you hate me. But I actually have time to PLAN for the day and grade and stuff! The down side I guess (as if there really is one!) is that for 1.5 hours of that, the kids are still in my classroom, and the computer, which is hooked up to the SmartBoard, is not available. So I've been hauling my laptop back and forth a lot.

Anyway, 5 days down and 175 to go. :) I think it'll be a good year. I was a little worried after 3 days that they'd never pull it together but days 4 and 5 were a lot better. I'll whip them into shape yet!