Many times when I go back home after a placement, I seem to get the same question. Where did you like teaching better? Where did you like living better? Would you stay if x, y, or z didn’t happen? So today I would like to dive into whether I liked Venezuela or Kuwait better.
International Schools abroad target the rich population or foreign population in the country. You are required to have a passport from another country. Bilingual Schools do not have that problem. They teach two or three languages equally throughout the day. The school I worked in Kuwait was a bilingual school, so therefore I did not serve the richest students in Kuwait. However, most Kuwaitis are given sums of money from their government and are considered wealthy throughout the world. Also, I served students whose parents did not want to spend the most on their child’s education but at the same time wanted a decent education. Blend these together, you get parents who believe they know how to make a great educational system without conferencing with teachers or other educator professionals.
Also, the school becomes “for profit,” so budget cuts are done through not purchasing programs or more learning materials. Therefore, the classroom I worked in was given nothing but whatever the parents were willing to bring. Luckily, you ask nice enough in Kuwait at least 5 parents bring in more than you ever wanted the next day. I also worked with a team of 8 other teachers in grade three. Each class could have 20 students each. That is 160 students per grade level. The high school had 6 classes each of about 25 students. There was a lot of students to hold clubs. There was a lot of students to participate in sports. Therefore, there was also people to teach and inspire as well as teachers to bounce ideas off of and get new information or ideas.
The school I worked in Venezuela was smaller. The school only had one class per grade level. I taught the biggest classes at 16 students. Some classes were 3 students. Just 3. Imagine how work ethic diminishes when you only have 2 other people to bounce your ideas off of. Imagine if you don’t like one of your classmates. The small class sizes proved to be unhealthy in social skills. This school also said it was an International school. Therefore, all students have another passport. It, however, was mainly Venezuelans that were born in America or have a Spain or Italian passport. This school was the cheapest international school in Caracas. One mom put the tuition cost and the parents’ opinions in a perfect metaphor. “Parents here want to pay for the mashed potatoes but they expect the lobster with it.”
It was run by a board who also were parents. They believed they knew more than educational professionals. My opinions were never expressed to the board and my administration never used our opinions to improve the learning environment effectively. This soon becomes demotivating for teachers to not put full effort into their work. I soon only made sure I put all my efforts into my classroom and all the other things I needed to do became less serious.
Comparing these two schools, I miss the school in Kuwait. I was a fish in a big pond. I wasn’t ignored like the school in Venezuela. The school in Kuwait was set up as a business and I was invited to speak to board members if I felt passionate to change something or add a program. I felt I could make small changes in Kuwait but it would take time and I did not spend enough time to make a huge impact. In Venezuela, I feel like I say my thoughts and they are completely ignored. One example that still has my blood boiling in the fact not all my students took MAP this year. I had to pick students to take the test. Two of my recommendations were completely ignored. At this point, I wish administration just told me the students they wanted to test instead of pretending my opinions mattered.
For social life, it includes how I felt with colleagues. Kuwait and Venezuela again proved to be different. I think it has to do with what kind of teacher would move to Venezuela or Kuwait. Also, local teachers can change the environment.
In Kuwait, I felt there were many foreign teachers to build relationships with. This was hard for me at first coming from China and everyone was friends for life, however, I liked it felt like a huge stack of possible relationships. If you did not get along with a group of people, you did not hang out with that group of people. If you like doing certain activities with different friends, you can do that. It felt like more possibilities. Maybe all these possibilities felt overwhelming at times. I knew I would not be alone unless I wanted to be alone.
Relationships with local teachers felt harder. They had their walls built because they are used to teachers coming in for contract and leaving after contract. They were friendly, however, the wall was build and when you knew you were leaving there were no efforts to break down the wall and leave them at the end of the year. Also, the different in culture is sometimes confusing. Many women my age told me they needed to ask their dads to come have lunch with me. It just felt like a lot of work to eventually cry at the end of the year and you will end up missing each other.
In Venezuela, I oddly felt the same with local staff but my closest local friends have let their walls drop even though tears will be flowing the last day of school. So in a week, I might be sobbing! Locals in Venezuela are very helpful and a lot of fun. They love a good party and have a great sense of humor. I wish my Venezuelan colleagues could travel to attend my wedding, but due to economically reasons, this is only a dream. They are the ones who insisted I have an engagement party. They felt bad it didn’t happen but also felt bad that I would need to foot the bill.
One the other hand, foreign hires are fewer in Venezuela. It seems like a different person comes to Venezuela versus Kuwait. This person wants to emerge in the country and with a side of judgment if you do not. For example, my boyfriend and I generally speak little to no Spanish. I can’t count how many times I was mocked because I do not speak Spanish. Since there is not plenty of teachers around, it is hard to decide if true relationships are being built. Some people you wish you could see more because of their authentic kindness. Others you feel like there is a pretend kindness. It feels like if you aren’t a next door neighbor with exactly the same interests you are off the invite list.
Comparing these two places, I will give each a point.
What Do You Do There?
Venezuela safety is shoved down your throat the minute you land in the new country. I was almost robbed while standing outside my gate at 7:00 am. To me, this was a weird experience. It happened when Peter was in the hospital for the last month before summer break. It was a scary experience and the fact I was alone made it worse. Not only that but, I was told by the person who was with me that I should know when to fight. Why should I learn to fight? There were two men on a motorbike. I choose to run inside the gate instead of hitting them and chasing a bike. I don’t get why I have to fight when I can flee and be just as safe.
Other than safety, if you can ignore it, there is so many restaurants and bars around. This part makes me sad that you can go out to a new restaurant every day and can drive 2-3 hours to great beaches. However, you may feel trapped because of the safety concerns. This makes me sad. I can see how Venezuela, under the right leadership, could be a great country to live in. I would move back to Venezuela when this happens. There is so much opportunity for a great city. The first year, I hiked the Avila, a mountain that surrounds the city, once every two months. It was great to have a nature experience living in the city. It always felt like we were leaving Caracas, even though we did not.
Kuwait is extremely safe. I left my keys on the outside of my car, tutored for an hour and my keys were still there with my car. The only time I felt unsafe was when I walked myself. When I was by myself or with one other girl, I was asked, “How much do you cost?” However, these questions do not exist if I was with a man. Any man! Other men scare off possible predators. Oh, and men are not completely off the hook. My fiance has his balls touched by an Arab man. So maybe sexual repression, in general, creates odd behaviors.
Kuwait also does not have alcohol. Well, legally. It was disgusting what they called alcohol. Date rum ruined my first year. Other than the lack of alcohol, shisha is abundant and can feel like night clubs if you go at night. Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Cheesecake Factory, Texas Roadhouse, and any American, Canadian, or UK Franchise you miss, you can find in Kuwait.
In Venezuela, I was given a beautiful apartment. I see an amazing view of the Avila. I have a walk-in closet.
In Kuwait, I was given a box. A white box with Ikea furniture.
Obviously, Venezuela wins.
Overall, I would move to Venezuela and live here above Kuwait.
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