Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

24. Working man (B.A, Argentina)

I've finally gotten some work through Brooklyn Bridge. My first gig was last Thursday, on-site at a pharmaceutical company located on the outskirts on the city, which meant a half hour train ride, but it took me half an hour to get to the train station. So it's like a 2 hour round trip for a 1.5 hour lesson... add in the 4 hours preparation time and you have a lot of work for $22.50 pesos ($NZ11).

The lesson went well, it was 2 students which seems to be par for the course for the in-company work here. A bit easier than the 10-15 students we taught on my CELTA course. I've since given another lesson which was at a chemical company based downtown, and again it went well. All my students have been married corporate guys in their 30s.

So now I'm just waiting for Brooklyn Bridge to assign me more classes. A full teaching schedule is normally around 20 hours a week, because of the required preparation time and travelling. I guess a more experienced teacher could fit in a few more hours, but I think with 20 I'll be busy. The teaching is usually either a couple of hours early in the morning, a couple at lunchtime, and a couple in the evening - whenever the students can fit it in around their jobs.

My goal has always been to set myself up so that I can live off my teaching wages. I don't expect to be able to save any money, I just don't want to have to dip into my savings once I start working. If I can do this, I could, in theory, remain here as long as I like.
I've been doing the math though, and it looks like it's gonna be tough. In the past 2 months I've spent on average $90 pesos (NZ$45) a day. On what, I'm not sure. I guess a hostel is an average of $22 pesos a day, around $6 pesos for lunch, around $15 for dinner, and $15 pesos a day for my hour of private Spanish lessons. Throw in my trip to Brazil, and other entertainment and I guess that's what I've been spending my money on. That's a lot more than I budgeted for, but I always expected to spend more money in the first month or so - but on partying, not just on living! What annoys me is I still haven't seen Buenos Aires' renowned nightlife since the clubs have been shut down (they're opening up again now though). And I still haven't found an apartment.

Anyway, if I'm gonna be working 20 hours a week at $15 pesos an hour that's $1200 pesos a month... = $40 pesos a day. So if I'm to survive here solely on my wages I'm going to have to halve my already modest spending. But if I'm going to be pinching every penny (and those who know me know I can pinch it pretty hard) it won't exactly be a holiday. Then again, that's what my objective always was, to try and live like a local by learning the language and living as they live, rather than backpacking from town to town.

So, from now on it's operation cutback. I've moved into a cheap hotel which is only $12 pesos a night for my own room. That's half the price of a stinking dormitory (with 4 or 5 others) in a hostel - I wish I'd found it sooner! I've given up on the idea of cooking my meals, as the few test meals I have cooked worked out to be much the same price as the cheapest restaurants are. Plus it's a lot harder to cook in another country, if you're not much of a chef - all the brands and ingredients you get used to aren't there. Where's the Dolmio? Where's the frozen mixed vegetables? The Continental alfredo packet pasta? (Man, I miss green peas. The peas here are tinned and more brown than green) So now it's budget restrictions on food - < $5 pesos for lunch and < $10 pesos for dinner. Spanish lessons are going to stop for now - I've picked up a local girlfriend who doesn't speak a word of English so I'm getting some good practice with her, even if she gets frustrated when I don't understand something basic. I might start taking lessons again later on, but in a exchange situation - I'll teach someone English for an hour and they'll teach me Spanish for an hour. At the moment I've only got 3 hours a week teaching but I hope to have a full schedule in about a month - Brooklyn Bridge need to confirm classes with companies etc, and then allocate them to their 50 or so teachers. Stay tuned...


  • Hey man -

    what is the name and address of your $12 peso hotel?

    I found your blog via lonely planet.

    Thomas Pack

    By Blogger thomas, at 1:13 PM  

  • Hey Thomas,

    I'm a little reluctant to post the name and address of my hotel for all the world to see, but there's loads of them in San Telmo for similar prices. Just look for Hotel Familiar or Habitacion Disponsible displayed outside.

    I actually have the most expensive room in mine, with bathroom and balcony. Rooms without balcony are $10 pesos a night, and rooms without bathroom or balcony are I don't know - $8 pesos. My girlfriend is sharing such a room with a friend of hers, so they pay like $4 pesos a night each. Incredibly cheap.

    But lets not get too excited - the other guests are local long termers, some have kids too. There is cooking facilities but they're very basic - gas burners and nothing else. The other residents keep their dishes and pans in their rooms. There's no fridges or anything - some guests have their own fridges and TVs in their rooms. There's no cleaning staff so if you want a clean room you have to do it yourself.

    But hey, the pesos I save on accomodation means I can eat out...


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 3:04 AM  

  • Thanks for the info. $12 pesos a night is less than $5US. That sounds like a good deal to me... do you think the rooms are safe, as far as leaving your bag in it? And is the area fairly safe?


    By Blogger thomas, at 3:27 PM  

  • The area is in San Telmo which is pretty full of hostels and bars. It's not quite as safe as say Palermo or Recoleta.

    The rooms would be fine to leave your bag in.

    Bear in mind these sort of places would probably have a 2 week minimum stay required too.


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 5:52 AM  

  • Thanks for all the info mattboy.

    I have a couple questions if you don't mind...

    While I've been reading up on BA somewhat recently, I haven't found any info about the weather. I'm sure it's nice during certain seasons, but does it ever snow? Ideally, I'm looking to live in climate that's somewhat warm year round.

    Also, do you know if there are any duties to pay for bringing a laptop, some turntables, etc. over for a half year visit? I think you only pay tax duties if you're gonna become a resident, but I could be wrong. Anyways, any info on this subject would be appreciated.

    Thanks for your help and good luck with your girl, lodging, and securing more teaching hours.


    By Anonymous JHouse, at 7:18 PM  

  • It never snows in BA. Now is the middle of winter and the coldest it's got is around 5 deg Celcius at night and around 9 or 10 in the day. That was a couple of weeks ago, right now it's a pleasant 17 deg celcius on a Wednesday afternoon which isn't cold at all. I could be wearing a t shirt if I wanted, in fact a guy just entered this cybercafe wearing one.

    I can't help you on information about the tax duties, some of my friends bought a laptop over and I don't think they paid anything, but I haven't asked them.


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 6:40 AM  

  • Great, thanks for the info. Much appeciated.

    Have a good one!

    By Anonymous JHouse, at 10:30 AM  

  • One question on neighborhoods - I know that you're living in San Telmo (i'd assume you still are) and that there are good long-term rooming houses. I am wondering if they are particularly cheap in San Telmo, and if it is worth it to look at Palermo/Recoleta for similar accomodation prices.

    By Anonymous Lauren, at 11:35 AM  

  • To me it seems San Telmo is not only cheaper, but there's more rooms on offer.

    Palermo's more expensive and Recoleta even more so. I doubt you'd even find anything in Recoleta, to live there you'd need to rent your own apartment and that's a lot more expensive.

    Well, I could be wrong, I haven't researched the rental market for a while now and I'm still in the same crap hotel in San Telmo as it's still the cheapest option I know of.

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 12:09 PM  

  • Hey Matt,

    Your kidding I thought English jobs pay ok there. I am coming over in Feb with about 6k (aussie) on me. Would you recommend getting there seeing the sites and moving on? Your blog has made me nervous, you enjoying yourself?


    By Anonymous Hayley, at 5:49 PM  

  • I have been teaching English in colleges and universities in South Korea for the past 7 years. I am currently working on finishing my masters in teaching second languages. What types of jobs do you think would be available for someone with my qualifications? I've always wanted to go to BA but after reading your article, I'm scared. Any advice would be appreciated, Thanks.

    By Blogger chris, at 9:30 PM  

  • Hi Chris,

    Obviously you could walk into an English teaching job. There are also a couple of TESOL training institutes in Buenos Aires so maybe you could get a job teaching foreigners how to teach English. Those courses make more money than English courses cos they're quite a rip off.

    I found it near impossible to live solely off my teaching wages (I did it, but I wouldn't wish it on anyone) so if you go to BsAs think of teaching as something to fill in the time, but take plenty of savings.

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 10:02 AM  

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