I’m already fielding requests on things to blog about. Well there aren’t really many requests, only 3; I could be reading about how much people hate what I have to say (the online equivalent on booing someone off of the stage ⎯ oh the beauty of deleting comments and blocking people who don’t think I’m amazing)!
I feel so important! This makes my brown, full cheeks warm ⎯ this has got to be what white people’s cheeks feel like before their faces become flushed with a rose-colored tint.
This winter, mid-December through late January, my boyfriend and I traveled to Belize & Guatemala. It was my turn to pay for plane tickets for our annual winter vacation. I had originally planned to buy tickets to El Salvador. In true slacker fashion I waited until the last minute to purchase the tickets ⎯ but of course I lied about it so that sir-work-alot (my hun-bunz) wouldn’t be worried. When I finally sat down to buy the ticket, about 4 weeks in advance, the ticket price had increased at least $200 per ticket. While we have made a habit of traveling overseas for at least 3 weeks annually, I’m by no means a baller⎯ I think it’s fair to say that I bay ball within my salary range.
That made El Salvador, not an option,
But I had to buy tickets to get somewhere
I used trusty Google Flights⎯ oh how I love thee Google Flights (fairy godmother wand waving sound effects inserted here)
I hit “Feeling lucky” and vuala ⎯ Belize
In my price range ⎯ yep
Hot weather ⎯ yep
American dollar greater than the currency of the country ⎯ only double, but it’ll do
Booked that evening
Being out of the country a little over 4 weeks meant we could travel to a neighboring country or two; Guatemala is Belize’s neighbor (just in case you needed a reminder), and the original plan was to travel to El Salvador as well.
I did a little research about El Saldavor online and saw that it has low rankings on many “Central American Countries to visit” lists. I recall reading about how dangerous it was. In my experience traveling, the people writing these warnings are white. White people are the same people who get drunk in foreign countries and walk blocks, alone back to their hotel. A white man I met while traveling visited a country to work, got drunk at the hostel he was supposed to be working at, got naked in front of all the tourists & was fired, then met a local man on the road while hitch-hiking and they were officially dating. I mean serious dating: tongue kissing, having sex, letting the local guy hold his wallet. Full on in love ⎯ if we’re dating and you’re holding my wallet while I’m not around, that’s it. You’re the one ⎯ cash me out! Needless to say I think their judgement of safe is a little skewed.
Reading that it was “dangerous” meant to me that there wouldn’t be tons of tourists, and it should be cheap because nobody is in a rush to get there.
We don’t do much pre-planning for a trip. The extent of our planning is going to Barnes & Noble, sir-work-a lot scouring the travel section, in search of what he deems as the most suitable travel book (which I think is determined by the vibrancy of the pictures). While I wander throughout the store being useless, picking up random stuff for sir-work-a lot to tell me to put back.
⎯ I am obsessed with books! So are lots of other women. If your woman isn’t reading, buy her a book. Put her on (translation: introduce her to something new)
Fast forward a month or so from the night of the ticket purchase, we were now in Flores, Guatemala. A tiny island with charm, old beautiful buildings and tiny cobblestone roads. While staying at a hostel,
we my Barnes & Noble-travel-guide-trip-adviser (that’s the new description of my boyfriend, he’s not sir-work-a lot right now because we are on vacation) had decided that we needed to go to Semuc Champey to swim in the pools and do the cave tour. Only thing left, is to find a place to sleep while there. The young handsome, stoned travel agent at the hostel recommended for us to go to Greengo’s Hotel and ranted about how amazing it was. I admit, he was pretty convincing to be stoned ⎯ although I wasn’t sure if I should’ve believed him given his state of coherence while working.
In the morning, we rode a shuttle 7 hours to Lanquin, and another vehicle 40 minutes to Greengo’s Hotel. The trip to Greengo’s is completely sketchy. You are ushered into the back of a huge Toyota diesel engine truck. Hoisted in by a small climbing rope. You can see nothing around you because when you arrive it is guaranteed to be evening, and there is a huge tarp-like material covering the sides of the truck bed where you are seated. No one says it’s going to take 40 min! You make several stops along the way, wondering if someone is going to just hop in and rob every one of their smelly oversized backpacks, passports, and travel guides ⎯ please not our travel guide. Had the charismatic stoner/travel agent advised us that the trip to the hotel was an additional 40 minutes in the dark with music blaring to further disorient you, Greengo’s may not have been our point of destination.
Once we finally made it to the concrete-walled compound that resembled a prison from the outside, we were greeted by a tall, tanned, commanding Israeli with a raspy tone, dark eyes, gorgeous lashes and a smile. What’s commanding about him? His voice. It’s heavy and thick. He speaks Hebrew and botches English and Spanish. Even given his disfluency, by his tone alone you listen. While he often gets the suffixes mixed up, uses words that don’t quite do the job, and uses lots of gestures in a weird sign language substitution sort of way, his tone boasts such confidence. To the point where you don’t even correct him. You sort of just take a few extra seconds to process what he is saying, correct it yourself and respond before he notices you’re taking a long time. Plus he’s gorgeous, and smiles bright so you’re distracted all the while. The reservation we thought we made with the stoner agent, was not a reservation at all! Neither or our names was on the “the list”. Reminded me of my days as a young whippersnapper. Standing in long lines at the club with my friend. Waiting for that one security guard she knows, to flex his genie-grant-me-a-wish muscles by walking past & acknowledging her presence. Upon acknowledgement she could then lift her chin 2 inches higher and utter the coveted “Excuse me” as we were whisked past the crowd; I was just happy to not have to wait. The price paid for infinite skipping privileges, I dunno and wasn’t worried about. I wasn’t paying it. I was simply the beneficiary (if you’re reading this, don’t be mad, I love you dude).
Commander Israeli assured us that we would be fine and he would find us the best room available. By this point, I could see that my hun-bunz was looking…. not good. I knew that we may be here for a while so that he could rest up ⎯ he enjoys planning full vacations (translation: going to several places, enjoying a wide range of experiences, drinking tap water from the sink, eating street food) but it was obvious that it was time to let his body reset.
As a couple, when one is ill on vacation, initially the healthy person spends a lot of time at the bedside of the sick and shut in. Day 2, you spend time within the vicinity of the contaminated specimen. Day 3, you spend time alone, wandering and checking in with the rehabilitating kill-joy from time to time. Day 4, every man for himself. At that point in my evolution to being shameless I was pretty lame. My version of day 3 was sitting in the lobby, alone. Well at least I was productive, working on my business plan! Word spread that the black girl in the common area was from America and spoke English. Commando Israeli hit a gold mine and wasted no time before asking me how to say things or properly phrase sentences in English. It was no burden to me. I’m American, of course I thought I was helping him in true American dominance style.
Between translating, proofreading, drafting and editing I wandered. While wandering around the grounds ⎯ lame Ashley version of an excursion, I noticed a sign soliciting volunteers.
Want to have a unique travel experience on your journey?
-yea, sounds interesting
Like what we have created here?
-why yes I do
We are looking for like-minded people to join our team. See the manager for details.
I walk up to gorgeous Commando Israeli-Jew
“I see you’re looking for people to work here?”
-“Yes are you interested?”
“What would I be doing?”
-“You tell me. Think about it, come back and make me an offer”
I darted off to the room to tell 80% (I’m talking about my hun-bunz again ⎯ I hope you’re following, he WAS sick, now he is about 80% better, so for the remainder of this post, he will be referred to as 80%).
I explained in my website intro, that pre-shameless Ashley asked for permission to make decisions, this was a prime example. I told him about my sign reading and inquiry, and asked him for help in negotiating my rate and terms.
I had my offer, and ran back to the reception area to seal the deal.
“I’ve come up with an offer”
“I want to come back and work from mid June late August. I want 3 days of vacation every other weekend, food and a room. A private room, not a shared dorm-style room and a salary”.
-“Okay”. ⎯ the tone of his “okay” changed from agreeable to a slow, “what you are doing to ask for next” okay.
“I clear the lump of fear from my throat, count down from 10 in my head…
⎯ this is what I do in preparation of speaking up for myself. I was taught the dramatic pause strategy while working in collections. A customer makes a payment arrangement offer, you say, “ok, let me see what I can do it, I’m going to place you on a brief hold while I crunch some numbers”. Knowing wholeheartedly that you are going to say yes, or increase the payment amount until they start to sound like they are desperate and have nothing else to offer. ⎯ Well it’s sort of the same. I pause, creating the illusion that what I am about to say is well thought out. Unless that’s just what I think and the other person is just wondering if I have some sort of processing delay.
… “and I want $1000”. Before you rush to say, “that’s nothing”, I was a year-round teacher at the time. Which means that I continue to get paid through the end of July. Which means that anything I make while living and eating for free in another country is in addition to my teacher salary.
-“Okay. Sounds good. Take my contact information and I will see you this summer.”
That was too easy. I started to regret my little offer and wanted to say, “well how about $3000?” but decided not to push my luck, and to polish up my negotiation skills for next time. Maybe at Barnes & Noble with my boyfriend.
We shook hands. I left the hotel with a job and a verbal agreement. He’s a Jew, they don’t lie!
You entrust your life to a man I had known for 4 days?
Yep. People have babies with men they’ve known 30 days so if I use their standard, my timing is great.
There you have it.
Now you know how I got here.
If you thought this was going to be step-by-step guide on how to get a job abroad, sorry. When I think about, the way I ended up here is round-about and completely unplanned. We almost didn’t even come to Guatemala. Almost didn’t want to stay at the hostel in Flores with liar-stoner-agent. Almost left Greengo’s because we had no reservation and we felt like he was milking every cent out of us at check-in. Planned to only stay there for 2 nights initially, which would’ve prevented me from being able to spend time with the owner. And if God wouldn’t have sprinkled some courage and bravery dust on insecure little me, I wouldn’t have even inquired about the flyer. Coincidences some may say, it’s an appointment to me. I’m supposed to be here right now. Everything fell into place to make this happen.
Even when I tell people what it cost for a plane ticket here, they say it’s the cheapest they’ve ever heard of and I’m lucky to have got the deal I did. You can barely fly across the US and back for $300.
I am grateful.
Do I have all the answers, No. Do I know what I am going to do when I get back to the US? Rough idea, but a definite plan, No. How am I going to make money? I have a nest and a small M & M-sized egg in it. Remember, I’m getting paid my salary from my previous job through July, making a small amount of money and living for free. Trust that if I’m not worried about money, you shouldn’t be either. I’ve just got to make sure Sallie Mae is paid (remember I’m a millennial, many of us got roped into the “college at all costs or die” scheme), the rest will just fall into place. But if you want to just bless me, I can surely give you my routing and account number. Wells Fargo would appreciate more deposits from me ( I told you I watch my account religiously).
In all sincerity, I worry not about how I will maintain. I am college educating, can speak another language, have extensive experience in many areas, a teaching certification, a support system, the best man a woman can ask for, and faith that I will be alright. Some call it stupid and irresponsible. But so is:
- Selling you food stamps and you know you have children to feed
- Spending $300 on shoes and you don’t have rent money
- Cashing your check at a payday loan store
- Going to McDonald’s ordering a 20 piece nugget, #1, 2 apple pies, a caramel frappe and a sweet tea or diet soda thinking that those drink options are healthiest as compared to a soda.
- Shopping at an online boutique with the idea that you will be only person with that outfit as if the wholesalers only work with one person exclusively
- Going on Maury to take a DNA test knowing you let a few too many people “shoot the club up”
- Purchasing bundles while you bald from hair neglect
Basically, I made the decision that was best for me and am trusting that God will give me direction and lead me on a path of following my heart.
Please don’t read my post and think that I am amazing, or doing something you can’t also do. While you may not be able to leave the country for 11 weeks, you can reflect, meditate, sit in your own stillness and determine how you feel. Feel like you aren’t fulfilling your destiny? You have to be willing to do something about it. I jumped because I’m a millennial. We have a complex of wanting to live out lives where we are happy working, loving someone with the same passion as evoked while watching the Notebook and making our dreams a reality ⎯ yea, “crazy kids” we are.
I want different. Don’t want to go to work, get hit with chairs, break up fights, be verbally assaulted, do mountains of paperwork, sit in PD sessions daydreaming about what I would love to be doing instead, wake up and do it again.
or at least leap off the ground a little. A tippy-toe rise? Do something that moves you closer to where you want to be