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Veteran TEFLer wants to come to Colombia.

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No Moss

Joined: 15 Apr 2003
Posts: 1995
Location: Thailand

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:51 am    Post subject: Veteran TEFLer wants to come to Colombia. Reply with quote

Well, I'm in Thailand now after ten years in Asia teaching English. I've enjoyed myself, but I'd like to be somewhere with a little more cultural resonance. And I speak a decent amount of Spanish, maybe 3000 words.

I'm an old American guy, old enough to collect Social Security, but reasonably fit. I'm American, I have an unrelated degree and a TEFL cert, plus good experience.

I'd really just like to get a retirement visa and teach privates. I have an income that I am sure is adequate for Colombia (US$1800), but I need to work to keep myself sane.

Where should I live? I live warmer weather and a relatively large city. I need decent public transportation, and I like urban, cultural things more than the great outdoors.

I'd like to be able to rent a nice apartment, close to transportation, for something like $600/month, one big enough to teach in. A little more would be OK, especially if it were furnished.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Any suggestions?
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Joined: 27 Aug 2006
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello No Moss,

I have lived in both Thailand and Colombia. In fact, I am finishing up my Thailand stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand right now before heading back to Colombia (with probably a one month stay in the USA). I am frustrated with Thai culture and have no immediate plans to return again to Thailand.

Have you visited Colombia before?

The bigger cities in Colombia are: Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, and Bucaramanga. (I believe that is in order of population size, but it is just from my memory). Wanting a warm weather climate would eliminate only Bogota from the above list. And, at the other end of the spectrum, the coastal cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena get quite hot and humid much of the year (heat index higher than either Miami or Houston, for instance). I have spent time in all of these cities except that I only passed through Barranquilla.

I would say the most popular destination for expats is Medellin, but that is why it is probably the worst market for teaching English, as there are a lot of guys trying to make a living teaching English there. The coast is generally poorer than the interior and so I don't think the teaching pay is as good there. Bogota would easily have the best market for teaching English.

A pensionada visa in Colombia has an official requirement of something like $2500/month (believe it or not). It is based on something like 10x a certain wage in Bogota. But there are reports of people getting a pensionada visa with less monthly income, in some cases, a lot less. But don't expect it to be smooth sailing, as is generally the case with Thailand's well-oiled visa system. Also, you can't get such a visa by showing assets in the bank like you can in Thailand.

Speaking the local language is more important in Colombia than in Thailand for your daily life but fortunately Spanish is much easier than Thai. And it is great to suddenly be able to read again (I never did learn Thai script although I speak basic Thai).

After great strides in the early 2000's, security in the cities has been worsening in Colombia over the last couple of years, unfortunately. This has been a surprising development.

You may have to get your degree(s) apostilled if you want to work at a job as opposed to just teaching privates. I am still trying to understand exactly what is required for an apostille.

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No Moss

Joined: 15 Apr 2003
Posts: 1995
Location: Thailand

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, thanks, Kramer. In Thailand, the retirement visa involves an income certification letter from the US Embassy, among other things. Is that what Colombia requires? I spent a week in Cartagena in the nineties, but that was my only experience in Colombia. I like hotter weather, so I think it'll be Medellin or Cali for me. Cali sounds OK. Is there any difference in the security situation among the "big four"? Also, what's the public transportation situation like in those cities?

Thanks for your help,and chok dee/buena suerte!
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Joined: 21 May 2009
Posts: 589
Location: working on that

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're into urbanity and culture, Bogota wins by far (you might enjoy living in La Macarena neighborhood - walking distance from el centro and kind of yuppyfied with nice organic grocery stores). Nice warm weather and down to earth people - Bucaramanga.

Unfortunately, Medellin probably fits your criteria best - good transport, warm weather, relatively large. I found it a little dull and didn't like living in the 'golden child' of Colombia so much.

You could also check out Cali.

If you decide to live in Bogota, I'd try to get work at La Universidad Externado. You've got good experience, so they might take you on and pay is among the best.
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Joined: 27 Aug 2006
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spanglish is right that there are both the best teaching opportunities and the most culture in Bogota. But I am with you on the warm weather preference. If it ever gets much below 15 degrees (59 Fahrenheit), even at night, I would rather not live there.

Cali is definitely an option. I went there for the first time in October and was impressed. I expected it to be poorer than Medellin but it appeared to be similar, at least. The city was pretty. Bucaramanga has great weather, also, and is known as the city of parks (I think Cali and Bucaramanga have similar weather, both warmer than Medellin and at lower altitudes). Bucaramanga is quite a bit smaller, like 1 million versus over 2.2 million for Cali. (again from memory so you should check details).

On security, Cali is pretty much the least safe of all the cities I mentioned. For instance, the murder rate there in 2009 was 20x higher than my hometown in California, San Jose (a similarly large urban area). Since I was living in Medellin, I can tell you that the security situation has deteriorated significantly there in the last two years, and this is born out in the statistics. It is supposedly caused by drug wars since they arrested the top guy(s) two years ago. But the stats still were not as bad as Cali which suffers from more drug and gang influence (supposedly).

For public transport, Bogota has the Transmilenio, an ultra-efficient bus system with dedicated lanes. Other cities around the world are copying Bogota's implementation. But the city is huge and it can take a long time to get from point A to point B. Medellin has the metro and it is very quick. There are also buses everywhere but in almost all Colombian cities you have to get know the local buses. I understand that Bucaramanga just got Colombia's second metro installation and combined with the fact that it is a smaller city it is probably quite navigable now. Cali just got a light rail (or something, I can't remember exactly) and it goes through the main areas. It is super crowded at rush hour. Cartagena is so poor that you will probably never get very far out of the main area (old city, getsemani, Boca grande, and adjacent areas) so it is easy to get around (I guess) by walking or taxi or bus.

Something else worth noting is that the Spanish spoken on the coast is *very* different from the Spanish spoken elsewhere in the country.

On the pensionada visa, I think most people do this in Miami at the Colombian consulate, supposedly they are more lenient than the others. I do not think there is even a fee. Yes, I believe you just bring them certified documents but I am not sure about the exact details. You can go to the consulate web site and they have the details there, I helped a friend with this before. Also, there is a place nearby the consulate that will do everything for you for about a $150 fee. But I am almost sure that $1800 is below the official requirement but that you should try anyway. Maybe contacting the visa company for assistance and advice would be the best way to go.

Buena Suerte!, Kramer
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