October 3, 2021- My First Morning In Mérida, Mexico!

I arrived in Mérida, Mexico yesterday afternoon. The flight went well. My Airbnb situation didn’t go so well, however. I’ll tell you about that later. Anywho, I’m enjoying my first morning here in sunny, Mérida.

I’m currently lodging at a hotel in Centro. My stay included breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed that bowl of fruit and fresh orange juice.

Next, I took a stroll around the block while showing my mom around via WhatsApp. I also chatted up a fellow solo traveler who’s finishing up her adventure through Egypt.

After my stroll, I sat and chilled in the park, Parque de Santa Lucía. It’s hot out, but there was a light breeze that made sitting under the shade of the trees feel awesome.

Now, I’m in my room updating this post before heading out to get lunch.

Yeah, there’s not too much going on being a Sunday and all. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store!

Tanzanian Customs and Social Etiquette

Why learn about Tanzanian customs?

One of the most appealing aspects of traveling to a foreign country is experiencing the culture. Culture includes customs and etiquette. Tanzania is an extremely beautiful country with a lot to offer in terms of nature, food, and culture. The people are generally warm and welcoming toward visitors but hold fast to their customs and beliefs. When visiting any country, it’s important to respect the local etiquette as best you can. Get familiar with this list of Tanzanian customs to avoid insulting the locals.

Engaging with the locals

There are 126 languages spoken in Tanzania. Swahili is the national language of Tanzania. It incorporates Bantu and classical Arabic dialects. English is widely spoken and the other languages are of indigenous origins. As an”Mzungu (um-zoon-goo)”, or foreigner, you will benefit from knowing some basic words and phrases in the national language. Knowing just a little goes a long way!

Be sure to say, “Hi.” When entering a space, greet everyone in the room.

“Mambo!” In Tanzania, personal and community relationships are important. Tanzanians are generally friendly and excited to meet someone new. You will undoubtedly hear “Mambo” constantly throughout your visit, so be sure to check out popular Swahili greetings so you’ll know how to respond.

Put your dirty left hand away! If you’re the first to extend your hand for a handshake, make sure it’s not your left hand. In Tanzania, the left hand is dirty and the right hand is clean. The belief is the left hand is used for washing and cleaning oneself in the bathroom. Use your right hand when greeting and giving items and accepting items.

Photo by Denys Gromov on Pexels.com

Public displays of affection

Get a room! Tanzanian society is conservative. PDA is offensive. Any cuddling and kissing should be done in private. However, it isn’t uncommon to see people of the same sex holding hands, as this is a sign of friendship.

Eating

Ugali is a staple food in Tanzania. Ugali is a thick porridge, similar to fufu, that’s eaten with the hands. Since Tanzanians typically eat using their fingers, ugali is used for scooping the other items on the dish.

Wash your hands before and after eating. Many traditional dishes are eaten with your fingers, so whether you’re eating alone or in a communal setting, be sure your hands are clean. At communal tables and some restaurants, someone will come around with a pitcher of water, maybe some soap, and a bowl for you to clean your hands.

Put your dirty left hand away, again! Remember, what’s associated with the left hand? Don’t use it when eating.

Don’t sniff your food. For us Westerners, part of enjoying a meal is taking in the aroma. In Tanzania, however, it’s rude to sniff your food. The person who prepares the food is held in high regard. So, sniffing your food is an insult to the cook and implies that you suspect something’s wrong with it—maybe you think it’s rotten or poisoned?

It was hard not to take a sniff. This was so delicious!

Stay in your lane. When eating from a communal dish, eat from the portion that is in front of you.

Don’t turn down food or drink when it is offered. Refusing someone’s offer of food or drink can be seen as rude. Even if you don’t want it, just try at least a little of it. You may find it to be quite the treat as did I when I accepted some tamarind ice cream.

Older people

Respect the elders. Elders are held in high regard and are believed to possess superior knowledge because they’ve been around longer. Treat them respectfully. Here’s how to greet an elder in Swahili.

Photography

Ask before you snap. Tanzanians are generally okay with having their pictures taken, it’s still a good idea to ask before you do. There are some who have superstitious beliefs about having their pictures taken, so to be on the safe side, ask before snapping.

These drivers in Bagamoyo were happy to have their photos taken.

Religion

Tanzanians are very spiritual. About a third of Tanzanians practice Christianity, a third practice Islam, and yet another third practice an indigenous religion. Among the Asian communities, Buddhism and Hinduism are practiced.

Clothes

Tanzanians take pride in dressing well. Many wear religious garments. The Maasai wear their traditional robes. Others wear Western-style outfits. With strong Muslim and Christian influences throughout the country, the dress code is one of modesty.

Maasai security guards on break in Oyster Bay

Online ESL Companies Not Based In China

With the new Chinese regulations on online tutoring, many online teachers have been left scrambling to find new online jobs. At the moment, it’s pretty risky to apply to another China-based company, so what are the alternatives? I’m going to give you a list of some online ESL companies not based in China. Some of the companies offer courses in more than just English, so there’s potential to teach multiple subjects if you have the qualifications.

To be transparent, I am letting you know here, that I am an affiliate for some of these companies. If you sign up using any of my affiliate links, I may receive a small commission directly from the company as a token of appreciation for referring a new teacher.

Online ESL Companies and brief requirements descriptions

I know a lot of teachers are in a scramble to find new positions, so I’m just going to give some brief descriptions. The companies’ websites will provide any other information you need.

  1. Preply (No certification or teaching experience required, teach various subjects)
  2. Cambly (No degree, certifications, or experience required)
  3. Outschool (No formal teaching credentials needed, teach various subjects, create your own lessons)
  4. italki (Professional teachers and community tutors)
  5. Latinhire (Degree or ESL Certification, teach various subjects)
  6. Skylearn-Skytod (Degree and ESL certification required)
  7. Verbling (Currently not taking applications)
  8. Live English (Native English speakers, Degree or equivalent experience, ESL certification advantageous)
  9. English4.today (Submit the teacher inquiry form to be contacted by a recruiter)
  10. Justlearn (No specific requirements, teach any language)
  11. Native Camp (Ability to speak English at an intermediate level)
  12. The Really Great English Teacher Company (See individual job postings for requirements)
  13. Englishunt (US Citizen, BA in any subject or substitute teaching certification, experience; teacher certification required for video programs burpt bot for phone programs)
  14. Skooli (Must have a bachelor’s degree in related field, or government issued teaching license, or specialized instructor qualification)

If you found this list of online ESL companies not based in China helpful or applied and got the job, let me know in the comments or send me a message.

China Regulations: Online TEFL Companies Shutdown, Downsize

China Regulations Surprise

The announcement came as a shock to myself and other teachers. It happened without warning. I was preparing for the next day’s lessons at about 11:00 pm on August 4th when I saw a popup on my screen. I leaned in to read the message. It said that the GOGOKID curriculum offered to Chinese students was being suspended as of August 5th. How nice. I rushed back home from my mom’s house to prepare for my classes and get to bed only to be laid off. See, things like this are why you should never put all your eggs in one basket. I’m thankful that I have other means of generating income, but my heart goes out to my fellow teachers whose sole income source was any of the companies affected by the new China regulations.

Online ESL Companies Not Based In China

What are the “China Regulations”?

In a sweeping overhaul of its education technology sector, China took down its booming online TEFL industry. The country cracked down on all online companies offering for-profit tutoring of subjects taught in the public school curriculum. The Chinese government said that education technology companies had been hijacked by capital and that they should start operating like non-profits. The new regulations have brought the Chinese online TEFL industry to a screeching halt. The growth of the ed-tech sector is no longer being encouraged.

Teach English to students from over 100 countries.

What to expect

Well, a lot of damage has already been done. In an effort to restructure, Magic Ears and Palfish downsized their staff and at the moment, are allowing students to complete the lessons that they purchased. Palfish also reduced teachers’ pay from an hourly base pay of 50 RMB (approx. $15.50), not including bonuses, to 40 RMB (approx. $12.40). Other companies like GOGOKID have completely shut down. It’s expected that the remaining education companies will follow suit unless they can exploit some kind of loophole. We can only wait and hope those companies give students and teachers a heads up should they decide to close shop. In the meantime, teachers with no other income streams should start searching for companies that are not based in China, such as Cambly or Outschool.

What about the children?

I’m sure many of the children are overjoyed at not having to learn English. However, there are many that are absolutely devastated. Videos of some GOGOKID students crying uncontrollably circulated within TEFL teacher groups. The sudden cancellation of all classes and the inability to log into their accounts came as a surprise to them, too. We were not given the opportunity to say “Goodbye” to our kiddos. Now, teachers and students are trying to search for each other on WeChat. Some teachers and students have successfully reunited. Others are still working on it.

Maybe the online TEFL industry will be resurrected in the future. Only time will tell.

Learn Swahili: How To Greet People In Kiswahili

Greetings are an essential part of every culture and daily conversations. On your visit to Tanzania or the East African region, you’ll want to be familiar with some common greetings. My aim here, is to help you learn Swahili greetings that you will hear often. In fact, you will hear and use most of these several times a day. Don’t fret if your language skills aren’t the best. The locals you meet will appreciate your effort in trying to use the language. Since English is widely spoken, you won’t have too much to worry about, especially in the larger cities. Depending on the length of your stay in the region, your fluency will improve quickly because you’ll hear and use these greetings so often. You’ll also find that everyone in Tanzania is a Mwalimu (teacher) and will be happy to help you learn Swahili.

Swahili is a Bantu language that connects a wide region of East Africa. It is the national language of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya and is also a lingua franca of several other countries throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.

Swahili Hellos

You’ll meet a lot of nice people as you explore Tanzania. Many a great friendship starts with a simple “Hello”, and Tanzanians have plenty of ways to say it.

Jambo! (Hello!)

Jambo is popular among foreigners because it’s usually the one word we learn before heading to East Africa. During my entire time in Dar es Salaam, only one person greeted me with Jambo to which I replied “Jambo“.

If you are alone and greeted with Hujambo, your expected response is Sijambo. When someone greets you with Hujambo, they’re asking you if you are having any matters or issues. Responding with Sijambo means you are not having any issues. If you are responding on behalf of a group, reply with Hatujambo (We have no issues). If you want to reciprocate the greeting, use Hujambo. To greet multiple people, use Hamjambo?

Shikamo.

Greet an elder or person of importance with Shikamo. If there are multiples of such persons, use the plural form Shikamoni. Shikamo means “I respect you.” The proper response is Marahaba which is a blessing upon you.

Mambo!

I heard and used this one all day, every day. Mambo is an informal way of saying Hello. When greeted with Mambo, respond with Poa (Cool) or Safi (Clean/Fine).

Mzima? (Are you complete?)

Respond back with Mzima.

Salama? (Are you safe/at peace?)

The appropriate response is Salama.

Mambo vipi? / Vipi?

Use this when you want to ask, “What’s up?” To respond, you can use Poa or Safi.

Habari? (What’s the news?)

Habari yako? (How are you?)

Habari gani? (How are you?)

Habari za safari? (How was your trip?)

Habari za asubuhi? (Good morning.)

Habari za mchana? (Good afternoon.)

Habari za jioni? (Good evening.)

Habari leo? (How are you, today?)

Habari za kazi? (How is work?)

Saying “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome In Swahili

Asante (Thank you)

Tanzanians are quite welcoming. You will be welcomed to Tanzania, to a meal, to someone’s home, and into businesses. Show gratitude with Asante (Thank you) or Asante Sana (Thank you very much). If responding to more than one person, Asanteni (Thank you all) is appropriate.

Karibu/Karibu Sana (Welcome. / You’re very welcome.)

As previously stated, you will receive many welcomes. If you accept, you’ll respond with Asante or Asante sana. If you do not accept, use the respectful negative response La, asante (No. Thank you.). If you are doing the welcoming, Karibu is used for one person and Karibuni for multiple people.

Introduce Yourself In Swahili

Jina lako ni nani? (What is your name?)

Introduce yourself with Jina langu ni (your name here). Jina means “name”, langu means “my“, and ni means “is”.

Nafurahi kukuona. (Nice to meet you.)

Swahili Goodbyes

For the goodbyes, you can simply reply back with the same words.

Kwaheri! (Goodbye!)

Use Kwaheri when talking to one person and Kwahereni when talking to multiple people.

Lala Salama. (Good night.)

Tutaonana baadaye! (See you later!)

Tutaonana! (See you!)

Baadaye! (Later!)

To add a more personal touch, terms of endearment such as Dada (sister), Kaka (brother) are often used. I added those so you’re not caught off guard when someone refers to you using them.

If you found this list helpful in your quest to learn Swahili, drop a comment!

Happy travels!

I Moved To Africa During The Pandemic

So, after months of researching a select few countries, I finally made my choice. I moved to Africa. Specifically, Tanzania. Yup. I’m currently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

It has been a month already. I can’t believe it! The time has passed too quickly. I’m still not settled in, so I hadn’t realized it has been that long already.

I’ve been apartment searching ever since I arrived. That, along with teaching online lessons has taken up quite a bit of my time. At the moment, I’m staying in an Airbnb. I didn’t expect to have such a difficult time finding housing. I visited some nice apartments yesterday and will be headed off to view some more right after I publish this post. Maybe, I’ll make a decision from among these most recent apartments.

I have lots of pictures and photos that I’ll be sharing soon.

Well, I’m off to see what this next property manager has for me.

Until next time!

Top 4 Benefits of Teaching Online English Lessons

Online English teachers are in high demand, especially nowadays. China has the greatest demand and their online institutions are willing to pay well.

Online teaching is fun and rewarding. There are several great benefits to teaching English online, but here are the top 4 in my opinion.

1. FREEDOM!!!

I believe freedom is the top benefit of teaching English online. I’ve been told that I’m a control freak. Maybe I am. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I love to be in control of my time. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Simple. I quit my hospital job, a few years back, to enjoy the freedom that I have now.

Teaching English online is a great way to get out of the mundane 9 to 5 lifestyle. I can choose to work full-time hours one week and part-time the next. If I want to work a couple hours in the mornings or a half-hour in the evening, I can. If I choose to take a week or a month off, I just do it. It’s easy to burn out when you teach a lot of classes, so the ability to take long breaks or days off without asking for permission really floats my boat.

Besides the scheduling flexibility, there’s the freedom to work from anywhere. If there’s a reliable internet connection at my place of lodging, I can work. If my phone data connection is strong, I can work. If neither of those is available, there’s the option of using a portable WiFi device. If neither of those is working for me, I don’t sweat it. When traveling, I never schedule lessons until I’ve personally tested the internet connection. If it’s no good, I don’t do any work until I get to a destination that allows it.

It’s illegal to work in a foreign country without a work visa. However, since I work online, I don’t have to worry about getting a work visa.

When I travel internationally, I often catch really great deals and end up spending more than I expected. When that happens, I work a few hours to replace those funds and carry on with my trip.

Yeah, I really love the freedom aspect of this work!

2. “Look, Mom! No pants!”

I wear pajamas or a nightie to almost every class. I usually teach early morning classes, so I sleep until 15 minutes before my first class. I wake up, wash my face, brush my teeth, wrap my hair or throw it in a ponytail, slap on some red lipstick, throw a polo shirt over my top, slide into my slippers, plop down on my chair and get ready to teach. My props are prepared the night before, and if my lesson happens to change overnight, no problem– anything I may need is within arm’s reach.

I could never wake up 15 minutes before my shift and work in my PJ’s at my former job. I’d be awfully late and severely under-dressed.

Comfortable work attire at its finest!

3. Great Pay

Teaching English online can be very lucrative. I work with several China-based companies and can say they pay pretty well. See my posts about PalFish, Magic Ears, and Vipkid to learn about their pay structures. I also teach for a new American company that pays $25/hr, but lessons are sparse for now. With the teaching bonuses, contests, referral bonuses and other incentives offered by these companies, making $4,000 or more is very attainable. Like I said before, I quit my hospital job to do this.

4. Easy to start

Getting started with online English teaching is really easy. Some companies make you go through a somewhat lengthy processsubmitting video intros, attending online orientations and on-board training, performing mock lessons, etc but, most make getting started pretty simple. Getting started with PalFish as a regular teacher took me about 24 hours, while Magic Ears just a few days. The process and time line are different for each company.

Okay, all done! Your turn! Do you teach English online? What do you think the top benefits are?

VIPKID: Requirements and FAQs

If you enjoy working with kids 12 and under and are looking for a fun online gig with flexible scheduling, VIPKID might be the English teaching platform for you.

Will VIPKID require me to speak Chinese?

Not at all. You’ll use TPR (body language and gestures) and props to help your students understand what you’re saying.

Is this a full-time job?

This is a contract job, renewable every 6 months. Whether it’s full-time or not depends on your availability. You set your own hours. So, if you want to work part-time, you can. If you want to make it a full-time gig, go for it! It’s all up to you.

Where will I work?

That’s up to you, too. The company headquarters is in China, but you can work from anywhere in the world. Teach from your kitchen or from a corner in your living room.

Will I be required to create lessons?

Nope! VIPKID’s lessons are already made for you, so there’s no lesson planning. All you have to do is review the lessons so you’ll know what you’ll be teaching, how you’ll teach it, and which props you’ll need.

What are the prerequisites?

  • Fluent or native English-speaker
  • Able to legally work in the U.S. or Canada (If you’re not sure, send an email to teach@vipkid.com to find out if you’re eligible.) **California residents are no longer eligible for hire due to Assembly Bill (AB) 5. Read about it here.
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher (any major)
  • TESOL/TEFL Certificate (preferred, but not required)*
  • One year or more of teaching/tutoring experience (Any experience working with kids, helping with your younger siblings, or having kids of your own count!)
  • A big smile and lots of personality!

*If you don’t have TEFL certification, you can enroll in a course offering a universally accepted certificate, or you can obtain one through VIPKID once you’ve been hired. If you take the latter route, the certificate can only be used with VIPKID and can’t be transferred to another ESL company.

What technical equipment do I need?

How much will I be paid?

VIPKID‘s pay ranges from $15 to $22 plus bonuses. Your pay will be determined by what you bring to the table in terms of qualifications and your interview performance. Having TEFL certification can help you score a higher pay rate. As an online teacher, you’ll be an independent contractor, so taxes will not be deducted from your pay. Get familiar with independent contractor tax obligations.

Be sure to read through the teacher FAQ’s on the company website to get more information. Once established as a VIPKID teacher, you’ll enjoy the freedom of working remotely, having fun, and making a stable income. Don’t delay, apply today!

Covid-free Tanzania? My Four Month Experience

Hey, y’all! I have been gone for a minute, I know. Time really flies. I had quite the experience in Tanzania. I left this past Friday. It was especially interesting to experience it for the first time during a pandemic. The Tanzanian government proclaimed the country to be Covid-free a while back. But is it really?

Covid-free Speech

The subject of the coronavirus, there, was a taboo. The locals were nervous to talk about it. Most people I met pretended it doesn’t exist. Any time I tried to discuss it, the person I was talking to would dismiss it if he/she thought it was fake, or whisper his/her opinions if he/she thought it was real. There seemed to be a fear of someone overhearing and turning them in. I heard of people being arrested for statements posted on social media or making reports about the country’s situation, so I decided I’d wait until I was out of the country before posting anything. News of Coronavirus didn’t seem to spread quickly there, but other news did. I didn’t feel like being new news and featured on an episode of ‘Locked Up Abroad’.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Being in an environment that looked and operated as normal was comforting, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. I personally hadn’t seen any locals coughing, sneezing, or anything that would suggest the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean much. I stayed to myself most of the time, so of course, I wasn’t going to observe much anyway. While out searching for a certain Airbnb, I did come across a hospital that made me a bit suspicious. People were all outside with masks and no one was allowed in without a mask. I thought that was weird since there was “no Corona in Tanzania”. I didn’t see anyone wearing masks at any of the hospitals near where I was staying. With the high numbers of tourists flowing in with no restrictions, even if the country were Covid-free, there’s no possible way it could have stayed that way.

In the entire time, I spent in Dar es Salaam, I hadn’t seen so many people wearing masks as I did in my last couple of weeks there. Ambulance sirens were blaring more often, too. Though I personally had no first-hand knowledge of the Coronavirus status of the country, I knew someone that had first-hand knowledge, and what she said was pretty concerning.

In Retrospect

When I arrived at Julius Nyerere International Airport, back in November, there was no testing requirement for visitors from the US. I got tested anyway and had my results on hand. No one requested to see my test results. No one on my flight was asked for results. There was only a temperature scan of our foreheads and a drop of sanitizer to the hand. That’s it. All free to continue to immigration and from there, to explore Tanzania. I’m pretty sure not much had changed since my arrival because people were flocking in by the droves. A month later, someone in one of my WhatsApp groups had sent a photo taken inside the airport. It showed a packed crowd of people, many without masks, standing almost shoulder to shoulder waiting to get through immigration.

Staying Informed

Every 2-3 days, I searched the internet for Coronavirus updates for Tanzania. The media wasn’t allowed to report on it and health workers couldn’t even mention it. However, things had obviously gotten so out of hand during my last few weeks there, that priests and activists were breaking the rules and lifting their voices. In February, I rode with a taxi driver who was oblivious to the then-recent news of fresh COVID cases in Arusha. He was laughing and commenting about my getting into his car wearing a mask. “There’s no COVID in Tanzania,” he remarked. I replied, “Have you been keeping up with the news? The Archbishop in Arusha said there are new cases.” The driver’s smiling face turned to one of thoughtfulness. “Oh, no. I didn’t know it,” he said. “I should check more about these things. We are not allowed to talk about this thing.”

Another local friend said he personally knew of no one who had died of Covid-19. That makes sense. If no one is allowed to speak about the virus or say its name, and it’s referred to by anything but Covid, then no, you wouldn’t know anyone who died of Covid-19.

Straight From The Nurse’s Mouth

A few days before I was scheduled to fly out of Tanzania, I was speaking with one of the hostel guests who is a nurse. We were discussing mask-wearing and some people’s reactions to those who were wearing them. She laughed and said it’s because they think it’s not normal and there’s no virus here. Then, she quickly changed her tone and whispered, “In the hospital, people are dying like flies. It’s very bad. You have to be careful of your own safety. It’s up to you.” Then, she went back to speaking in an upbeat way and chuckling about mask wearers– obviously playing it off so she wouldn’t get turned in or whatever if anyone had heard us talking about the virus.

Sad News

This morning, around midnight CST, I received a text from one of my friends in Tanzania. I had just woken up, my body still on East Africa Time. The message read: “Habari za Mexico? Our president is dead.” That got me fully awakened. I asked what happened and he responded, “CORONA, sister. Tanzania is increased.” That’s the first time I’ve heard any local, outside of my nurse friend, acknowledge that the virus is active in Tanzania. He told me to be careful. I told him to do the same. President Magufuli’s cause of death is said to be a heart condition, but some say differently. In any case, it’s sad and unfortunate that he has passed.

A Covid-free Future

Now, I’m wondering what the people of Tanzania will do to combat the further spread of the virus. Testing is available but, as far as I know, it’s not yet on a widespread, national level. I sincerely hope Tanzania’s new and first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, will work to stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of hand and more lives are lost. Maybe someday, hopefully soon, Tanzania will be undoubtedly covid-free.

I wish the best for the folks of Tanzania.

Chime Into Some Extra Travel Cash

Becoming a new bank customer is one of the easiest ways to make extra cash. Banks often offer sign-up bonuses to new customers as a way to market themselves. This is not a pyramid scheme. This is simply opening a bank account. Chime (affiliate) is offering a nice chunk of change to new customers.

Between now and December 31, 2021, you can make up to $1000 by opening a Chime bank account and completing some qualifying actions. Have one ACH deposit from employment, payroll, or a benefits provider in the amount of $200 deposited into your account within 45 days of opening. The bank will add a $100 bonus to your account. It’s that simple. As a new account holder, you’ll receive your own referral link. Simply share your referral link. When a friend opens an account, using your link, and receives one direct deposit payment of at least $200 within 45 days, you’ll be credited another $100 and so will your friend. The total bonuses you can rake in caps at $1000.

Easy, peasy. It’s not a million bucks but could be enough to pay for a dream trip, a bill, a mortgage payment, rent, or whatever in a short period of time. What’s more, you’ll have a debit card that can be easily used abroad and has no foreign transaction fees or other fees. You can earn Spot Me bonuses to cover overdrafts until you get paid again.

Simple.

Don’t leave money on the table. Open a Chime account today and start earning!