I've been job hunting since my TEFL course ended nearly three weeks ago. I was under the impression that English teaching jobs would be relatively easy to find, as long as you accept the reality of a 25-30 peso/hour salary (with an exchange rate of $1 US = $3.6 AR, this comes out to about $7 US/hour). I wrote my CV and sent it out to about 20 English teaching institutes, and so far I have only heard back from a handful of them. Last week I went door-to-door to about seven institutes and tried to explain, sometimes in English but more often than not in Spanish, that I was an English teacher looking for work, and that I would be interested in any vacancies they were currently trying to fill. I've had two interviews, and though they both ended somewhat ambiguously, I'm trying to remain optimistic. Both were very relaxed and lasted about ten minutes; at the end I was told that I would be contacted once the director had assessed the needs of the institute and created a schedule. Tomorrow I have another two interviews, one of which would start immediately. Hopefully it will go well, because I need a job. Badly.
I'm not sure why I've been having difficulty finding work. And it's not just me; my friends from the TEFL class all seem to be in the same position: they've had some promising interviews, and now are just waiting to hear back about starting dates. I think the most likely problem is the economic downturn: most of these institutes hire teachers to teach at different businesses, many of whom have been forced to review and scale back their budget. Not surprisingly, English lessons are often considered expendable. I'm going to start looking for private students in the next couple days, which can be a much more lucrative venture.
I'm almost embarassed to say that my life has been somewhat boring as of late. Embarassed because it's still summer (or at least it still feels like it) and I'm in Buenos Aires, and I'm sure many people back home would gladly be where I am now. Don't get me wrong, I've still been exploring the city and going out at night. But it's all been at my own, slow pace; when I have no where I have to be it often takes me a while to get anywhere. Now that I'm in Palermo, it takes me a while to get to Microcentro or San Telmo, or other areas with more attractions, such as museums, places of historical significance, etc. Palermo has only been recently developed; up until a decade or so ago it was residential district. Now, upscale boutiques and restaurants dominate the streets, and while these are all well and good, as an unemployed teacher I have to find other ways to spend my time. And I do exaggerate when I say it takes me a while to get anywhere downtown: it takes about ten minutes to get the Subte (metro), and then about a ten minute ride to get downtown. But ten minutes in the oppressive heat and cattle-like crowded cars seems an eternity. Yes, I hate the Subte. With a passion. But I've still not mastered the collectivos (buses), so I find myself on the Subte more frequently than I care for.
But when I do get out and about, I have been enjoying myself. Yesterday I went back to the Cementerio de la Recoleta, a huge cemetery in which many of Buenos Aires' patrician residents and several famous historical figures are buried (including Eva Perón, of Don't Cry for Me, Argentina! fame). I had walked through briefly during my first week here, but wanted to go back to really explore and take pictures. The place is huge: one is easily lost in its labyrinthine paths, although I for one was not complaining. It sort of reminded me of the cemetery in Paris where Jim Morrison is buried (the name escapes me now). It had the same grandeur and inspired the same awe and contemplative mood. It was a beautiful day yesterday and it was not too crowded; I often walked up and down several lanes without seeing another person. It made for a perfect afternoon. I took some pictures of which I'll post just a few - for anyone with any interest in photography I highly recommend spending several hours there. Or really I would recommend everyone in Buenos Aires check it out; it's definitely been one of my favourite parts of the city.
Yesterday was a national holiday in Argentina: el Día de la Memoria, or Day of Memory, which marks the anniversary of the military coup of March 24, 1976, which established dictatorial rule and resulted in tens of thousands of disappeared persons. I'm currently reading a novel, Imagining Argentina, which combines the devastating history of the era with magical realism to make for an interesting and unique read. I'm also trying to finish Félix Luna's A Short History of the Argentinians. When reading about the Dirty War, it's almost difficult for me to imagine that it began only 33 years ago. One normally associates atrocities of this nature with the Second World War; it's something your grandparents could remember, but not your parents. As it's an issue still shaping Argentine society, I hope to learn more about the Guerra Sucia during my time here.
On an entirely different note, I bought tickets today for a football match (soccer game) this Saturday. Argentina, with Diego Maradona as the head coach, is playing Venezuela in a World Cup qualifying match. Though I expect the Argentina fans to be united (there's a bitter rivalry between two teams - River and Boca Juniors - in Buenos Aires) it should be pretty intense and amazing.