Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I’m not the same me I was. – Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Diarios de motocicleta)
A Quick Recap
In just about a month, I will have been in South America for an entire year. Before leaving on this epic adventure, I remember sitting with Ami and watching the quoted movie above. It’s a really great movie about ‘El Che’ and his motorcycle trip around South America. He and his friend traveled around South America, the tagline of the movie “Let the world change you… and you can change the world.” ‘El Che’ later became a revolutionary leader helping to free a number of South American Countries. When I left I was hoping for a similar type of experience. I left the US, put my loans on hold for a year and sought to find myself while in South America. I think I have seen a lot of things and a lot that I’ve learned. I’ve also improved my Spanish immensely, although I’ve been told that I speak pretty fluent Spanish it’s been equated to speaking Spanish like Tarzan speaks English.
As I have been down in South America (Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Brazil, and Peru) I’ve had both really great experiences and difficult experiences. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful places that I’ve seen anywhere else in the world, but I’ve also seen some horrible destruction of the environment that we all love and need. I’ve meet some of the most friendly and hospitable people but it has been contrasted with some people on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve seen abject poverty. I’ve seen fighting, been robbed (4 times), been asked to give a bribe to public officials, and other social problems. Even with all of this I still absolutely love it here in South America and am in love with the people and culture here.
During the last nine months, I have been living and working in Cusco Peru. I’ve been working at the National University (UNSAAC) teaching English. I spent some time volunteering at a NGO and had desired to find a job doing social work. As it has grown closer to the time to return to the US, I have stopped looking for a job doing social work because of my feeling that my Spanish is not sufficient to practice my trade here. So I have limited myself to just working at the University.
For the first couple of months I was working at the University, I didn’t have a contract. But for the last seven months or so, I have been working under a contract given by the University. Although, I haven’t had a work visa during my time here I felt that it was not necessary. It is very common for foreign teachers to teach at the various language center without work visas (In Cusco, due to all the tourism, there are lots of English language schools). I do believe that it is kind of illegal to work without a work visa, but when I read the law it seemed to be permissible depending on the agents discretion. Furthermore, every month the University pays taxes to SUNAT under the description of foreigner workers. I actually have been paying more taxes then is normal for a Peruvian worker. The normal tax rate is 15%, but I’ve been paying 25%. With all of this, I felt safe not applying for a work visa. To obtain a work visa (I believe with all the fees and process) it would cost somewhere between $300-$400 (about my monthly income). It would also take several months to complete the process and require the University give me a yearlong contract (which they generally only give 6 month contracts). So I decided not to pursue that avenue.
On the previous Friday (08/06/10) the immigration police came to the University looking for teachers without work visa. Two of my colleagues were taken from their classes. While I was not found at the University, they had my name and gave me an announcement of a meeting with the immigration police. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, but when I went in on Saturday they rescheduled for Monday. Monday they rescheduled for Wednesday so I continued to work. On Wednesday I again went in and was finally questioned and asked to sign some documents. Currently I’m under custody of my friend and am not allowed to either leave the city or work until the end of the investigation. The charges are not criminal, they are only administrative (meaning that I can’t go to jail or be deported)… they can only give me a fine and or tell me that I need to leave the country prior to the expiration of my visa.
It has been a very interesting experience so far. They told me that the investigation can take from two or three weeks to two months. (although I am a bit worried that could mean more then two months). My plan is to return to the US when the investigation is finished. I am hoping that the investigation does not take too long. If I’m allowed to leave the country by the beginning of September I should be financially able to handle everything (depending on how grave the possible fine will be). But if I do have to say in Cusco for a couple of months, I will have some difficulties financially. I currently have money to purchase a plane ticket back home, but I have been living off of the money that I earn at the University to survive daily. To make matters a little worse, due to one of the times I was robbed, I no longer have my debit card or access to my bank account. I have been waiting for the last month to receive my new debit card… but I’m not sure if it is coming and I might have to order it again.
It is possible that due to these circumstance, I might ask sometime in the future if you, my friends, would be willing to offer me a slight amount of financial support. I have another meeting on Monday with the police and it is possible that things will be resolved by then but I’m not sure. As of right now, I’m am perfectly fine… so don’t worry. I just wanted to let you guy’s all know what is happening in my life. I’ll keep everybody posted about what is happening down here.