Sunday, November 22, 2015

Explore The Philippines

Philippines: An Island for Every Taste

In every family, there’s always an odd one out—and in the clan of Asia-Pacific nations, that member would be the Philippines. This nation of 7,107 islands (about 2,000 inhabited) began as a loose grouping of Indo-Malay tribes, which endured nearly 400 years of Spanish rule, then 48 years as a U.S. territory. Today the Philippines is a mix of tribal pride, Catholic fervor, American pop-culture savvy, and tropical affability.

Most visitors don’t linger in the muggy, traffic-clogged capital, Manila, but you should explore at least one of the Spanish churches in the old, walled center of Intramuros and stroll around Manila Bay at sunset.

Then head to some of the thousands of beaches, from the pink sands of Great Santa Cruz Island to the black sands of Albay. Divers off Palawan, Apo, and Siargao islands delight in hundreds of coral and fish species. On the southern isle of Mindanao, more than 1,300 land species—including the endangered Philippine eagle—reside in Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, which recently joined northern Luzon’s rice terraces as a World Heritage site.

If the Philippines is that quirky member of the family, it also is the one that always invites you over for dinner, a uniquely Filipino fusion experience that intermingles salty, sour, and savory flavors. —Erik R. Trinidad

Travel Tips

When to Go: November to February (during dry season)

How to Get Around: Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is the main international gateway. From a separate terminal, Philippine Airlines provides connections to popular tourist destinations such as Bohol, Boracay, and Cebu. The main modes of ground transportation are "jeepneys" (shared, open-air shuttles built from vintage U.S. Army jeeps), motorized tricycles, multicabs (shared minivans), and buses. The most convenient way to island hop is by ferry; Super Cat, a high-speed catamaran; or bancas, traditional outrigger boats.

Where to Stay: Play and stay in, on, and above the water at Apulit Island, one of four El Nido Resort properties in northern Palawan. Guests arrive by boat and stay in traditional Filipino cottages (50 total) set on stilts above the water. Optional activities include reef snorkeling, cave diving, kayaking, and rappelling.

What to Eat or Drink: Manila's Midnight Mercato Centrale is a Filipino foodie's dream. Every Friday and Saturday night (6 p.m. to 3 a.m.) in the BGC (Bonifacio Global City), market vendors prepare a dizzying array of street foods. Try the Filipino-style bagnet (pork belly) strips, lengua (beef tongue) burritos, and lechon liempo (slow-roasted pork belly).

What to Buy: The Igorot ethnic groups, or Cordillerans, of northern Luzon are known for their carving, brass and iron metalwork, and weaving. In the mountain resort town of Baguio, you can find carved bulul (rice gods) and woven rattan baskets and pasiking (native backpacks) in the Baguio City Public Market.

What to Read Before You Go: When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe (Penguin Books; reissue edition, 2003) is a simple, moving novel set in Japanese-occupied Manila near the end of World War II. It's infused with Filipino traditions, legends, and history.

Cultural Tip: The equivalent of "How are you?" in Filipino culture is "Kumain ka na ba?" (Tagalog for "Have you eaten?")

Helpful Links: Experience Philippines, It's More Fun in the Philippines, and Cultural Center of the Philippines

Fun Fact: With its green meadows and steep cliffs towering over the sea, Racuh a Payaman on Batan Island appears to have been plucked from the Scottish Highlands and plunked in the northernmost province of the Philippines. The lush grasses are communal pastureland where horses, cattle, and water buffalo roam. This home-on-the-range setting is why Racuh a Payaman often is referred to as "Marlboro country" or "the Marlboro hills."

Monday, September 28, 2015

How to Become an International Teacher

By Heather Carreiro, April 19, 2010

While I worked for local NGOs and universities in Pakistan, my husband Duarte took a two-year contract as a Physics teacher in an international high school. By connecting with other foreign teachers in the school, we quickly learned that making a career out of international teaching would be an ideal way for us to sustain long-term travel and life abroad.

International vs. National Schools

There are scores of schools that claim to be “international” in name, but what teachers often call a “true international school” is a school that enrolls students from a variety of countries. These schools tend to be located in major cities, diplomatic capitals and international financial centers. Students include ambassadors’ kids, expat kids, teachers’ kids and local children whose parents can foot the bill.

Other schools may be internationally accredited but enroll primarily local students. Teachers refer to this type of school as a “national” school, although both types hire foreign teachers. Some national schools hire only foreign-qualified staff; others hire most teachers locally but employ foreigners for certain subjects like English. The ratio of foreign to local faculty at schools can vary widely even within the same country or city.

School Curriculum

When Duarte and I first moved abroad, we had no idea what O-Levels and A-Levels were. Since he was teaching in a school that offered both the British system and the American system, he had to learn how to teach two different curricula. International schools usually belong to one of the following systems: British (IGCSE/GCSE), American (often offering AP classes), or International Baccalaureate (IB).

Teacher Qualifications

There are schools that will hire teachers without formal qualifications, but to be a competitive candidate you need at least two of the following: a Bachelor’s degree, a valid teaching license in the subject you plan to teach, and two years experience.

In the U.S., each state has its own process for teacher licensing. Many undergraduate education programs provide routes to state certification, but you can also find post-baccalaureate programs aimed at career changers.

The majority of these programs require a one-semester student teaching practicum, a series of education courses based on classroom observation, and a set of exams.

Massachusetts is one state that offers a five-year preliminary license without requiring student teaching or the completion of special course work. You can apply for this license by passing two exams: MTEL communication & literacy and MTEL content area. For either elementary or secondary teachers it costs about $230 for the exams and $100 for a one-subject license. Your license is valid for five years of employment in Massachusetts, so if you never teach in Massachusetts it can remain valid for your entire international teaching career.

Job Searching

Most schools offer two-year renewable contracts, although some offer one-year contracts or require a three-year commitment from new hires. Prime hiring season is from January through April, although hiring is done all the way through August for the upcoming school year.

A lot of hiring is done at international job fairs organized by school placement organizations. At job fairs, dozens of school administrators and hundreds of teacher candidates converge in a major city for the purpose of lining up jobs.

The biggest job fairs are run by Search Associates, International Schools Services (ISS) and University of Northern Iowa (UNI). To attend a Search or ISS fair you need to apply and become a member.

Before the fair, candidates are given a list of schools that will be represented and current job openings. Larger companies like Search and ISS have online databases with detailed information about each school and salary package. The best way to prepare is to research every school, city and country that you might be interested in.

Once at the fair you will sign up for interviews with different school administrators. Between interviews you can go to school information sessions or network with other teachers.

Factors to Consider

Attending a job fair can be expensive, especially if you need to factor in travel and hotel costs. It is worth contacting schools ahead of fair season, in November and December, to see if you can interview via Skype.

Not all schools, even those listed by placement companies, are legit. Before applying for a teaching position, read what other teachers have said about it on International Schools Review (ISR). It costs $29 per year to be a member of ISR, but this will put you in direct contact with other international teachers and expat parents. Reviews posted on schools and directors are anonymous, so be aware that some feedback may simply be venting by teachers or propaganda by school administrators.

When you compare salary packages, compare the cost of living and the local tax rate as well. Annual salaries range from about $15,000 through $70,000, but you can live much better on $20,000 in India than you can on $40,000 in Switzerland.

European schools tend not to offer housing or utilities as part of the salary package, although many other schools around the world do. Benefits to look for include round-trip airfare, medical insurance, life insurance, free tuition for school-age children, daycare for younger children, moving allowance, professional development training, transportation allowance and retirement funds.

Final Tips

Look at the number of contract days and the number of teacher-pupil contact days required per year before applying. An average number of contract days is 180-190; this is the number of days per year teachers are expected to work. An average number of contact days is 170-180; this is the number of days you will be expected to teach. A few days more or less aren’t anything to raise concern, but I was once looking at a job in a new international school that required 250 contact days. Yeah, no thanks. I’d like to keep my summer vacations and my sanity. A side note said that teachers would be required to arrive early in order to create the school curriculum from scratch.

The teaching culture of a given school can vary markedly. Some schools are isolated; some are set in urban centers. Some cater to a young-single crowd of teachers while others prefer hiring couples or pensioners.

For Duarte and I, international teaching is a combination of career flexibility and stability. Once a contract is completed, we can choose to stay or move on to another destination. Currently we’re back in the U.S. pursuing further education, but we’re psyched to find out what opportunities the next international job fair will bring about!

Originally posted on

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

100 Reasons to Travel

1. To experience the WOW factor

2. To escape routine
3. To learn about new cultures
4. To witness the peak of human adaptability
5. To create new friendships
6. To find inner peace
7. To gain a new perspective
8. To de-stress
9. To discover yourself
10. To broaden your horizons
11. To master a new language
12. To sample new cuisines
13. To dare to be different
14. To expand your professional network
15. To put your problems into perspective
16. To see the beauty of nature
17. To reach new heights in common sense
18. To explore your creative side
19. To gawk at the man-made wonders of the world

20. To taste freedom
21. To grow personally and intellectually
22. To feel alive
23. To realize that humans are the same everywhere
24. To hone your self-confidence
25. To view “home” with a new pair of eyes
26. To attend unique cultural, art, and music festivals
27. To participate in an authentic cooking class with locals
28. To make yourself more interesting
29. To formulate more informed decisions
30. To debunk myths and stereotypes
31. To strengthen your social skills
32. To watch 24 hours of daylight
33. To admire art from all over the world
34. To situate yourself in the broader context of humanity
35. To introspect and appreciate the value of solitude
36. To be humbled
37. To curate a group of friends in all corners of the globe
38. To buff up your CV
39. To instill vitality into your academic education
40. To know that your basic needs are luxuries elsewhere

41. To get cultured
42. To heal old wounds
43. To feed your soul
44. To observe different ways of living

45. To quell your curiosities
46. To inject life into the cliché: you only live once
47. To become a storyteller
48. To eat your way through the world’s cultures
49. To think globally and act locally
50. To improve your sense of geography
51. To test and push your limits
52. To delve deeper into your talents and interests
53. To live a life without regrets
54. To ensure that you don’t take all that you have for granted
55. To adventure through spectacular realms of nature: forests, jungles, hot springs, and mountains
56. To reflect back on your life with fond memories and impress your older self
57. To place yourself in the driver’s seat of our own destiny
58. To encounter the complexities of the world and be aware of plaguing global social issues
59. To invest in your mental wellness

60. To open your mind and eyes
61. To try a new job that you would have never thought to try
62. To empower yourself
63. To change your life
64. To stay forever young at heart
65. To bring out your adventurous spirit
66. To pick up a new hobby
67. To fashion new thought processes
68. To notice the charm of EVERY country
69. To rev up your sense of empathy
70. To sharpen your sense of humor
71. To inspire and be inspired
72. To revive your joie de vivre
73. To challenge yourself constantly
74. To meet the world’s population one person at a time and make it a smaller place
75. To interact with animals in the wild
76. To stop making excuses for things you really want to do
77. To seek the thrill of new
78. To breed innovation
79. To effect positive change, one person at a time
80. To forge long-lasting relationships

81. To document life and improve your photography skills
82. To inch towards becoming a global citizen
83. To face your fears and gain courage
84. To mature and become independent
85. To lead by example for future generations
86. To volunteer and help improve the quality of someone else’s life

87.To acquire practical life skills and become more street-smart
88. To support the livelihoods of local artisans and craftspeople
89. To journey through the seven ancient wonders of the world
90. To serve as an unofficial diplomat for your country
91. To relive history through landmarks, museums, culture, and people
92. To awaken and fine-tune your senses
93. To fuel the local and global economies
94. To visit certain destinations before they’re extinct
95. To evolve into a happier, more well-rounded, and better person
96. To determine your purpose in life
97. To venture into the unknown
98. To tap into your untapped potential
99. To bridge the gap between people, cultures, and countries
100 . To LOVE…

Originally published on: