Archive for May, 2010
With the Internet, anyone can surf around online and look for overseas jobs – and a lot of people are. There are even resume “blasters” that will be glad to take your money to send your resume out to “hundreds” of “employers”. In fact, before I became established in overseas work, I tried a resume blasting “service”. I did not receive a single viable response, but did receive resumes from other job seekers. The blaster simply sent the resumes of each submitter to other submitters via an autoresponder! That cost me $750 and a good chunk of wasted time. It was a big mistake on several levels, and one you should avoid. (Tip – learn about the company you want to work for, and subtly work that knowledge into your cover letter and the Objectives paragraph of your resume. Always tailor your resume to the specific position, employer and, if feasible, specific recipient. Having your resume put in front of the wrong person and/or wrong employer can be a waste of your time and hers and could even be counter-productive in the long run). I would hope that modern resume blasters are more ethical and effective than the one that ripped me off years ago. If you decide to try one, ensure you get the important info about you and the position you are seeking in the first few sentences of your cover letter/resume so that electronic reader/sorters can separate your submission from the thousands of others that are being randomly blasted around cyberspace. Really, the best bet is to know who to and where to send your job search packet – especially since a resume, by design, has some personal information you may not want to have fall into the wrong hands.
Don’t even consider using recreational drugs in a foreign country. You could end up in a very nasty prison (or worse). While I was in the West Indies, a coworker – a West Indian female that worked in the restaurant at the resort I worked at – was convicted of possession of one gram of cocaine. I happened by the courthouse as she was being led away to serve a seven year sentence in a prison with a straw mattress to sleep on (and no HBO or amenities like US prisons). I’ll never forget the way she looked knowing what was to come.
You have few or no rights in many countries, so don’t think someone will appoint or hire a lawyer to help you.
The movies you may have seen that portray US Embassies as a source you can call to get you out of trouble are totally inaccurate. The Embassy staff can’t help you if you screw up, and contrary to what the movies may show or the journalists writing their spin on occasional high profile international incidents might lead us to believe, our embassies are not there to serve US citizens that get themselves into trouble. Embassies are about top level diplomats talking to other top level diplomats – not about you and me. US Consulates can provide some legal services, but those few services are often more along the lines of collecting donated blankets and books to give to Americans incarcerated in country for crimes they have been convicted of. The bottom line is; stay out of trouble! Any country has enough to offer to keep you amused without getting into trouble, but you can get into trouble any place if you are looking for it.
A Bosnian colleague, Zoran (now dead), Bob B., a just-graying-at-the temples bear of a firefighter from California, and I were sitting in our favorite bistro across the alley between the bullet riddled fire station and the rear of a 19th Century commercial building in Skenderija, a neighborhood in Sarajevo. We were chatting a little but mostly listening to Radio M, the Sarajevo rock station still operating during the War. We three were feeling pretty good because there had been little shooting recently, and Bob especially as he had just been able to eat a fresh egg omelet – something he’d not seen since he left the USA weeks before. As I sipped at my tiny cup of sweet Turkish style coffee, so strong that one must skim off the top foam of coffee solids or be wired for hours, and smoked a rare and precious Marlboro, I looked out the big window we sat at, and thought ‘Life is good’. (The next week the window would be blown in during a grenade attack on our little slice of heaven, and I would be smoking some sort of leaf rolled in some sort of non-cigarette paper and packaged in packs that were formed like a regular american cigarette packs but were made of pages from high school text books).
Bob B. was feeling great and we could see it in his face. He leaned back expansively, locked his hands behind his head, and commented “This Bosnian music really adds to the European atmosphere.” Zoran and I looked at each other, looked back at Bob, and cracked up laughing. The artist that was adding to Bob’s European experience was Bob Marley and The Wailers singing about life in Jamaica.
On my first overseas job, I left Salt Lake City, Utah in the cool of the early morning in my new, stiff and raspy Levis and heavy, stiff and raspy new denim work shirt, was in air conditioned aircraft or airports all day, then walked off the final plane into the moisture laden, hot, tropical air of the West Indies and felt like I was walking into a sauna. My luggage arrived a few days late, so I suffered through days of sweating and chafing in my stiff and raspy new denims until I received my luggage and had a T-shirt available and some soft old Levis to cut off. Since short pants were considered unmanly in my 1983 social circle, I had purchased none before deploying – hadn’t even considered it. Received severe sunburn on my legs first thing, too! Itched, and peeled like a snake after that. Because of that, I learned to learn about the places I’d be living in and prepare accordingly. I also learned not to give a damn about what the people in any American social circle consider manly or otherwise. However, one thing I do keep in mind about clothing is that, in some foreign societies, certain clothing (and behaviors) can offend the local people. Since I am the visitor, I conform to their standards rather than expecting them to tolerate mine. I always strive to be a gracious visitor and represent America well. I may be the only American some foreign nationals come in contact with. I believe it is best to leave them with a good impression.
There will be quite a lot of good, high paying work in diplomatic construction and support coming up in the next few months and years in Mexico.
Mexico is getting pummeled in the mainstream media. Listen to an El Paso radio station and you’ll hear comments about Ciudad Juarez (just across the Rio Grande from El Paso) being the “Wild West” and a place to “send felons” for punishment instead of prison. Read newspapers or watch newscasts from US border towns and you’ll get the impression that entering Mexico is a death sentence. Those that broadcast or print such drivel are doing a great dis-service to the honest, hardworking people of Mexico that are struggling with a bad world economy plus the added burden of poor news writing from across the border.
In my 27 months in Juarez, I never encountered any problems of the sort the newsies on the north side of the border expound upon with gusto. Any major city has places where one should not go and Juarez is no exception. However, it would be ridiculous to turn down a job there just out of fear. It is a decent place to live and work as long as one does not go looking for trouble.
Tijuana is gaining a reputation as a trouble spot too. But, as with Juarez (and, again, any major city in the world) it has it’s good areas and bad areas.
If you are offered a job in either city, or in any city in Mexico, perform a good web search about the area, go to the CIA website at cia.gov, and stratfor.com, collect some real intel, then decide based on facts, not just what the sensationalists in the mainstream media tell you.