Teaching English in Ethiopia: Interview with Family on Bikes

My husband and I are both professional, certified teachers. For twelve years, we taught abroad in Egypt, Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. For the purpose of this interview, I will talk about Ethiopia, as we were there for seven years.

Where did you teach?


What are the perks of teaching here?

Ethiopia is a fascinating country with a culture that has mostly been untouched by foreign invasions. By living and teaching there, we got to be a part of that culture, seeing it in a deeper, more genuine way than a traveler would.


What are some local dishes one could consider trying?

Everybody exploring Ethiopia will, of course, need to eat injera and wat. In fact, I would go so far as to say you most likely will HAVE to eat injera and wat if you want to eat as it can be difficult to find anything else. One delicacy that I could never learn to enjoy is raw beef, freshly cut off a big cow hanging from a hook. They dip it in a firey red sauce and eat it.

What did your average weekend in this country look like?


We did a lot of hiking in the hills surrounding Addis Ababa. Our twin boys were born during our third year there and we were not willing to risk malaria for them, so we didn’t travel far from Addis. We had a good friend who had a small house out in the country, so we frequently went there and started hiking up into the countryside. We met some great people who welcomed us into their homes. Although we didn’t speak the language, we always had a wonderful time with the local people.


Is there anything you wish you had brought from home?

Our school did a great job preparing us and letting us know what we would need. One of the items on our list of things to bring was toilet paper, so we loaded up a year’s supply of TP and packed it in our suitcases. As it happened, toilet paper had been in very short supply during the country’s 17-year period under Communist rule, but they had recently started importing it just before we got there. We never needed our precious supply of TP imported in our suitcases.

We moved to Ethiopia in 1995, and many things were not available yet. By the time we left in 2002, we could get pretty much anything. I am not sure how it is today, but I suspect pretty much anything you need would be available.

Could you briefly describe your hiring and Visa process?

My husband and I are regular school teachers, not ESL teachers, so our process is different from what most ESL teachers will experience. For certified teachers, there are various job fairs in the spring. Administrators looking for teachers will head there to interview. Teachers looking for jobs head there too. In one weekend, we might interview with 20 – 30 different countries.

Once we were hired by a school, our school took care of the entire Visa process. We never had to even think about it.

What is a typical salary for an ESL teacher in your region?

The American school in Addis paid about the same as we would have been paid in the state of Idaho for teaching.


Are there any specific education requirements to find a teaching position?

For what we did, we needed to be professional, certified teachers, so we had to complete a university program that would certify is in some state. It didn’t matter which state we held certification in.

Roughly how much money is it possible to save teaching for one year?

This totally depends on how you live. We are both quite frugal by nature, so we saved quite a bit. Other teachers at our school were struggling to make ends meet.


Can you tell us a bit about your travel blog and what readers can expect to find?

I blog at Family on Bikes. Our site was originally designed as the documentation for our world-record family bike ride from Alaska to Argentina. Now that our journey is over, I have morphed the blog into a source of inspiration and information for others (particularly families) who want to pursue their passion and follow their dream.

Can you briefly tell us about your upcoming travel plans?

At this point, we don’t have any grand travel plans. After 28 years of full-time travel, I have finally reached a point where I no longer desire to travel and am happy to stay home in my small house in Boise, Idaho and write and play with my beads. That said, I understand that my contentment at being at home is directly related to my many years of travel, so I am a huge proponent of getting out there and seeing the world. We recently acquired a small cottage on the Connecticut shore, so we’ll spend school years in Idaho where our sons can enjoy advanced math and science classes and participate in a robotics club, and summers in Connecticut.

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a longtime professional teacher, a beader extraordinaire, and a traveling mama. She spent a total of 14 years living and teaching abroad, and five years living and traveling on her bike. Her most recent journey was a world-record, 17,000-mile bicycle journey from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and children. You can find her at http://familyonbikes.org

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