Skills That Translate

You know, like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” – Napoleon Dynamite

At this point in life, I don’t share Napoleon Dynamite’s concern about skills for the sake of dating. My concern is with having skills I can use in Brazil, skills that will enable me to work as a bi-vocational missionary. That’s not as easy a prospect as you might imagine.

Just prior to moving to Brazil and marrying, I took a course by mail in teaching English as a foreign language. It was minimal preparation, but people in Brazil assured me that there were a lot of language schools (there are a lot in Uberlandia, too many for the available market, in my opinion) and that I’d get a good paying job with little trouble. I did get a job, though the pay was not great, there were no benefits (contrary to Brazilian law) and the hours I had made only a part-time salary. I also had to work mornings and evenings, which really cut into what I could do with the church. Were it not for the support from American churches, we wouldn’t have made it.

Now I work for Cingular Wireless, the “new AT&T,” as a customer service representative in the National Business Services division. We deal with maintenance and troubleshooting issues on existing major business and government accounts. The positives with this job are that I have a regular schedule, the somewhat low salary (for the area) keeps the lights on at my house, there are good medical benefits and when I go home at night, my work doesn’t go with me. The downside is that the salary doesn’t help us get ahead at all, the work is wearisome, we have to deal with multiple systems (I run between 7 to 15 different systems on any given work day just to do my job) and I’m not learning anything that I believe will be particularly useful in Brazil.

Sure, I’m reinforcing my people skills, building a work record and getting really used to being around computers and technology. I sure know a lot about cell phones now! Again, though, these skills will not add to my ability to find good employment in Brazil that will allow me to do mission work as well.

Last night my wife and I talked about it again, and she told me that her brother-in-law Marcelo had been telling her she or I (or both) need to study for a certificate or degree in the field of computer technology. According to him, there are a lot of companies looking for skilled workers, but none are available. This could bode well for me, but I need to strike while the iron is hot. The challenge now will be in finding a technical program here that I can afford which will prepare me to work there.

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