Category Archives: Places I’ve Lived

A question for you my dear readers.

Having lived in Panama, Ecuador and now Mexico and visited Costa Rica many times, my question is about basic services – electricity, water and internet.

These counties in Central and South America (some consider Mexico part of North America) and quite possibly others, have been referred to as “third-world countries” when it comes to many things, such as hospitals are concerned. The shifting winds of governments over the years, together with the influx of Expats to these countries has brought on many improvements to healthcare, highways and sewage treatment, for example in Panama City where 40,000 metric tons of raw sewage were previously dumped into the Bay of Panama daily. This was the primary reason that all the big hotels on the bay, built to launder drug money, sat empty.

In the countries I have lived in or visited the most frequent occurrence was no water, no electricity or no internet, often for days on end. My question is if this is a result of inadequate infrastructure to support these services, corruption either in private companies or the governments, a lack of funding, incompetence or maybe just a lack of intent?

Each of these countries have at one point made International Living’s Best Places To Retire list. First it was Costa Rica, then Panama, then Ecuador and now Mexico. Those who have been part of the Age Wave, the baby boomer generation, are shocked when they move to these countries only to learn that the basic services that they have been accustomed to in their home counties are often not available. Electricity (power) in particular is an exception because people have experienced a loss of power as a result of thunderstorms, ice storms and high winds taking down power poles, but, except in extreme situations, such as the recent tornados in Canada, power is usually restored fairly quickly.

That is not the case in the countries mentioned because weather is seldom a contributing factor. Instead, the power just goes off for no apparent reason at any time of day or night. In some situations I understand that it is because of the electrical grid not being designed to allow localized outages for work to be done. The entire system must be brought down.

Water supply can be just as problematic. Unlike in more developed countries where water supply is a public utility, in Panama, for example, water is supplied by private companies which are often underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with problems that arise. Again, in Panama, a pipe broke in the system supplying my water and I had no water for over a week. Not so great to not be able to flush the toilets for a week. Here in Mexico it’s the well known don’t drink the water. Bottled water is the norm, although I for one don’t know what the problem is with the water supply. I can only assume that it is a lack of purification that is a normal part of water supply everywhere else.

Internet is a whole other issue, although improvements are being made gradually. A common complaint here in Lakeside will soon be solved when iLox brings 50 Mbps service here soon. Telmex is also introducing fiber-optic service. no doubt in response to iLox coming. That being said, Telmex service is completely unreliable. Many areas get less than 2 Mbps, if at all. And just yesterday the service from Telmex was out all day here in Riberas. The question is why?

The new President has pledged to bring WIFI to everyone in the country. A very lofty goal. He has also pledged to stop Guadalajara from drawing a foot of water out of Lake Chapala every year, although there is no indication how that might affect the local water supply.

Obviously I can only speak to these issues as an immigrant to the countries I have lived in, but I wonder how the locals feel. Do they just accept that this is the way it has always been or are they just as annoyed at the constant failure of these services? If so, why aren’t there loud protests to clean up the mess that is, for example, CFE? Are Mexicans just used to no water or no power? Don’t Mexican businesses suffer the same consequences when they can’t operate their equipment? It costs businesses a lot when they must close because they can’t function without power. Their employees must be sent home with no pay, which hurts everyone. Food spoils in restaurants when there is no refrigeration. They can’t open at night with no lights. Bands can’t play music without power.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love Lakeside and I do everything possible to promote the area on my website. I simply want to believe that these issues can actually be solved to make life here even better.

Women or culture in Ecuador or maybe me?

Anyone who has been following me knows that I intended to move to Ecuador back in December of 2014. I had done months of research on where to go to live out my life. I knew that I could not survive in Canada on my limited pensions so I had to find a country with a lower cost of living. I was also a little sick of winter so I was looking for a good climate, not too cold or not too hot. Ecuador appeared to fit the bill on just about everything. I knew that there would be culture shock, but I felt that I was prepared from my time in Panama.

Even with the much lower cost of living in Ecuador I still needed to find a way to earn some money, partly because I would lose one of my pensions, the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) after six months out of the country. I knew that Ecuador was becoming a retirement destination for Canadians and there wasn’t a lot of good websites with factual information about Ecuador so I created a website, WelcomeToEcuador.ca. I intended to sell advertising on the site to make a little extra money, plus I hoped to travel the country taking photos and writing a blog. That was the plan.

Prior to actually leaving I met a women on Facebook, Anna, who initially offered to help me find a place to live. Over the course of several messages she eventually expressed an interest in working for me on the website. I knew that I needed someone who spoke Spanish to deal with clients so it was a good fit for us to work together. She arranged for a driver to pick me up in Quito and because her English was very good we kind of hit it off. She was also very attractive which was a bonus. She ended up helping me with things like going shopping for food and dealing with the person who turned out to be my landlady, Jessica. I had only booked a week at Balcon de Lago but ended up making a longer term deal when I could not find an apartment in Otavalo. More on this later.

Since the first day we met I had been asking Anna to come over so we could discuss the business, but she kept delaying it saying she was busy. Finally we set a date and time for her to come over in the morning, but she never showed and never called which I wasn’t impressed with. Then we set another day for her to meet with my landlords to discuss the longer term arrangement. She said eight o’clock in the morning and I reminded her that she wasn’t all that reliable that early in the day, but she insisted. Eight o’clock came and went with me sitting at the table with a bunch of people who spoke no English, awkward to say the least. Then Anna shows up an hour late. She comes in like a queen with no apologies for keeping everyone waiting an hour. All I could think about was if she would pull this with clients. I questioned if this was actually going to work out.

The meeting with my landlords involved me telling Anna something in English and then she would translate. I had to trust that she was saying the right thing to them and that they understood what I wanted. After I thought we were all in agreement apparently we weren’t. My landlady came down to my cabin in tears because she and Anna had quite the argument on the phone. Somehow she understood that Anna was just trying to find me another place to live which really upset Jessica. I knew that this was the end for Anna and I. I emailed her my concerns and that ended us.

Fast forward a couple of months of things not going very well with my landlords. Among the many issues was the situation with the fire. My place was freezing and I could not work without having a fire going constantly. I had expressed concern about the lack of ventilation and they were going to install a fan but nothing was ever done. One fateful night I felt tired and thought I would just lie down for a bit. Big mistake! Jessica came down, which she had never done before, and tried to wake me, which she had also never done before. When she could not wake me they called an ambulance and rushed me to the local hospital in Otavalo. I woke up some three hours later and remember the doctor saying that I would have been dead in twenty minutes from carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s a close to death as I had ever come and certainly freaked me out. Apparently it also freaked Jessica out because she asked me to move out, and in only a couple of days.

At one point she had come to me and asked me to prepay two months rent because they “needed the money”. I wasn’t crazy about that because things were not going well so I agreed to pay her one month in advance. When she asked me to move out we had a discussion about the rent she owed me, the firewood I had paid for, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me, the DirecTV I had paid for that I never got and we agreed on her giving me two hundred dollars. When my taxi was loaded ready to go I asked her for the money but she said she had not been to the bank. I offered to take her to the bank but now she was apparently waiting for a check from someone. She said that she would come to Cotacachi and pay me the money. She never came and that was in February 2015. She just ripped me off.

When I planned to move to Ecuador I had gotten a six month Visa in Canada, planning to file for my residency when I got to Ecuador. I was going to pay for my residency with the money from my GIS pension, which I had been told I would receive by the end of January. That did not happen. It took me months to finally receive the GIS, which caused me a lot of grief. I had to go to Guayaquil at the other end of the country to apply for my residency. It was around this time that I realized the issues I was going to have getting my meds, most importantly my insulin. Obviously I could not survive without my insulin so it looked like I had no choice but to return to Canada. The Canadian dollar had also crashed and I was already struggling to live so paying for my insulin was out of the question. I had sent my facilitator, Katty Fajardo, three hundred and fifty dollars, the government fee to get my cedula but had told her to hold off until I knew if I was going to be able to get my insulin. I emailed her that I could not and would need to return to Canada so I could not file for residency. I asked her to return my three hundred and fifty dollars along with my passport so that I could fly back to Canada. She refused to return the money or my passport. I had to jump through all kinds of hoops and get a temporary passport so I fly. Although she did return my passport it had been cancelled. So she ripped me off for my three hundred and fifty dollars and cost me a lot of money to get another passport.

Shortly before all this happened I met a woman who I admittedly fell in love with at first sight, Patricia. Our short but passionate romance was amazing and we planned to marry as soon as I could return to Ecuador. I was going to be back in Canada for what looked like six months and we knew it would be hard to keep our relationship strong but we were sure that we could. We talked just about every single day on Facebook and things were going well between us. She was struggling financially and of course I was living on only my pensions so it was very difficult for me to help her, but I did. I had sent her my bank card and every month I sent her money that I really could not afford. Before I knew it I had sent her five hundred dollars US, money that she agreed to repay me when she got her twenty thousand dollar settlement from her ex. I also sent her a hundred dollars to give to my friend, Dutch, but she used the money saying she would pay him back. Then she took the fifty dollars from the fundraising campaign account, saying she would return it. Then she moved to Quito out of the blue, blocked me on Facebook and will not respond to my emails. Total ripoff six hundred and fifty dollars American.

So my question is if all this was just the different culture of Ecuador, the wrong women or was I responsible? If it’s my fault what exactly did I do wrong?

My windowless apartment

Tough to know what the weather is outside when you don’t have windows.

Yes, I’ve moved around a bit…

My parents moved around a lot when I was just a youngun. We lived for a time at Donalda Farms, which was to eventually become Don Mills. We lived in Ajax. Not sure where else but we eventually moved in with my grandparents at 7 Hugo Avenue in Toronto. My grandfather passed away soon after we moved in. When I was just about to turn twelve we moved out to the country, to a farm house north of Streetsville, now part of Mississauga.

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