Category Archives: Rants And Raves

Lesson learned – a question of who to trust

Yesterday as I picked up a few essentials at Super Lake, bemoaning the fact that I had thirteen dollars left until my pensions come in at the end of the month and wondering how I was going to make it, and, yes, feeling sorry for myself, when I came out of the store I noticed a young girl standing just outside the entrance. She had a crude cardboard sign with English and Spanish scrawled on it saying “please help me. I need food for my baby”.

It’s a sad fact of life here that Mexicans are forced to beg. Kids are often trying to sell you something. Ladies sit outside places like Super Lake with a cup in their hands hoping you will give them a few pesos. The vast majority of Mexicans live in abject poverty.

As I came out I reached into my pocket and gave her the few coins I had planned for the bus. I couldn’t carry what I had on the bus so I was going to need my driver to come and get me, something I could ill afford.

As I stood outside waiting for him I watched person after person just ignores this girl, not even returning the hello she said to them. They saw her sign but just walked by her. As usual with Super Lake, there were no locals coming out because they can’t afford to shop there. I wondered if local folks would ignore a woman begging for food for her baby?

After a few minutes watching this I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked her to come back to the store with me to get some food for her baby. I told her I was not a rich American so I couldn’t get her very much but I would try. She got bread and some small jars of baby food and I treated her to some chocolate for herself. It was only a couple hundred pesos.

She was thrilled at this very small gesture. She told me her name was Melissa and she showed me a picture of her baby, Daniel Alexander. I gave her my card and told her that if she ever faced a day when she had no food to come to my place and I would feed her something. She couldn’t stop smiling and even helped me with my groceries when my driver arrived.

My point in telling this story is simply to encourage you to give when you can, especially if you have more money than you need. The locals are an admirable, warm, proud people, happy with little but when someone like Melissa needs our help please give. It will make you feel very good, as it did for me.

As that old radio program used to say, “And now for the rest of the story.” Oh, and this is a good one. If all you get out of it is how stupid I am, well, you are SO right.

First, Melissa called me yesterday and asked to meet me at Super Lake so I could buy her more food for her “baby”. I told her it wouldn’t be much because I don’t have it to give her but I would buy some for her. I said I would be there around 3:30 and we agreed to meet. She wasn’t there but called me later to tell me she was now at Super Lake and expected me to come back. I said no but told her if she came to my house I would give her a little money. Big mistake!

She showed up a while later with a friend in tow, no doubt because she didn’t want to be alone with a man in his apartment, regardless of the fact that I could be her grandfather. So be it. I understood. I fed both of them. Her friend and I went out on the terrace to have a smoke and Melissa asked where my broom was because she was going to do some cleaning for me for the money I gave her. Nice, I thought. Then she said they had to go because her “baby” was sick. We said our goodbyes.

Oh, read on. This gets a lot juicier. A little while later her friend came back alone. Needless to say, I wondered why. I thought she might have forgotten something. She then tells me that Mellissa had shown her my diamond ring and said she was going to sell it! Sure enough, I checked and it was gone! This was the thanks I got for helping her?

We called the police who showed up fairly quickly. They took all the information and then told me to call Uber to take us to the Chapala police station where they would meet us and then go to Melissa’s house together. When her friend and I arrived at the police station it was closed. No sight of the two officers that came to my apartment. An officer outside said we couldn’t do anything more tonight and we had to come back in the morning.

I figured that my thousand dollar ring would be sold by then so I convinced her friend to go to her house and confront Melissa to give back my ring or she could deal with the police tomorrow. She didn’t answer the door and when her friend called her on my driver’s phone so she wouldn’t recognize the number she hung up on her. Now the plan is to go to her house in the morning with her friend and the police to confront her to get my ring back. No doubt she has either sold the ring by then or will simply deny she stole it. The police believe her friend who Melissa was dumb enough to show the ring to and tell her she was going to sell it.

We gave her the chance tonight to just give my ring back and be done with it. No police. No charges. No possible jail time, but she refused.

The bad part of my story is how stupid I was to trust this girl. It turns out she has five children, all of whom have been taken away from her. For me, as dumb as I know I was to trust her and try to help her, the good part is that I know her friend could have simply gone home and forgotten about it. Instead, she came back to my place to tell me what happened and then she spent hours with me dealing with the police, going to Chapala, confronting Melissa, and now she’s doing it all again tomorrow.

I have hesitated to name her until this is hopefully over and maybe I get my ring back, but she works at Super Lake and I hope to be able to disclose this amazingly honest girl’s name so you can tell her she did the right thing when you see her.

I pray that tomorrow will bring a better ending to this story. Even if she hasn’t already sold my ring and gives it back I don’t know how things work here in Mexico. Will she still be charged with theft now that the police are involved? Do I have the right to stop her being charged if I get the ring back? Do I even want to? She’s clearly a thief and I don’t want her doing this to anyone else. I am trying to warn anyone who sees her begging at Super Lake to avoid her like the plague.

Live and learn.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse….

After the police station was closed last night my driver, Salvador, suggested we go to the police station at 8:30 when it opened today. I handed my phone to her friend to make arrangements to pick her up this morning. When she hung up I asked what time he was picking her up and she said 8:00 o’clock. I asked if she had given him her address and she said yes.

This morning I’m anxiously waiting for them to show up at my place. It gets later and later and she has to be at work at Super Lake at 10:00 so I begin to panic. I text Salvador asking where they are? He calls and tells me he is in Chapala, knows nothing about picking her up and doesn’t know where she lives. By now, with all this total screw-up, Melissa has had plenty of time to sell my ring. The police no doubt wonder where we are and drop the case.

A very bittersweet end and a huge loss for me. A thief gets away with it. and will no doubt do it again? For me, my trust is gone. Never again will I try to help a local. Expensive lesson learned.

A final note. Just when I thought Melissa’s “friend” was so wonderfully honest and was being so helpful, she told me she worked at Super Lake and was working 10:00 until 2:00. My very confused driver, Salvador, and I went to Super Lake to see if Estafan could come with us to the police at 2:00 when she finished work. 

Yup, you guessed it. She doesn’t work at Super Lake. Although I am still absurdly confused as to why she came back to tell me that Melissa had stolen my ring, I guess she was in on it from the start. Maybe she came back to see if she could steal something else. I’ll never understand all this. I’m out my ring and there’s no hope I’ll ever get it back And the little thief gets away with it.

If you are at Super Lake and see a girl holding a sign begging for food for her “baby” rip the sign out of her hands and tell her to scram!

The DELL Experience

My story with Dell started way back around 2006 when my cheap Acer crapped out. It suddenly had a wide black stripe down the middle of the screen and I had to send it back to Toronto to get it repaired. I was without it for three weeks. It was such a piece of crap I don’t even remember what I did with it after I bought the Dell.

When I got that first Dell laptop, a Vostro 1500, my first issue was I didn’t know how to get my programs and data files from the Acer. I contacted Dell tech support, which I believe at that time was based in Nashville. Quite quickly and easily I contacted an incredibly helpful rep. He spent the next four hours helping me to setup a home network and connect both laptops. I could not have been more impressed.

That was the last time anything went well with Dell. For the first of many laptops later I found the lettering on the keys wearing off. Prior to the Acer I had rented an IBM ThinkPad that was several years old but the keys were like brand new. The reason was simple. The writing on the keys was slightly inset so you were never typing on the actual lettering. That wasn’t the case with the Dell so as I used it the writing started to wear off to the point that frequently used keys were blank, worn off so bad that the lighting below showed through if back-lighting was turned on. I contacted repair and was told the keyboard overlay was no longer available. That started many emails back and forth asking if they expected me to be able to use a computer with blank keys? I got nowhere fast until I contacted Michael Dell’s office directly. Nathalie in his office, a wonderful lady, apologized profusely and sent me a keyboard overlay the next day. I still had to pay to have it installed but at least I could work again. Of course the lettering started wearing off again.

My life went through a major change when I had to move to Panama around Christmas. I transferred my warranty to Latin America, which was a disaster in itself. Shortly after getting settled in Boquete I contacted warranty support in Panama. Of course they couldn’t find my warranty transfer until I got my sales agent back in Canada involved. I tech came all the way from Panama City, on the bus. About a seven hour drive. He was a nice guy and he ended up staying for dinner and we went out to the bar later. He had friends in Boquete so I assume he stayed over. He was shocked when he saw the condition of my fairly new keyboard. After he replaced it I asked him to make sure that the one he replaced got to production somewhere with the simple solution to change the mold to be inset. He agreed. Now, remember, this was way back in 2007.

All hell broke loose in Panama after the girl who worked for me ripped me off in every way she could, leaving me twenty-eight dollars in the bank. My darling cousin, Joan, back in Toronto, said to come and stay with her until I got my life sorted out. I met someone online and moved to London, Ontario.  Not long after moving they sent a tech from a company called UNISYS. Good technician except that for some unknown reason he took the laptop completely apart, replaced the keyboard overlay, but then forgot to reinstall the hard drive so he had to do it all over again. I had the same conversation with him that I had had with the tech in Panama to send the keyboard to production, wherever that was. He agreed.

Sometime later I took another stab at living somewhere that I could afford and researched Ecuador, but it proved to be even worse than Panama if that was even possible. I nearly died when I was overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning and, according to the doctor in Emergency, was minutes from kicking the bucket.

Yet another Dell disaster. This time not only was the keyboard lettering wearing off again but I got a big flashing red warning that the hard drive was about to fail. Scared the crap out of me. I contacted repair again and they sent the most lovely girl to replace the keyboard and the drive. She gave me a newer, faster, bigger drive. Not only that but she wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with installing my Windows or my programs, but she did anyway. I invited her to dinner and to stay over but she had to catch the bus back to Quito, about two hours away. I’m sure she knew what I had in mind. lol

When Ecuador failed for many reasons I returned again to Canada. This time ending up in a group home in Belleville, Ontario. When the keyboard started failing yet again another tech came to replace it. This time after he replaced the overlay and rebooted the computer the motherboard blew. He went back to the original overlay but the laptop was toast  I had to send it to Toronto where they did nothing except waste my time. They returned it to me and the tech came out again to replace the overlay. We held our hands in prayer when he rebooted it and it worked.

Yet another move, hopefully this time more successful, to Mexico. Wasn’t long before the keyboard started wearing off because despite all the expense of all the warranty repairs, Dell had done nothing to solve the problem. This time the tech traveled from Guadalajara. He replaced the overlay and, of course, the motherboard blew the minute he rebooted. Just like the other techs he had no clue why.

At this point, after more than ten years of so much trouble and particularly that replacing the keyboard had blown the motherboard twice now on this same laptop, I told Dell I had had enough. I wanted the laptop replaced with a desktop with a keyboard that would work and continue working in future. I asked if Dell had any keyboard that had the inset keys so the writing would not wear off. No answer. They finally agreed to send the desktop but sent one certainly not of equal value to what I had paid for my laptop. That was disappointing enough, but what I found just unbelievable was that they sent it with the cheapest keyboard possible. I found it on Amazon for FIVE DOLLARS! How could anyone ignore what I had been through, over and over, for years and not supply a decent keyboard? Was that too much to ask? Literally within days the lettering started to wear off. Worse, some of the keys stopped working. I would click on a letter and just get a blank space. Then after I clicked again the letter would start rapidly repeating across the screen until I hit another key to make it stop. Total garbage!

Back I went to Dell and told them I would not return the laptop until they supplied a far better keyboard. They replied with two keyboard links. I had found what looked like a better keyboard at Amazon.com.mx which could be here overnight, but they said they couldn’t supply that one from their distributor here in Mexico. Suddenly out of nowhere a keyboard showed up the next day. You guessed it. Worse than the first keyboard! Nothing has changed in the design of the lettering. It’s still on the surface and will no doubt start wearing off soon.

So, after at least ten warranty replacements, at huge cost to Dell in four different countries, plus, for me, countless hours and hours of downtime and nothing but frustration, for an issue that could have been so easily solved in the first place and at zero cost to Dell, I still don’t have a functional keyboard. Seriously? I have found a real keyboard at Logitech and I’m working with them to get it here in Mexico. Probably going to cost me a hundred dollars on top of all the time I’ve lost, but at least I will end up with a keyboard that works and lasts more than a couple of months. Puts an end to this nightmare.

Oh, and here’s my nineteen page letter to Michael Dell sent to him last year.

Michael Dell

 

My last bitchin’, whining, angry, post, but necessary

After some ten years today my long lost brother, Kevin James Jones, surfaced on Facebook Messenger under his new wife’s name, Kikiandkyle Siallagan, because he doesn’t have Facebook. They live in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. The reason for this venting post is because in his short message he had the unbelievable gall to say “I forgive you”. I saw red. For what? So this is going to be a little history on my dear brother to see if anyone agrees that I needed to be forgiven for anything. My opinion? Fat chance.

Let’s start way back years ago when he came to Ontario and was living in a room in our basement, for free. He connived me into believing that he needed a motorcycle for his new job and he couldn’t get credit so he asked me to cosign for him, which stupidly I did, much against my wife’s objections. Sure enough, he took off with the bike and left me holding the loan. We had just bought the house and still had bridge financing on our old house, so things were tough enough. Now I had to pay off his loan or my triple-A credit rating would be toast. Luckily we had a great manager at BMO at the time and he let me pay it off over time. I don’t think my wife ever forgave me for trusting him though.

Didn’t hear from him for years again, I guess because he didn’t need me for money. Then at one o’clock in the morning, we get a phone call from him telling me he’s been detained by customs at the airport in Toronto after returning from Jamaica. To be blunt and a little gross, they’re basically waiting for him to shit because they suspect he’s swallowed bags of cocaine. He had. How stupid can you get? I had to post bail for him and find him a lawyer. He was facing ten years in maximum security prison for trafficking. Luckily I had a very good lawyer who managed to get him off with an unbelievable six months in a minimum security facility in Milton, Ontario.

If swallowing cocaine isn’t stupid enough he was a registered nurse at a facility in Red Deer. Of course the minute he was convicted he could no longer handle any drugs at the facility, basically ending his career. We visited him pretty well every weekend unless my son or daughter had sports. All he did was bitch about the cost of the lawyer, never once being thankful that my lawyer saved him from ten years in the slammer. I can’t remember but I think we also got stuck with the bill.

I believe it was on our first trip out west to go dirt-biking that I met his dream girl, Joanne. She was the sweetest thing I’d ever met and he was so lucky to have her. He crashed his bike and nearly killed her, leaving her disabled and barely able to walk. After about eight years together he had worked on a small mobile home park, adding some decks and fixing up the place. I still remember going up to Revelstoke to help him with the decks and him screaming at me for using two screws to fasten the deck boards. He wanted me to just put one in the middle. I warned him that the boards would warp with only one screw but he insisted. When I went up the next spring, sure enough, all the boards were warped. He’s the cheapest person I’ve ever met.

Next thing he shows up at my parent’s place while they were south for the winter. He’s crying. Joanne had given him a choice, either the drugs or her and he chose the drugs. Such a dumb move! They weren’t married so we start talking about their split and what each of them will get as far as the house and the mobile home park. This is when I learn he hasn’t got a thing in writing and he doesn’t even have a chequing account! Joanne handled all of their business, of course. Knowing her father I knew he was going to transfer ownership of the house and the park immediately so Kevin wouldn’t get a dime. I made arrangements with a good lawyer I knew and she managed to get an injunction on the park within twenty-four hours, just because she knew the judge, stopping any transfer of ownership.

My lawyer did an incredible job and managed to get him over a hundred thousand dollars, every dollar of which he would not have gotten without her. Instead of kissing the ground she walked on all he did was bitch about how much she charged. You just can’t win with him.

Now that he’s basically moved in with me, while I pay the rent, of course, he does everything possible to make my life miserable. Every night of the week he brings some floozy home with him to screw and I get to meet them in the morning. I did get some payback though because the day my parents were coming back I didn’t tell him. My Mum and Dad get home only to meet that night’s floozy. They weren’t impressed and Kevin was gone. My mother was horrified that he had left Joanne.

So now he turns to what to do with all that money. Naturally, he asks me. He had his eye on a daycare in Kelowna and wanted me to check it out with him. Of course, he didn’t have a clue how to negotiate a deal, how to get a mortgage and how to get a license to operate the daycare when he had a criminal record. I worked my butt off to get him the daycare. He had such bad credit that I had to cosign for the mortgage. Big mistake!

The daycare was in pretty rough shape, physically and financially. Most of the clients were single mothers whose fees were paid by welfare. The records were in such a mess, with many mothers months overdue in paying or months late in even applying for assistance. It took me hours to sort it all out and I had to be tough telling delinquent mothers that they had until next month or their kids were out. Every single one of them did what they needed to do long ago and we didn’t lose a single child. No thanks to Kevin. I had to fire some staff and hire new and we ended up with a good caring crew. I reorganized every procedure and got the financials sorted out. I also dealt with a new bank and got everything in place for things like payroll. It was a ton of work.

Sometimes his stupidity knows no bounds. I needed him one day and asked where he was. One of the girls said she saw him go outside and around the side of the building. I went looking for him and just before getting to the storage shed I smelled the odor I knew too well. I burst open the door and here he is toking in the storage shed! I lost it on him asking him what would happen if one parent smelled the weed? He would lose his license in a heartbeat. Stupid.

He was heading back overseas for his import business so I put together a very fair proposal for us to run the daycare together. Don’t forget I had already put in a ton of hours over six months getting the books sorted out, the payments coming in and doing renovations to the house, all without a dime. I told him we needed to discuss the deal and he had to sign before he left. Not only did he not sign the deal but he offered the same deal to my girlfriend at the time, Tracy, totally bypassing me! Around this time she had started working with me as the Manager and was doing a great job, especially with the staff and the parents, not to mention the kids who all adored her. What he did drove a wedge in our relationship and we ended up splitting up. More Kevin damage.

Financially things were always tight. Sometimes we just barely managed to pay for something critical, such as food for the kids. Payroll was always a huge concern because you have to pay your staff or they will leave. Coming up to payday I watched every penny in the bank account to make sure we had enough. The day before payday I check the bank as usual and I’m shocked to see a five thousand dollar withdrawal by Kevin in Thailand! There goes payroll. Panic phone calls to Kevin about why the hell he would do that, the result of which he just agreed we needed to shut down the daycare. Throw the staff out without their pay and leave all our clients with no daycare on Monday. And guess who got to give the staff the news and stand at the closed door Monday morning to face all these very angry women. It was not fun. The fallout was obvious. I spent the morning trying to find everyone other daycare which was tough, mostly because a lot of our clients were on welfare. It was pure hell, all of which Kevin totally avoided.

The whole time I worked so hard trying to build the daycare I faced guilt by association with everyone I dealt with because of what Kevin had done to them. He burned the bank. He burned our private mortgage holder. He burned the mortgage company. Every person I spoke with said they better not catch him walking down the street or they would kill him. It was so enjoyable trying to get them to calm down and deal with me instead. Not.

Over the years I hadn’t spent much time with his then-wife, Susan. She was very quiet but seemed sharp when it came to their import business, which Kevin always just referred to as “junk”. Then came the pièce de résistance. He had got a girl pregnant in Thailand, which was bad enough, but he expected he could bring her and the baby to Canada and Susan would look after them! How stupid can you get? Her reaction? She immediately seized all their inventory and got an injunction against him, basically kicking him out of the business. I doubt she ever spoke to him again. Don’t blame her.

Wait! There’s more. After my Dad had passed away and he was back in Thailand he called me to say he needed money right away or these thugs were going to kill him. I explained that my father’s estate was my Mum’s money now and, although I was the executor, there would be no inheritance until my mother also died. That wasn’t good enough for him. He had to have money NOW! Much against my better judgment, partly because my Mum was too far gone, thanks to my sister, to have a clue what he was asking, I sent him ten thousand dollars. I admit I was so tempted to refuse the money so they would kill him.

If you’ve read this far, good for you. Now that you know the history do you think I need forgiveness for anything?

There just isn’t anybody better!

I’ve been following Mara since AGT destroyed her with the dumbest production number ever. She’s incredibly gifted and has a voice that gives me goosebumps every time I hear her sing. She’s all grown up now, although only 15, but she sure has learned a lot. No longer that shy little girl. She’s blossomed now.

Beyond Frustrating!

Our trip to Canada has taught me a new lesson – some people are just too stupid to deal with!

First, my least favorite airline in the world, AeroMexico. After months of fighting with them, filing complaint after complaint, all of which were ignored, they did us in. The agent in Guadalajara took our passports, our boarding passes, which I had printed out before we left, and my tourist visa. Elba and I were talking and not paying much attention to him. He handed our passports back to us. Only when we headed for the gate did we realize he failed to give us back our boarding passes. We raced back to the luggage check-in where they searched everywhere for our boarding passes, finally finding them. Off we went to board our flight.

Our first flight was to Mexico City and then on to Toronto. When we went to board the agent would not let me on because I didn’t have my tourist visa to surrender. I had to race to Immigration to get a new visa (535 pesos); but they only accept pesos. I had changed what pesos I had to Canadian dollars for our trip. Off I raced to the exchange to get pesos again, then back to immigration and finally doing my best O.J. Simpson run back to the gate, only to watch our plane pulling away.

We went to the AeroMexico.ticket office where they informed us that we had to pay another 19,000 pesos to catch a later flight. They also had only one seat left on the flight. I blew a gasket when Elba suggested she would fly back to Guadalajara and I would go on alone. Not a chance! I finally found a wonderful supervisor, Erica, who arranged for us to fly at the same price we had paid, plus she put us on standby for the 1:00 a.m. flight. We spent the next several hours praying that we would get on the plane. After everyone else was on the plane they called us and not only got us on the plane; they got us sitting together! Relief.

We were now arriving very late for the train to Belleville, which we had paid for and tickets were non-refundable. A very nice agent arranged for us to catch a later train at no extra cost. One of the good guys and not one of the stupid people.

When we finally arrived at the hotel we ended up dealing with the most offensive, ignorant, confrontational manager. It made our stay intolerable. At one point when we desperately needed our credit card in Toronto, he had processed four hundred dollars in new charges to our credit card without notice. We kept getting declined at places like McDonald’s because I had four dollars of credit left thanks to him.

I had tried to reactivate my Canadian telephone but had lost my SIM card. Chatr Wireless told me to go to any 7-11 and buy a new SIM card for $10. We found a 7-11 in Toronto and asked for a SIM card for Chatr Wireless. No problem, well, except that the stupid person I dealt with gave me a SIM card for a 7-11 phone, not Chatr. Never did get my reserved Canadian number back.

We needed a courier envelope for my passport and visa to be returned to our hotel on Friday or I would not be able to fly back to Mexico. We went to the Purolator office on Yonge Street and asked for a next day delivery envelope. They didn’t have any, but told us to go down the street to the Shoppers Drug Mart to buy one. I clearly told the agent there that I needed a next day Purolator envelope. I paid him and left the envelope with the lady at the consulate.

Thursday she emailed me telling me that the package would be ready at 4:30; but then asked me what she was supposed to do with the Canada Post envelope I left with her! That led to an unbelievable back and forth with her and Purolator trying to get the right shipment organized. I finally got a simple email from the consulate saying that “the envelope is gone”. That led to total panic thinking I might not get my passport back in time and would not be able to fly.

Friday late morning Purolator showed up with my treasured envelope. Thank you, God!

Now we just need the taxi to show up on time. The train to run on time to Toronto. The UP shuttle to run on time to the airport. AeroMexico not to again screw up our flights back. Hopefully we’ll arrive back in Guadalajara tomorrow morning to be picked up by our good friend, Jack. No more stupid people!

 

 

Too bad Adam and Eve weren’t white

There’s been a horrendous amount of hate being spread around the world, made all the worse by the election of Trump, with his ill-conceived and ill-thought out Executive Orders. The backlash in the world makes you wonder if anyone will admit to actually voting for him. He has hit the nerve on immigration, refugees and general intolerance of those who are “different”. Oh, wouldn’t it be a much more peaceful world if we were all the same, all descended from the original all white Adam and Eve, well, if that’s in fact what they were.

Although we Canadians are smug in admitting what we love diversity and we are proud that we are the melting pot society to be admired, that’s not quite true. Things have changed a lot and not necessarily for the better. Back in the day, yes, when I was a child, decades ago, we had a fair share of immigrants, mostly people from England, Germany and Italy. There was no problem with the British because other than having an accent they looked and acted pretty much like we did. Those from Germany sometimes kept a little to themselves, probably more a little hesitancy because of the war, but they also melted into Canadian society well. Then there’s the Italians. We accepted “little Italy” in places like Toronto and they were treated much like Chinatown, readily accepted into our society as well. But then things changed rather drastically as people from other countries started arriving.

Soon we started getting people from other countries like India, Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, Korea and more and more Chinese and Japanese. Some readily adopted our culture, learned English and got jobs and contributed to our society. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like the States has as far a black people were concerned. Many of my friends growing up were of colour and I didn’t treat them any different than anyone else. My very best friend was, in fact, German. His parents didn’t speak a word of English but we never had any problems getting along and he was just another kid on the block. No different.

This is where it all changed. A lot of those immigrants concentrated in certain neighborhoods where white people or anyone who wasn’t from their country were not welcome. Real Estate agents would tell people they didn’t want to move to that neighborhood because it was East Indian or something else with only people from a certain country, not Canada. Soon the commerce in the area started catering to the immigrant population, carrying foods traditional to their culture, which was no different than any other specialty store; but, then came the big change and one that was not welcome. The store signs that were previously in English and the foreign language were soon only in the foreign language. English was gone. I remember driving miles in area like Markham where I didn’t recognize a single sign. Wait! Isn’t this Canada? Aren’t our official languages English and French? How dare these foreigners suddenly turn our neighborhoods into something foreign to we Canadians. What happened to adopting our language and our culture? The attitude shifted from one of welcoming diversity to “if you don’t like my country then go home!”.

Before you knew it we were dealing with overt meddling with our culture and traditions. People wanted to wear turbans as RCMP officers. What? That’s not Canadian! Then we started having the gang violence in places like Toronto and Vancouver, importing the conflicts from their home country. Nothing to do with Canada. In places like Brampton, where I lived for many years, Anglo Saxon white people became the minority. Wherever I went, from shopping malls to the airport, I was clearly not the same as most of the people. I could have just as easily been in New Delhi.

As is the case with most of the problems in the world it’s all about religion or rather religious freedom. My parents were never what you would call religious fanatics, although they did take us to Sunday School and we did go once in a while to a United or Presbyterian church. We knew that there were Catholic churches around but that was mostly for Italians and those who were a lot more religious than we were. That was what we would have called “religious freedom”. Again though, it was never in anyone’s face so to speak. Observance of different religious holidays was okay, but we all celebrated Christmas, right? You never once thought anything about wishing anyone a Merry Christmas. That you might be offending anyone? Not a chance.

Back then if you had asked me what a Muslim was I wouldn’t have had a clue. The Koran? Again, never heard of it. Islam? Not likely. For me it was simple. You had people who were religious and went to church on Sunday and you had people who might have been religious in that they believed in God, but they rarely went to church. So be it.

Soon you had more mosques than churches. These were fanatically religious people who looked a lot different than me and they got down and prayed to someone called Allah five times a day! Holy cow! Were they at all like the Canadians I had grown up with? No way! They were changing Canada to be just like where they came from. That I didn’t like. It was as if everything I cherished about being Canadian wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted to force their culture on us and change everything about Canada. Soon they were running for office just to gain acceptance for the changes they wanted.

I do not consider myself racist in the meaning of the word, which, from the Urban Dictionary, is “a label given to a person, or group of people who hate/dislike those who belong to a different race. This typically applies to hatred based on skin-colour.” No, I do not have any negative impressions of people based on their race or skin colour. I treat everyone the same. What I do object to is someone, anyone of any race, creed or colour, who doesn’t like the way we do things here in Canada and wants to change it to be like the country they came from. Hey, if you find so much wrong with our country then don’t come!

 

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This is yours truly’s personal experience as a Canadian coming to Ecuador to live out what’s left of my life. This post is more of a journal covering my preparations for filing for residency as a pensionado and my journey to avoid being forced to return to Canada.

Your own experience will be determined by where you live, which will then determine if you deal with an Ecuadorian consulate or the Embassy in Ottawa. The general advice if you are looking at moving to Ecuador is first to visit the country for an extended period, at least a month and more if you can. Your tourist Visa gives you ninety days to explore the various regions and determine what area you might want to move to. There are vast differences in areas of the country, from climate to culture. Coming from Canada you will certainly experience culture shock with Ecuador. For some people it’s simply too much. Others consider it an adventure. The number one issue you will face everywhere in the country is language. The more proficient you are in Spanish the better off you will be. Bring a good translation book or a smart phone with Spanish downloaded. The Ecuadorian people in general are very warm, friendly and more than willing to help you, but you must make an effort to speak to them in Spanish.

Ecuador has more diverse regions than just about any county in the world. The difference between living in a large city like Guayaquil, which is very hot and humid all day, every day, and anywhere in the mountains, such as Cotacachi, at very high altitude, with more spring-like weather all year, are vast. Many places, such as Cuenca, which has a very large Expat population, have many of the things that Canadians are familiar with, such as malls and theatres. More remote areas don’t have many of these common North American type venues.

In my case I made the decision to up and move to Ecuador, for many reasons I won’t go into here. I had spent sixteen months living in Boquete, Panama, so I had some experience with the culture shock and knew that it wouldn’t be a problem for me. After months of research I made the decision to move to Cotacachi in the mountains, mostly because I had spent fourteen wonderful years in BC and saw many similarities in Cotacachi. I am no fan of extreme hot or cold weather, so Cotacachi’s climate seemed ideal.

After considerable research on the immigration requirements of Ecuador I traveled to the consulate in Toronto to start on preparing my documents. Unfortunately, before my four hour trip from London, I was given totally inaccurate information on what to bring. For example, I had brought colour copies of my various identification. What I didn’t know was that any documents had to be notarized and then submitted to the official government documents office, a government agency I didn’t even know existed. Off I went to the closest notary and then to the government office then back to the consulate, only to be told that they were closing at 1:00 in the afternoon. They told me I needed a bank statement showing I had sufficient funds, something they didn’t qualify, so off I rushed to my closest bank branch and came back minutes before the consulate was closing. They told me they couldn’t deal with me and that I would need to come back. No concern was shown for my four hour trip.

Given the frustration of dealing with the consulate I contacted the Embassy in Ottawa and I met Rolando, who turned out to be an incredibly helpful person. After I explained my disappointing experience with the consulate he informed me that he would, in fact, be moving to the consulate in the new year. He then asked me to send him my passport and the documents I had prepared and he said he would get me a six month Visa, which he did. He was most helpful in getting my Service Canada pension letters translated and many other things. When I left Canada I felt that I had everything I needed to apply for my Visa when I arrived in Ecuador.

Here’s the first of many mistakes I made. With a six month Visa I was in no hurry to apply for residency, plus I had to wait to receive my GIS pension to pay to file. Second, I didn’t know that you had to register your Visa right away. No one told me that nor was there a word on the government website about it. Lessons learned.

Although I did have the funds to apply for residency originally, I ended up in a private hospital for four days, which cost me an outrageous $1,200 so there went my residency fund. What happened with my GIS pension would fill a book. Save to say that the amount I was promised to receive by the end of Janaury didn’t happen. After three months of calling Service Canada, getting nowhere, I contacted my MP in London, who then started going through what I had experienced, also getting nowhere. In total desperation I then emailed the Minister, somewhat dramatically saying that there would be a letter on my cold dead body blaming my government for my demise. To my considerable surprise I received a call from a supervisor at Service Canada two days later advising me that everything had been sorted out and I should receive the money in a couple of days.

Another important factor that I learned only after I arrived here was that there was a three month waitig period before you could apply for the national health care plan, and that was only after you received your cedula, a process which also takes about a month after you apply. Thanks to my pharmacist and OHIP I had managed to bring a six month supply of my very important diabetic medications with me, but with the delays in applying for my cedula I would run out long before I was in the plan. Given that my Visa was about to expire on May 29th I had contacted a facilitator in Quito to start the process when I hopefully got my GIS, but time was running out on me. He had registered my Visa, but was waiting for the $850 to start my application.

Prior to finally getting my GIS I had posted a desperate plea on Facebook for help. A person had advised me to contact an organization called VisaAngels in Cuenca. I could write yet another book on how wonderful they were in helping me, although what I had to go through was difficult, to say the least. Kathy, one of the angels, told me that recent change to immigration laws for Canadians would make it very difficult to file in Quito. Her experience was that it was much easier in Guayaquil. She wanted me to come to Cuenca where she was based and we would travel the three hours to Guayaquil to file my application there. Despite the fact that I thought my documents were perfect with the help of the Embassy, they weren’t, so she had to arrange to do a number of additional translations.

I left Cotacachi on an early morning bus and I asked the driver if I would then catch a bus in Otavalo for Quito and then Cuenca and he said that was correct. When I arrived in Quito I asked where the bus was for Cuenca and was told several different places, all of which proved wrong and then finally I got the right booth. She informed me that the only bus to Cuenca left at 10:00 o’clock that night, twelve hours from now. Obviously panicked now I started wandering around looking for help. A man told me that I was at the wrong bus terminal for a bus to Cuenca and then found me a taxi to take me to the right terminal. I should have asked, but the next thing is that I have a thirty dollar taxi fare to the new terminal. I did find the right bus which was leaving in a hour, but it didn’t get into Cuenca until 10:00 o’clock that night. Nine hours in that bus was no fun.

The next morning Kathy picked me up at the ungodly hour of five o’clock from my hostel and we headed off to Guayaquil, three hours away. Once the sun came up we realized what amazing country we were traveling through, high up in the mountains. Another couple, Richard and Carolyn from Winnipeg, were also with us to file for their residency. Other than the crazy traffic, the only comment I can make about Guayaquil is how unbelievably hot and humid it was. I can’t believe that 2.6 million people make it their home.

We had some running around to do after we arrived, things I had no clue why we were doing, but we were in Kathy’s capable hands so we didn’t question anything. When we finally arrived at immigration I couldn’t believe how huge the office was and how many people were waiting to be dealt with. When our number finally came up Richard and Carolyn went first. A few minutes later Richard comes back, hands me my file and photos and tells me that Kathy said that my Spanish was good enough to go it alone, so watch for my number to come up. Given how all this had gone so badly from the start I was trying not to shake. When my number was called I was met by a most grim looking man who I thought just wanted to deny me acceptance. I did notice that he was the only one of the clerks who was wearing a suit and tie so I told him he looked very professional. He seemed to warm a little, although he must have gone through my documents five times, reading every single word. My only goal was to not shake. Finally he sent me off to pay my thirty dollars and things appeared to be fine, which Kathy confirmed later, they were and I could stay in Ecuador. I still won’t feel totally relaxed until I actually get my cedula, which I also just learned I need to go to Guayaquil again to get my photo taken and receive my cedula.

Only fitting that after Giovanny at my hostel made numerous phone calls about getting a more direct bus back and his mother had actually gone out to the bus terminal to buy my ticket, after I had confirmed that I had to switch buses in Otavalo to get the one for Cotacachi, I peered out the window and realized that we had not stopped in Otavalo. I asked a fellow passenger where we were going and he told me to Ibarra, so after all those hours on the bus I manage to find a way to spend even more hours getting back to Cotacachi. I was never more happy to finally be home and now I have thoughts that hopefully this will now be my home forever. Hopefully I will soon receive the email telling me I have been approved and then off I go again to Guayaquil. My cedula entitles me to a fifty percent discount on in country flights, so maybe I can fly back and avoid that long bus ride.

What’s wrong with this country?

A recent survey found that over ninety percent of consumers are unhappy with customer service. Automated phone systems are often frustrating. Agents are untrained in the product or service. Offshore call centres are staffed with people who cannot understand or speak English. Large companies, mostly cable and telecom giants are viewed as greedy and out of touch with their customers.

What’s wrong here?

For whatever reason, companies have insulated themselves from actually dealing with customers. They put all kinds of walls up to protect themselves from criticism. They all profess lofty goals of offering exceptional customer service, yet their policies and procedures fly in the face of this goal. Call centres are measured on taking the least amount of time to deal with customers on the phone and not on the results of these calls.

My own experience over many years clearly shows the decline in customer service. Just a few examples –

I got word that the call centre where I work was looking at upgrading all their antiquated computers. Given that this was my business for almost twenty years I wanted to submit a proposal. I am a Dell fan, so I contacted their Enterprise sales department to build the initial quote for 600 work stations here in London. I also told them there was a potential 30,000 if we won the world wide contract, which only a company like Dell could handle. I got the usual form response that someone would contact me soon. Despite follow-up emails no one ever responded. Is Dell so comfortable that they can afford to ignore this type of contract?

Having been a fan of President’s Choice products since the day they came out, I sent a proposal to Loblaws suggesting they try a new concept store where you would be able to eat healthy meals, eat-in or take-out and sample their PC products. Nearby there would be a PC store where you could only buy PC brand products, along with fresh produce from only local growers, who would also setup farmers’ markets on Saturdays to promote their products carried in the store. I had researched a location here in London that would be perfect, a closed fast food joint out front and a closed dollar store, the perfect size for the PC Brands store. The response? Thanks for your letter. blah blah blah. Yeah, I’ll be really ticked off when they open this concept and it goes across the country.

After lying in a filthy bed in forty degree heat at a shelter I designed a shelter that provided some dignity for residents. I saw it as a public/private partnership. I overheard a staff member talking about a new resident and how they could make sure they got their $46 a night. Seriously? This for a disgusting bed in a dorm and eating mostly donated food? That’s over $1,200 a month. Where is all the money going? I contacted several local builders and sent my detailed renderings of a better shelter concept. Not a single one responded. One in particular owns several empty buildings around town which could easily be converted to my concept, but he would not even meet with me.

Thirty years ago I was involved in installing computer networks, desktop software and even computer furniture. It was the early days of both networking software (Novell ELS 1.0) and Microsoft Windows (3.1). On one customer site I had a particularly challenging install that involved an issue with the network card in the server. At 11:30 PM I called Microsoft and was soon on a conference call with customer service and a technician, who helped me solve the problem. Fast forward to today and just try to speak to a real person at Microsoft. They want something like $90 for fifteen minutes and that’s after you go through a myriad of pushing buttons trying to get to the person you need.

Even more telling is that over ten years ago, when I was working for Northern Computer in Kelowna, I developed a detailed proposal for what today we call the Cloud. I had worked with a number of small businesses who needed access to a computer network, but did not have the funds to buy their own hardware or software licenses. I worked with a local ISP (Silk Internet) who committed to buying the required hardware for a data centre where customers would share server space. I got all the way up to an assistant to Bill Gates, who told me Microsoft would NEVER share software access over the internet. How things have changed today! After I had developed a full desktop model for Windows and access from anywhere, something common today, Microsoft refused to even look at the site for fear of intellectual property concerns by their lawyers. Instead of losing market share to companies like Google, today Microsoft could have been the market leader without question.

Of interest is that, after Microsoft refused to look at my proposal, I contacted Google, Netscape, Apple, Facebook and several venture capitalists who had been involved in the internet. Not one of them responded, yet today they are all using some form of what I had proposed. Shortly after I had contacted Microsoft they launched several of the features that had been part of my proposal. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Over the years I have sent proposals, large and small, to many companies. Here in London Tim Horton’s has a small store downtown, with no seating and it’s always a crush of people trying to get their coffee fix. They also close at 6:00 every night, even though the downtown is swarming with people who would want Timmies. There was an empty store in a building right across the street, and next to McDonald’s, with plenty of seating and right on the corner where all the buses meet. I wrote to Tim Horton’s to suggest this was a perfect location. I got the typical “thanks for contacting us” form response, but nothing else. I sent three follow-up emails, again with no response, most importantly one after Quiznos had closed in the location, mostly because it took way too long to get service for people on limited lunch hours. Nothing. I sent a letter to Tim Horton’s Head Office, expressing my frustration that no one had responded to my emails. No surprise. No response.

After a poor experience with a filthy washroom at a McDonald’s I sent a letter to their Head Office. An exec did call me and tell me he was contacting the manager at the store and that they would “get back to me”. No one has called. I also sent a letter suggesting they use those little plastic shot glasses to sample their new smoothies. I have never been a fan of yogurt, but I would be willing to try a small sample. He also informed me that I could ask for one with no yogurt. Who knew? I think they would double their sales if they offered small testers, but, again, no one responds.

Probably no surprise that I’m dealing with the government on an issue that dates back over twenty-five years ago and I’ve written to everyone from the Prime Minister to the Governor General, but haven’t had a single response for three years. What happened to government for the people?

I spent several weeks developing a business proposal for a new way to connect job seekers with employers (www.PrismCareerNetworks.com). As a fan of the show Dragon’s Den I researched Robert Herjavec of the Herjavec Group and sent him the complete business proposal suggesting a partnership. His response? Nothing.

As consumers our voices are being heard less and less. These companies are putting systems in place to insulate themselves from their customers. They simply don’t listen anymore. Do you think if they did a survey asking if customers would prefer to deal with an automated phone system over a real person that these frustrating systems would have ever been implemented? No way. It’s amazing that companies are now promoting connecting with a real person as something new. Seriously?

My all time favorite was Rogers, with whom I had a disastrous experience. They frustrated me at every turn over three days, seventeen phone calls and trips by bus to their local store, only to discover that some idiot technician had disconnected my service by mistake. After all the wasted hours with them I remembered a site called IHateRogers. I went to the site and sent a detailed email to the contact number shown on the site. It came right back as “undeliverable”. I did some further research and discovered other contact addresses and sent emails off. All of them came back as “undeliverable”. I finally went to WhoIs, a site that provides the registration details for a website. Guess who owned the site? You got it – Rogers! They bought it to stifle complaints against them and promptly disabled all the contact addresses. How’s that for listening to customers?

The paradox of all these pathetic customer service failures is that other studies have shown that over ninety percent of consumers will return to a business based on the customer service they receive initially. Go figure.

Courier Companies. Do website programmers check their own sites?

It was a simple request. I wanted to ship my old computer to a friend in the Okanagan. I wanted it to arrive in a few days and I wanted to make sure it was handled carefully.

Healthcare in Ontario SUCKS!

When I lived in BC and was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 everything I needed was covered by my medical plan. Not so in Ontariario. You have to fight for every dollar. The best example of idiotic care here is that they pay for insulin but not the needles to take it. Are we supposed to drink it? Needles are $40 a box, and, if like me you use six a day, that box doesn’t last very long.

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