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?

More to the story...

Interesting that my last post about Ecuador was September 7th. I knew that I had no choice but to return to Canada, mostly because of the falling Canadian dollar, but I had no idea what was about to happen to make my life even more complicated.

On one of my many nights at The Bar I met a woman who I admittedly fell in love with  at first sight. I thought she was with a friend of mine because I had overheard him say something about his "girlfriend". Turned out to not be true but I didn't know that at the time. She came out to have a smoke and we talked probably for an hour or more, even though she didn't speak a word of English. She told me she ran a spa in town and you can bet I planned to go there. I offered to walk her home but she declined. I was confused by the fact that she left alone when her supposed boyfriend was still in the bar.

My friends, Deb and Dutch, had planned a going away party for me at The Bar. I had run into Bobby and Becca from my favorite group. Three Shades of Grey, downtown and asked if there was any chance that they would play that night and they immediately agreed, which was awesome. Not quite sure when I asked her to come, although I think I had run into her downtown one day at the market. I asked her to bring her mother to encourage her to come but The Bar is not popular with the locals so I didn't know if she would come or not. She did. 09_25_01

The minute she walked in the door she took my breath away. She was gorgeous. Although it was a bit of an unusual affair because there were many women who I wanted to dance with on my last night, I still got to dance with her. We were good together. At some point during the night we ended up outside for a smoke and I asked her about the "girlfriend" thing. She laughed and said he was only a friend, not a boyfriend. I found that very encouraging.

As the night came to a close I invited her and her Mum back to my place, hoping, of course, that her mother would decline, but she didn't. We talked and we danced, but the funniest part was every time her Mum went to the bathroom we would kiss and fondle each other, passion raging unchecked. At one point I mentioned that I was hungry and she disappeared. She came back with a full meal made from stuff I didn't even know I had. It was delicious. On top of everything else I loved about her she was also a great cook.

The night came to a close and they needed a taxi to get home, although it wasn't that far to walk, but it was late and maybe not that safe to venture out at that hour. My regular taxi guys would have long since gone home to bed so I wandered out on the street hoping to find one. Luckily there was a concert still going on just down the street and I found a taxi for them. I felt like a hero when I came back to my place and they were waiting outside, although I regretted her leaving.

No sooner had they left than I got a phone call from her telling me that her sister had locked them out of their place, so I told her to come back. Her mother got the bed and she and I pulled the cushions off the couch and chair and put them on the floor. I want to keep this post rated "G" so I won't go into details, but let's just say that it was interesting trying to stay quiet when her Mum was in the bed in the next room.

Dutch and I had planned a parting dinner at Jeanine's the next night so I invited her along, thinking that Dutch would be okay with that, which he was. When she arrived, right on time, I was a little sorry that she and I basically took over the dinner because his Spanish was too rough to understand her. For me it's the little things that I'm impressed with, probably because very few women had ever done those little things. When we got our soup, mine a broccoli base, I think and hers, tomato, she asked me if I liked it, which I didn't. Without a word she immediately switched our soups against my protest. Then she buttered my bread for me. Again, little things, but I was impressed. After dinner we wandered around town doing things she needed to do. The funny part was she held my hand and hugged me, but only when no one was around to see us. She said it was a small town and people would talk if they saw us.

She ended up spending the night at my place and again, let's keep it clean, so no details. Let's just say that it was incredible to say the least. I was falling totally in love with her, more than I had with anyone for a very long time. I knew that this was what real love was about, for the first time in my life.

09_29_01Over the next few days we spent some amazing time together, but, of course, nothing had changed for me to stay in the country, so that weighed heavily on our relationship. Because that b*tch had stolen my money and refused to return my passport I had to go to Quito to the Canadian Embassy to get a temporary passport so I could fly. She came with me and we had a wonderful bus ride down, talking and laughing the entire trip. In Quito I got to meet her son who I instantly got along great with. He was very happy that his mother had found someone to marry, yes, marry. That was the plan. On the trip back she suddenly grabbed me to get off the bus for some unknown reason. We ended up walking down to Puertolago, a five star resort on the lake. We shared a drink 09_29_02outside and it was very romantic.

As our final night in Cotacachi approached I knew that I wanted this last night to be something to remember. I phoned Puertolago and got a special deal based on promising them promotion on the website. Our driver, Dillan, picked us up and she had no idea where we were going. Finally the suspense was killing her so I told her where we were going. She was delighted. We had an incredible time at Puertolago. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner. We played some pool. We sat on the porch overlooking the lake. She had brought a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate our last time together, at least for a while until I came back. That was the plan.

Our driver picked us up the next morning to take me to the airport. Leaving her was a killer. There were a lot of tears but I planned to come back as quickly as possible, although I sure had regrets about leaving.09_26_0109_29_03 It was not a fun trip back to Canada. All I could think about was how I was going to get back to her and get married.

As many people know, long distance relationships are tough. Ours was even harder because we had the language issue. My Spanish was rough but we managed to talk on video for hours. Still, there were times when we just didn't communicate well. She began really pushing me about coming back, ignoring the many challenges I had with things like getting a new passport, a new criminal record check and all the documents I needed for a visa. She was trying to get a special visa based on me returning to marry her, but this worried me. If we didn't end up marrying, which was a possibility that she had raised, I would be stranded in Ecuador and forced to again return to Canada. I wanted to get my six month visa again and then apply for residency when I got there so that I would be protected from leaving again. That did not sit well with her and our relationship began to suffer.

Then all kinds of things happened with the business, none of it good. She introduced me to a lady who was going to sell for us. It so happened that she was gorgeous and soon my lovely fiancee was jealous of her, suggesting that maybe I wanted to marry her instead. All ridiculous but it showed me a side of her that I wasn't crazy about. Soon things really started to unravel and it looked like the marriage was off and the relationship was over. It was a very tough time for me because not only had I lost the love of my life, but now my whole future was in jeopardy. I didn't know if I would ever return to Ecuador now.


Why I don't regret leaving Canada

There was a recent article in CuencaHighLife about why Expats go home. Many try to avoid that I told you so from friends and family by making up a cover story. It's a sick parent that needs care. My kids need my support. I need surgery and would feel more comfortable having it at home. Many simply admit that they miss some of the things back home, like Christmas with family or being able to shop at Wal-Mart.

This got me thinking about my own decision to move to Ecuador and, most recently, the thought of being forced to return to Canada if I couldn't get my residency here, on which I came close. What would I be returning to? Basically I would have been homeless in Toronto, a city I loathe. My pensions would not have been enough to live on pretty well anywhere in Canada. I would have my meds paid for which helps, but, as my dear friend put it, I would basically be "molding", waiting to die. Not much of a life.

As with any major life-changing decision, there were many, many factors involved. Someone said to me that you need to consider why you are moving to somewhere and not why you are moving from somewhere. That's easier said than done. I knew that I was far from happy living in London, Ontario and had to make some kind of move. It boiled down to leaving the country or moving back out West where I had spent fourteen of the best years of my life.

The problems with moving back out to the Okanagan were numerous. First and foremost, it's very expensive to live in the Okanagan. It's become the lifestyles of the rich and famous to live there and my pensions would mean I could barely afford rent. At sixty-five there's little chance that I would find any kind of employment and for the life of me I couldn't think of any business idea that would make me some extra money. The other issue was lifestyle. My wonderful years in the valley were spent with numerous friends and loads of activities, pretty well none of which I would be able to do now, both from a financial standpoint and my deteriorating health. My life was full of physical activity, like skiing, roller-blading, dirt-biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, playing racquetball, hiking, biking and dancing two or three nights a week at the Corral. When I first left the Okanagan to go to Panama I sold everything I had. I no longer had any of my "toys" like my snowmobile, my dirt-bike, my boat, my truck or anything like my water skis, my cross-country equipment or my downhill skis. I would be starting over with nothing and my health would mean I couldn't do pretty well anything anyway, so moving back out West was ruled out.

Another huge factor about moving out West was that my parents were now both gone. I originally had moved out West back in 1993 to be with my mother who had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was only given a five percent chance of living another six months. She defied all odds and lived until 2007 so I got to spend a lot of great times with her. Although my relationship with my Dad was rocky at times, we still had great times dirt biking around Kelowna and in Revelstoke. They lived on the lake in Westbank so we had a lot of great times at their place. After Mum was in a home I had sold their place, so that was gone now. My sister had pulled my mother out of the care facility I had worked so hard to get her in and that was a total disaster. I blame her for basically ending my mother's life, for which I cannot forgive her. My brother was useless from the start and couldn't even care for Mum for one day to give me a much needed break. It boiled down to not having any family out West.

As for my own family, when I came back from Panama to Toronto in 2009 I hoped I would be able to reconnect with my kids and meet my five grandkids as well. Despite my best efforts I had not seen or even spoken to my daughter since moving West in 1993. My brief connection with my son when he found himself in trouble with the law about his work ended just as quickly. We had reconnected briefly when his job brought him to London but that ended badly as well and we haven't spoken since. Despite my horrible situation with my kids I am a strong believer in family and hoped that we could put things back together, but my dear friend again said I could sit around waiting for them until I died. If I moved to Ecuador and somehow magically they wanted to reconnect there's always Skype and I could return to Canada for Christmas maybe. It sounded like a much better alternative.

Of course living in Canada means dealing with winter. When I was out West I loved the winter because I cross-country skied two or three times a week. I ran the hiking club even in the winter. I snowmobiled around Kelowna and mostly in Revelstoke with my brother-in-law and we had a ball. I downhill skied at Big White and Silver Star as often as I could afford. I even got to skate on the lake one year when Green Bay froze. Once I moved to London, Ontario the winter was just cold and miserable. I froze waiting for the buses. Driving was horrible. I never did a thing in the five years I was in London and it was just plain cold. Nothing was good in the winter. I knew I wouldn't miss it a bit.

Since arriving in London I had worked all day, every day, trying to find a job and I had applied for over a thousand jobs and never got one interview. The only job I got was at a call centre, Stream Global, the worst company I had ever worked for in my entire life. I was making the grand sum of eleven dollars an hour, thirty percent of which went to my landlord because I was in a geared to income building. Revenue Canada also came after me and got a garnishee for another thirty percent of my income, so I was left with pretty well nothing to live on. As I approached sixty-five I accepted that I was never going to find a job anywhere. I had been accepted into a self-employment program but that was running out in December so I would only have my pensions to live on. I was also looking at London Housing and ODSP coming after me for undeclared income which would only make things worse. I had declared bankruptcy and had just finished the two years paying for it and didn't want to go through that again. I knew that they couldn't touch me in Ecuador.

So, I get it. If I had a great relationship with my kids and grandkids naturally I would miss them terribly and this might well make me want to return to Canada to be with them, but this isn't the case, much as I wish it were. Christmas? I've spent the last five years alone with no real Christmas. Friends? Despite my best efforts I was never able to make a single friend in London. It's a cold town. Winter? Nothing to miss there. I much prefer year round spring here in Ecuador.

Finally, is life in Ecuador perfect? No. Things are a lot different here. The language barrier is huge and I need to improve my Spanish. The pace of life is a lot slower and getting things done can be frustrating. There's a ton of things I miss, like being able to buy my much loved President's Choice products or treating myself to Wendy's. I can't get things shipped overnight like I so often did in Canada. I can't go to see a movie in 3D. It's hard to find products you are used to, but you make do. The most important difference is that life here is a lot more affordable and less stressful, so it's all well worth it.

So, I have no regrets about the decision to move to Ecuador. Not a one.