Life Lessons Learned

This site involved a huge amount of research for every imaginable graphic, website, research paper, quote or news item about lessons that people had learned. I was hoping that it would help a lot of people avoid making the same mistakes that I and others had made and would become the portal for a lot of discussion on the issues I raised. Nothing ever became of it. 


Hello Boquete

Well, this one goes all the way back to when I made my first move trying to find a cheaper cost of living. It was also another attempt to create a network of city guides. 

Hello Boquete was my first but I also registered domains for a number of other cities, such as David and Volcan and planned many more. 

Other than the renovation of Vista Grande building this website occupied my every waking hour. 


Google

This was a massive build that included every single thing you could think of for both individuals and business to be online, from long before Facebook, to email to photos to security to games and much more. Some apps were free with the option to add more services at a premium. The most fundamental change was what I called at the time authenticated email. Again long before Facebook it meant that anyone who wanted to contact you would first go through a verification process. You would receive a notice that the person wanted to contact you and you could accept which added them to your verified contacts, or reject it and you would then never receive another email from them. No more SPAM. It was truly revolutionary. 

I sent the whole proposal to Google but never heard a word back. Instead over the next few years Google started adding many of the apps that I created. I should have made a fortune but didn't get a dime., 


The Canadian Manufactured Home Owners Association

This site was the sequel to what I had originally created as The Okanagan Manufactured Home Owners Association. At the time there were thousands of mobile home parks under threat of evictions, especially those on Native land. The laws in BC were pathetically weak and the most a home owner could get was a year's rent if they were evicted. Many people had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in buying their homes and doing extensive renovations. The newest home that had been moved into a park next to where I lived was right on the beach and apparently cost close to three hundred thousand dollars! Tenancy only came with a thirty day notice so just imagine these new home owners getting their notice after spending that amount of money. 

I formed the association in the hopes of better representing the owners of some eighty thousand homes in BC, all of which were under the same threat. Many of the parks in the Okanagan were on prime land right on the lake so developers were itching to build condos where the manufactured homes had stood, many for decades. Just as I got the organization going there was a tragic story of a park that was kicking everyone out, many of them in their eighties who had lived here for decades and spent a fortune upgrading their homes. 

Part of the process was to lobby every level of government to adopt what I referred to as the Colorado Model, which had been in place for years and a huge success. Instead of treating manufactured homes like vehicles as they had always been going back to the days of the "mobile" home, instead they were given a transportation permit to go from the manufacturer to the site. Once properly installed on the permanent foundation and hooked up the utilities there was a licensed inspector who then issued a building permit and the home became just like every other stick built home. The owners paid school and property taxes just like everybody else, which had always been a bone of contention with "mobile" homes. Any renovations, such as adding on a garage or deck would require a building permit subject to the same building codes. 

The biggest part of this concept was that developments were built on what's called Land lease, which means that there's no cost for the land in the price of the homes. People like the government would grant ninety-nine year leases for these developments and there would be considerable tax advantages if it was private land. Because the homes were considered permanent structures and not vehicles I got CMHC to agree to offer traditional financing. I then contacted WestCorp in Edmonton who agreed to do all the infrastructure, roads, sewers and son on  for a share in the property management company. I then got a local manufactured home builder, Chaparral Homes, to agree to provide a model home, plus they agreed to give a ten percent commission on sales. I even contacted the WestBank Indian Band who had just done a major land swap with the government to build the new bridge across the lake and they were open to meeting about the concept, mostly because under the Indian Act they are not allowed to sell any property, so it made perfect sense to them. I then contacted local government, both the City of Kelowna and the Region and they both agreed to the proposal. During the time of all this work I did, aboiut six months, there was word that the Provincial government was going to develop a park with a thousand units. I thought that my timing could not be better, but I was SO wrong. 

I submitted a detailed proposal to Rich Coleman, who was the provincial Housing minister at the time. His response? He didn't want to do anything that would threaten the development of manufactured home parks in BC, this despite the fact that there was not a single development proposed other than mine. The whole thing dies overnight, thanks to him.     


Breakers Billiards & Bistro

Back when I played in the Kelowna 8 Ball league which had a number of bars from what was then Westbank to Vernon Breakers was by far the best bar to play in. Their tables were the best of the best and it was a real treat to play on professional tables. 


All-Together Housing

This is the charity that owns and operates the transitional House that I live in. Before going to Mexico I lived where I am now and also lived at their 51 Victoria Street address, where their office is as well. The President, Bob Cottrell, has helped me so much over the years and I will always be indebted to him. I built this site for free as a labour of love and a little payback to him. 


Welcome To Ecuador

This was my first venture into building a network of city guides. In most countries like Ecuador there is no Yellow Pages so if something goes wrong, like your toilet leaks, you need to know somebody who knows somebody whose brother is a plumber. Even well established businesses rarely have an actual street address to find them. My city guides would change all that because I had an extensive Business Directory that included maps that used an actual GPS location. 

My first site was WelcomeToCotacachi where I lived. Once that site was up and running I would use it as a model for other cities and just change the local content. When I was looking to start the site for Ibarra I met a lady who had just quit the new company that had the Yellow Pages franchise and she was very excited to work with me. That all fell apart when her former boss, who had sexually assaulted her, threatened to kill her and her family if she started working with me. Such is life in a third world country. 


The Toronto International Real Estate Expo

When I worked for a time at a call centre in London, Ontario the company partnered with a company called Diversified to develop an event to sell property in places like the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica and, of course, Panama. Not only did I develop the call program and email marketing but I also built the website for the event. We managed to attract a number of exhibitors from several countries and generated a lot if interest but the follow-up management was a disaster and we never collected a dime. The guy basically running the event turned out to be a well known crook who absconded with some of the money and made very shady deals to get some of the exhibitors into the show. It could and should have been a very successful project. There was a futile attempt made to resurrect the show in Calgary but that also failed.  


RainTech Smart Water Systems

One issue in Boquete and for that matter all of Panama was how little rainfall collection they did. In the rainy season we got a ton of rain, none of it collected and then in the dry season there were drought conditions where people in some of the newer housing developments had no water for months. Another issue was that most of the older houses in Boquete had no hot water. I designed a system to both harvest the rainfall and retrofit houses to add hot and cold water lines. I had an investor back in London, Ontario who was coming down to see me to invest in the company Rainwater Harvesting Smart Water Systems, and I had lined up a number of local renovation companies who wanted to partner to install the systems. I even had the local owners of one of the bars ready to add the system to their home because they suffered with no water for months at a time. Just when I was getting all excited the investor called to tell me that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and he wasn't coming. The whole project fell apart. 


Condor Investmentsd

When I first went to Panama back in 2007 it was a time when Panama had started to be more favoured than Costa Rica and there were numerous investment opportunities. My colleague and dear friend, Sieg Pedde, was doing a major housing development north of David, building large three and four bedroom homes in what was called Mira Del Lago. It was primarily being marketed to rich Americans and Canadians who were ready to retire to a warmer climate. With this influx of Expats I thought there was a lot of opportunities to start businesses and to develop housing and resorts in the miles and miles of pristine beaches. 

One issue in Boquete and for that matter all of Panama was how little rainfall collection they did. In the rainy season we got a ton of rain, none of it collected and then in the dry season there were drought conditions where people in some of the newer housing developments had no water for months. Another issue was that most of the older houses in Boquete had no hot water. I designed a system to both harvest the rainfall and retrofit houses to add hot and cold water lines. I had an investor back in London, Ontario who was coming down to see me to invest in the company Rainwater Harvesting Smart Water Systems, and I had lined up a number of local renovation companies who wanted to partner to install the systems. I even had the local owners of one of the bars ready to add the system to their home because they suffered with no water for months at a time. Just when I was getting all excited the investor called to tell me that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and he wasn't coming. The whole project fell apart.