A near death experience changes your perspective on life.

Last night was as close as I ever hope to come. My cabana is freezing so I have a fire going constantly while I work on my computer. Every once in a while my landlady will come down to deliver a meal and she’ll comment on how much smoke there is, something I don’t often notice. Big mistake. Last night I thought I was just tired so I laid down on the bed for a quick nap. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital with the doctor and the family all crowded around me. To my considerable shock when I asked what time it was I had lost three hours.

Life is timing. Apparently my landlady had brought down my dinner and found me unresponsive. They had called an ambulance and rushed me to the hospital, according to the doctor, within a scant twenty minutes of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. Way too close for comfort.

To say that life has been challenging since making the decision to move to Ecuador would be a gross understatement. I could write a book on the factors that led me to this life-changing decision. After five years languishing in London, Ontario my dear friend Heather put it best. She said I was basically molding waiting for things to happen. My biggest wish after landing in London had been that my kids would reconnect with me and I would get to meet my five grandkids. Heather made me realize that I could well spend the rest of my life, living in a place that I loathed with a passion, waiting for something that would never happen. If I at least focused on me and did what I wanted to do and went to Ecuador and then the kids had a change of heart there’s always Skype and I have a return ticket to visit if that was in order. Made sense to me.

As I said, there were a ton of other factors that led to the decision. My finances were in a total mess, with the house of cards I had built about to collapse on me. I had been drawing ODSP and not claiming the money I was getting under the self-employment program, meaning I would need to repay my support payments. I also had not been claiming my self-employment benefit to my landlord, who would take thirty percent of it. That was all about to get matched up through the government and would leave me in a mess with huge debts I could not pay back. Add how much I hated living in London and it was clear I had to get away.

It came down to moving back out West or moving to another country. My life out West had been amazing but I realized that my deteriorating health would mean that life would not be the same. My parents were both gone and I was estranged from my brother and sister, for good reason. I didn’t have any boats or dirt bikes or snowmobiles and living on my meagre pensions I never would. I wouldn’t be roller-blading or cross country skiing or hiking in the mountains. I couldn’t even dance for hours at the Corral, something that was a huge part of my life. Many of my wonderful friends from those years had moved on and it was clear that life would be a hollow shadow of what it was before.

That left leaving the country and the question was to where? My time in Panama convinced me that there was no way I would ever go back there. I started researching various countries in warmer climes and settled on Ecuador for a host of good reasons. My research showed that Ecuador was positioned to be a prime tourist and retirement destination for Canadians. I felt that if I built a website dedicated to Canadians I could generate some extra income from the site. WelcomeToEcuador.ca was born and has consumed my waking hours since arriving in Ecuador. In my research I met Ana, a lady who lived in the Otavalo area and she offered to help me to get settled. She also expressed some interest in working for me and she was bilingual so that showed promise. It also helped me to decide on living in that area. The mountains were spectacular and reminded me of BC. The climate also seemed ideal. I booked a week at what looked like a fabulous cabin, intending to look for an apartment while I was staying there.

The cabin turned out to be more than I could have wished for and the family greeted me with such warmth that I thought of staying there longer term. With Ana’s assistance we sat down and negotiated a deal for me to stay on a month to month basis. It was to include all meals, firewood, my washing once a week, DirecTV, cleaning and, most importantly, hi-speed internet for my work, for $350 a month. Looked like a good deal at the time but I soon learned that things are different in Ecuador.

When we first discussed me staying more long term I asked what current bookings they had. They only had two nights in February that had not been confirmed and they said they could put them in another cabin anyway. No sooner had I paid the rent for a month than they told me I had to move out to the main house for two nights. No sooner had I got settled back in than she tells me I have to move out yet again for two nights starting today. Not exactly what was planned or agreed. Added to this was she came and asked me to pay another month’s rent to “help them out as a friend”. This certainly caught me off-guard but I found myself explaining that because of the $1,200 for the hospital visit I had no extra money to “help out”. That didn’t go down too well. No sooner had I dealt with that than she asks me for $200 to pay their taxes. I’ve already paid the rent two weeks in advance, which I probably should not have done.

There’s a lot of other things that aren’t going according to plan. My cabana is freezing and they don’t have the promised firewood, so I had to go and buy my own. My meals have basically been rice and salad and I’ve spent a fortune at the SuperMaxi in Ibarra on real food. No sooner do I give it to her to put in the fridge than someone in the family eats it. For New Year’s Eve I bought two bottles of Bacardi Rum, but because I was feeling so lousy I only had one drink. The next day I discover that they have drank both my bottles and I’m still waiting for them to be replaced. Not only did I get to buy the rum but I also got to pay for the taxi even though they spent hours shopping. I seem to be the “cash cow” for everything. Oh, and my washing once a week? I have to beg for underwear. Cleaning? I get to do the cleaning. DirecTV? Still waiting even though I paid an extra $10 for it. Hi-speed internet? Still waiting and now they inform me that I have to pay an extra $20 for that. Time to move? You bet.