As yet another year draws to a close it’s time to reflect on life so far and try to improve in the future. In reacting to some of the truly bad things that have happened to me many people have said that I am just too trusting. Although that may well be true I think trust is an interesting issue. I have always believed that trust must be earned, but the other aspect of this is do you not trust new situations because of someone else’s abuse of your trust? For me this usually revolves around money and to me it’s simple. If you ask to borrow twenty dollars do I refuse because of the people who previously never paid me back? Is that fair to you to punish you for the actions of others? I don’t think so. You earn my trust by paying me back because that means I will always lend you money if I can. Burn me once and, no, you will never get to burn me twice. I’ve learned that you can’t be trusted.

It also depends on the circumstances and whether or not it was intentional. For example, a good friend of mine, who at the time was very drunk at the Corral, asked to borrow twenty dollars, obviously to buy even more alcohol that she didn’t need. If I refused based on how drunk she was then I am passing judgement on her which is not my place. I gave her the twenty dollars hoping that she would use it for a taxi ride home, which she did. What she forgot was who gave her the money to take the cab. She never paid me back.

Another time my very best buddy asked to borrow fifty dollars because he had to go to a hospital in Vancouver to check out problems he was having with his heart. I was worried I might not ever see him again so obviously I gave him the money. Thankfully he returned to Kelowna and he was fine, but he never paid me back either. Do you hold something as small as fifty dollars against a friendship of years? No. Again, based on these kinds of experiences do you then refuse to lend any money to other people? I don’t believe that’s fair. Everyone deserves a chance to either earn your trust or lose it.

When I questioned my in-laws somewhat strained relationship with my mother’s sister and her husband I learned that they had loaned them nine thousand dollars for some project and had never been repaid. I wondered how they could ever socialize without this subject coming up but that was their decision and they had to live with it. They’re all gone now so hopefully they aren’t arguing about it in heaven.

Sometimes it doesn’t directly involve lending or borrowing money. It’s more a case of morality. When we were ready to sell our first house we contacted a Realtor at what was then Canada Trust, a company my father had worked with for years before. We weren’t thrilled with his performance on marketing or showing our home and figured we would not renew the contract with him. Just before the listing was about to expire he approached us to buy the property himself, excluding his company in the process. I asked him what would happen if his company found out the property was sold and we didn’t pay them their commission and he told me not to worry about it. I did worry and refused to accept the deal. I also wrote to the manager of the company telling him what had happened. Sometime later this guy was charged with fraud and lost his license. Good thing he didn’t take me down with him.

As I grew older I learned to trust people a lot less and ask more questions. I guess I should have included family in that. My brother from BC showed up at our door one day, needing a place to stay. We happened to have an extra bedroom downstairs so we let him stay with us, much to my ex-wife’s chagrin. He started having questionable women stay overnight, which was hard to explain to our kids. After a couple of months living on our dime I suggested he needed to get a job if he was going to stay in Brampton. He did find a job, surprisingly at his age, but he needed transportation to get there. Again much against my ex-wife’s wishes I co-signed for a loan for a motorcycle for him. Sixteen hundred dollars. No sooner had he supposedly gone to work for a couple of days then he took off back to BC, taking the motorcycle and sticking me with the loan. We had borrowed the money from our local bank, who also held our mortgage, so there was no question that we had to repay the loan. Thanks bro!

My twenty-three year marriage was never great for many reasons. More than once we talked about splitting up but I could never do it because of the kids, which was another huge mistake on my part. I should have left long ago, like maybe a year into it. Any time the subject came up, usually in an argument, my ex always agreed that it would be a fifty/fifty split. I was never overly thrilled by this because she had never lifted a finger to help in any way with all the renovations I did on all of our houses. I had single-handedly increased our original one hundred dollar investment in our first home to around a hundred thousand dollars, all by extensive renovations and smart buying and selling. After I had finally had enough and moved out I still paid for everything for the house for almost a year because my ex chose to sit on her ass not even looking for a job. When I had asked her about her employment insurance she said she still had the reporting card in her purse, SIX MONTHS after she left her job. I was done being abused.

When she finally realized I was serious and not coming home she suddenly changed her tune. No more fifty/fifty. Now because she knew I hated lawyers and would never waste money on them she played the guilt card. She needed the money to “support our daughter”. After a lot of back and forth, none of it good, I got to keep my last paycheque and she got everything else. Not only did she get all the money I had earned over the years she also took all of my Rosemond prints that I had been collecting for twenty years and she took the thirty-five Charlie Brown books I had also collected. She had never even opened one and never understood the humor anyway. So much for trust, even with someone you’ve been married to for twenty-three years!

Okay, so now I’m finally free. I can think only of myself and my kids. My dear mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than six months to live. Her and my Dad had moved out west in 1970 and I hadn’t seen them very much in more than twenty years. I decided that I had to spend whatever time she had left with her so I went out west in 1993. Along with my clothes and a few things I took my very expensive DJ system thinking that I might be able to setup a DJ service in Kelowna. I had made hundreds of tapes, yes, tapes, of every kind of music imaginable so it was an idea. When it turned out that I needed the money more than the equipment I talked to a guy who owned a music store, Musicplex, in Bolton, Ontario. I think he had sold me the tower speakers or the mixing board. Don’t remember. He said he would sell it for me for three thousand dollars with a ten percent commission which sounded reasonable. I also missed my daughter and wanted to see her so I called her and she was excited to be going to see me. So in the middle of January, in the depth of winter, off I go travelling across the country taking my life in my hands. It was no fun.

After I dropped the system in Bolton I went to Brampton to see my daughter. I never saw her but that’s another story not really related to the trust issue. The gist of the story here is that the bugger sold my system and never paid me a dime. So much for that trust issue.

There were certainly trust issues in my fourteen years spent in the Okanagan. Some small. Some large. One that comes to mind is about family again, my sister. After my Dad passed away in May of 2005 I was the only one who volunteered to care for mum who had advanced Alzheimer’s and could not be left alone. Caring for her was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. It was not made any easier by my brother and sister being completely useless at helping me. Neither of them ever understood what caring for someone with this disease is like.

The only break I ever got was when her caregiver would come for four hours during the week. This allowed me to go shopping for food and run any errands, but it never gave me my own life back. The only time I ever left mum alone was to go and do some paid work for a friend. A neighbor called me saying that she found mum wandering around the neighborhood without a coat on looking for me. I rushed home and found the front door wide open.

So Christmas was approaching and I knew this was going to be tough for mum without Dad. I had also been invited by my then girlfriend, Sylvie, to spend Christmas with her. My sister said they needed to celebrate Christmas a day ahead of the twenty-fifth, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I went along with her knowing that I was going to get away for a few days, something I desperately needed to do. They actually showed up a day even earlier than planned and informed me we were doing our gifts now. When I asked why she said they had to get up early the next morning because they were going to Vegas for a week! So much for my planned break from caring for mum. Did I trust anything my sister said after that? Not a chance. She made things even worse when she took mum out of a care facility I had taken me nine months to get her into and put her in an assisted living place in Revelstoke. She drove them nuts there because they were not equipped to handle someone like mum. At one point she was found wandering around Revelstoke with no coat on. Luckily someone knew she was my sister’s mum and took her to her store.

The next one doesn’t involve trusting a person per say but more trusting that something will go as planned. When I moved to Panama I sold most of my things, like tools and furniture, but I was left with a lot of personal things, five bins full, in fact, that I didn’t want to part with. I left them with a good buddy, thinking that I would have them shipped when I got settled in Panama. A couple of months later my buddy phones me to tell me that his mother’s place had been broken into and all my stuff was gone, most of it not replaceable.

When I made the plan to go to Panama, partly because I had not been able to sell my house, I offered to let my former electrician stay in my place for just the pad rent. He and his wife had split so he needed a place to stay. Before I left I made a point of warning him about the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and put on a new coating to waterproof it better, it was a roof on a mobile which can’t handle a heavy snow load. My Dad had shoveled the snow off their mobile’s roof for thirty-five years. Sure enough my buddy calls me to tell me that this guy had paid no attention to the roof and it had caved in under a heavy snow load. It would cost at least twenty thousand dollars to replace it. So much for trusting him.

In doing my research about Panama I had made contact with a very attractive girl who offered to help me with relocating to Boquete. After a couple of weeks talking to her online she said that her mum and dad owned a small house that might be good for me. She said she would talk to them to get me a good rental rate. She came back at three hundred dollars which I thought was good based on the photos I had seen of the place. I sent her the three hundred US dollars to hold the place for the day I arrived. Big mistake!

After a harrowing trip only because my first plan was to drive but they wouldn’t let me in at the border so I had to go back home, sell my car and get a flight to Panama instead, I landed in Boquete. I met up with her and went to the house, which turned out to be a disaster. It didn’t have a fridge which she knew I needed because of my insulin, so I had to spend three hundred bucks to get a fridge. Then there’s no hot water, which I also told her I needed. I had to buy an instant on hot water heater and pay to have it installed, all on my nickel. Then I came home to find the house in darkness, the only one on the street. I learned that not only am I supposed to pay the electric, which was supposed to be included in the rent, but I am to pay for the previous tenant’s bill! I also learn from a neighbor that the previous tenant was paying one hundred and twenty-five dollars rent, not three hundred! So much for trust.

Why was I forced to come back to Canada? Well, here’s a trust lesson for you. I’ve gone into great detail on how I was ripped off by a girl who worked for me and for whose family I gave shelter to so that they wouldn’t be homeless, so I won’t go over it all again. Save to say that she ripped me off for my brand new cell phone, my brand new camera, all the things that belonged in the penthouse I had let them stay in, told the police that I was in the country illegally, that I was a drug dealer and that I had raped her, all of which came far too close to me spending the rest of my life in a Panamanian prison.

The next trust issue was in a relationship. I have always felt that the two most important factors in a good relationship are respect and trust. Without those you have nothing. I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic so I am often less cautious than I should be. I also believe in love at first sight which can be even more dangerous.

While I was staying at my cousin’s place in Toronto I met a girl on an internet site. We ended up talking for hours on end, even at one point for the whole day while she was at work and her boss was away. She was married but very unhappily, in fact she had left him for several months earlier but gone back which she regretted. She wanted to meet so she came to Toronto. For me it was love at first sight. No question. She was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I ended up moving to London to be with her.

Long story but it was a challenging relationship. Although I had eventually met her daughter, Emily, who I loved like my own, she didn’t want me to meet her older son and daughter, which I always had trouble with. Something wasn’t right. Finally she lied to me about going to visit a niece in Toronto when she had actually flown to Ottawa to spend the week-end with yet another guy she had met on the internet. Broke my heart. I swore I would never trust another woman, certainly not with my heart.

On to the whole Ecuador thing. Although I did a ton of research before making the decision to go, the biggest factor was the advice of my dear friend, Heather. We talked for hours about all the pros and cons and it basically came down to her saying I was basically “molding” in London, waiting for my kids to change their opinions and contact me, which might never happen, or just to die. She said if I didn’t go I might spend the rest of my life regretting not going, which was very true. So off I went.

There were enough trust issues in Ecuador to fill a book, not one of them good. The first was meeting Anna on the internet and believing that she was going to work for me on my websites. Let’s just leave it that it was a disaster. Next was my landlady on the cabin I rented. Originally I had only booked it for a week until I found an apartment, but it was nice and I wanted to stay longer. I brought in Anna to translate and hammered out an agreement for rent that included morning coffee, meals, utilities ( including DirecTV) and firewood. At one point she asked me to prepay two month’s rent because “they needed the money”. I wasn’t cray about that so I paid a month in advance. Long story short, again, the coffee was sporadic, the meals were pathetic (they mostly ate the food I bought), no DirecTV, horrible internet and they let all the other guests use the firewood load that I bought.

Things were not working out and after the panic trip to the hospital she asked me to move out. I totaled up my prepaid rent, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me and the firewood they had let everyone else use, total two hundred dollars. She said they would pay me the day I moved out. The taxi was loaded with all my stuff on my way to Cotacachi and I asked her for my money. She said she hadn’t been to the bank yet. I offered to give her a ride on our way. Now she said they were waiting for a check but assured me that she would bring my money the following Monday to Cotacachi. Despite unbelievable efforts I still have no money from her. Burned.

Then there was my “driver”, a friend of Anna’s, who had picked me up at the airport in Quito. He agreed to do my shopping runs to Ibarra for the big supermarket. On one of our trips I asked him to stop at the bank first and I took our three hundred dollars, not knowing what I might need to pay for in cash. I did spend some of the cash. I figured about eighty dollars but I put my food shopping on my debit card. When I got home I checked my wallet and discovered I only had twenty dollars. He had stolen two hundred dollars from my messenger bag while I went outside the van for a smoke. This from a guy I had paid handsomely for the trip from the airport and other trips around town. Nice!

Next was my lovely “facilitator”, a person who helps you with your visa applications, who came recommended by a group called Visa Angels. She was no angel. After following her recommendation to travel to the other end of the country to file my application in Guayaquil and paying her handsomely for it, she said she need the three hundred and fifty dollar fee for the government, which I sent her. Then things fell apart on me with getting my meds so I had to cancel my application. I explained it to her and asked for my deposit back. She kept it inventing some lame ass story that she had made more trips for me, even though she had done nothing. I went to the police but they said I gave it to her willingly so there had been no crime. Nice!

In Cotacachi there were a number of little trust issues, but the biggest was with who ended up for a time being my fiancee. When I first met her it was love at first sight for me, no question. I asked for her phone number and she put it in my phone as Patricia Esposa, which means “wife”. We had a whirlwind romance, at my expense of course, but I was already planning to return to Canada because I could not afford to stay in Ecuador. I left planning to return as soon as I could to marry her. It was tough trying to maintain the relationship at a distance, especially with the language issue, but we tried. She was struggling and so was I because I had not yet started receiving my other pension. She had found a new apartment she called our “love nest” and was busy decorating it for us. It seemed that every month she had something she needed money for, like she couldn’t pay the rent or the electric bill, so I sent her whatever I could even if it meant I was eating at the Salvation Army kitchen because I had no money for food.

At one point I sent her a hundred dollars American to repay my good friend, Dutch, money that he had loaned me. She said she desperately needed it and would talk to him to pay him later, a little at a time. She never talked to him. We had also started a crowd funding campaign to get me back to marry her and a friend had graciously donated fifty dollars. It was in my savings account that I told her we couldn’t touch because we would need to give the money back if we weren’t successful. She took it out anyway. In the end when everything fell apart and we were no longer engaged she had taken me for six hundred and fifty dollars American, something I could not afford. Nice!