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.


The only constant in life is change

This website was originally mostly for my kids, just in case they or the five grandkids I have, who I have never met, ever wondered about me. Then it was the model for a project I developed, YourLifeDomain, which I honestly believed would be very successful because it allowed everyone to have their very own website about their life. I'm sure it went nowhere only because I didn't have the clout of a Google or Microsoft, even though I tried very hard to pitch it to them. I'm sure like everything else they will come out with something similar soon and make millions from it.

At too many other times in my life the site has been therapeutic, allowing me to vent about something that was bringing me down. This is one of those times. I doubt anyone is still following me or cares, but this is still a record of sorts of my life, good and bad. Right now is really bad, probably as bad as it's ever been. Like everyone I've had some traumatic moments in my life, the worst still being when my Dad died in my arms. Some decisions I've made have not always worked out, like when I made the decision to move out West to be with my mother for whatever years she had left after being diagnosed with cancer. I had no idea that one of the consequences would be losing my daughter, who I now haven't had any contact with for over twenty years. I honestly thought she would come out for vacations, partly to see me, but also because she loved it out West and she loved my family. I don't know if what happened was her decision or her mother's, because she was always so paranoid that Heather would move out West and leave her. I'll never know. Not a day has gone by that I don't think of my daughter and miss her terribly.

Late last year I realized that I was basically wasting my life just praying that one day my kids would make the decision to connect with me and I would get to be involved with my five grandkids. I had been living in a city I loathed, London, for five years and there was no good reason to think anything was ever going to change with my kids. My dear friend, Heather, basically summed it up that I was molding waiting for something that would never happen. We talked for hours about me wanting to move to Ecuador where I had a shot at a much better life. She was oh so correct in saying that I would regret not going, giving up on my dreams.

The more I researched Ecuador the better it looked. I knew there was no way I could survive in Canada on my limited pensions and I faced just eking out a living. The cost of living was so much lower in Ecuador and I would certainly be better off there. They also had an excellent health care program where everything would be included for only eighty dollars a month, including my very expensive medications. They had just removed the age limit of sixty and removed pre-existing conditions, which being diabetic, would have excluded me. I was looking at several really nice apartments for under three hundred dollars a month, unheard of in Canada. Plus, no more winter.

Prior to coming to Ecuador I had done a huge amount of research on websites about Ecuador. Ecuador was hot and not many Canadians even knew where it was, let alone all the wonderful things it had to offer to Canadians. I registered WelcomeToEcuador.ca and got to work. I barely had the site functional and already had 127 people subscribe to my site, so I knew I was on to something. I was at the Ecuadorian consulate in Toronto and one of the people there was on the visitor computer and on my website. When I mentioned to her that it was my site all the other people there said they had also visited my site and loved it. That was very encouraging.

I had also been in touch with the Ecuadorian Embassy in Ottawa about some of my documents. They were equally impressed by my website and not only promised to keep me up-to-date on information about Ecuador, but they approved me using the tourism logo on my website, a major fact given that no one else could do this. Things were starting to look very good.

I sold my wonderful little Honda and just about everything else I owned and flew to Ecuador December 2nd, full of promise about how much better off I was going to be, plus a sense of adventure about exploring this new country. I still had some misgivings about my kids, but, as Heather had said, there's always Skype and I could come back for a visit if that was in the cards. I had started working feverishly on my website project and had total faith that this was going to be successful, allowing me to travel the country to take photos and write articles, while making extra money to make my life even better.

My first major setback was ending up in hospital. Instead of taking me to a public hospital where everything was free, for some unknown reason my landlady took me to a private hospital in a nearby town. I didn't realize it was a private hospital until they presented me with a whopping twelve hundred dollar bill on being discharged. This was a major financial setback.

When I first looked at my finances for Ecuador I had been receiving my early pension plus I would soon receive the OAS, for just under a thousand dollars a month total. Not enough to live on in Canada by any means, but I would do better in Ecuador. This was before the dollar tanked so that hasn't worked out as planned. The other major part of my planning was the GIS that I would receive for six months. I spoke to a lady at the processing centre who had my application in front of her. She said I would receive $455 a month but that it would not be deposited until the end of January because they were that far behind. I knew that this pension ended if you were out of the country for more than six months so I told her I was thinking of traveling in Ecuador and asked if this would be any problem. She assured me that it wouldn't and told me to have a good time.

The end of January came and went and no money had been deposited. Thus started a program of calling Service Canada each and every week trying to find out what was going on. This money was needed for me to file for permanent residency in Ecuador and I needed to do this right away because it takes time. Getting nowhere I contacted my MP asking for help. She got answers although they weren't great. Instead of the $455 I had been told I only got $144 a month, not enough to file for my residency. My current Visa expires May 31st and without a residency application file I have to leave the country. This means returning to Canada with nothing. I have nowhere to live. I face getting off the plane and having nowhere to go. The saddest part will be giving up my dreams of Ecuador, mostly my website business.

The only possible alternative to returning to Canada is selling part of my business to be able to afford to file for my residency and stay here. I've approached some people back in Canada and, through my doctor, hopefully some contacts of hers in Ecuador. I have no real idea what the business is worth, although the name is certainly gaining some traction plus I am starting to show up on page one of search results. I worked all day, every day, seven days a week for months on my sites and that's certainly worth something compared to someone starting fresh. I've proposed forty percent for five thousand dollars US, not because that's all I think it's worth, but because that's what I need to survive. Not the right way to value a business with so much potential, but I accept that if I return to Canada the business is dead. There is simply no way I will ever be able to afford to return to Ecuador.

I've started planning my return, sad as that is. I've contacted COPA about my return flight. I've basically given my notice to my landlady about my wonderful apartment. I'm going to be selling everything I can't take with me, like my monitor and my printer. I continue to work on my websites just in case something happens, but it's hard to stay enthused, at least the way I was before. The time I have left seems so very short and it's depressing to say the least.

Friends, I'm asking for the most precious gift you can give - your time

Those of you who know me know what a mess the last few years have been for me. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and I ended up at one point living on the streets. It was not a good time and it was a real low point, but I've managed to sort of get back on my feet.

Now I'm faced with one of the biggest decisions of my life and I'm really struggling with it. I need some help from those who know me well. I hope that you value the friendship that we had enough to invest a few minutes in giving me your honest opinions here. I don't have a single friend here in London so I'm lost being on my own. Much as I've tried these past five years in London, I don't have a "significant other" to talk to. First time in my life I've been alone and the timing could not be worse.

As I see it I have three options; one, to continue to struggle with my business, getting it to the point where I could sell it and improve my options. Realistically that would take probably three years, at which point I will be 68 years old with maybe not a lot of time left. I might mention here that I have doggedly applied for over a thousand jobs with not one response. Not all that surprising, I mean who is going to hire someone so close to retiring at 65? I don't get to tell them that I went bankrupt and I don't have a nickel to spare. Retirement is not an option, at least until they put me in a box.

The hardest part of staying here in London is that, first, I loathe this city more than any place I've ever lived in my entire life. The people are cold and arrogant. Those who know me really well would find it very hard to believe I was turned down by three different Meet-up groups, all with no explanation as to why. That really hurt and made me angry. I never had that kind of brush-off when I first arrived in Kelowna, in fact, the opposite was true and I soon had a very large group of wonderful friends. The city is dying because of all the employers who've closed up shop. Thousands of good paying jobs have been lost over the last couple of years. There's very little to do here. The rivers and lakes are too polluted to swim in. The ski hill is a joke, more a bump than a hill. Much of the business district is empty stores. Not exactly the place to be optimistic about growing a business in.

The other part of living here breaks my heart. When I first came to this area I held out hope that I would get to see my two children and all the grand kids. My son did make a half-hearted attempt to see me two years ago and that was it. I haven't seen my beautiful daughter in over twenty years now. She has two kids I've never met. My therapist suggested I might well live out my life and die and still have never been in touch with them. But the other two options mean I will never ever see any of them again, and that is a very hard decision to make.

So, option two was to return to the place I love - the Okanagan, but, you know that saying, "you can never go home again"? My life in the valley could not have been any better. I had wonderful friends. I danced my ass off at the Corral and had so many great dance partners. I owned three boats during my time and was out on the water as often as I could be. I water-skied, even learning to slalom. I downhill and cross-country skied. I snowmobiled around Kelowna and Revelstoke with my Dad, my brother and my brother-in-law. My son and daughter came out for the best three weeks of my entire life. I roller-bladed and skated. I even paraglided. My Dad and I went dirt-biking for more than ten years and every single ride was awesome. I played racquetball every week in the winter and I played in the pool league for over ten years. Life was very good.

If I was to return to the Okanagan now, well, first my Mum and Dad are both gone. I am estranged from my brother and sister for very good reasons. I don't have a boat or a dirt-bike or a snowmobile or skis or a racquet or anything I would need, even if I could do any of those things, which today I can't. My peripheral neuropathy means I can barely walk, let alone dance or ski. Not going to happen, so my life would just be full of regrets. My friends have all moved on or scattered across the country. Sure, it would be nice to see them again and get in a few hugs, but it would never be the same. Kelowna is also a very expensive place to live so it would be a struggle on my measly pension. More on that in a minute.

Most unfortunately I also hurt some people when my business failed. I went down owing a lot of money and my goal to see the house I gutted and rebuilt over a year and a half fell apart when one of the Westbank Chief's said in the press that anyone who bought on native land was "stupid". I ended up with a very beautiful white elephant. Then the "friend" I left living in the place let the snow build-up so much that the roof collapsed. I lost everything and not a lot of people would exactly welcome me back.

The third option, one I have researched to death, partly because of my not so great experience in Panama, is moving to Ecuador. The place I have researched has spring-like weather all year long, so no snow and no humidity. The cost of living is very cheap and there's a very good chance that my health will improve by eating better and living in the mountain air. The people are friendly and Ecuador is fast becoming the best place for people to move to or retire. I have started building a website, WelcomeToEcuador.ca, which is designed for Canadians looking to visit or move to Ecuador. The government has just increased the tourism budget significantly and there are a lot of opportunities everywhere, especially Real Estate. My dream is to travel around the country on my dirt-bike, taking pictures and writing a blog for the website, plus getting advertising to give me a little extra income.

Here's the financial differences. When I turn sixty-five I no longer receive ODSP, which right now pays for my meds to the tune of about seven hundred dollars a month; however, I'm told that I will be able to continue to get assistance from the Feds. Right now I am receiving my small CPP, just under five hundred dollars, which I took early to survive. I will then get my OAS, which should be around five hundred as well, but then I also get the GIS because my income is so low, and that will be about four hundred dollars. All tolled it will be about fifteen hundred dollars a month, not enough to live here comfortably because my rent is "geared to income" so they will take about six hundred and fifty dollars in rent, far more than my apartment is worth. If I were to return to the Okanagan I wouldn't be guaranteed to get any assisted housing, so my rent anywhere is going to be expensive.

The issue with moving to Ecuador is that I am not allowed to receive the GIS if I am out of the country more than six months, so I would lose that. I would be hopeful that I can supplement my income with the website after six months, but there's no guarantee on that. Without any other income I would be left with about a thousand dollars a month, but my current meds in Ecuador would be about three hundred dollars. The government has just passed a law about a national health care plan which I could join as soon as I am a permanent resident. It's about seventy dollars a month and covers all prescriptions.

So, if you've read this, you are a true friend and I thank you. Please share your honest opinions, good or bad. I'm usually a pretty decisive guy, but this one has me in knots, mostly about my kids. No matter what, that's the tough part.