Tag Archives: Travel

Beyond Frustrating!

Our trip to Canada has taught me a new lesson – some people are just too stupid to deal with!

First, my least favorite airline in the world, AeroMexico. After months of fighting with them, filing complaint after complaint, all of which were ignored, they did us in. The agent in Guadalajara took our passports, our boarding passes, which I had printed out before we left, and my tourist visa. Elba and I were talking and not paying much attention to him. He handed our passports back to us. Only when we headed for the gate did we realize he failed to give us back our boarding passes. We raced back to the luggage check-in where they searched everywhere for our boarding passes, finally finding them. Off we went to board our flight.

Our first flight was to Mexico City and then on to Toronto. When we went to board the agent would not let me on because I didn’t have my tourist visa to surrender. I had to race to Immigration to get a new visa (535 pesos); but they only accept pesos. I had changed what pesos I had to Canadian dollars for our trip. Off I raced to the exchange to get pesos again, then back to immigration and finally doing my best O.J. Simpson run back to the gate, only to watch our plane pulling away.

We went to the AeroMexico.ticket office where they informed us that we had to pay another 19,000 pesos to catch a later flight. They also had only one seat left on the flight. I blew a gasket when Elba suggested she would fly back to Guadalajara and I would go on alone. Not a chance! I finally found a wonderful supervisor, Erica, who arranged for us to fly at the same price we had paid, plus she put us on standby for the 1:00 a.m. flight. We spent the next several hours praying that we would get on the plane. After everyone else was on the plane they called us and not only got us on the plane; they got us sitting together! Relief.

We were now arriving very late for the train to Belleville, which we had paid for and tickets were non-refundable. A very nice agent arranged for us to catch a later train at no extra cost. One of the good guys and not one of the stupid people.

When we finally arrived at the hotel we ended up dealing with the most offensive, ignorant, confrontational manager. It made our stay intolerable. At one point when we desperately needed our credit card in Toronto, he had processed four hundred dollars in new charges to our credit card without notice. We kept getting declined at places like McDonald’s because I had four dollars of credit left thanks to him.

I had tried to reactivate my Canadian telephone but had lost my SIM card. Chatr Wireless told me to go to any 7-11 and buy a new SIM card for $10. We found a 7-11 in Toronto and asked for a SIM card for Chatr Wireless. No problem, well, except that the stupid person I dealt with gave me a SIM card for a 7-11 phone, not Chatr. Never did get my reserved Canadian number back.

We needed a courier envelope for my passport and visa to be returned to our hotel on Friday or I would not be able to fly back to Mexico. We went to the Purolator office on Yonge Street and asked for a next day delivery envelope. They didn’t have any, but told us to go down the street to the Shoppers Drug Mart to buy one. I clearly told the agent there that I needed a next day Purolator envelope. I paid him and left the envelope with the lady at the consulate.

Thursday she emailed me telling me that the package would be ready at 4:30; but then asked me what she was supposed to do with the Canada Post envelope I left with her! That led to an unbelievable back and forth with her and Purolator trying to get the right shipment organized. I finally got a simple email from the consulate saying that “the envelope is gone”. That led to total panic thinking I might not get my passport back in time and would not be able to fly.

Friday late morning Purolator showed up with my treasured envelope. Thank you, God!

Now we just need the taxi to show up on time. The train to run on time to Toronto. The UP shuttle to run on time to the airport. AeroMexico not to again screw up our flights back. Hopefully we’ll arrive back in Guadalajara tomorrow morning to be picked up by our good friend, Jack. No more stupid people!

 

 

Friends, Romans, lend me…okay, friends. HELP!

Sadly I lost my oldest and dearest friend with whom I spoke for hours before deciding to move to Ecuador. She was very helpful and helped me make that important decision. If I had to make a guess I think her hubby wasn’t keen on her talking to me for hours. So be it, but now I really don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of to know if I’m just crazy or thinking straight.

The issue is what do I do with my life and where do I go from here? Ecuador obviously turned out to be a disaster on so many levels, not the least of which was the falling Canadian dollar which meant I could not afford to live there, or anywhere for that matter. When I made the decision to move to Ecuador after months of research I never planned to come back to Canada, ever. As John  Lennon famously said “life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. So very true for me.

The last couple of years have been more the result of a series of unfortunate events. Things certainly did not go as planned in Ecuador, forcing me to return to Canada and somehow end up in Belleville, Ontario, the very last place I ever thought I would be. I viewed it all as temporary to just give me time to figure out what I was doing and sort out some of the messes I had, like needing to replace my passport (still a nightmare). Living in the reno was a big mistake but I appreciated the help when I came back with no plan. Then I moved into a group home in Belleville, then to another one a few months later and stayed for over a year. Again, not planned. My time was up at the group home and I ended up in the hospital and also had nowhere to move to once I got out. Graciously I was allowed to move to yet another group home but with only three months max. As I have for the passed several months I’ve been looking for an affordable room from Trenton to Kingston. Having visited Kingston last year several times I really like the city. There is so much more to do there than there is in Belleville.

The issue with finding a place in Kingston is the thousands of students who live there during the school year. They pay outrageous rents, or should I say Mom and Dad pay them, plus they rent for the whole year when they are only attending college or university for eight months. It’s crazy! I need something under five hundred at the most and that’s hard to find. In the meantime I’m also looking in Belleville only in case I can’t find anything in Kingston.

The primary issue here is whether it matters where I live here in Canada. I’ve been researching a place in Mexico to death, called Ajijic (Ah-hee-hick). It sounds wonderful but so did Panama and Ecuador. The climate is described as the second best in the world. Unlike Panama and Ecuador it’s not hard to find things you are used to because the Walmart is just down the street. Food is cheap. There’s tons of things to do. There’s a very large Expat community, many of them Canadian. Spanish is the local language but apparently even most of the locals speak English, mostly those working in the stores and restaurants. The community in both Ajijic and Lake Chapala, which is not far away, is vibrant. Everything I learned encouraged me to start designing a city portal website. It’s called AjijicToday.com but it’s not ready for the public yet. My primary goal is to create a unique business directory for people to find things and then charge modest fees for local businesses to become members. Eventually I want to expand the city portal sites to everywhere in Mexico and hopefully generate enough income to replace my lost pension.

Obviously a big consideration is housing. It’s not cheap and most rentals are in US dollars, which is worth far more than our Canadian dollar these days. The dollar has closed under 73 cents recently. Not good. I have found a gorgeous fully furnished house in a gated community with a pool. It’s two bed two main bath so I would need to find someone to share it with for the six months, October to the end of March. If I look at the prices for a small one bedroom apartment I could easily get three hundred dollars in rent, leaving me paying less than three hundred a month, which I could handle. I’ve been in touch with the owner and he has confirmed that everything is included. I only need to buy propane and that’s only a few dollars a month. I can take the bus anywhere I need to go.

A new wrinkle in things just happened. I was sipping a coffee when I suddenly felt something metal in my mouth. I spit it out and it turned out to be a decades old gold crown that had fallen off. I went to the dentist hoping that they could recement it back on, but no luck. It was worn down very thin and had a hole in it that could not be repaired. I asked how much a new crown would be and was shocked when they said a thousand dollars! Not a prayer I could ever afford that. As you may know dental costs in Mexico are far less than in Canada. I’ve asked a friend to check for me but I think we’re probably talking two hundred max. That means putting eight hundred towards my budget for Mexico. Although I doubt I will ever have any extra money, a few years ago I had an estimate done on all the dental work I needed. It was over four thousand dollars and that was without the crown. I assume that I could get whatever I need done in Mexico a lot cheaper. Might even be worth putting it on my MasterCard if it’s that much cheaper.

The first consideration is whether I can stay where I am for another three months. Given the normal terms of transitional housing, which is a maximum one year stay, I am confused as to why I was only given three months here. In all of their homes there have been exceptions to the rule, often for those who don’t deserve it. I have been a model tenant, always paying my rent on time and helping out wherever I was. If Mexico is in the cards for October and I am out of here at the end of June that means I only need somewhere for three months. Obviously it would be a lot better for me to simply stay where I am for an additional three months, but I don’t know if that is even possible. First job is to ask.

If I can’t stay here then the decision is do I find somewhere, anywhere actually, to live until next year when I might be better able to go to Mexico. There are issues with that of course, like paying probably more than five hundred a month for a simple room, which will eat into the budget for Mexico. If I can stay where I am that puts another hundred and twenty-five dollars a month for three months towards my airfare and getting a new passport. Also, according to people I am chatting with in Mexico I can rent a decent place for far less than the five hundred a month I would be paying here in Canada. Everything costs a lot less in Mexico, especially food which is very expensive here. I figure I am spending at least three to four hundred a month on food here and that’s just for the basics.

Yet another factor is what do I do with all my “stuff”? Over the last year and a half I have invested in far too many things for my own good. Much of it was things that where I lived didn’t have, like a coffee maker, dishes, utensils, even cutlery. For work on my websites I invested in a Dell 27″ monitor because the screen on my laptop is too small for my failing eyes. Back when I lived on Foran the TV was monopolized by guys who loved sports and not much else so I rarely got to watch any TV. I was at Best Buy on Boxing Day and they had an amazing sale on a Toshiba 43″ TV/Monitor. The guy I was with said they probably had an extra TV box and there was a cable running to my room, so I jumped to buy the TV. That didn’t work out and I tried to sell the TV at a huge discount but never did sell it. It’s now our TV at the new house but the owner hasn’t expressed any interest in buying it, so either try to sell it again or leave it here at this house until I return to Canada. It’s not something I could easily put in storage because it didn’t come with a box.

Thanks to the dollar store and some of the really cheap places in Belleville to get stuff I have far too many clothes to take plus many of them are things I would not need in Mexico, like winter coats and boots. If I’m coming back it would not be for the winter months so I wouldn’t need any of it, but just like what happened when I intended to move to Ecuador, I gave all my winter stuff to Value Village, then needed it all again when I was forced to come back to Canada. To be safe I think I need to put anything I don’t need in Mexico or won’t fit into my luggage in storage. That means renting a locker at about fifty dollars a month, but I think that’s the safest route given that I will be coming back in April next year when I will have a better idea if I am moving to Mexico permanently or not. Not sure about things like my bike or my bird feeder. What was I thinking? lol

A very big consideration is family, just like it was with Panama and Ecuador. Although I will never understand it until the day I die and not even then, my family has abandoned me long ago. I haven’t spoken to my daughter in almost twenty-five years, despite ongoing efforts to reconnect. My son has blocked me on Facebook and I’ve never met four of my grandchildren. My son’s oldest daughter requested that I remove her photos from this website. Really hurt. One of my grandkids has just recently connected with me on Facebook and she was very upset that her parents had prevented her from making her own decision on whether to connect with me or not. I’m beyond thrilled that we have chatted. The issue with moving to a place like Mexico is the same one I struggled with for Panama and Ecuador. The choice was to sit here in Canada, waiting, possibly forever, for my kids to change their minds and reconnect with their Dad, or go, knowing that if they expressed any desire to reconnect that we could Skype or I could come back to visit them. I hate to accept that I will die without ever again seeing my family, but it’s been something I cannot force. I’ve tried everything to no avail.

Well, there you have it. Confusing, eh? If you’ve read this far, well, congratulations! I would honestly welcome frank opinions from anyone, no matter how blunt. For the first time in my life I am very confused and not able to make a firm decision. I’ve usually made a list of the good and bad to help me, but this time there is so much to consider, so much that could go wrong, and all of it tempered by my experience with Panama and Ecuador.

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 09_20_01they 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_0309_30_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.

 

Life is what happens while you are making other plans

This is an email I sent to my dear friend, Heather, today – 

Hope your surgery went well and you are on the mend. Sucks to get old, eh?

Well, life is getting even more challenging, if that is even possible. I think for the first time in my life I am totally lost as to what to do. The Canadian dollar is absolutely killing me. Yesterday I transferred my last dime and $200 cost me $300. Brutal. This money was to pay my rent on Friday and I’m left with zero to buy food for the rest of the month.

I knew it was going to be tough to survive here even with the lower cost of living, but since I started researching the move I’ve lost $150 a month because of the dollar and that has left me without enough to pay rent and buy food, with nothing else. I used to drop in to the bake shop for coffee and a brownie, more to meet people and talk up the websites, but it was a nice social thing to do. That’s gone. I had to meet Dutch yesterday, who I owe sixty dollars to and can’t pay him, and I couldn’t even have a coffee. I used to go dancing Saturday night and might have two drinks at $4 apiece, but I can’t do that now and I miss it. People are asking me where I was on a Saturday night and I don’t know what to say. I don’t even have the $2 cover charge for which you get a beer. There’s so much going on around town, tours and hikes that I should be doing for the website, but I just can’t.

Obviously, when I first planned to move I knew it would be tough to survive, not as tough as it’s been, but I also had faith that long before now I would be earning some money from my websites. Before I even left Canada I had met Anna who was going to work for me as soon as I got here. I figured I would be earning a few hundred dollars a month at least by February or so. That obviously didn’t work out and I’ve been struggling to find someone to do sales for me ever since. I was so thrilled when Phoenix was going to work for me, but that didn’t work out either. Even making a couple hundred dollars a month right now would save my ass.

It’s only the eleventh of the month, meaning twenty-one days left until I get my pathetic pensions again. I seem to be going backwards here. It’s also incredibly frustrating that that idiot back in London, who owes me at least three hundred dollars from what he’s sold, won’t answer me about anything. I don’t know what he’s sold for sure or what he has left. My friend Denise said she would go to his work and ask him what the hell he’s doing, plus she offered to take whatever he has left and sell it for me, but she’s been too busy working two jobs and hasn’t had time to get to him. My dealer friend, who Rick works for, got really angry at me asking him to find out what’s going on with Rick. I don’t know what else to do as the guy seems intent on ripping me off.

There’s also the mess with my former landlady who hasn’t paid me the two hundred dollars she owes me. She refuses to even answer my messages. I’ve had two friends that know her and I’ve asked for their help, including one of my taxi drivers, who I paid a lot of money to, whose father is a police chief, but I got nowhere. I never had a lease with her or any documentation on the rent she promised to pay me back when she asked me to move out, so I can’t go to the police to go after her. I so want to shame her on Facebook but the laws here are really tough on libel and slander, so without any documentation I would really be taking my chances. She’s very active on Facebook though and I’ve warned her that I will make it public if she doesn’t pay, but that got nowhere either.

Although I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do given my situation with my insulin, I also have the return portion of my airfare. I’ve emailed COPA to see how I get a refund, but the cost of the trip now is a lot higher then back when I came, mostly because of the falling dollar, so if I get a refund to help me survive, then have to return to Canada, it will cost me a lot more.

The situation with my insulin is really unclear right now. A guy in Hamilton volunteered to bring my insulin down, but then he checked with CATSA and they told him you can’t carry medications other than your own. I told him that when I brought my carry-on cooler bag with my six month’s supply of insulin packed in ice no one even asked me to open the bag. I had all my documentation from my doctor and the pharmacist but no one ever asked to see it. I told him Denise would unpack the vials from the boxes with my name on them and put it in a plastic container marked “insulin”. He could then pack it in his check-in luggage and if anybody asked he could say it was his and that he unpacked the boxes to save space. He wouldn’t budge, even when I said I was getting the insulin for free so even if he had to dump it I wasn’t any worse off, although, of course, I would be. Other people, mostly from the States, have offered to bring my insulin back with them, but I would have to courier the insulin to them in the States, which costs money I don’t have.

The other major issue with getting my insulin is that my pharmacist friend at Shoppers said he can’t renew my prescription because he now knows I am out of the country. I guess he must have gotten into some trouble when he supplied my dry meds because he clearly knew I was out of the country then as well. The doctor who prescribed my medications refused to renew my prescription for insulin unless she saw me, which is absurd, so I have to go back to my family doctor to see if she will do the prescription even though she has never done it before. Even if she does agree to give me the prescription it has to be given to my old pharmacy, Rexall and I have to pray that Denise can pick it up for me without any hassle. I’m going to tell her to tell them I am sick but need my insulin. It’s all so complicated and frustrating. I am this close to just giving up and going back to Canada, horrible as that will be.

I haven’t been able to get in touch with Kathy, the girl who’s been doing my residency application. I don’t know if she’s paid the $350 I gave her to pay the government fee. Immigration has my passport which means I can’t go anywhere, not even back to Canada without my passport. Two weeks ago she said she was going to pay the fee and courier my passport to me, but she picks now to not even respond to my emails. Of course, given that it’s Ecuador, I’m panicking that she’s done something with my money and not paid the government. Even if she has paid the fee that means I have to fly to Guayaquil to pick up my cedula and I don’t have a dime to do that. I need my cedula to register for the national health care plan so that I can at least get my meds in three to four months, assuming I find a way to stay alive until then.

Even with all these troubles I just can’t stand the thought of being forced to give up and go back to Canada. Yes, I get my meds again and the GIS pension, but where the heck do I live and how do I survive? I have nothing but a few clothes and it would be brutal to try to start over again with nothing. I don’t know how I would even afford rent anywhere, let alone anything else, plus I’ve lost my dream of living out my life here in Ecuador, which I honestly don’t know if I can handle. I’ll never be able to afford to come back. I’ll have lost the months of very long days working on my websites because there’s no way I can do it from Canada. It’s so pathetic that the latest stats on my one website show that I am getting eight thousand visits a day and that the site is valued at over five grand. Talk about timing. I’ll have nothing but regrets and nothing to live for. I’ll go crazy with nothing to do. I don’t even have all my winter coats and boots that I gave away to survive if I’m homeless.

I feel that I am in a no win situation. The thoughts of starving are pretty bad. I’m diabetic and not eating will kill me, which, right now, in my lousy mental state, maybe isn’t all that bad. I just feel so beat down by everything that’s happening. I’ve lost control over my life and I have no clue what to do to get it back. Trying to survive when I can’t afford a coffee makes my life here just terrible. The smallest things, like getting my washing done for only a few dollars every week, is out of reach. I’ve looked at the food I have and know that it will not be enough to keep me going until the end of the month. I volunteer every Friday at the soup kitchen and realize I may soon need to eat there myself, not that one meal a week will keep me alive.

I know you must be sick of hearing my troubles and I’m sorry to burden you with them. I just feel so lost with no one to talk to and more lonely than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. All my dreams and efforts to make a better life for myself seem to be getting more and more impossible to achieve. Something has to change or I’ll lose it soon. My options seem to be dwindling fast.

If you’ve read all this, thank you, my dear friend. It helps to at least be able to vent about things and not keep them all trapped inside. I hope you know that.

Cheers!

Just had to post this old email from February 2009

Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, Boquete has been experiencing unusually high winds and driving sheets of rain, something unheard of at this time of year – normally the “dry season”. The river has again flooded and the gale-force winds have brought trees down everywhere, disrupting services like water and power.

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