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Lars Porsenna

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About Lars Porsenna

  • Birthday 05/19/1977

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Manta, Ecuador
  • Interests
    Historical Wargames, History in general, fantasy & SF RPGs and literature, space sciences, model building, and monkeying around...

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  1. I do not, but I believe my wife has an app. Damon.
  2. In other news, just felt an earthquake here. It was a small one, 4.0 to the south. But felt it I did. But this is normal for this part of the world. Damon.
  3. So far I have had a couple of encounters with Ecuadorian healthcare, that I thought I'd share here. For those of you that do not know, Ecuador has a mixed Public/Private healthcare system. Anyone & everyone that draws a paycheck (this is an important distinction because of the level of the informal economy here) pays into the National Healthcare System called IESS (Instituido Ecuatoriano Seguro Social, or Institute of Ecuadorian Social Security). National healthcare here is MANDIATORY, & everyone has equal access to it. Several of my wife's uncles & cousins work at the Government Hospital here in Manta. Alongside that is a private healthcare system, which can be paid for out of pocket, or via private insurance. From talking to other Ecuadorians, the biggest difference between the two is that if you schedule an appointment with a private doctor, they can get you in immediately, or within a few days. The government you might have to wait a week. Emergency care with the government is immediate. What many expats do down here is pay into the national government system (expats are not obligated to do so, specifically), to be used for emergency or catastrophic care, & use private for more routine care (either with or without private insurance.) Many Ecuadorians in the middle class also do this. So I went to see a diabetes doctor today, & it was interesting because the level of care I received was different. The office had solely the doctor, & a secretary. No nurses at all. As soon as the doctor was ready, he saw me; no need for a nurse to get vitals, while I sat around in a room waiting to be seen. There was also no separate exam rooms. I was seen in the doctor's office directly, which had the basic equipment needed to do an exam. The doctor also did an ultrasound of my feet, to check circulation. This was NEVER done in the US, which is something I found very interesting. Overall the visit was very rapid & efficient. A much better experience than I have ever had in the US. The other interesting thing about it was that the doctor received his specialization education in Cuba, which is renowned for high quality healthcare. And not something you would ever encounter in the US. Overall the visit cost me out-of-pocket $40 (I had seen a generalist sometime before, & they usually charge between $15 to $20, & still make house calls). Overall a refreshing difference from when I had visited doctor's offices in the US. Damon.
  4. My latest news about my immigration status: I just got word yesterday that my visa has been issued, & my lawyer emailed the document to me. So I am now a legal resident of Ecuador! Next step however, is that I need to purchase health insurance, before I can apply for a cedula (a national ID card, used for a number of different transactions here, especially for setting up a bank account). My intention has always been to buy into the Government healthcare system (called IESS down here; Ecuador has a hybrid public/private healthcare system, where everyone is enrolled into the government program, but some choose to buy private supplementary insurance, or simply pay out of pocket for private doctors, especially the extranjeros), however my lawyer informed me that I need private healthcare first, THEN I can get my cedula, & only after I have my cedula can I buy into the public healthcare system. There are several options for short term (month-to-month) health insurance programs that I am looking into. In other news, we put a down payment on land to build a house, rather than buy a ready built one. Part of this is because she wants to be close to her family (the land is literally right around the block, & the block is almost 90% owned by relatives of her), & because we specifically are looking for a pool & an office for me, for work & to serve as a hobby room for my models (& possibly restarting a figure collection; we'll see -- anything Reaper I would need to self-import, FREX). It will also have space for 2 cars, in case she eventually wants one, or possibly to be improved into a storefront (many homes have such a feature, in fact). On the job front, I am studying to get certification as a Helpdesk Engineer, which should net me more money than I am earning now (almost double, in fact). With that kind of money, we should be able to live very, very comfortable down here. Damon.
  5. One interesting thing about this place is how the planetary season just doesn't seem to mean so much anymore, & whether it is hot or cold (relatively speaking) is based on other factors. Manta is IIRC around 100mi SOUTH of the equator. Right now we would be in spring, technically speaking. But it is warm (computer says it is 81, feels like 86). But the "cold" season here (& more overcast) is coming up...coinciding with the Northern Hemisphere's winter. In fact, the locals refer to it as winter. Of course add in the fact that the equator bisects the country & is a dominant aspect of things here (which is why the country is called Ecuador -- Spanish for equator), so if you travel a hindred miles north, all of a sudden it is a different "season." Here the Humbolt current from Antartica has a greater influence on the weather & the seasons, compared to the axial tilt of the earth, so I understand. Damon.
  6. In the "winter" it may hit the mid to upper '70s... 😁 Damon.
  7. Gonna be in the low 80s all week,,, 😁 Damon.
  8. Quick update. House was successfully sold, & I am now in Ecuador with my wife! Damon.
  9. So I am about a week out from my house closing, & I have my ticket already to fly down to Ecuador. So far everything is going as planned. I have a virtual job now, & a few other virtual opportunities as well. Hopefully the next time I post to this thread, I will be doing so from pleasantly warm Manta, Ecuador! Damon.
  10. Well, we now have a new buyer for the house. They offered $295,000, which is $4000 under asking. I am thinking the asking price was too high to begin with. Closing is now Sept 17 (up from Sept 3 in the original bid). Damon.
  11. The buyer backed out of the sale, so I'm back to square one. We had 20 people tour the house; we got that offer, & another for 10K less (all cash), whom are no longer interested. Frustrating. Damon.
  12. House is now under contract. I managed to get $300K for the house. Next stages are the inspections & any arguments with the buyer about the house (even though the house is being sold "as-is"). Closing date is 2 September. This is good & should give me enough money to buy a house solely for rent (should be able to get $800 monthly for the house), & buy a house (possibly with a small mortgage) for living. The small mortgage will be necessary because I am thinking of using some of the left-over money to buy furniture, TV, & other things we will need for the house. And possibly a used car. Damon.
  13. One of the challenges of living abroad is what to do about work? Ecuador is attractive in part because the cost of living is much lower there. But along with that comes the fact that salaries are also much lower there. Part of the idea here is to improve the quality of life I have. While some of that will be taken care of by buying a home there with the money gained by selling my house here in the US (& thus live without the need of a mortgage), still the idea of living on between $400 to $800 a month (since I have a degree & years of experience, I think it is reasonable I could make more money), combined with my wife's income, is a bit low & would restrict my ability to return to the US for visiting family. Fortunately I have some solutions. One of the trends with the Pandemic is the increasing move to on-line or virtual work. Before the Pandemic it was hard to find, but now more companies are realizing the benefits of work-from-home positions, & are starting to offer more. But what jobs & how to find them? One thing that you can do is participate in virtual call center jobs. By US standards the pay is somewhat low, but for Ecuador, the pay turns out to be very good, often more than what a degree holder can earn as a native in Ecuador. The downsides are that a lot of these companies issue equipment to their employees, & do not like the idea of someone working abroad with their equipment. I personally think this will change over time, but that is the reality at the moment. You will need to find a job where you supply your own equipment, often working as a contractor rather than a full time employee. While this may not seem to be an ideal situation, recall that in Ecuador everything is cheaper, including health care. Buying into a private healthcare insurance plan actually turns out to cost me half of what I was paying into my employer supplied healthcare insurance in the US, not even counting employer contributions. I have been looking at the website Liveops.com for employment opportunities, & it looks like I will be able to use this opportunity while living down there. Another method am currently starting to participate in is teaching English. I enrolled in the program at TEFL.org, an outfit out of the UK, that uses an on-line class structure to certify students in teaching English as a second language (or "Teaching English as a Foreign Language"). Researching into the industry in Ecuador, it is possible for a fluent English teacher to earn up to $1800.00/monthly in country (a very good income for Ecuador), or you can take advantage of many of the on-line opportunities that exist (such as www.cambly.com) to teach from home if you like. This is my mid-term objective. Yet another opportunity is to sell life or health insurance. Several organizations offer this totally virtually, & while there are some risks (total commission based income), again the cost of living in Ecuador is lower, so it is possible to earn enough from this to live comfortably. It is also possible with some organizations to work part time, so this can be a supplement to one of the previous methods mentioned above. Finally, if you have some money generated from selling your property in the US, it is also possible to buy property in Ecuador specifically for renting, & using the revenue from rental fees to live. If you have enough money from property sales, it is theoretically possible that you only need to work part time -- or not at all -- while living down there. I unfortunately do not have enough equity in my property to do that, but enough to buy a house to live in, as well as a property for rental fees. It is possible I could gain an income of between $750 - $1000/monthly to supplement my income. In fact it is possible to live decently on only $1000, but I have ambitions to travel, so I prefer a higher income. The simple fact that I would not have a mortgage down there would mean that I should have a higher standard of living in Ecuador than I do in the US, with more disposable income. A lot of this is challenging, & I can't say I am without fear in this. But on the other hand, nothing dared, nothing gained (as the motto of the SAS goes, "Who dares, wins..."). There are a number of other, personal reasons for this change for me, that I won't go into because it is more personal. But one thing I do know is that being afraid of taking risks means that I cannot grow as a person. Damon.
  14. Being married to someone in a different country can be challenging at times. The distance can make you feel lonely. To that end, I decided to fly down & spend a month with my wife, to live as a married couple, even for a short time. One thing I can say about our relationship is that is is very...tranquil. We don't fight. That's not to say we don't disagree occasionally, but we resolve our differences by talking, rather than by arguing (conversar, no discutir). Beyond that, though, it is refreshing to be able to experience being married for an extended period of time. We have a wonderful relationship, now married for almost 8 months. As far as the Visa situation is concerned, I just got back word from the lawyer, & she says they hope to have my visa applied for & approved by the end of August. This gives me 3 more months to get things into order here in the US before I make the big move. I still have to sell off the bulk of my possessions, furniture, & of course my house, and get a virtual job (there are a lot of options for that now, & the market is growing for that as well). I don't need a fantastic job by US standards; even a job where I make no more than $2K a month will mean we can live very comfortably in Ecuador (along with her income). I could not manage that here in the US (specifically here in Pennsylvania) & manage a stress-free middle class lifestyle. There it will be easy. I am also in the process of applying for passports for my daughters Kaylee & Victoria. We may go back down in July for a couple of weeks, & Kaylee wants to come with me. It would be good for her to meet her new extended family (which is VERY large...my wife's grandmother had 15 kids; I know of 4 aunts that literally live around the corner). It would also be good to have her first experience travelling internationally with me, at this stage. She can get to know Ecuador a bit more, & I know she will love the beaches there (recall that Manta is right on the Pacific ocean). I also think it is important for her to see & experience how people from other countries & cultures live. It is really cool as well when I see indigenous native Americans from Ecuador in public (they have a more distinctive style of dress) & I think it would be a good learning experience for her as well. As far as the church wedding situation is concerned, we are probably going to wait until I am living down there for that. It is just very difficult to do this when I am up here & we are planning for it down there. We also talked a little about getting super-duper married in the Mormon church (sorry, not a Mormon so I don't know what that is called exactly, but she is a Mormon), but that would mean & would have to join the Mormon church, & I'm not sure I would want to give up Catholicism. Damon.
  15. It is, in fact, almost impossible to drive to South America from North America. At the base of Panama, where it starts to merge with Colombia, is nothing but swampland, sparsely populated, with no hard-topped roads. It COULD be done if you have a 4wd & heavily armed against the unfriendlies hiding out there (allegedly), but most sane people would take a ferry from Panama to Colombia... Damon.
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