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Lars Porsenna

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Everything posted by Lars Porsenna

  1. I recently found out about these, searching for a way to make a push mold to make rivets for detailing. The purpose appears to be to use either epoxy putty, or polymer clay to make rivets & details. However, I want to use these for plastic models, so I was thinking of heating up plastic sprue & pressing that into the mold. Anyone ever try this with these molds, & how well did the technique work? Or will I be a pioneer in this? I thought about making my own beforehand, using a simple epoxy putty mold pressed down on some greased (i.e. spray Pam) plastic details, then just heat some sprue & press it in. But this at least might save me the work. Thoughts? Damon.
  2. I do not, but I believe my wife has an app. Damon.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. In the "winter" it may hit the mid to upper '70s... 😁 Damon.
  8. Gonna be in the low 80s all week,,, 😁 Damon.
  9. Quick update. House was successfully sold, & I am now in Ecuador with my wife! Damon.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Looks like I won't be having a wedding THIS month. I was not able to get my flight because I could not get a COVID test within the time parameters the government there wants. I can do a rapid antigen test, but no one is doing that just for travel, only to confirm active infections (at least locally). I could get the rapid antigen test in the airport in Ft Lauderdale, but they won't even let me on the plane to fly down there, because it is a package deal with the connecting flight to Ecuador. That being said, my wife texted me in Whatsapp & said Las Charlas por nuestro boda están cancelado. So no church classes on how to be good spouses. So in the end all that was wasted in this trip is time, a tank of gas...and parking fees. I had my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on 30 March; I am going to see if I can move up the date for the 2nd shot. THis will make travel much, much easier, as a vaccination chart is a valid proof to get into the country. Damon.
  18. The closest interest I have in Napoleonics are the Wars of South American Liberation. I have the book Liberadores! which, like Ospreys, have color uniform plates for the various factions involved. I'd like to do it with my wife. She has an interest in history, & since she is Ecuadorian, this will provide a connection for her in the game. Now for rules... Damon.
  19. So I did the sensible thing & emailed the airport in Guayaqyul. It turns out that they will accept the Rapid Antigen test, as well as the PCR test, for free entry into the country. As it turns out I have a 6 hour layover in Ft Lauderdale, & they have an on-site Rapid Antigen testing unit (also PCR if you need it). So I scheduled my appointment & will be able to get my test results, valid for entry into Ecuador. They say it will take half an hour, & they DO hand you a piece of paper showing your results (don't take that for grantid in this era of E-everything). The only downside is I actually have to pay money (PCR tests here in PA are covered by the state government), & it is much more expensive here in the US than in Ecudor (there, I payed only $35; here it is $75). So it looks like things are working out after all, so far... Damon.
  20. Besides that drama, I am still researching my move to Ecuador. At this point I am pretty sure I want to make this move. There are a lot of reasons (such as cost of living, cost of heathcare) that makes Ecuador attractive. Not to mention that Manta, Ecuador (where my wife is from) is around 100 miles away from the equator & directly on the Pacific Ocean. If you ever buy a can of tuna fish, & it says "made in Ecuador," it was probably canned in Manta. Add to the fact that the climate is semi-arid (not tropical), so the weather is always gorgeous all year round, with average temperatures in the low to mid 80s. But the biggest reason is that when I am here in the US, I am depressed. When I am down there, I am happy. And not just because of my wife. It is not often that people can get a complete reboot of their life. I am determined to do that in my own. To that end, I did find a few resources that can assist me in this. One of those is Gringo Visas. This is a law agency that specializes in assisting in the visa process, specifically for Americans to live in Ecuador. Ecuador has become a hotspot for US expats, with large expat communities in Quito & Cuenca. Gringo Visas help in getting your visa applied & approved. Since I am married this process should be easier. The other resource is purely educational. I have found the blog Live Abroad Now, which was created & maintained by a married couple of expats living in Ecuador. They also have a youtube & patreon series that goes into some of the details about expats living in Ecuador. It was educational for me, & in other areas covering material I already discovered first hand. The most difficult part of this move will be work. I know Spanish, but I am not sure I am confident enough in it to work in a Spanish only environment. The only cure for that is total immersion. I do have some ideas about how to maintain an income stream while there: 1) Arizona State offers a certification for TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), totally on-line & relatively inexpensive; 2) Find a remote work job (which doesn't have to pay super well, since the cost of living in Ecuador is significantly cheaper); & 3) rent my house I am in currently until/or along with any of the other options, to keep me afloat (I estimate I can rent my house for around $2K a month, which is very good money down there). My ultimate goal is to work totally in Ecuador, but I may need some help getting there. Damon.
  21. I am leaving for Ecuador again on Wednesday 31 March. I will be there for 26 days. This will be for the church wedding. But like most things in life, problems arise... I just found out the Ecuadorian government changed the entry requirements: Now I need a negative PCR test, printed, no more than THREE days prior to entry into the country. Previously it was 10 days prior. That was relatively easy. 3 days prior makes travel almost impossible. The options are to take another test (at my cost) in Ecuador & quarantine for 10 days. A negative test result will end the quarantine. What test though? The rapid antigen test takes around 45 minutes to get the results (I know, because I took one to get back to the US the last time; it costs $35 in Ecuador). If I have to take the PCR test, at least as it is in the US it takes no less than 3 days. Per the airport website, I get to choose the site of quarantine. As long as that includes "my wife's house," then we are good on that front. If it involves "a hotel you get to choose," that is bad for me. Also, so I understand, if you are vaccinated, & can present documentation of vaccination, you can avoid all of these issues. I get my FIRST shot today (30 March). I have to wait 21 to 28 days before I can get shot #2. Here is where things get complicated. The reason I am going down now is because on Saturday & Sunday are the classes for marriage in the Catholic CHurch. 3 days away. Will I get my results in time? Or not? And if I do not get my results on time, that means we have to wait until June for the next time the classes are offered. The extra fly in the ointment as well is that my wife found a notice that the city is banning any religious gatherings or celebrations. So all of this may mean absolutely nothing. I am royally sick of this pandemic. Damon.
  22. One thing about emigrating is trying to decide what to keep & what to leave behind. Like a lot of people, I have built up quite the collection of things, & one of the things I sort of knew, but was still surprised about, is how much stuff we can have here in the first world, that they just don't have in a 3rd world country. First up is going through my gaming collection. Ecuador does not have a large gaming community (though it does exist). Things like RPGs are portable, & easily played on line. But what about miniature games? That is less easily played on line & sort of defeats the purpose of a miniature game. To that end, I am liquidating most of my miniature collection. I have several armies in both Warhammer 40K & Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Those are going, since the closest store that sells Warhammer in Ecuador is in Guayaquil, a 3.5hr drive. Manta has a single game store (that I know of) that sells ONLY CCGs. The crowd seems to be a much younger one too. In terms of my Reaper collection, I may gift that to my local gaming community, to be used in RPGs, & keep my favorite models (mostly dragons). The only minis games I plan to play down there (solo) are DBA/DBMM & Oathmark. Both lend themselves to solo play, & if I can find opponents (like my wife, possibly) then I can easily transition to that. There is a large expat community in Ecuador, as well as in Manta. I don't have any expectations, but the possibility is there. The only other minis game I am taking is Battletech, because I love battletech. The second issue is my model collection. For those that do not know, I am a life-long model builder, & it was through this hobby that I became interested in using minis in RPGs. But being a life long modeler also means I have a large collection to figure out what to do with. I have a large plastic bin that just so happens to fit in my suitcase, so I am starting to go through my collection to decide what to bring & what to gift to others (if some people here would be interested in completed 1/35 scale armor models, maybe I'll gift them to you all). I already have several uncompleted kits in my carry-on bag (1/72 Airfix aircraft kits, as well as a Special Hobby Mirage F.1 with decals to make an Ecuadorian machine from the Paquisha/Cenepa War eras), & will need to be ruthless in what 1/35 armor kits I bring down. Plan right now is to finish as much as I can in the next 6 months, not buy anything new, & what I have not completed, ruthlessly select 3 or 4 remaining kits to take down with me. It will be hard, but necessary... Finally, comes my book collection. As an avid SF fan, I have a LARGE library of hardbacks. Again, I'm only keeping my favorite books (like Dune & the LotR), & selling or gifting the rest. Several of my history books will probably come with me too, but I am undecided on which to bring & which to let go. By the way, I have been talking to my wife about this. She fully supports my hobbies & occasionally send photos of my models to her (which she describes as "bonito" or "muy lindo" haha). So I don't expect much arguing about this. She has even said that once we buy our house, one room will be solely for my models! Edit: I have no idea what I am going to do about my electric guitar yet. But I definitely know I want to continue to shred down there! Damon.
  23. So what, exactly is required for me to emigrate to Ecuador? I have been doing some research, & getting a little help from other gringoes living in Ecuador. A good site for North American expats with ambitions of settling in Ecuador is https://www.expat.com/forum/viewforum.php?id=519 If you have questions about living in Ecuador, this is the place to do it. I have been semi-active on it for more than a year, ever since I decided marrying an Ecuatoriana was something I wanted to do. The larger site is about foreigners living abroad in general, so if you are thinking of emigrating to some other country, there is a good possibility you can find more information from this community. As far as what is required to emigrate to Ecuador with a valid marriage license to an Ecuadorian citizen, the government of Ecuador conveniently has a page all about it, in Spanish of course... https://www.gob.ec/mremh/tramites/concesion-visa-residencia-permanente-matrimonio-union-hecho-ecuatoriano-extranjero-titular-visa-indefinida-permanente For convenience (both for this group & mine) I went ahead & translated the requirements: One convenience for me is that there is an Ecuadorian Consulate in Newark NJ, which is only a little over an hour away for me (I usually fly out of Newark International when I go down for a visit), so the travel to & from the consulate shouldn't be too much of a burden. If you compare this to US immigration, the process is similar, but cheaper. To bring my wife over requires a minimum payment of $535.00, not including (IIRC) green card fees. I'm not going to say it is easier, because from this angle it looks very daunting. And I am required to show proof of income or support. In the US all I have to do is vouch for the immigrant, & assume the support of that person. If I cannot, I can also use a sponsor that promises to help, for a minimum of 10 years time. I am not sure if Ecuador is similar. I do have an immigration lawyer on hand, that I can talk to. So I may need to run this by her. She is a dual Ecuadorian/American citizen, that specializes in immigration issues -- both to & from Ecuador. Damon.
  24. I got mine via direct deposit. I was one of those people that had their deposit messed up. I only got mine on 9 January 2021. I really, really needed the money earlier. Damon.
  25. I haven't updated this thread in a while. So here's some general news... I flew down to Ecuador the day after Christmas to spend the new years with my wife. The travelling sucked, but my time there was amazing. We got a lot closer, & I think this trip was important for our marriage. In Ecuador, one new years tradition they have there is to make or buy a papier-mache mannequin. You then place a list of our hopes & aspirations for the new year inside...and set it on fire! Unfortunately due to quarantine restrictions the government has put severe restrictions on celebrations this year, so we only burned a small mannequin, made by her cousin's daughter (she is 10 years old, & refers to me as tío Damon, adorable). Usually what follows is dancing, eating & drinking in the streets until dawn. None of that this year. As far as the immigration issue is concerned, I have not filed her paperwork yet. I don't recall if I mentioned this, but I had lost my job due to the COVID pandemic. THis was both a good thing & a bad thing; it gave me the time I needed to pull off the marriage, but obviously it has caused cash flow issues. I was planning on using my stimulus check to file for her Visa, but that has not come in yet. I may have to wait until I get my tax return if I don't get the stimulus money yet... On top of that I have been fighting with unemployment, since they owe me $3000+ in back benefits I never received, that were promised to me. With that said, I am actually seriously considering emigrating to Ecuador instead, & living there permanently. I am thinking of doing this sometime after the Pandemic is resolved (so no sooner than this summer). One thing I discovered on this journey is that I am much happier down there, than I am here in Pennsylvania. I won't go into further details about things (you can PM me if you are really curious), but I feel that this is the right move for me. I am trying to convince my older daughter to come with me, & maybe ask my younger daughter at a later date to live with me in Ecuador. In Manta there is a US style English language high school, so their educational needs would be met. Plus being able to experience a different culture from their own at this age is a tremendous opportunity in my mind. I haven't decided fully, since work is going to be an issue as well. But I can definitely say deep in my heart I really want to do this... Damon.
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