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Lars Porsenna

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  1. Now that I am home & have been for a month, I'd like to talk a bit about my experiences with Ecuador & the civil marriage. In Ecuador, as a foreigner, I can only get married in 3 locations: Guayaquil, Quito (national capital) & Cuenca (which has a large population of North American expats). We chose Guayaquil since it is the closest. We had to go down twice. The first time was to ensure my documents were in order to prove I was eligible to marry her. The second time was the actual marriage itself. Guayaquil is the 2nd largest city in Ecuador. We were in the downtown area, near the ocean (& the Malecon, which is sort of an entertainment/amusement area, like the Boardwalk in some US beach resort towns). Both times we had meetings in the Office of Civil Records (Registro Civil, which is right across a plaza from an old, Colonial era Catholic Church, painted blue & white (the colors of Guayaquil). Impressive, to say the least. The first meeting was relatively smooth as my documents were approved. Later on we walked around the downtown a bit. For people that have experienced it, downtown Guayaquil sort of gives me a New York City feel, with narrower streets (& traffic just as bad). It was big, crowded, & hot, considering how close we were to the equator & how close to sea level we were. One fun thing about this trip is how evident the casual economy is there. Walking around Guayaquil there was no shortage of people trying to sell me stuff, from boxes of crackers to cotton swabs, & everything in between. My wife's mother needed a pair of scissors while we were there, & came across a woman selling various things on a blanket. Money was exchanged, & she had her scissors. You wouldn't find that here in the US much. The second meeting in Guayaquil was of course for the civil marriage. In our previous visit the official said my documents were in order. In this visit the official (judge) said my documents were...incomplete. My document of Marital Status (showing I was single) did not include the names of my parents. They required it. Fortunately, it was only $10 more to get past that problem (In total I spent around $73 to marry her). With that done the ceremony was completed, & we were legally married. Ecuador is a much poorer country. One of the things that really impressed me is how much stuff we have here in the US. She has a middle class income by local standards, as do I. But it was very evident that I have just so much more stuff than she does: bigger TVs, more books, more (& newer) furniture, etc. I was talking to a Brazilian friend of mine, & she said: get used to it. That is how it is all over South America. In addition, while there were plenty of cars there, many of them were older, obviously used cars. Manta (where she lives) is a port, & you could see massive cargo ships off port unloading used cars, probably many of which are bought in the US for importation. That's not to say there aren't new cars there too, but the ownership of used vs new is much greater than here in the US. They also sell brands you would not see in the US, like Renault & some Chinese brands I can't remember the names of. Many of the busses in Ecuador are Chinese too (Hino), as well as large trucks. Also there was a higher amount of motorcyclists there too, probably because they are cheap to operate & own. Another interesting difference is the sheer number of tiny little convenience stores, markets, restaurants, & pharmacies there are. These places are often very tiny, but populous, easy to walk to. Also in our drives to & back from Guayaquil the roadsides are littered with tiny restaurants & convenience stores, often literally huts made out of thatch or local bamboo, or simple lean-tos, selling ceviches, empanadas, sodas, water, these sorts of things. You would never find this sort of thing in the US. As another example of the casual economy, her aunt teaches pre-school, but is shut down due to the Pandemic. So now she sells ceviches, corviches, & other food out of her garage. Her daughter has a tiny convenience store that sells cosmetics, paper plates, cups, & other basics, out of a tiny 10ft square room. She also sells through a locked gate, since crime is a greater concern there. Many houses there are built to a similar standard or using a similar method. Masonry construction is much, much more common there than here in the US. My house, for example, is wood framed, with a stone façade in the front lower level. There, when they build a house, they raise 4 or more pillars of steel-bar reinforced concrete, & fill with these large red bricks, maybe twice the size of bricks here & similar to cinder blocks in dimensions. These bricks are near ubiquitous. When finishing off, they do not often cut the rebar sticking out of the top of the pillars, but just let it be. Sometimes the houses are plastered with cement to create a pleasant façade, sometimes additionally painted (her house was painted a turquoise color). There are more modern & finished buildings too, especially in the commercial districts, but for an average house, this is how it is most often. Some of the construction standards they use there would never fly in the US. Furthermore, it is very, very common for the houses to be surrounded by a wall, with a locked gate for entrance into the courtyard. Many houses have bars on the lower windows as well, to protect against break ins. That being said, I did not see any evidence of crime while I was in Manta, & did not fear much walking around on the streets or in the city. Things in the countryside are more impoverished. I saw many more huts in the countryside than I did in the city (though there were few). Subsistence farming seems to still be a thing there, as well. Outside of the big cities, Ecuador seems to be very rural, with a lot of small villages or towns, rather than bigger cities. One fun thing about the culture there, is that outside many of the cities or cantons will be a statue representing what is notable about that location. For example, Manta is close to Monticristi. This town is known for hand-making Panama Hats (which are from Ecuador, no Panama, ironically). THey have a large statue of a woman making one of these hats. Outside of Jipijapa (pronounced "Hipihapa") is a giant ear of corn, since they are an agricultural town. Outside of Guayaquil is a giant statue of a monkey. WHy will require a little explaining of the local culture. In Ecuador there is a rivalry between the Costas (people living in the coastal areas) & the Serranos (people living in the Andes). The divide is sort of like in the US between Northeasterners & the Deep South, with Guayaquil taking the place of NYC in this example. The Serranos derisively call the Guayaquileños monos or monkeys. Rather than allow this insult, they take it with pride, & thus use the label to self-identify. Thus the giant statue of a monkey when you enter the city. As far as the people, the entirety of her family accepted me with open arms, & are very friendly or open. This is, admittedly, very refreshing, since I feel like people in North America & especially Pennsylvania, are a lot less warm, friendly, or outgoing. It seems like the people there are happier.
  2. It has been a while since I posted here, but I have dropped from around 207 to 193, so around 14lbs. I wanted to try to get to 190 by the end of this month, but I don't think that will happen unless I stop eating completely (& I like eating!). Tentatively still have my church wedding for February, so Hopefully I can drop another 10lbs before that. If the date slips because of the Pandemic, our next choice is middle of April, so hoping I can hit 175 by then... Damon.
  3. As an aside, those types of tracks are easy to do with a little practice & proper technique. My primary hobby is armor modeling. I am working on workable (i.e. articulating) plastic Panzer III tracks, with each track consisting of 2 pins & a separate guide horn. Damon.
  4. You all can have a bachelors party in my honor. She did have a bachelorette party a few days before (called a solteria). When I showed up for cake after I saw some...questionable things. Keep it clean guys... Damon.
  5. Another quick update: as of yesterday we are now married! Damon.
  6. A picture for why I am doing this. Ysabel & I on the beach in Manta, Ecuador.
  7. Update: we did the entrevista today & my documents were accepted & valid. Date of matrimony is 21 October. This was in Guayaquil, which definitely has a NYC feel with a lot of "casual" economy. Its a big city & has that feel. Damon.
  8. A quick update. Currently in Ecuador with my fiancee. The only time I have spoken English is when her sister from the US called me: everything else has been in Español en todo. But everything is going great so far, & I look forward to more great things with her.
  9. I am currently sitting near the gate for my flight. In an hour I will be on the plane & on my way. My adventure is about to begin. One thing I should note is that I have never travelled internationally before, & this will be my second trip in an airline in my life. I'm not scared, but definitely excited. I should be in Ecuador by 10:45 in the morning. Damon.
  10. Today I received my COVID test results. As expected, they came back as negative. The next step is to now get the lab results translated into Spanish for the authorities in Ecuador. I will take care of that tomorrow morning. Damon.
  11. I agree. But there is the "government getting back to us" phase too! I just got back from getting a COVID test. Should get the results in a few days. I'm sure it will show negative, but once I have confirmation, it's onto the plane! I am leaving October 9 now, because the ticket was around $100 cheaper... Damon.
  12. Interestingly I found this article: https://rapidvisa.com/federal-judge-blocks-uscis-fee-increase/?fbclid=IwAR1kHWr8avI96WCeYvzCVCFKnxjxTFTkD8HhGbIZAEgEtud9WIQKfFdJ0RM There is an injunction against the fee increases. THis may help me when I decide which Visa to apply for after our civil marriage. Damon.
  13. A quick update: I received an email from the lawyer in Ecuador that my document has been accepted & is correct. To review, this was my Affidavit of Marital Status, showing that I am not currently married, & nor was I ever married. This document as well as the Apostille document, were translated into Spanish for the local Ecuadorian authorities. On the part of my fiancée, she has just received her new cedula, which is like a national ID card. This shows her marital status right on the card (in this case soltera for single & never married). Also she needs to apply for a Curaduria. This is a legal process of transfer of guardianship. I was able to (finally) find some information on it at: https://centrojuridicongya.blogspot.com ... ecial.html With all of this, we are much closer now to getting married & fulfilling our mutual dreams. Damon.
  14. I am in the process of transferring all the posts to a blog. See damonsadventuresinimmigration.blogspot.com Damon.
  15. The latest from Ecuador https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yDwdt0Koz2Ua_VUW2EDhn_mV8UosWpUC/view?fbclid=IwAR3Uw-0UDT1gekZdj7ma4ByqfigRsY4tdZlO2Hf2tnLuB0ObvQXaoU5kg64: Damon.
  16. An update on things. I have had to change the date yet again, but it is only a minor adjustment. I will be flying down to Ecuador on 10 October. We have an interview schedules in Guayaquil on 13 October, & if everything is good to go, we will have the civil ceremony on 20 October. This also requires me to stay for 2 weeks rather than one, but this simply gives me more time to get to know the country, as well as total immersion in the Spanish language as well. Sort of like learning how to swim by being pushed into the deep end of the pool... Damon.
  17. Went today to get my documents apostilled. Wouldn't you know it the state capital is shut down due to COVID concerns still (my county government buildings were not, to put it into perspective). So I had to drop them off with an SASE to return them to me when done. Working time 7-10 business days. So that puts me behind 2 weeks. I may miss my date of 10-5-20 because the documents need to be reviewed in Ecuador as well. Damon.
  18. In order to get married in Ecuador, I need several pieces of documentation: Certificate of Marital Status, translated & apostilled. Birth Certificate, translated & apostilled There are other pieces of documentation necessary, but they do not apply to me (divorce certificates, death certificates...) Today I stopped by the courthouse to pick up the Certificate of Marital Status. Only $10 and notarized. However, it is in English so I need to get a translator for that. And for my birth certificate. I located someone nearby that can do it, usually takes a day or two. Next up, though is to get the documents apostilled. What is that, you ask? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostille_Convention Basically it is like a notary for international documents. For that it will be a bit harder. For that I will need to travel to Harrisburg to get my documents apostilled. So I will be taking a day this week to do so. One nice thing that came up is that her cousin is a lawyer in Guayaquil. This helps immensely; not only is she family, but she is located in the city we are going to marry in (in Ecuador I can only marry in Guayaquil, Cuenca or Quito). This makes things very convenient from that standpoint. Not that this process is exactly simple. But I am making progress towards my goal. Damon.
  19. Along with everything else there is this issue as well: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/akz8g4/the-trump-admin-decided-against-effectively-stopping-immigrationfor-now?utm_source=vicenewsfacebook&fbclid=IwAR3t5houKi7PhNU-rvoMobMT738IgWrmjLYfmTM2YKog9Hjc26dW9e0oJWI The furlough has been delayed, but this directly impacts me & my ambitions. As the descendant of immigrants, as like most people in this country, all I can say is I see echoes of in how my people (Italians) were treated when we came to this country. Damon.
  20. For various reasons we pushed the date back to 10-3-20. Only 3 weeks extra. Damon.
  21. Note this is on my hand. Yes, I have short fingers. Damon.
  22. As a quick note, her ring came in today. Looks legit. I cleaned it with alcohol. So no COVID. I sent her a photo & she has been very excited all day. Good news... Damon.
  23. Well, it looks like some big news is in the works as far as the quarantine is concerned in Ecuador: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W6acSDfVXOECpnV7FDO0TDQNRPbMZhOf/view?fbclid=IwAR0mAqPzE3J2DVtm52R4aoUChvtFZ_oHaNSLCVP8RaiygWZOxSzCB1kyHi8 Here is the translation thanks to Google because I am too lazy to do it by hand:
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