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Adventures in Immigration


Lars Porsenna
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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.

Edited by Lars Porsenna
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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.

Edited by Lars Porsenna
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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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On 4/2/2021 at 10:39 AM, Lars Porsenna said:

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.

 

I'd offer to drive ya, but Google can get me as far Yaviza, Panama. Then they fail to get further.

 

Only a 75 hour trip from my house so far.

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On 4/2/2021 at 11:39 AM, Lars Porsenna said:

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.

20 April should be possible. 

I have been told the minimum window is 3 weeks for Pfizer.

The clinic I got mine from kinda insisted I return for dose 2, from them, ASAP —which was three weeks to the day.

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On 4/7/2021 at 12:30 AM, Pegazus said:

 

I'd offer to drive ya, but Google can get me as far Yaviza, Panama. Then they fail to get further.

 

Only a 75 hour trip from my house so far.

 

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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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.
 

Edited by Lars Porsenna
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I have many Mormon friends, but I have some serious disagreements with a number of their beliefs. Enough so that I would not even consider converting. I’m comfortable in my Lutheran faith (sometimes known as Catholic Light).

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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.

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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.

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