Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Plan 9

Haven't we heard of this before?

So, things are in motion.

I looked at: Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Chile.

Several were too expensive. Several were too dangerous. Or too restrictive. Or too potentially weird.

In many ways, Nicaragua seems nice but I have lust for the land. Ecuador's central Andean highlands were a good bet. Then I checked out Chile. Wild and crazy. Fantastic mountains. Large areas with almost no people. Endless months of winter rain. Gray skies. Maybe too expensive for now.

Plan Z has looped around and sunk its teeth into the tail of Plan A.

Probably Nicaragua.

Cheap enough. Kind of close. I sort of know people already there. I've studied it the most. I know of a place or two I can live, perhaps. I can spend a year or two getting used to things while I work on understanding Spanish, and waiting for my income to double.

After that, maybe more adventure.

So here's how you do it.

First, if you are at least 45 and can prove your income, you can be a "pensionado". This means you are either a geezer or want to live like one.

You need proof of income, a police report saying you have been good, and a health certificate. Plus a couple more things. These need to be certified as being real in your home state. The documents you get certified then go to the nearest consulate where they are certified as having been genuinely certified as being real.

Then you can go.

With one small hitch.

If not living in the state where you were born, your birth certificate goes to the nearest consulate for that, while everything goes to another consulate closer to where you actually live.

OK, fine.

My birth certificate would go to Texas and the rest to California.

With one small hitch.

The consulates don't seem to be open. Recently someone from where I am living emailed the California consulate. No response.

Then they called the California consulate. No one answered. And the voice mail was full, so he couldn't leave a message.

Then they were in the area and stopped by the California consulate, which was closed and dark and locked up.

The Texas consulate, from what I've heard, is about the same.

OK, fine.

There is a way around this.

You can get all your real documents certified and then send them to a branch of the U.S. State Department, which will give them a sort of intermediate certification certifying that they have been certified. Then you hire a courier to take them to the Washington, D.C. consulate, which can fill in for any of the others.

Once the documents are there, the consulate, as usual, certifies everything as having been certified by, in this case, your state secretary of state, and also, in this one special case, by the U.S. State Department. And then you are good to go.

With one small hitch.

The U.S. State Department apparently no longer does this, or the office moved, or installed new hoops which are not yet properly calibrated to account for the changes in gravity brought on by climate change which, as we all know, is a hoax. But it might be a relativistic effect due to the expansion of spacetime. Not quite clear yet.

Which, as you may guess, does not change anything.

But this is the procedure. OK, fine.

So right now Ecuador is worse. The immigration system was purged for corruption in late December and so were the people waiting for some purely rubber-stamping formalities. Which tends to be a good warning about not even thinking thoughts in that direction.

If I could manage getting there though, I would be in a city of 330,000, know no one, and would not understand Spanish any more than I do now. And six weeks ago I went deaf in my left ear. With luck this will turn out to be an ordinary although sort of rare odd little infection thing that probably will clear up within three months. If it does.

OK, fine.

There is a way around this.

And that is to keep at it because others have done it, and I have a secret weapon. I know about a lawyer (an "abogado") who specializes in this sort of thing. Everyone says he is straight out honest and reliable. His name is Antonio Caimán and I recently wired him $400 U.S. money. Plus $30 for transactions at his end. Plus an almost trivial $14 for transactions at my end.

OK, fine. I am all set. He got the money. Now I can finally ask questions of a real expert and get things started.

He says it is really easy.

I need income certification, a birth certificate, two photographs, a copy of my passport, a police report, copy of marriage license, list of household goods to ship, and some info about the vehicle I will import.

OK, fine. Strip out the marriage license, household goods and vehicle because they don't apply, and let's focus on the most relevant item.

Which is the "Health Certificate". I've never seen one, so I asked for a copy of it.

And more importantly I asked for a definitive list of what information I actually must supply.

I've heard just about everything. Must be free of contagious diseases, or of communicable diseases, or sexually-transmitted diseases, or various combinations. Must be said to be not crazy.

Maybe can have a handwritten note from some random doctor saying I'm OK as far as he knows. Because that worked for one guy.

Every variation seems to have worked for someone, although I haven't heard what did not work because, I guess, those people gave up, or are still trying to figure things out.

OK, fine.

So what's the answer?

I don't know. My good friend Antonio Caimán, Abogado, who received his $400 retainer, whom everyone says is the only person in Nicaragua who is absolutely honest and reliable, who knows all about this process that it is possible to know, has not responded to my emailed questions.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Expat Association Coach Of The Month

Do it our way or you may possibly incur regrets.

Name: Barny "Knuckles" Pederson

Title: Expert, Expat, Educator, Real Estate and Loan Counselor

Business Name: The Paradise Within Real Estate for Retirees and Expats

Niche / Specialities: Natural Healing, Shung Fui, Divination, Home Tours, Loans

Expat Experience: I have been living abroad for several months now and pretty much have it figured out. Reasonable fees. Satisfaction highly likely as I am well liked by many, and treated with respect by the rest.

Life experience: Since finishing my studies with the State of Louisiana's Department of Prisons and Paroles I have been traveling on a borrowed passport, which helps me keep a low profile. Before that I was a high school counselor, janitor, short order cook, preacher, psychotherapist, snake handler, author, father, husband, and mental health expert. But mostly I was in sales, loans, and enforcement.

Accomplishments: I have Mastery of Public Administrative Processes from the School of First Hand Experience, based on my interactions with various leading attorneys, judges, counselors, psychiatrists, and law enforcement figures. I have attended or led many pep talks and sales meetings. I once had a license in the State of Texas, which is a fine place.

For a while I was a Professional Loan and Loan Enforcement Officer for a multi-state business conglomerate which has in recent years successfully taken over most of Las Vegas.

Relationship Therapy, Sexual Addiction Therapy, Multiple Addiction Therapy, Post Induction Therapy and Somatic Experiencing are all interests of mine, as is the whole Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy, which I am learning the value of as time goes by. In my few spare moments I arrange flowers and send them to bereaved families of former business associates, in case they encounter unfortunate circumstances. Which happens, you know?

I have three years of experience in Home Appraisal and Remodeling Techniques and often made Top Real Estate Turnover Expert of the month in the Tri-State Area before beginning my studies within the Law Enforcement System.

I have just finished pouring my broad experience in psychology, divination, and sales and loan negotiating tactics into a new book titled "Top 10 Reasons to Buy Now!", which you can get direct from my web site for only $29.99.

Sure, this sounds like a lot, but it is refundable when you sign up for one of my affordable The Paradise Within Retiree and Expat Home Tours in any of the top retirement countries I serve. Call for details as my exact location changes daily.

Coaching Style: I believe that it is in everyone's best interest to own real estate, which is why I like to concentrate on welcoming newcomers into our own private world of Retiree and Expat Home Ownership. I teach people how to empower themselves and discover their hidden talents for picking and investing in Retiree and Expat Home Ownership opportunities, how to transfer their money to my bank (new this month), and how they can help their friends, neighbors, and relatives from "back home" to make the transition to Living the Retiree and Expat Life Style on little or no money down.

As I like to say: We transform daydreams into Retiree and Expat Real Estate Ownership Realities. Cash only.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Flash Mobster

Life is hard unless you can fake it.

Flash Mobster: An expat who delights in showing off wealth, especially if living in a developing nation. Wealth of course is relative, and may amount to a wardrobe bought at Target, plus two pots, two pans, and a set of mail-order silverware. This sort of person is often a banana republican as well. Bet you couldn't guess.

Flash Mobster: An inflatable buffoon, frequently deflated at knife-point while being relieved of baubles, fancy toys, shiny jewelry, and possibly all clothing as well.

Flash Mobster: Someone who seeks respect the only way possible - by being tacky. This is a person who believes that anything gold-colored and glittery instantly says "class". And it does, but not the class intended.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Banana Republican

Like a banana but without the beauty. And not like a banana either.

Banana Republican: A person who has always wanted to run away to a banana republic, and write a novel about it, but decided to invade instead. This person puts up a mansion, a high, razor-wire-topped wall, hires guards and servants, and then heaves a giant sigh of relief at having escaped the rat race and all care.

Banana Republican: An individual who can't compete at home, and so goes to where $20,000 will buy half the country, puts up a sweatshop or two, and proceeds to stand in for the lord and master of all creation.

Banana Republican: A person with the above attitudes but without financial resources who still nevertheless asserts supremacy based on who knows what criteria. This is an incurable disease.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stranger In A Strange Land

Home is where the spooky is.

I was askin Mike, hey Mike, where should I move to when I get out a the tunnels?

Mike used to be hooked on meth but he's OK now. He's a stand-up guy.

Life ain't what it used to be. Mike and me, we live under Las Vegas, in the tunnels. So I says to my buddy Mike, hey, where should I go when I move out?

A couple years back we had 12,000 people in the tunnels. That was before my time, truth be told, but now we're up to 14,000. Yeah, right. Fourteen friggin thousand mole people living in tunnels under Las Vegas, and I'm one a them now, but not for long.

Like there's this woman, Sali. Sali was a cashier in a hotel for 21 years. Then, bada-bing, it closes up, three years ago, like overnight. Talk to her now. What does she say? "I got lots of pain, you know? A lot of pain," says Sali.

Hey Sali, I feel your pain. I got pain too. We all got pain. Endless friggin pain down here in the tunnels.

But I want somethin better, you know what I mean? I had somethin better, back in the day, and now, hey. I want it back again.

I'm plannin on movin out, you know? That's where Mike comes in. Mike has been around. Mike's a good guy. Sure, he's had his troubles but he's clean now and he's a smart guy, so I ask Mike, hey Mike, where should I move to when I get out a the tunnels?

Well, it ain't so easy, this thing. You figure you throw a dart at a map and go there, but there's plenty a funny stuff out there. Foreign countries and all. Languages. What the fluff. So I figure I'll skip the foreign countries for now and look for a place in the good old U.S. of A.

So I ask Mike for a recommendation.

Like how about Alabama? I like the way that name sounds. It rolls around like a marble on a table top. Al Ah Bam Ah. And Mike says I gotta shave because my mustache looks fake. "It's against the law to have a fake mustache that makes people laugh in church," he says. Hey. I could end up in jail there?

No. Maybe not Alabama then.

So California. Oranges. I could go for that. But Mike says. Eating an orange in your bathtub is prohibited in California. Hey. One a my favorite things to do. Way to spoil things, California.

So now I'm totally lost.

In Delaware you can't get married on a dare. Like I want to, but all the same. Indiana says the value of pi is not 3.1415, it's 4. Hey I been to school. I know that one. I ain't stupid. Scratch Indiana then.

Minnesota won't let you paint sparrows and sell them as parakeets. New Jersey says men can't knit during fishing season. North Carolina. Hey. North Carolina, where it's illegal to sing off-key. Which leaves out guess-who?

Virginia. Tickling women is against the law. Another one a my very favorite things to do, and I find I could not do this thing there.

And a course my favorite of all, South Dakota. Where after your visit to Mount Rushmore and you are tired out and all it is against the law to fall asleep in a cheese factory.

So I guess that leaves me lookin elsewhere then. Maybe some a them foreign know...ain't so bad then.

Hey, maybe they talk funny and all. The language stuff, you know? But hey. Maybe I could handle that.

I'm a smart guy, I got enough socked away to move out a the tunnels now. Maybe I'll go someplace warm where a few bucks will buy me a bed and I can just take it easy and not worry so much about breakin the law and all.

I used to lay tiles. Maybe I could do that again. Lay tiles.

Maybe Mike will come along. He's OK. Been a great help to yours truly.

I should go ask him. That way we're both out a the tunnels. You know? Me and Mike. He's a stand-up guy.


Homeless People Live in Tunnels Under Las Vegas

Like we didn't always suspect.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Frank & Angie's Grab Bag

Half pound of this, handful of that.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to be doing.

Sure, no one cares, and that's fair. It's my life and my call, and if I was really desperate I would have acted before now.

I am going to leave the U.S. before long and land elsewhere. I just don't know yet where I'm going or when I'll be there.

So I dither. Gathering intelligence, I call it. I'm hoping to get smart real soon now.

As part of this process I recently splurged on a Borch map of Ecuador so I could get reliable information about what really was where. And a book called "Culture Shock Ecuador", which I may review when done. And finally, the "DIY Cuenca Landing Guide: Everything you will want to know to make your stay easier, less expensive, and more fulfilling".

The last is what I'll deal with here.

I don't know actually who wrote it. "Frank, Angie, Brandon, Angelo, and Alex" are listed on their blog, and they don't say any more in the book. You can't really tell who is writing any given passage either.

Frank and Angie are the parents. The others are their sons. They have been living in Cuenca, Ecuador for close to a year.

They make a production of being frugal. Of avoiding the expat ghettos, and of living as close to the day to day culture as they can. They sound nice, but desperate in a way. Like used car sellers during a weekend off. They way those people would sound if you knew them personally and you weren't marks, and if they were off-duty and ranting.

I feel as though I should like these folks and feel odd for not liking them. They seem sincere. I decided to buy their book (which is in PDF form) because no one else has tried in any real way, as far as I know, to collect practical information about Cuenca and package it.

So how's the book then?

In a word, sloppy.

I can't say I'm disappointed because I've been reading their blog off and on for a while, and am familiar with their galloping, free-for-all, shoot-from-the-hip style.

Still, this book is hard to read at times.

Some samples:

Item: "Out of all the washers they sell here the 'Whirl Pool' looks tough and seems like it will last a good long time. The whirl pool will set you back about $700 to $1200."

Item: From a photo cutline: "That's Frank and I up on the terrace eating...LOL no, just ya though didn't we?"

Item: "On Thursday's, Plaza Rotary market is mainly geared for the locals where they roast the whole pigs, bring out the fruit vendors and sell furniture, and there is less artisans craft stalls on this day."

Item: "Most expats do not ride the buses around town; rarely do we see gringos riding the bus; they would rather flag down a taxi and pay the $2 bucks to wherever they are going. But overtime this can add up because then you need to hail down a taxi again to take you back home for another $2 bucks. Then what if you want to go out again in the evening—there's another $4 bucks roundtrip, spending $8 on taxi fare for one day. In two weeks that adds up to $112 and in one month you will have spent $224 just on taxi fares. Here's what we do: Rather than spend $4 to $8 dollars a day on a taxi we spend $1 dollar. If we do go out in the evening time we do take a taxi just because we have read the buses aren't safe at night. The buses are perfectly safe to take during the day however; we have never had any problems or negative encounters riding the bus."

Item: "We have met with expats from the states who have had to use the emergency services in Cuenca and they were quite pleased with the outcome. Her appendix burst and she had to be rushed to the Hospital. She said that not only was the quality of care good, the hospital was clean and bright and the price for everything was amazing."

If these passages are not disorienting then you are not my kind of people.

I am.

And what I think is that someone who throws words into a pile and shovels them through a computer and then sells the result for $19.99 in PDF form does not get my trust.

I feel bad for saying this, but I have to wonder if these people have ever been to school, and if so, what they did there. Some parts of the book are so loose that I can't really tell what they're talking about. Reread the passages above if you think you really know what they said.

And the reason I bought this book was for solid information.

Which brings me to the nut. The most important things for me were:

  1. the best route into Ecuador
  2. how to get from the nearest airport to Cuenca
  3. where to find temporary lodging
  4. where and how to get reliable, reasonably fast internet service
  5. 100% solid, nuts-and-bolts advice on the immigration process

The last two were barely mentioned. They are the important ones. For me.

Internet service is a deal maker, deal breaker thing in itself. I already have a rough idea of the level of service and the challenges getting good service, but hoped for real information. Nope. Not here.

As for the most critical section, dealing with residency, finding an attorney to help, getting on-the-ground information about services offered, fees, who is good and who is not, and all the rest, well that is not in the book.

So let's have a summary. Let's decide.

Should someone interested in moving to Ecuador (specifically Cuenca) buy this book? Yes. And every other recent book you can find. And then read the rest of them for background.

Is this book great, or even good? No.

What I can say is that with pages 15 through 30 ("Choose a Hostel and Hang Your Hat") I probably got my money's worth. That section appears to be useful. Of course I can't tell without going there and seeing what actually happens, but it sounds as though they know what they have written about.

So overall, too bad. I was not expecting this book to be amazingly good, and was not pleasantly surprised.

Now if you want something really well written, the piece that made me suddenly giddy at the thought of Cuenca in the first place, read Top 20 Reasons I like Cuenca, which dates from April, 2008, and is unfortunately less and less true by the day.

Or visit Frank, Angie, Brandon, Angelo, and Alex directly at Discover Cuenca Ecuador