Monday, September 26, 2011

Time is Flying By

I have always been an obsessive, compulsive individual and go out of my way to avoid germs and unhealthy actions. I am one of the few that takes an anti-bacterial wipe and cleans my grocery basket. In addition I take my hand towel and open the restroom door, when out in public. If I shake hands with someone, I immediately wash my hands. The sad thing is that a couple of my sons have inherited this phobia and I apologize in advance, for your similarities with Howie Mandel, inherited from your old man. It will be a daily battle!

I say this because I have eleven days left before Omar and I hop a plane to Ecuador, for my first visit and deep in my heart I know that I will overlook something important. An item that is necessary in my daily life (My wife has to remind me nightly to take my heart medications--Who will do this when I am away for 8 weeks, with no phone to set up a reminder). Maybe the new Laptop I ordered this past week that will become my tool of trade, will have an Outlook calendar of some kind, that will aid me. I am obsessing on virtually all aspects of the trip and it is driving me stark raving mad (no comments from the peanut gallery or senioritis arrows).

I can only take two items on board the plane, so it has to be my Bi-Pap machine (Yes, if you weren't aware I have Sleep Apnea--A very debilitating disease that millions of Americans will not fess up to, from a vanity point of view. "I will not wear that damned mask, if it kills me!"--Well I have news for you, it will!). I read an article in the newspaper recently, about an 18 wheel truck driver that weighed 300 plus lbs, fell asleep at the wheel, in the middle of the day and ran over a small car that was stopped on the Interstate as a result of traffic, killing the woman's husband, all because he didn't want to wear the mask.

My cardiologist stated emphatically, that my heart attack was a result of the Sleep Apnea not being diagnosed ahead of time, even though I have a family history of the disease. Please, if you fall asleep during the day (especially while driving), wake at night choking because of loss of oxygen, or snore like a wild banji, you need to be tested. I have suggested testing to 21 individuals that described their symptoms and everyone discovered they had Sleep Apnea. So....I am batting 1.000!

The second carry on will be my laptop and the plethora of pharmaceuticals I take daily for my heart, allergies, etc. They are my lifeline. Obviously, I will need my passport and cash, as it is advised to use credit cards sparingly in third world countries. I have gone back in time and ordered a Swiss Gear backpack (same company that makes the Swiss Army knife, so you know it will be of high quality and can take a beating).

My itinerary is set. Omar and I are leaving at 11:15 AM from Austin, on October 7th and will spend the first night in Guayaquil. Our original destination is Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, with a population of around 400,000. It was the cultural center of Ecuador during the Incan empire and still has many museums and artifacts from that era, along with various other architecture from centuries back. We are staying in the center of the old town, in a boutique hotel (I think the house is over 100 years old) and looking for a condo for Omar, along with establishing whether I can survive at 8,500 ft. above sea level. My cardiologist told me it would take 3 days to become acclimated. So..we will see.

From there we are driving (Omar is a brave soul and has rented a car for us to travel in) to the next destination Salinas (Santa Elena--as there are two Salinas cities in Ecuador <Don't ask me>). This is the samll beach town that I want to purchase a home or condo, depending on amenities and whether Kim (my wife for those uniformed) can survive without a little dirt to play in. She is an avid gardener. We have a 3/2 condo reserved, on the beach, with a gym, pool and 24 hour guard. It will suffice for the family, intending to visit and explore Ecuador with us.

My Brother-in-Law Terry, who desparately needs to get away from Missouri (he is the one, along with my Sister-in-Law Kelli, that lost their son Dylan Thomas Reid, in Iraq last October). I will do my damnest to see that I take his mind off their tragedy.  He is arriving around November 5th, possibly with another son. So...I will be on my own for a couple of weeks, as Omar is leaving the 18th. Kind of a nice test to see how I do on my own!

Kim and her Mother Marcey (and possibly Kim's sister Tracy) are joining us around November 20th and we will all leave Salinas on November 28th and spend the last night in Guayaquil, as we do not want to take any chances and miss our departure flight the morning of November 30th. Hopefully we will take several sidetrips to the Crucita Beach/Manta area, Puerto Lopez, Guayaquil and maybe back to Cuenca so that they can get a taste of the various sections of Ecudaor.

In addition, hopefully I can make a trip to Mindo and meet Dr. Jane Lyons (PHD from UT--and a great source of information on Ecuador). She has provided a substantial amount of advice and I thank her for her contributions. She heads a bird tour/ecological organization and leads bird tours of Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Columbia. Ecuador has a bird population that can be placed against any other country in the world and she is an expert! If you get to Ecuador and have the time I highly recommend her tours.

I plan on writing many blogs as we traverse this wonderful country and embark on the next segment of my rapidly aging life. I hope I find what I am looking for in Salinas and I can start writing, as I have long desired. One of my high school Facebook (Pattie) friends stated "Don't you ever lose track of where you are from" (Texas). I will not, but I am starting a new segment of my life and as I have lived from 75% to 80% of it already, I want this portion to be stress free, I want my lovely wife Kim by my side and I will live by my mantra's, regardless. I will spend my time left on this earth in a fashion that appeals to me and more than anything I want to sit by the sea and write! Wish ya'll could be there to live it with us!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Second Step

Am I dreaming, or is this really happening? Kelli and Terry are driving down from Missouri to help us pack and downsize, so that in six months I can officially leave for my new home in Ecuador and begin writing (Pauline you better hurry or I will beat you to the finish line and publish first!)!

Tracy is filled with positive vibes for the first time in quite a while (Trust me young lady this experience will make you forget your problems in California--I will personally see to that!). We actually had a great conversation for almost two hours, in regard to our move to Ecuador. Tracy, you just need to bear in mind that we have "limited" funds and will have to prioritize our cap-ex expenditures (Ha! Ha!).

Everyone has a ton of creative juices flowing and ideas are bouncing around like tennis balls. A conversation initiated with the great patrons of "The Voices of Cocoa Beach" have displayed a keen interest in the organic farm idea (Build it and they will come). Omar and I will design our first exploratory trip in October, this coming week. Hopefully our great government can get my passport back to me in the 10 weeks I am allowing. If not, I will be rather upset and more than likely unkind with my communications.

I have grown attracted to Cuenca (even though my first desire is Salinas and the beach). I hope Jimmy Buffett is listening-Ha!--Maybe he can add a Margaritaville Cafe in Salinas. Unless Omar objects, I plan to start in the direction of Cuenca (after spending our obligatory evening in Guayaquil), visit the coast and hit the Santa Rosa and Machala area (debating on a side trip to Vilcabamba) and return to Guayaquil for a night or two.

The next day we can head out to Salinas and hopefully spend several days with Amy and see if there are any desirable and affordable properties "On the Beach". From there we should head up the coast and hit Montanita, Puerto Lopez, Manta and the Bahia de Caraquez area. We will hit Jama if we have the time. I think Gary dominates this area if I am not incorrect (or Pablo).

Regardless, I also want to look at small farms available for organic crops that are in operation and have some system of guaranteed contracts, that will at least provide a limited income to start with. The last perspective is looking at bed and breakfast operations or small hotels that have restaurants, bars and any other amenities and will not require "Too Much In Upgrades".

I mention these locations, as there is a wonderful ex-pat community in Ecuador, that treats each other like family. I cannot join these individuals fast enough. I know that by issuing this post I will receive varied feedback, that is actually "helpful" and will accommodate our needs. I also have to bear in mind that I need enough choices on the table to ensure that the family has options, when they visit for the first time in December. Everyone will be on this tour, including our Grande Dame or Matriarch Marcy (possibly the greeter at the bed and breakfast, if this materializes)!

In addition I now have to acquire a realtor and lawyer, that come highly recommended by large contingency of trustworthy ex-pats, as it is the hugest portion of the formula. I will welcome all recommendations and references. I do not want to contribute to some bandit's lifestyle and have my funds used for his or her vacation.

Lastly I have to thank Dr. Jane Lyons of Mindo Bird Tours ( ). Dr. Lyons has lived in Ecuador after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin (Hook 'em) and is an aunt of one of my son's significant other. She has persevered my incessant emails and question about Ecuador and has been a tremendous aid. If you read this and are a bird watching fan, please join her and allow her highly trained staff to guide you through tours in various countries. I am trying to see if we can visit her for a night or two and meet her face to face. Muchas Gracias Jane.

October cannot get here soon enough and I welcome any comments, suggestions or options of individuals to work with as the process begins.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Chapter

Dear friends and family,
It is time to turn the page and start a new chapter in our lives. I have been unemployed for around four months and have diligently completed applications, worked with a vast array of recruiters and suffered monumental discrimination from my age, my lack of a degree and my disability with my back. It is most obvious that after forty years in retail and twenty in an executive position, that my appeal has been voided. We have come to the conclusion that I should retire and collect Social Security.

Now comes the fun part. Can Kim and I survive on this meager stipend in the good old USA. The answer is no and an emphatic one at that. Trying to go into business a couple of years ago, exhausted all retirement monies and we simply cannot live on the monthly funding from our government.

Therefore I have researched a location that we can survive, with low medical costs, inexpensive food and a cost of living that is almost criminal in nature. Ecuador will allow us to live on the beach (a passion we both observe), eat fresh seafood and retire in semi comfort. I know this will startle most of you that have known us over the years and realize how important family has been.

Kim will remain in Texas and work until she turns 62 and we will have a long distance relationship (Not the first time. We actually lived 3,000 miles apart when we started dating in 1976). The real truth is that our family is spreading out. The boys are creating lives of their own and it is time that Kim and I settle down where we can be happy, relieve stress and I can become a writer.

I have had a passion for writing, gained from my journalistic father and some say I am fairly talented at it. Who knows? In the end the public will tell me if I am full of garbage or have an ability to scribe my thoughts in a manner that will produce income for us.

The thing is that when I mentioned this to members of my immediate family and a close friend, their feedback was positive and some wanted to join in on the escape! One of my dearest friends is actually accompanying me the first time I venture into the unknown.

Kim and I have discussed trying to purchase a small bed and breakfast. My sister-in-law and husband have brought the prospect of running a small organic tomato farm (already operational) to the table and the possibilities are endless (as long as everyone understands my immediate mission is to write).

I am in the process of placing my thoughts together and have already started three books (It was two until my experience with age and the other discrimination faced recently). I do have a new energy and am more excited about this chapter of my life than I have been in some time. I will add blogs from time to time (if you care to follow then feel free to add yourself to my "followers") and try to keep everyone stateside up to date.

I wish each and every one of you a prosperous, blessed and happy life. I sincerely thank each of you for your friendship and support over the years. May you find peace and may you remain blissful and full of life as we head into our golden years.