In the final months of the Second World War a young German is assigned to a concentration camp by his uncle in an attempt to spare him. “A shocking, disturbingly believable portrait of the Final Solution and the depravity that enabled it.” – Kirkus Reviews, February, 2012
With my third entry in this ongoing series let me go to the beginning. Why become an expat? Why leave the country of your birth and nationality to live among strangers in a very different culture, perhaps one with earthquakes and volcanoes? My primary reason for moving abroad was that I always wanted to. I grew up reading Burroughs, Doyle [his lost world stories, not Sherlock Holmes], and later Graham Greene whose books were largely about expats getting into trouble. My goal almost from the first was to retire to another country. As I grew older and saw how narrow the lives of most of the elderly were, primarily from lack of money, I became convinced I didn’t want that for myself.
Being from Arizona I frequently vacationed in Mexico where I met a number of expats. They seemed to be fleeing marriages and/or debts. Later, I made a number of trips to Costa Rica before it was discovered and destroyed by expats and had any number of fascinating conversations with fugitive expats taking advantage of the lack of extradition. Later I had some good fortune. I lived most of year in Portugal working on a book and there got to know a number of British expats. Over a pint I often discussed their reasons for living in Portugal. Most were fleeing what they saw as the decline in British society and its economy. Others had married Portuguese women. Many lived there because it was cheaper and the quality of life was quite high with what fixed income they had.
Later I traveled for work in Vietnam and Thailand. Again, mostly in bars, I meant a wide range of expats, in this case from the U.K. but also from Australia and Europe. Two men I talked to told the same story. One was from Belgium, they other from The Netherlands. They were unhappily married with children. Their company sent them to Vietnam or Thailand. They acquired a local, very accommodating girlfriend who soon had a baby, asked for a work extension, then asked for another which was refused. In both cases they quit their job, found a local one managing in one of the new Western companies opening up and just stayed. They both told me they never told their wives what they were doing, never contacted their families and had no regrets. Well, maybe. I also met a U.S. graduate student supposedly writing his dissertation. He said his adviser cautioned him to come back, that the last candidate who had gone to Asia never returned. This guy had been there six years and was teaching at a regional college. He said he was going back and I pretended to believe him.
Here in Ecuador your average expat is retired from the U.S. or Canada, is married and here with his wife. A surprising number have minority spouses or, as I do, a wife originally from another country who immigrated to the U.S. They say the primary reason they live here is economics. They can simply live a much better life here on a retirement income that would only keep them alive in North America. Some want a foreign experience and always plan to go back home.
I have to agree on quality of life for your income. We live in a penthouse with commanding views of the Andes and Tomabamba River, belong to the country club, travel whenever we want and have absolutely no money concerns. We’re not alone. I know two couples who had serious financial reverses n 2008, moved here, rebuilt their fortune as they didn’t need it to live, then returned to the states.
There’s a lot more to my story: the poor quality of American food, lack of control of medical care, taxes and insurance costs, the increasing leftward movement of all social institutions, lack of tolerance for those not conforming, many more, but I’ll write about those later. Be well, be happy. Life is too short to be miserable.
On April 30, 1977, 14 courageous women set aside fear and their families’ warning to leave their homes and confront the military dictatorship that had stolen and murdered their children. The went to the rotary outside the Presidential Palace and with signs and photos began a procession of protest. That day marked the first weekly march by the mothers of Argentina’s “disappeared” against the dictatorship that had carried out the systematic murder of thousands including their children. This simply action, repeated again and again, led to the collapse of the government and the restoration of democratic rule. Since then more than 1,000 torturers and killers have been tried and 700 sentenced. The fate of most, though not all, of the “disappeared” has been established.
Opposition to the coup that has taken place in the United States will not take place on social media, nor in the courts, nor through audits or new laws. Opposition and change will only begin when we take to the streets and exercise are right to peaceably assemble. The left will infiltrate and seek to turn these assemblies to violence. The MSM will play up every act of misconduct. But the power of the people in their anger if they persist will will out. It can begin in a single town at a single place. Against the government, against the newspaper or television station, against the police who have misbehaved. It will then spread to thousands of places across the country. We can again protest in our nation’s capitol and we cannot be ignored. Every action they take against us will only make us stronger.
We will will out; they will be defeated. But only if we act, then keep acting and never stop. They fear the majority, they fear us. But as long as we are silent, as long as we are docile, as long as take it, they will continue to dominate us.
Act! Stop talking, stop complaining, stop whining.
What 14 women in Buenas Aires did, we millions can do. But we must take the first step, then the one after that, and all the rest until justice and democracy is restored.
One of the lessons we’ve all learned this year is that ‘experts’ have been utterly politicized. And if you aren’t one of the experts who go along with the PC ones you are deleted from Social Media, denigrated by MSM or professionally destroyed. I no longer believe anything I read that conforms to the PC take on events. But worse, I can no longer trust those in opposition as they seem to have their own agenda. We are cast adrift in world determined to make us all victims living in a perpetual state of panic and fear. Read more here. the-pandemic-has-revealed-a-darkly-authoritarian-side-to-expertise
In the 1950’s I owned our black and white television set late night Friday and Saturdays after my folks went to bed. Whatever movie was showing, I watched. In those patriotic days the set was full of movies made during or about the Second World War. Heady stuff for one so young. A few of those movies have stuck with me over the years, Thirty Seconds of Tokyo, for one where the director had to good sense to create tension by omitting the nearly obligatory music for the run to Japan. All you hear are the clipped voices of the crew and the relentless drone of the airplane engines. Then there was The Steel Lady with Rod Cameron. It’s a B movie and until last night I was at a loss to understand the hold it had on me. Without exaggeration I’ve chased this move for 40 years, first on late night television [again], then on cable, then on VHS, then DVD, finally on the Internet. No luck. Until…. last night. I searched the title as I have every few months and there it was, in full and in surprising clarity, on YouTube. And I was not disappointed.
Okay, the plot is hokey but no less compelling for that. Rod Cameron with the lady obsessed mechanic side kick, drunken prospector and a really, really good looking 21 year old Tab Hunter as the radio nerd. Their plane forced down in the Sahara desert, cut off from communication, with little water, they find the storm that forced them down uncovered, are you ready?…. a German tank, complete with mummified crew. Realizing their situation is hopeless they repair the tank, fill its radiator with nearly all of their precious water and proceed to drive a hundred odd miles to a French Foreign Legion outpost. Sounds easy, right? Well, you don’t know Hollywood in the ’50s.
Searching for a place to hid his last bottle of booze the drunk finds a concealed compartment [every German tank came with one during the war] and voila! hidden in it is a sack full of precious gems. He decides to keep the information for himself. The tank crossing sand dunes is the best part of the movie, filmed I suspect just outside Yuma, Arizona. The tank then encounters an Arab settlement which is the most embarrassing part of the movie. The painted backdrops aren’t even close to realistic and the white men with darkened faces playing Arabs had to be embarrassed to deliver their lines but there you are. Seems during the war a tank came out of nowhere and stole their treasure. They’ve been looking for it ever since and now miraculously here it is.
One thing leads to another, we have treachery, fistfights, a running gunfight of natives who can’t shoot straight against a machine gun, then finally selfless sacrifice and rescue as the Arabs close in. Great stuff.
Tab Hunter, who worked hard at it but was never much of an actor, is much better than you’d expect in a limited role. But it’s Rod Cameron who carries the whole thing off, no matter how absurd the lines he has to deliver.
My father, a combat veteran of the Pacific, was appalled at the patriotic warlike enthusiasm I got from these movies. He sat me down when I was 12 and for the only time told me what combat was really like, the insanity of it, friends blown into pieces, the carnage of young men against bullets and shells. It made no difference. How could reality compete with the story line Hollywood was feeding my young mind?
It looks like Bill Gates has got his wish: population reduction, even elimination. And it didn’t take a toxic vaccine that diminishes a woman’s fertility rate. Turns out we’ve been doing this to ourselves for decades with no end in sight. At least since the 1970’s the ability of men and women to produce children has been in steady decline until today it is at half the rate it once was. Since 1973 male sperm is down 60%. A woman today in her twenties has the same fertility rate as her grandmother did at age 35. In addition the size of a penis has diminished as has the size of testes. It turns out all the things we depend on for our quality of life are filled with toxins that take a relentless toll on us over the years and our bodies don’t shed them. They just keep building up. These toxins are everywhere. They are in plastics, clothes, cleaning products, fragrances, soaps, electronics and carpets, just to name a few.
The tragedy is that there is no easy way to undo this. The industries profiting from poisoning us will resist any change and even those of us suffering will not want to put up with the inconveniences of saving ourselves if it is even possible. It has been postulated that Ancient Rome committed suicide in part by the steady poisoning of its population with the pervasive use of lead. Now we’ve done the same same thing. Read the details. It ain’t pretty. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/18/toxic-chemicals-health-humanity-erin-brokovich
One of the major changes for North Americans [I use this term as about 10% of expats here are Canadian] have in adjusting to Cuenca is the food and eating habits. Ecuadorians eat virtually no breakfast, either nothing or perhaps a role and cup of coffee. Dinner is little more than a snack, often corn bread much like the outer layer of chile releno in the American Southwest and again a cup of coffee. The main meal is in the middle of the day, served between one and three in the afternoon. Expats typically show up at noon and often have to wait but more restaurants have become accustomed to our strange habits and are ready serve so early a meal.
The midday meal is called the almurezo. It consists of a watered down fruit drink, a wonderful and large bowl of soup, rice, a very small dinner salad, then either fish, chicken or beef in a small portion. In some cases you’ll get a modest dessert. The price runs between $2 and $3.50 with the dessert more likely at the higher end. This is not gourmet cuisine but I’ve never had an almurezo I didn’t enjoy.
Quality food in South America is to be had in Peru which has made it a matter of national honor. The best meal I’ve eaten in SA was in Cuzco, in a restaurant interestingly enough run by a German. I had two excellent meals in Buenos Aires but my single meal in Lima was very good if not better than these. Expats returning from Lima though universally praise the cuisine. The Ecuadorians do an adequate job but that’s about it. The high end restaurants however are excellent though they charge North American prices.
Our doctor advised us when we first arrived to change our eating habits and so we have. I can scarcely eat a full dinner these day having eaten my main meal at midday. Most expats eat both and you see them trudging around thirty or forty pounds overweight.
Food costs here are roughly one third what they are in the U.S., even less if you frequent the mercados which we do. Nearly all the food consumed locally is raised within ten miles of the city. No GMO or antibiotics are used. The quality of the vegetables is outstanding. You’ll recover the taste of a real tomato and of potatoes. Chicken is excellent. I like the beef but there are no feed lots so it’s a bit chewy. Fish I avoid as it is trucked up from the coast or grown locally with mixed results.
I consider the quality of food here to be one of the great joys in living here.
This will be the first of an ongoing series about living as an expat in the Andes in South America. I had thought to start this earlier but political events in America have distracted me but I’m finally moving on. I’d also thought I’d go about this logically, beginning with why become an expat, but in the end it turns out this will be a bit of a ramble. I’ll get to all the big questions but it will take several postings.
Before retiring to Cuenca, Ecuador I did a great deal of research plus my wife and I spent three months here getting to know the place. We talked to longtime expats to see what they liked and didn’t like. I aggressively searched for the negative as I knew people tend to want to affirm decisions they’ve made. I thought such measures were logical and that everyone did them. Not so. A shocking number of expats here had done no research and had never visited Ecuador before selling everything and moving here. Of those I knew personally, all have since returned to North America.
The first thing I discovered in my research is that half of all expats who move to Cuenca return home within two years. Half. By seven years, ninety percent have either moved to another country or gone back, with most of them returning home. So the odds of staying here until death are quite remote.
So why go back? Well, to be blunt, in most cases it’s the wife. After two years or so they tell their husband they did what he wanted but enough is enough. They miss the grandchildren and neither Zoom nor MagicJack cuts it any longer. I’ve watched contented husband after husband reluctantly give up their dream and return to what they once fled. The reality in my experience is that grandchildren have little to do with it. They usually move back to states well removed from where the grandchildren live. Wives miss the shopping and the freedom of driving their own car.
The conclusion to me is obvious. It will take eight years before you know if you are really going to stay here so do the self evident. Don’t depose of things to which you are emotionally attached. Put them in storage. If you own your house and don’t need the money from it to support yourself [in which case you shouldn’t come here] lease it out. You will most likely be returning to it.
Then, do research and I don’t mean International Liars, woops, I mean International Living. They are in the business of encouraging you to make the move. They cut deals with expat realtors who sell you overpriced real estate and kick back a fee to IL. That’s how it’s done. Check for blogs of those who have lived here a long time. Keep in mind that one long standing blog on Cuenca is operated by a Canadian couple who haven’t lived here for years and their information is very out of date. Search for negative news because it’s there and you need to know it. We have active volcanoes, earthquakes, street demonstrations, national strikes, just to name a few.
Also, plan to come here for at least three months, preferably more than once. A quicky one week trip won’t do. You will be dazzled. It’s like visiting Disneyland for the first time. You’ve got to get passed the glitz.
Finally, don’t get caught up in the excitement or romance of living abroad. There are many sound reasons for making the move, but those aren’t it. More to come in future postings. Take care. Be happy. Quit reading about politics all the time. Trust me, politics in America is above board and honest as the day is long compared to politics in Ecuador.
In the final months of World War Two, a young German finds himself serving as a guard at a Nazis concentration camp. Having escaped the horror of the Eastern Front he now descends into a new kind of Hell. The Holocaust told through the eyes of the oppressor. Powerful and relentless. A must read. Arguably the finest book I ever wrote.
Venezuela, once the wealthiest country in South America, has been systematically looted and misgoverned by leftists for decades. The economic results have been inevitable. They have now issued a one million Bolivar bill worth just 53 cents. Hard to believe but not really if you have been following the story. The object lesson here is simple. In the past 14 months the United States has created half of all dollars ever printed in the entire history of the nation. Half. That means over the next few years the dollar will lose half of its value. But it won’t stop there because Congress plans to keep printing. The dollar is in a nosedive and the result will be to wipe out your savings. This is no accident. The GOP has given up and the Dems want to make you a dependent. This is no surprise. Every fiat currency ever created has fallen to zero. If you wonder why Bitcoin is booming spend a few minutes and study it. No government controls it. That alone makes it valuable. More and more companies are permitting employees to take a portion of their salary in Bitcoin. Look into it so you’ll have a future.