I’m a relaxed guy who avoids formality. I had my years as a military officer wearing a uniform every day. As a manager in the federal government, with national and international
responsibilities, I conformed to the stodgy dress code of dark suit with tie. Later, when I headed some high tech companies, I chose “business casual” as my style, keeping a jacket and tie in the office for when needed.
When I retired from “work” to pursue my zest for life’s adventures, I hung up those thousand dollar suits and adopted the most comfortable look that I could: jeans, T-shirt and running shoes. There was no need to impress anyone. I should add that all my clothes were of dark colours so they could all go in the washing machine together. I had raised two children as
a single parent while working, and retirement was to be a time of the ultimate ease; all wash and wear.
This fashion style lasted through my single years. Then, I met Monica and we became a couple. She is a beautiful, fashionable woman who makes me beam with pride when we are out together. She obviously chose me for something other than my clothing collection.
My lady has not been pushy about what I wear. At first there were soft comments about how how attractive I would be in a normal shirt, unbuttoned at the top. ( Must be a woman thing) After awhile, I bought several long sleeved shirts that supposedly didn’t need ironing, all dark blue. Remember, the all in one wash load objective. Being a modest fellow, I wore them buttoned almost to the top.
As time went on, I began to hear comments about how lovely I would look in some lighter, brighter colours. I bought a couple tan shirts. Her mentions of nice brighter colours continued, in a loving way.
This past summer, I was in Canada, and Monica was in Germany getting her daughter settled for university in Berlin.
I do not know what got into me. I was walking through a department store, looking for blue jeans, when I spotted a shirt sale. They were made of a polished cotton and were in bright colours. I bought two, one lime green and the other salmon (NOT PINK). Monica was delighted.
After a couple of months of these new shirts hanging in the back of my closet, I decided that I had better make an appearance in one of them. I chose the lime green and Monica was lavish in her praise. The salmon (NOT PINK), shirt remained buried until one night when we were to go to a friend’s house for dinner. It would be dark and not many people would see me in it; so, I put it on under a black jacket in an attempt to lessen the impact of the
colour – salmon (NOT PINK).
Once at the dinner gathering, Monica quickly brought the attention of all the wives to my salmon (NOT PINK) shirt. The ladies swooned – you know, making all sorts of ooing and awing sounds. Monica smiled, and I blushed, claiming that the facial colour was a reflection from the salmon (NOT PINK) shirt. That only encouraged the women more. In the meantime, the husbands watched and laughed at my predicament; but, I could see from the looks in their eyes that they knew that they would soon be taken shopping to liven up their wardrobes.
As I write this, I am sitting on the terrace wearing that salmon (NOT PINK) shirt and will be soon going out in daylight, in public. Yes, I feel a bit uncomfortable; but, I guess that I will get used to the attention.
It is the beginning of December and people are rushing to the shopping centres. I have only one request for anyone who loves me. All that I want for Christmas are Black socks.
We drove along the mountain side streets above the Quito, Ecuador suburb of Cumbaya, looking for the home of Miguel Betancourt, a famous Ecuadorian painter and friend. It had been several years since the last visit and the area had changed.
Finally, there it was. The guard greeted us at the gate and showed us to the front door. Sculptures, a well manicured lawn and bushes, as well as the view across the valley, produced the environment in which one would imagine a successful artist would live.
Inside, Miguel greeted us warmly, and an employee promptly offered glasses of wine and hors d’oeuvres.
Other guests included the French ambassador, a TV personality whom Miguel quipped was the most famous person present, and an Italian art collector with a history of buying Miguel’s art.
We stood and chatted; then, we explored the main floor, admiring the many paintings that covered every wall. Not all were Miguel’s. There were also those of other world-class artists whom he greatly admired.
Designed by Miguel and an architect, the interior was open and spacious. Well-positioned skylights contributed to an even distribution of daylight. Only a series of coordinated, hand painted, hung tapestries divided the vast space.
Sometimes large, open, day lit, spaces appear cold. This was not the case here. Miguel’s paintings are bright and colorful. They communicate a happy feeling, a spirit that evidently filled all those in the room.
After chatting about art, world markets, and his last exhibition in Beijing, China, we made our way to the studio. It, too, was well lit via windows overlooking the valley.
Miguel told us about his paintings and creativity as we admired what lie before us. The Italian collector maintained his serious searching, expressing disappointment that a couple of paintings, that he took interest in, had already been sold.
The pleasant, life loving character of the artist radiated throughout his creations.
One by one, the visitors took their leave; the exception being the Italian collector who stayed.
I left inspired; motivated to try harder in my own creative endeavors.
Here are a few of the photos that I took during the visit to the studio. Do you see the vibrancy that I do?
Miguel has website that includes photos, a video and his blog.
Visit Miguel’s website at www.miguelbetancourt.com
Who is that friend; you know, the one who will always be there, but whom you never get to see?
Perhaps it is someone from your childhood with whom you have kept precious bonds developed over years of growing together? Or, it might be someone whom you met as an adult with whom there is something special? I have numerous friends, some of whom I have not seen for 60 years; yet, a close bond remains.
This past summer was a hectic one, with travels around Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. Everywhere I went required travel by plane or train. Despite this, there was an extra trip that, in my heart, I wanted to do.
Greg is a remarkable friend whom I have known, mostly from a distance, for about 10 years. He lives in Montréal, and my home is far, far away in Ecuador. He is one of those extremely outstanding males who exudes a pure, honest, non-threatening spirit that draws one to him. It might also be that his having been one of the original writers of the children’s show Sesame Street, connects with my inner child?
From Ottawa, where I was visiting a daughter and a beautiful new granddaughter, it is only a two hour train ride to Montréal. Taking an early morning train and returning in the evening was to give me the opportunity to revisit the city in which I lived on two occasions in the 1960s and 1980s, as well as having time to take a long lunch with my Greg.
I will not bore you with the chatter that passed between us. But, be assured, that just having made the effort and savoring the warmth of buddies reuniting, made the trip special. But, I will not let you escape the thought that there is someone who you would treasure visiting. Who is it; and, what are you going to do?
I arrived in the Montréal train station in time for breakfast and watched the comings and goings of passengers. There were moments when there were large lineups before passengers descended to the boarding platforms. There were other moments when the station appeared almost empty. Then, as if flushed from below, hordes of people flowed up and out of the stairwells and onward to the adjoining streets; leaving the station amost empty one more time.
My target for the days photography was historic, Old Montréal.
Let me share some of that day’s photos with you.
There is a simple cement block, flat roofed, one-room home behind
where I live. Glass windows and wooden door were recently added to replace plastic sheets used to protect against bad weather. Remnants from the house construction litter the flat roof. As is normal here in the equatorial mountains, houses have no heating. The residents appear to be an indigenous couple without children. They live on a street that is not a street with other indigenous people in similar housing. I said “a street that is not a street”; because, although there is a dirt road, lined on both sides by houses, the municipality did not approve of nor does it recognize it. It is not on their official plan. The people are squatters.
The backyard is a dirt square of land on which resident chickens peck for grain. Their roost is also a cement block building located in the backyard, perpendicular to the house. A couple of roosters strut around the yard, sometimes entering the house. Hens come and go. A light brown dog lies asleep in the shade. As well, a seemingly fragile wooden structure, upon which the lady of the house hangs her washing to dry, stands amid the dirt and dust.
These neighbors live in their world; and for the most part, we live in ours. Though we do not know this family or their immediate neighbors, the longtime members of the indigenous community, the leaders and shop owners, are well known and make us feel welcome.
Their community is bound together by tribe, religion and activity. It is impressive that, though struggling poor, they always seem to be celebrating something: the changing season; a cultural, religious or family event; or, perhaps, just any excuse to gather together. Celebrations usually include their own ragtag band marching up and down the local streets; and, the letting off of fireworks throughout the day and night.
Monica and I live on a large, walled, rectangular property on the eastern slope of the western Andes mountain range. Our home is a three-story wood and glass “Swiss chalet”.
I’m writing this while on the third floor terrace looking across a large valley to the eastern mountain range. The maid is inside working inside; and, my lady is in the city. The house is at the uphill end of the property. The main entrance is by the house, with a small residence for a security guard. Behind the house is an unused in-ground swimming pool; and, behind that there are trees.
On the downhill side of the house, there is an orchard with trees bearing a variety of fruit, including guava, avocado and lemons. The trees attract a wide variety of colorful bird species. I don’t know their names; but, my favorites are the bright green hummingbirds and a beautiful bird with bright yellow feathers.
Further downhill beyond the orchard is a tennis court, a small building where the caretaker lives and a large wooden house that is currently not used.
Neighbors on our street also have large, walled-in houses. We recognize each other by name; but, there is no sense of community. Friends are elsewhere.
Such is the character of the divide between the haves and the have-nots. It is no wonder that presidents who love their country and all its people will try to institute programs and measures to alleviate poverty and ensure equal opportunity for all.
Ecuador is a beautiful and yet underdeveloped country. It has the potential to become the jewel of South America. Everything depends on its having good, honest, competent government for the next couple of decades. I am looking forward with much hope to see it
Ex-pats, like me, enjoy the warmth of the people who welcomed us into their midst. We are among the advantaged. That brings with it a moral responsibility to give back. I truly believe that, in giving of oneself to help others grow, there is enormous joy and friendship.
Viva Ecuador !
For more than an hour, I witnessed lightning bolts cutting the sky; so far away, that I heard no sound.
The sky was black in the distant. Thunder rolled; bouncing, making it difficult to know the direction from whence it was coming. There is something special about the way thunder travels in the Andes. It doesn’t sound angry. It is almost welcoming; heralding mother nature’s cleansing of the earth and sky.
The trees near my terrace swayed in a strengthening breeze.
A beautiful, tiny, delicate, fluorescent green, hummingbird flitted, as if in a rush, from flower to flower on the guava tree beside me. So close, I could almost reach out and touch it.
Suddenly, the sky turned, as if to show its temper. The hummingbird disappeared. For one- half hour, thunder, lightening and fierce winds reminded of nature's ferocity. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm moved on.
It is the beginning of the rainy season in the equatorial mountains.
Despite recent positive changes in the law, the judicial system continues to fail women, in favor of men with money and influence.
1. A retired foreign diplomat living in Ecuador; once jailed for not meeting commercial obligations with a business partner.
2. A previously successful Ecuadorian businesswoman who, under pressure from her husband, the retired diplomat, sold her business and put all the money received into the marital home.
3. The Ecuador judicial system.
Ecuador law now says that property acquired during the period of cohabitation is to be divided 50/50 on the disillusionment of the relationship.
The couple lived together and married for a total of 10 years before separation and divorce.
They built a house and bought several properties while together.
They gave birth to a daughter, now in university.
Following separation, the ex-diplomat claimed poverty and no income. He said that he lived on handouts from his family in Europe in an effort to avoid paying child support for the daughter. Fellow former diplomats from the same country, one of whom knew the ex-husband personally, state that he assuredly has a pension from his working life from which he should have paid child support.
In testimony before Ecuadorian judicial officials, the ex-diplomat claims that his ex-wife contributed no money to the construction of the family home and various properties. This is despite a document bearing his signature acknowledging the money that she had invested; and, related
construction records and receipts in her name. The woman had sold her successful business to invest in the matrimonial home.
He continues to try to hide other properties purchased during the period of matrimony.
The ex-wife has, to date, only claimed 50% of the value of the matrimonial home and nothing of the other properties.
Two justices have ruled in favor of the ex-wife receiving 50% of the value of the matrimonial home.
After each judgment in favor of the wife, the ex-husband launched appeals. The apparent strategy of the ex-husband appears to be to exhaust his ex-wife emotionally and financially; knowing that she has no income other than personal loans based on the expectation of payback when the case is finally resolved. The pattern of his domination and attempt to control the ex-wife that characterize the union continues 12 years after their separation.
The documents before the court now fill three volumes.
The third justice appointed, withdrew from the case without explanation.
Lawyers for the wife eventually withdraw, impatient at not getting resolution that would allow the payment of their fees.
The lawyer for the ex-husband is a prominent lawyer who appears to intimidate other lawyers and
What is a woman in Ecuador to do?
The macho cultural bias continues to work against them in the workings of the judicial system.
Not once has a justice official taken the ex-husband to task for the litany of lies, provable by documents in the court’s possession, that he has used to prolong the case. Contempt of court appears to be accepted.
Money and influence corrupt the application of well-intentioned laws.
The foregoing, as manifested in this case, amounts to judicially abducted spousal abuse; a flagrant assault on this and, by extension, all Ecuadorian women.
Where are the lawyers with the courage and principals to come forward to defend women and justice?
I challenge all Ecuadorian lawyers to step forward. Contact me directly via email@example.com ;and, I will connect you with the Ecuadorian lady.
It is the ideal that we recognize when we need something
different in our lives; and, that we embrace a change. It is, however, much more common for us to sense that something is not right or could be better; but, do nothing or little about it. Often, it takes a significant event to shock us into the realization that change must take place.
Andrehugosplace for living life’s adventure exists to embrace fellow readers and share what can be the best years of life.
Individually, each of us must take control of his/herself and not be afraid to change course. When something is not quite right, we should bravely move to make it better. It is the experiences in the journey through life that make it all worthwhile. Exploration is essential.
I have been blessed with incredible followers of my daily photos and occasional blogs and articles. This past summer presented me with a number of challenges that made me decide to refocus. My new plan includes improving my abilities in these, writing and photography, and other areas. Hence, I will reduce the frequency of my posts and give greater stress on the quality in topics of mutual interest.
In the past 4 years, beginning at age 63, I discovered that I could meet the challenges of moving to a new country and learning a new language. I now spend my life almost entirely in Spanish. Reasonably fluent, I will now take classes to perfect this ability. Communicating in the language of the people and places you visit enormously enriches the experience.
Also, I am a terrible guitar player. My brother inherited all the practical talent in the family. I slash at the strings in a way that only those who love me most will say is nice. More time to learn and practice music is, therefore, on my new agenda. Immersing oneself in music can be a beautiful, almost spiritual experience. Have you tried it? Remember, you don't have to be good to benefit.
Giving, helping others, is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone could have. In fact, in almost all endeavors, sharing, helping others, provides benefits to the giver. However, this can be exhausting and distract you from your own personal needs. Be conscious of this possibility.
Never forget to take time to pamper yourself. A happy, healthy person has much more to offer the world than does one struggling with life.
Sometimes, a change of emphasis from one activity to another or even just changing the time in your schedule may be all that is needed.
I invite you to continue to be with me on my journey and hope that you do all that is necessary to build your life adventure. Do not be afraid to take action as you decide may be appropriate. And, share with us, your fellow travelers, as in sharing there is personal growth and joy.
The country stopped. Ecuador was to play Bolivia in the Brazil, World Cup 2014, football
eliminations. Football (Futbol in Spanish) – You know, the game that you actually play with your feet. In North America, it is called soccer.
We drove and walked, drove and walked, asking the same question “Is there room inside to watch the game?”. It was easy for the mind to think of “Is there room in the Inn”, for in
Latin America futbol is a religion; and, no feeling is so passionate as when one’s country’s team is playing.
My lady, Monica, is a fanatic futbol fan. She knows all the players by heart, and nothing gets the way of watching Ecuador play. Nothing !
We had no reservations, Monica, her sister or I. In Cumbaya, we interrogated the doorman at every pub, bar and restaurant that was hosting the game on a large screen TV. Not accepting “No”, we returned to St Andrew’s Pub. In a compassionate moment, we were told that we could squeeze in; but, only if we could climb in through the window.
Across the country, people were gathered by television sets. No one was working, except those serving refreshments. In the crowded St. Andrew’s Pub, the tension was high as the game was crucial for the team to advance toward the World Cup. Before the starting whistle was blown, the noise of conversation was beyond loud. A couple of young ladies wearing skin tight short yellow dresses squeezed through the crowd promoting the local brand of beer. Then, silence.
The players seemed so young, or maybe, it was simply because I’m three times their age? This did not stop me, however, from becoming totally immersed, feeling the intensity of play, squirming in my seat, almost running for the ball.
Everyone knew each player’s name and position, screaming encouragement as if they would be heard.
My arm was gripped tight as my lady vented her tension, twisting and turning in her seat. Yelling and fingernails digging deep into my flesh punctuated intense moments of play. Throughout, waiters climbed in and out of windows to serve beer to the packed crowd. It was through those same windows through which smokers fled to feed their addiction at halftime.
Early in the first half, the referee gave a red card to an Ecuador player. No, this was not a prize. It meant that he was thrown out of the game and that the team had to play with one player less, a huge advantage for the opponent. Television replay clearly showed that there had been no foul. There was anger, for a few moments, and cries that it was, indeed, not a foul; but, the game moved on, as did the fans. The referee’s decision was final and no high technology was going to change that.
Both teams fought hard, and Ecuador gave us numerous tense, exciting moments as goals were almost made. If the thrill of the game is fan reward, fans were rewarded.
No one exited through the windows. Smokers did not rush out. Leaving was slow, solemn. Some stayed to finish their beer. Others just moved almost painfully to gather their belongings and shuffle out the door. Tired, drawn faces told the story. Ecuador had lost.
Summer is the time to come North to visit friends and family. There are so many across the country that I regret that it is impossible to see them all. Each one enriches my life. Thank you.
So busy, posting the "Photo of the Day" has taken priority over writing. They attract between 20,000 and 30,000 visits to this site each month. Recall that andrehugosplace.com/ aims to share and communicate the message that later years, however defined, is a time to savour all that life offers, if only we determine to do so.
A few brief notes on the trip, so far:
- The new Quito airport is a great improvement over the old. It is not large. Though Quito is the Capital, the economy only supports a medium sized facility. There are plans for further development as the economy grows; but, its location North of the city has resulted in a 30 percent drop in domestic passengers who now use airports South of the City.
- Delta airlines has moved seats in the economy section so close that the long trip between North America and Quito is definitely uncomfortable for a tall person. I understand that the other major carriers have done the same.
- Porter Airlines continues to be my domestic carrier of choice. It treats every passenger as First Class. It's Toronto Island hub has a spacious lounge offering comfortable lounge chair seating, free newspapers and free refreshment. On-board, all seats are leather and free drinks and snacks are provided. On each leg of my trip, I had a unique, square bottle of water and a large glass of red wine. You truly feel the company appreciates your patronage. I hope that it can continue this quality service as its routes expand across Canada and the USA.
Time with grand-children is precious. Get involved with them.
Don't forget to be in photos with them. Too often, we are on the other side of the camera taking pictures and have few, included, photos to take back home.
This photo of grand-daughter, Grace, keeping the soccer ball from me was taken by a friend, Jiayu, at a picnic in Nova Scotia.
Even rainy days present interesting opportunities for photo enthusiasts.
Every place has something to discover and experience. The 11 km ( 6.8 mi.) Confederation Bridge connecting the island province of Prince Edward Island to mainland North America is a modern day miracle built to cover ocean distance, harsh climate and icebergs.
- I got to see my son exercise great patience when, after unloading a bag from the back of the van, his wife, unknowingly, backed over his new, expensive camera that had fallen off the back.
- The people of Atlantic Region of Canada, the Maritimers, must be among the nicest people that one could have the pleasure of meeting. They treat you as family; often call you "Dear" and, if they think that you may want to cross the road, drivers don't hesitate to stop to ensure you can cross safely.
- Finally, my love of my big boy's toys, cameras, computers, smart phones, kindle reader, iPod, etc., means that I carry a large number of cables and chargers; assuredly losing at least one item along the way. I've only lost one cable so far. My tablet crashed and the receipt is back in Ecuador so dealing with the about to expire warranty on the road was impossible. Hence, I had an excuse to buy a new, latest and greatest, tablet computer; - big boy's toys prevail again !
- The summer trip continues. Next to Ottawa; then to Berlin, Germany for a couple weeks holiday with my lady; call it a romantic get away after all the visiting.
Enjoy your summer with all its possibilities.
Ok, traveler; you are on holiday away from your home country and you need cash. Perhaps, you just didn't take enough; you've spent like a wild fool; you lost your wallet; or, you got robbed. How do you get funds?
My first experience travelling finding myself without money was many years ago when some traveler's cheques fell out of my pocket and I had insufficient cash to pay for a hotel for the night. The local police were very helpful and had my wife and I put up at a local hotel, with a promise of paying the next day after a visit to the American Express office. The room was filthy, blackening our feet as we made our way from the bathroom to the bed; and, I'm sure we had the company of miniature creatures with us through the night. When I went to get new cheques issued the next day, my wife had to remain at the hotel as collateral.
In later years, when travelling outside Canada or the USA, I discovered that, despite bank machines being covered with notices of all the network affiliations that they were connected to, I could not always access my funds. In the case of European banks, if Visa didn't work, Master Card did, and vice versa - again, despite connections to both being advertised. Connection directly to my chequing account in Canada or the USA was hit and miss.
Hidden Charges - When a bank machine, to my delight, connects to my account in North America, it announces that it will cost me between $0.50 and $ 1.50 for the transaction. With Banks located here in Ecuador, it is usually $ 0.50. It is the North American banks that charge more. Recently, I examined my Canadian bank statement, something I rarely do, and discovered a $ 40 service charge. I called the bank and was told that I had drawn money from a foreign bank 8 times that month, each triggering a $ 5 charge. Outrageous !
Over the years, I've established banking in more than one country. I suggest that, if you regularly spend time in a second country, open an account there to assure some local access to funds when the electronic transfer world fails you.
All is not roses in dealing with our North American Banking system, which I see as inefficient and consisting of authorized robbers of the common person.
I recently asked my accountant to cash a cheque for $ 5,000, that I had left with her; and, send the money to my bank account in the USA. Even though it was drawn on another Canadian bank, she was told there would be a hold on releasing the funds for about 10 days. Despite the funds being taken from my account three days later, her bank held onto my money for their own use, for another week. A transfer via Pay Pal was no better; advising that the transfer would take between 7 to 10 days.
When it came to transferring the money to my USA bank, she was told that could take 2 to 3 days,- faster than cashing a cheque within Canada. Historically, whenever I, personally, sent money from my Canadian account to my American account, it was there within several hours or over night. Today is the next day and the money has not arrived.
The costs of transferring money is also something that one should bare in mind. To transfer money from a bank in Canada to a bank in the USA, I recently paid about $ 30 ( Cdn and USA $ are about equal). To send money from Canada to Europe just cost me about $ 65. Be alert to the fact that what you pay at the source bank may not be all the charges. Depending on your source bank's affiliation with a transiting bank or receiving bank, those institutions may skim off a service charge along the way as well.
A tip for Canadians who winter in the USA, usually Florida or Arizona, - Join The Canadian Snowbirds Association. I have an automatic transfer of a fixed, monthly amount via their services; for not $ 30 but for $ 2 each time, a huge saving. For the Association to collect members funds and transfer one huge amount and a better dollar exchange rate than your personal bank transfer would get, expect it will take 5 business days to accomplish.
Ecuadorian banks are hit and miss with regard to accessing funds outside the country. Again, despite all the stickers on the bank machine, sometimes they work and other times they don't. Accessing funds from outside Ecuador, into Ecuador, is most reliably done via foreign banks with a local presence here . I opened a bank account with the Territorial bank, one of the oldest Ecuadorian banks, a couple years ago and it just collapsed. Fortunately, I only had a small, emergency stash, in it that I was able to recover.
I haven't carried travelers cheques for decades and I don't use Western Union because it is expensive. However, these have the benefit of enabling the quick acquisition of cash; Western Union giving you money sent to you on your giving a code word established my your sender.
In this modern, small, integrated world, one would expect better, faster, cheaper, banking services. This is not my experience.
Banks are taking every opportunity to exploit customers with service charges and the dragging of feet between accessing your money and depositing it where you want it. Canadian banks continue to show historically increased profits and American banks are capturing every penny they can get as they strive to recover from their own self-inflicted financial crises.
Readers should take note and plan their travel funding accordingly. Also, protest when you can.
( Link to the Canadian Snow Birds Association http://www.snowbirds.org/home )