Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pros/Cons Living in Ecuador vs Canada

We are trying to decide whether to stay in Ecuador long term or return to Canada.
Please have a read and email me ANY thoughts, comments, critiques, ideas etc...
Hopefully you'll have a laugh or two and scratch your heads at the same time :)

Ecuador Positive

-Our children in the same school I teach at
-Walk to work
-Use of school library/pool/playground/internet after hours and a seemingly endless supply of avacados!
-Year round spring like climate
-Ease of growing food
-Can actually afford a decent house with some land
-Semi-rural area, outside of Quito
-Bus to Quito every 15 minutes
-Geo diversity/Amazon and Pacific coast within a 1/2 a days drive
-Volcanos to climb
-No need for vehicle at the moment
-Fantastic vegan lunch at school
-Reasonable work commitments
-Fewer teaching hours than Canada/more time off
-More time for family
-Close to Pasto/grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins
-Better/faster health care 4 kms from house
-Cheap/professional dental care
-Easy access to school nurse
-Less pervasive advertising
-Fresh, inexpensive fruit and veggies, delivered twice a week to our door
-Lower overall cost of living
-Spend less/not so many things to spend $ on
-Rental income on townhouse in Calgary
-Cheap restraunts
-Low cost of utilities/no heating or cooling bill
-Low cost of house construction/low cost of materials/more basic structure
-Dry clothes outside/no need for dryer
-No winter clothes
-Bike/climb all year
-Lots of running races/fun runs in Quito and better prize money for Maria
-Swimming lessons for kids at school
-Free tuition for 2 kids (standard in most international teaching contracts)
-Hot springs in local area, including next door
-Ilalo: 900 vertical metre extinct volcano out the back door/hike/bike/run
-Cheap taxis everywhere
-People live more in the present and don't worry so much about the future
-Maria can work as a teacher assistant in the same school
-Violent crime is rare

Ecuador Negative

-No "real" community neighborhood (takes a village to raise a child)
-Many students and teachers leave the school every couple of years.
-We are guests in the country
-Always a gringo in a foreign country
-A bit too close to 1.5 million people in Quito
-No teaching pension
-No union job benefits/security
-Reliance upon a single, non-profit school for income
-Can't contribute to an RRSP (and don't have any), Canada pension plan, Old Age Security, except for what I have already put into the last two
-Pollution: dead rivers coming out of Quito, garbage/litter all over, dog poo everywhere
-Dangerous sidewalks if there is a sidewalk
-Lack of respect for privacy: Dogs barking, loud music is acceptable
-Very poor police force/reactive rather than proactive
-Need security for house/property: neighborhood/house guard/alarm/elec fence
-Car accident: guilty until proven innocent. Must leave the scene of an accident that you are involved in!
-Don't really know/understand much of the local issues/news
-Difficult to find my size of shoes! and clothes
-No sense of time changing or passing by/no real seasons
-Too hot at work sometimes (28C in the classroom)
-Black flies come and go during the months
-Lack of English for our kids
-Must buy drinking water or boil from tap
-Stomach bloating from altitude
-Live in an expat bubble (rather than real, like-minded community working towards local sustainability), while surrounded by much poverty
-Monster potholes

Canada Positive
-The 4 of us are citizens
-Family in BC and Halifax
-Better higher level secondary/uni education...therefore more opportunities for the kids
-Better civil society organization
-Better social services
-Better infrastructure
-Rocky mountains/endless trails
-Better security/police
-Clean water
-Own a townhouse
-Libraries
-Skating
-Safer streets for kids (even though we don't play in them like we used to)
-English
-UN lists Canada as one of the top countries in the world to live in.
(I'm sure there is much more to add to this list that isn't so obvious to me...that I take for granted)

Canada Negative
-Climate...winter is too long. Leaves are on the trees in Calgary for only 5 short months
-Teenage peer culture/Drugs
-Family spread out and far away...no young relatives for the kids
-Extreme energy use/especially transporation and heating
-Must have a vehicle and the time or money to maintain it
-A cummute to work is very likely
-Junk food culture
-Consumer culture/xmas shopping a "duty/responsibility"
-Teaching: More work hours/less time off/weekend work
-Health care wait time
-Too much advertising
-Probably need another mortgage to live in a decent size house for 4 with garden space
-Fruit and veg expensive and not fresh out of season
-Limited Spanish
-Expensive utilities

24 comments:

johdan said...

Steve,
How does one know the best way to prepare for older age/retirement. Many in Canada (baby boomers) may never retire because they can't live on, "old age" and Canada pension; and who knows if it'll even be there for them, what with fewer and fewer "workers" having to foot the retirement bill for more and more retirees.

Sixty or more years ago, more people here were self-sufficient because many lived on a farm. During the depression of the 30's my family survived quite nicely, what with big gardens and livestock. Now everyone (even farmers) are so inter- dependent on a vast network of producers and suppliers, it's virtually impossible to, "get off the grid."

Another downside to living in Canada is the reality that prices and taxes are rising far faster than the so-called 'cost-of-living' index. For example, in Calgary, over the next three years, seniors on a fixed, will see their property taxes rise nearly 20%. Already we hear of seniors selling their homes and moving to small rural communities to get away from this crazy urban system.

After spending just a few weeks in Ecuador, I see it as a place where it is possible to buy a small 'hobby' farm where I can grow to eat and be self-sustaining. Maybe it's possible to joint-venture with others and buy a producing farm, from which fruit and vegetable can be sold to local markets, thus having a cash flow.

In any case, because of the geo-political conditions throughout the world, I would rather take my chances in the more organic, self-sufficient environment in Ecuador than in the totally inter-dependent system in Canada, Europe and the USA. As conditions degrade in North America, is there any way to stop the Greece-like riots and violence? Put millions of unemployed/unemployable people on the streets (as we see in Europe and now USA) and what do we expect will happen? They won't be out digging up land for gardens. They'll be rioting, demanding that governments support them.

In summary, I wouldn't too much stock in pension expectations, and without that what does Canada really have to offer? Cold eight months of the year and a bulging population of non-English-speaking immigrants who demand the right to live by the archaic customs and laws of the countries from which they came.

Jeffrey Stern said...

I feel much the same here as when I lived in Nicaragua, even 12 years later-and Ecuador is far, far ahead of Nicaragua economically. I few like the intellectual and experience-oriented opportunities for learning are limited, ie. very little training/education, museums, theater, arts, culture stuff for kids especially. While there is a rich cultural tapestry here, it's still very circumscribed by tradition and long-standing customs. Not to say those don't have their own merits; but I think it's kind of a walled garden. What is here and I miss up North is the spontaneity of life-I always somehow feel a bit more human, more natural in my own skin than I do up there. I think if Marx was right about one thing, it is that the modern world, the big "machine" that it is, does create alienation from one's fellow beings, no matter how hard you try to connect with people. But you can't live off feeling more human.

As for the expat bubble-well, I think the "modern" world is a bubble in itself-a bubble that doesn't represent the reality of probably more than 90% of the world's population-of course, that reality can seem romantic from afar but usually it is not so pretty! I think it's good to have at least several years experience living outside of the "modern" world.

As for community, yes, in many senses it's definitely missing, and goes beyond what you mention. I have discussed this some in my blog. Here it's an economy of scarcity (not abundance, as everyday academic economic discourse would say), and people's degree of selfishness I think is greatly increased by the lack of resources; people cling to what they have, their small circle of family, their business methods and "secrets," and are very unopen to sharing and cooperation-even though I believe the opposite attitude would ultimately be of greater benefit to everyone.

Everyone lives in their own tiny bubble here and there is not a larger sense of community; I would also say everyone in the North America lives in their own little individualistic bubble, but at the same time their is a much larger sense of community. Americans have been criticized for being overly individualistic, yet at the same time we seem to know how to come together in times of need/crisis/chaos. Here, no matter what, it seems everyone is completely out for themselves. I have heard that if you are injured and unconscious in a car crash here, it's not unlikely that people will come to steal your wallet before they'll help you-not a characteristic I find very appealing! And Another reason I am so hesitant to buy property here -unless it was, ironically, on a "stand alone" lot-is because in any small housing development or apartment building (and I witness it here where we rent and there are only 6 houses in the urbanizacion), it seems there is a good chance the "condiminio" or homeowners' association system will break down because people just can't seem to cooperate and coordinate here even on such a micro level, and such a breakdown would jeopardize the value of the property.

I have to agree with johdan about the current situation in the US, and the ability of Ecuador to be self-sustaining in many ways the modern world may not be because of its interconnectedness and over-reliance on technology and petroleum, despite my complaints about it being disconnected and protectionist.

Liz said...

Hi you guys
don`t really know Canada or Ecuador at all but some general comments --seems like there are a whole lot of pluses for Ecuador which fit your situation very well now .you say that secondary / further ed is not so good --both the kids aare still young and you can afford to wait a litle bit to see where things are heading in both countries ( world econonmic crisis and all ) before leaving Ecuador .Why not think lomg term that yes you will go back to Canada sell the flat -- invest now in a property that you would be able to live in if necesary and have as home -- rent it out but it is there ...
Always plan for old age --paticularly worst case scenarios --health care etc ?

but time for family and time with famiy really count for a lot of pluses !
Are there no places in canada where you can come a bit closer to the pluses in ecuador without losing the pluses of Canada ? does it all have to be big city living ?
hope this of some (probabyl no help !!

rick said...

You've provided a pretty accurate 'force-field' analysis (that's what it used to be called anyway); you could continue this process by weighting each item out of ten, then adding all the items together and dividing by the number of items. That would give you a score for both positive and negative positions for both Canada and Ecuador. Seeing which country scores highest on both ends of the scale then gives you something to work with (or not, if they're really close).

Aside from that I'd suggest considering some other matters (some which other commentators have noticed): why are there only two choices, especially given how much you've trotted around the globe in the past? And why, in your consideration of Canada, is Alberta (and likely Calgary) the only option (implied by your point about being close to the Rockies)?

As well, consider that almost anywhere you live in Canada will make you fossil fuel dependent for transportation and even survival (heating, electricity); your carbon footprint is far less in Ecuador. Moreover, in Alberta you will of necessity be complicit in the travesty of the Tar Sands and its associated pipelines; this will make you complicit with galloping climate change and probably slow catastrophe. The only way to avoid this charge would be to pledge to spend some time and energy visibly opposing the Tar Sands. In the same way no Amerikan can say he/she is against imperialist war without pledging to oppose those wars physically and often.

And you have to consider that Alberta and Calgary have changed enormously since you last lived here: Calgary is a noisy, busy, traffic-jammed nightmare of aggressive entrepreneurs hustling to make big bucks and egged on in these roles by the dead hand of a conservative mentality that wants nothing except to cut both taxes and social programs (which include education, which, incidentally, is now very expensive, especially post-secondary).

Systemic collapse: the whole post-industrial capitalist machine is falling apart, gears and bolts bouncing on the factory floor. The masters of finance figured out how to maintain rising profits thirty years ago by coercing working families into huge debt; recently they've done so by turning from the creation of commodities and services to financialization (selling junk money, essentially). But they've run out of tricks to help reinvent the marketplace, a failure that displays itself metaphorically in the polarization of wealth and slogan of the 1% vrs. the 99%.

Ok, so where to you want to be when the shit hits the fan? We've discussed this before, of course, but the fact is it's probably better to be a peasant in a first or second-world country than in a third-world country: hungry, desperate people often behave rather badly, but I suspect they will become hungry and desperate in Canada less quickly and less abjectly than in Ecuador (although probably colder quicker).

And then there's the accelerating downward path to climate armageddon: I suspect Ecuador will get hotter quite fast (equatorial and polar regions experience greater degrees of climate disruption than temperate zones); that will probably mean more rain for most areas of Ecuador, while others will desertify. Canada will become more temperate, although the prairies will continue to have chilly winters; and the glaciers will continue to melt, so fresh water will be a serious issue in 20-30 yrs. Plus more bugs (pine beetles) and forest fires.

Overall, however, I think the rate-limiting consideration is where you think you will find a supportive community of like-minded souls, a community that will pull together in a shared sense of misery and solidarity when things get rough. After all, we will not survive either the financial collapse or climate change -- and certainly not both -- without the help of loyal and reliable friends. Only you and Maria can address where you will best find that community.

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henry wale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
henry wale said...

henry:
ok you forgot to mention about canada that by
1-earning and spending you dollar will cost 42 cents of that dollar, taxs are outrageous
2-canadian born citizens have no rights , we give them all to other imigrants coming into the country
3-japanese radiation is here now , and this with no government warnings , cancer will inflict this nation and the us in a few years
4-so many laws introduced , reduces your freedoms to a nill point , im in B>C and you need a permit for a fireplace , chicken or garden so there is no chance of self sufficiency
5- your a teacher , i work with my hands and given the opportunities you have now for a garden , etc, i would kill for
6- friendly neighbourhood? dont think so , everyone is so stressed they are afraid to speak to anyone they dont know and if they do their heads are looking down , no eye contact .
7- help you if your on the road broke down , no chance you'll be there all week, no one stops
8-democractic system ..... used to be maybe at one time, i remember when free trade was voted in , the whole country voted against it, then quebec voted , it got in, now i ask you , is that democracy? quebec has more seats then any other province , we should have all the same number of seats , big or small each province is an important part of the country and need an eqaul say in things
9-constant brain washing through government controlled media telling you what they want you to belive
10- floride in the water to dumb down the population making them complascent at best , this is the same floride that was used by the germans with the jews , and russia against the ukranes and its passed as being safe by the bought government officials
i will continue this if my post is not removed

henry wale said...

henry:
11-not to mention if the usa economy fails it will also drag us into oblivion with it.
12- all the same riots will happen in canada with people looseing their homes , jobs , lives
13-inflation has already taken over here showing signs of a failing economy.
14-cANADA is above the equator and all the polution in the world , including radiation from japan, carbon carried by winds all stays above the equator and never crosses it , so your safe where you are , water currents and wind in the northern hemisphere stay there , same in the southern hemisphere , your isolated from so much from the north.
15-islamic terrorists, muslims whos bible the koran teachs them that either everyone converts to islam or dies are all in the north where canada embrasses them like fools .
16-canadian government rescently gave the indians 1,500 sq acres of land in the middle of B.C. , so when can we have some land ?
17- except for vegetables 2 months a year all our food is processed with steroids and preservatives throughout the year , where you are you can buy and eat organic every day fresh .
18- insurance for your car here is a minimum of 2000 dollars a year and thats with a perfect driving record for 10 yrs. one of my children pay 900 a month 8,400 a year to drive a car you must own to live in canada and this along with 2 coffee cups , 1 litre of fuel is worth 1.45 a litre
19- you wonder if you should return?........ really to what ? for what? a better pension that probably wont be there when you retire ! seriously ?
20- learn some spanish and maybe neighbours will act friendlier with you , bake them a cake , some kind jesture may go a long ways , they probably look at you as being very rich and are afraid to talk with you.

good luck with your endevours hope you reconsider this no brainer question your asking yourself