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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friday the 13th

Well, last we chatted, things weren't going so well.   Not much has changed.   I'm not necessarily a superstitious person, but as I grow older (and older) there is a longer span of time of which to observe patterns, or consistent behaviors, right?   For example, when it's a full moon, I really should hunker down in a corner, lights out, doors locked, not see nor speak to anyone.   I usually don't realize it's a full moon until weird things start happening around me (drivers driving insanely, people being ruder than usual, can't find parking, and things don't happen like they should).  It's then that I wonder....'Is it a full moon, or what?'...and 8 out of 10 times it is. 

What the heck are you talking about Dano?   Keep reading.

In my last blog entry, I made note that I had travel plans to the Seattle area.   I was able to salvage my itinerary because one of my best friends, Brian, put it on his charge card.   This was because my new charge card (generated because of fraudulent activity on my old account) had not arrived in Cuenca in time to make the 7-day-hold deadline AA imposed.    Chase ASSURED me it would be sent to my Cuenca address, not to the mailing address on the account...which is my Mom's place.  It wasn't a big deal, no different than if I was on vacation and holed up in a hotel in London and needed a new card sent to me ASAP.  Two days AFTER the airfair deadline, Mom sent me an email stating my new card had arrived...at HER HOUSE IN WASHINGTON!!!!    GRRRRRRR

Ok, fine.  I'll get it from her when I see her in a few days (hint....ain't gonna happen). 

Friends test-driving Cuenca were apartment hunting but not coming up with anything, so I asked them if they would house-sit for me for 2 1/2 weeks while in the USA, take care of my kids (pets) and plants.  SURE!!   That would buy them more time to apartment-hunt.

Thursday, the 12th, I flew to Quito and stayed overnight for my 6am departure in the morning of the 13th....Friday the 13th (play scary musical notes....dum d' Dum DUM!!!!!).     I got up at , and the taxi whisked me thru traffic-less streets to the airport.  Checked in at American Airlines after waiting in a long, slow line, checked my bag, got my boarding pass.    Filled out the immigration form and passed the checkpoint where having ticket and passport were validated and I was allowed upstairs to proceed on through immigrations.

The immigration officer (I'll call him IO) examined my passport and recognized that I in fact am now a Resident of Ecuador due to my newly stamped 9-month-waited-for Visa.  He then asked me for my Censo (an Ecuadorian ID card required of foreigners but not of citizens).   I told him I didn't have it because the entire (expletive) government RAN OUT of the materials (plastic cards) to make them with.  SIDE COMMENT:  Do you THINK someone/anyone would foresee they were going to run out BEFORE running out and re-order the supplies BEFORE running out?  Noooo....thinking ahead is not of the mindset.  END SIDE COMMENT.   I also informed the IO that my attorney, who specializes in this matter, said once I got my residency Visa I could freely travel...that I do NOT need to have my Censo.  I showed the IO copies of the orders for the Censo and Cedula my attorney provided me in case they did ask.    Nothing doing.   He kept saying "no puede viajar" (you cannot travel).  I kept challenging him.  He went elsewhere to consult with others (probably about when they were going to lunch) and came back with the same answer.   I kept asking for someone who spoke English as this was too important to leave to the possibility of language misunderstandings.   Finally, an American Airlines representative came upstairs, but the end result was the same.

The flight was about to leave in 30 minutes.  She needed to get my bag off the plane.   The IO said I could go to an immigrations office near a mall in Quito and, when they open at , get some sort of certificate which would validate (?) me and they would honor it and allow me to travel.  I don't know what needed validation since, after all, I have my passport.   The AA rep said she could re-book me on the flight to Miami.   That meant I would have 2 hours and 50 minutes to get through the certificate validation process, get back to the airport, and go through all the lines again and make my flight.

I decided not to do that because my connections in Miami and Los Angeles would be missed and I would have further problems making it to Seattle.   Also, because of typical Ecuadorian processes, I did not know what I would encounter once I got to the immigrations offices….long lines, a dispute (typing error, mis-spelling, lacking information, someone in a bad mood, etc etc), language barriers, etc that might cause a delay, a requirement to go somewhere and have copies made, a requirement to find a notary, etc etc.   There would be no guarantee that I would leave with a valid certificate AND still make it back to the airport in time to check in, go through immigrations, then security, etc etc and make my flight.   Again, due to inconsistencies in processes between one department and another, I run the risk of having problems when I attempt to RETURN to Ecuador via Miami later this month.  Who knows whether they would accept that certificate in lieu of the Censo….even though Quito will supposedly honor it leaving the country.  If they didn't, I'd be stuck in the USA.

Soooooo….I told American Airlines to cancel my flight and issue me a refund.   I will re-book a trip home to the USA only when I have the REAL Censo and Cedula in-hand.   American agreed to issue a refund, but I must pay a penalty…but they wouldn't tell me how much the penalty was.  I had to take a taxi to an agency in a mall and find out how much I have to pay once I get there….then hope they issue a refund since my airfare was almost $1,100!!

After sitting on the floor and waiting 45 minutes, they finally gave me my bag.  I checked my bags at a storage kiosk as I didn't want to continue to drag them around all over town.  I took a taxi to the American Airlines office.  It was 8am, they opened at 9am.    Luckily, it was located next to Carolina Park, a very large beautiful park full of jogging paths, playgrounds, soccer fields, tennis courts, large spances of lawns, paddle boat lagoon, basketball courts, bicycle-trick areas, etc etc.   I noticed on the ride over, a beautiful display of large hummingbird statues all painted in various designs.  I walked over there and took several snaps you'll see below.   I also spotted an old airplane over yonder (I love old planes) and took photos of that, too.

After the nice walk, the AA office was open.  It basically boiled down to either cancelling the ticket or keeping the ticket to use against a later itinerary, but either way I was going to have to forfeit $200 as a 'penalty' and $75 for a change fee.    GEEZ LAWEEZE!!!

Back in a taxi.  Back to the airport.   I needed to find a flight home to Cuenca.   Nothin doin.   There are only 3 airlines that fly to CUE and at most, 2 flights a day.  They were all booked.   The most I could do was physically stand in a line (no standby list) for the 1:45pm flight.  I stood for 3 hours.  A few people got on, but 5 people in front of me and everyone behind me were toast. 

Back in a taxi.  Back to my hotel from the night before.  Miguel, the owner, was super kind and got me a tiny room for $15.  I immediately got online to look for flights the next day.   All the first flights out were booked, but the evening flight (6pm) had seats.  But, I couldn't reserve them online without a credit card.   AAAAGGGHHH!!!!    I called George who was house-sitting my place and he obliged to use his card and I paid him back when I returned.    With that done, I headed out to Plaza Foch, a well-known party district and enjoyed a nice big burger and 4 glasses of wine (2 fer 1).

The next day, Saturday, I had to kill time between hotel check-out time and the flight at 6pm.  I did a lot of waiting on this trip to nowhere!!!  No more drama after this.  I flew home and in short time I was back in my house as if I had never gone anywhere.   Poor guys who were planning on house-sitting for 2 1/2 weeks!!

  • Taxi to Cuenca airport $5
  • Airfare to Quito $66
  • Taxi to hotel in Quito $6
  • Hotel in Quito $25
  • Dinner in Quito $12
  • Taxi to airport in the morning $10 (but it was $6 last night!!!!)
  • Taxi to American Airline agency to pay penalty $5
  • Baggage storage fee $6
  • Penalty for canceling flight $275
  • Taxi back to Quito airport $5
  • Unable to return to Cuenca today
  • Taxi back to original hotel $5
  • Hotel 2nd night $15
  • Dinner $25
  • Lunch 2nd day $13
  • Taxi to Quito airport $5
  • Airfare back to Cuenca $77
  • Taxi back home $4
$559 wasted on a roundtrip to NOWHERE!!!
Enjoy the photos.

There are approximately 70 of these statues in the park.   Including the platform on which they were mounted, they're about 8 feet tall.

Ummm....is this supposed to mean the hummingbird is pregnant???

Gee, Mom & Dad never bought ME a plane to make a slide in my playground!!  Hrrrmmmpph!!!

An angry flying Poodle?


  1. This would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Ah Ecuador and it's unfanthomable rules and regulations, where 1 dept. doesn't know what the other is doing. Where you can get 10 different answers to the same question from 10 differnt government people, and have no idea which one is correct (or even if ANY) are correct. I really fell bad for you Dano.

  2. Don't complain! You are always saying how cheap things are in EC! Not this time, too bad. Mollie

  3. I'm thinking if the same thing happened to Mollie, there would be complaining to the high heavens. Having lower prices for some things in Ecuador, has nothing to do with this situation.


  5. Your posts are always insghtful, Dan. I'm sorry you had to endure so much hell over a single piece of paper. I've noticed that as businesses, organizations, governments etc. try and exploit cheap labor (ESPECIALLY, here in the states) their processes are 'dumbed-down' so much (so any bozo can stand there and attend to a simple task) that they are little more that ridiculous nuisances. Just like the TSA: their people on the ground are not allowed/required to do any thinking. Rather, they just mindlessly follow instructions. Keep up the good work!
    Mark A. Raborn

  6. Who is your lawyer? I'd like to avoid using him. Let me share what I know.

    Once you have your permanent residency and are issued your cedula (national ID card) you have most of the rights of an Ecuadorian citizen but you are NOT a citizen. That's why you also need a censo. The censo is a second ID issued by the Immigration Department that allows the Ecuadorian government keep track of foreign nationals who live in their country, a perfectly reasonable thing for a government to do. You may travel on your US passport but, as a resident, you must always present your censo and cedula as well. They don't want to grant residency to someone who doesn't really live here.

    Since you have such a crackerjack lawyer, he may not have explained that one of the conditions of granting permanent residency is that for the first two years you must spend all but 90 days of those 2 years in Ecuador. That is why airport immigration officers are so particular about checking censos. They will enter your departure and return dates into their computerized system. If you are out of the country more than a total of 90 days (without special emergency permission) in the first 2 years you may forfeit your residency.

    BTW, having the agency run out of forms is irritating but I'm willing to bet that if you had explained to the official that you already had a plane ticket they would have come up with a work around for you. Compared to what foreign nationals must go through to enter and leave the USA, Ecuador is a breeze.


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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