Living in the Aftermath

Ecuador is one of the world’s largest exporters of roses.

“The cry of the poor is not always just,
but if you don’t listen to it,
you will never know what justice is.”

― Howard Zinn

What does the aftermath of a global pandemic look like in a developing country? While I cannot attest to the conditions in all the developing countries, I can share a few observations and conditions in the city I live in — Cuenca, Ecuador, South America. Cuenca was founded in 1557 by Spain and has a metropolitan population of over 650,000.

A little background

Ecuador is country consisting of a relatively small class of ruling elites that have been in power for over 450 years. These elites also own the overwhelming majority of the businesses, property and other types of assets. Wealth is maintained in these elite families generation after generation through marriage.

There is also a blossoming middle class that are well-educated of which many are employed as professionals in the medical, technical and legal occupations.

Finally, the largest percentage of the population, by a huge majority, is poor. A person working in Ecuador typically earns around $1,360 USD per month. Salaries range from $340 USD (the lowest average) to $6,080 USD (the highest average, actual maximum salary is higher).

This class system has been visually apparent during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic because there are two health systems in the country:

  • Public
  • Private

All lockdown mitigation efforts have been made based on the “capacity” of the public health care system of which the poor and most of the middle class utilize for their health care because they cannot afford private insurance or medical care.

Those of us with private insurance for private healthcare have no problem at all in receiving world-class healthcare during this coronavirus pandemic. As an example, there has always been an adequate number of Intensive Care beds and ventilators in the private hospitals.

It is shamefully unfortunate that the quality of healthcare is significantly different between the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”. This is a global reality that isn’t unique to Ecuador.

Conditions and Observations

Due to the novel coronavirus global pandemic, all non-essential businesses were forced (by law) to close from March 16 to June 1. Unlike most developed countries, Ecuador does not have any type of:

  • Financial assistance for businesses — small or large.
  • Unemployment benefits for employees.
  • Stimulus payments to assist unemployed workers pay for rent, groceries, etc.

So, how did the working class survive for 10 weeks without any income? Primarily through mutual aid between family, friends and neighbors. The people of Ecuador are no strangers to hard times. They know that the only way people can get through the hard times is by helping one another with food and giving what they can in financial support. As an expat from the United States, I was amazed and touched how the spirit of community determined the actions of all.

Main Street Businesses

As of June 1, all businesses were allowed to open with strict safe-distancing and personal protective equipment mandates. However, there is a problem. Many businesses were unable to reopen due to not financially surviving the 10-week lockdown. At least 15% of the clothing retailers in the mall and in the center of the city have gone out of business. I know of at least three car dealers that went under. There are too many restaurants and bars to count that were financially unable to reopen.

Unfortunately, business failures are not over. As it turns out, no one is buying because no one has any money and if they are lucky to have a little money, they aren’t spending it because the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths is increasing in parts of the country and everyone is afraid of another total lockdown.


Prices are going through the roof. Many items at the grocery stores and pharmaceuticals have increased 15 to 25 percent. How does this work when many of their customers are already broke and out of work? With no other options, people go without.

Medical Providers

My dentist told me today that he is lucky to have two appointments a day now. It has been this way since the pandemic lockdown on March 16. Most doctors, therapy and labs have reduced the number of staff members by half.

Postal Service

To top it all off, Ecuador is in the process of closing its postal service due to deep financial troubles. The post office in my city is already closed and chained up. The closures are not as critical here in Ecuador as would be in the United States, as an example. The postal service has been mainly used as a shipping service for small parcels and for expats to receive mail from their country of origin.

For the last five years or so, bills (invoices) for all utilities, annual auto registration and license fees, real estate tax, fines and other government fees have been available via email and/or their bank or financial cooperative. Consumers can pay for many government or private business invoices via their bank’s or financial cooperative’s website for a nominal fee of 50-cents or less.

Since I moved to Ecuador eight years ago, nearly all business communications are done via email, mobile messaging or courier service. With all the national package delivery services in the country, parcels and larger packages can be shipped and received with a lot less hassle than using the post office.

Final Thought

While the current circumstances appear to be bleak, I know we will get through this the same way the people have gotten through tough times before … by people helping people.

When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation.”
— William J. Clinton

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Let’s Choose Unity

“We are only as strong as we are united,
as weak as we are divided.”

― J.K. Rowling

The whole world is in chaos right now. It’s like we are being forced to live under a blanket of hate, racism, sexism, tribalism, distrust, grief, frustration and despair that prevents us from living a life of happiness, peace and contentment.

In the last few days, I came across two quotes that provide us with some direction, hope and peace in these troubled times.

No matter where you go in the world, people’s beliefs are shaped by their experiences and environments. Politics, beliefs, and religion are always controversial topics between different demographics, but our perspectives are not who we are.

Where you come from, or what demographic you identify with, doesn’t change the fact that we’re all one species living on a rock. Dogma and group-think limit perspectives and do nothing but add to the “Us vs. Them” fire.

Nobody will agree with everything you believe, but if everyone around you does, then you’re probably in a cult. We are all human, living on one planet, and each of us is viewing life from a different perspective. We need to learn to accept each other; to realize that we all hold different perspectives, and that’s okay. It’s Us and Them, not Us vs. Them.
Nathan Borealis, Counterstream

I am not better than you,
you are not better than me.
Both of us are better than this!

— Unknown

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A Routine With a Schedule Will Reduce Your Stress

Your future is found in your daily routine.
Successful people do daily what others do occasionally!

— Paula White

Many people hate the idea of having a routine. They think that having a routine is dull, restrictive, a killer of creativity and inspiration and is only needed for people who can’t get their life together.

That is not the reality. Having a routine will go a long way in removing chaos and uncertainty from your personal and work life. A routine provides you with the structure that allows you to be creative and inspired because you will not be wasting time and energy trying to get everything done on-the-fly. Your entire life will become far less stressful — maybe even easy — when you have a routine and are sticking to it.

Having routines for when you wake up and before you go to sleep set you up for a more productive life in the middle of these two periods of routine … whether it’s your personal life or your work life.

Benefits of Having a Routine (with a schedule)

  • You will get more things done. Won’t it be great not having things left on your to-do list at the end of each day? Having a routine and a schedule for what needs to get done will allow this to happen.
  • You will have a less stressful life. Your life will have some order which reduces stress, anxiety and the feeling that you are simply reacting to what is going on around you. Isn’t it better for you to be in control?
  • You will have more time to relax and have some fun. By having a routine with a schedule, you will have periods of time to set aside for yourself to do whatever you want without feeling guilty that other things are not getting done.
  • It will provide the structure to assist you in replacing bad habits with good habits. Routines are perfect for breaking bad habits. All you need to do is schedule good activities for the times that you were previously dedicating to bad habits. Before you know it, the good activity will become a habit that automatically becomes part of your routine.
  • Procrastination is no longer a part of your life. Because you have a routine with a schedule, unpleasant activities are scheduled instead of doing them if or when you get around to it. You are in control. You are the master of your time and life.
  • You will sleep better. When you get done what needs to be done, you will sleep better because you won’t be mentally struggling with all the things that are not getting done. Can you imagine getting a night of peaceful sleep?

Having a routine with a schedule allows you to take charge of your life, time and energy. Be the master of your universe!

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Giving the Gift of Tolerance

Photo by Sarah Ardin on Unsplash

“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
― Joseph Fort Newton

This past week has been difficult … emotionally. Apparently, my mind is overloaded with all the facts, news, spin and controversy over the coronavirus pandemic. In a time that we, as global citizens, need to be united, there are forces designed and determined to divide us … for their own agenda and benefit. To this, I say…

Whether you are religious or atheist,

Whether you are light skinned or dark skinned,

Whether you are straight or LGBT+,

Whether you are highly educated or just have street smarts,

Whether you are a professional or a laborer,

Whether you are rich or poor,

We Need Each Other!

We have more in common with each other than we have differences. We all want the best for ourselves and our families. This in turn, will produce vibrant, healthy, cooperative and productive communities in which everyone can prosper … if we simply be tolerant of our differences.

“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”
― Albert Einstein

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Choosing to Do the Right Thing

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.
— J. C. Watts

Being in a position that could potentially cause conflict with others, or make you go against your personal morals, can bring an unhealthy amount of stress into your life. Knowing that you will be placed in this predicament numerous times in your life, let’s take a look at how you can train your mind to get through these periods … successfully.

Consider and Evaluate

Take a step back to rationally think through the situation. The purpose of this is to ensure you are making the best choice possible to avoid negative consequences.

  • Think about how you got in to your current position. A possible decision on what to do next could arise from how you got yourself there.
  • Ask yourself how a crisis could be avoided. Would doing the right thing be so hard a process if only you did things a bit differently before?
  • Compare the current predicament to past experiences where you had to figure out how to do the right thing. Look at what worked or what didn’t, and apply what you learned to the present.

Imagine possible outcomes that could happen because of you making a particular decision. Evaluate all, or potentially important outcomes, so you don’t decide on an impulse.

  • Make sure you aren’t in an environment that pressures you in to making decisions. Be conscious of the long-term effects of your actions.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of each outcome. Ask yourself how one result could possibly work better than another.
  • Prepare yourself for any unexpected reactions from others.

Consider any other individuals involved. Doing the right thing isn’t just about you. Most of the time it involves others. Try asking yourself these questions to see how it may affect your decision making:

  • How will “doing the right thing” be for the benefit of others?
  • How will the situations get better when I do it?
  • How will your relationships improve? Worsen?
  • What makes what you’re doing “the right thing”?

Stay Calm

Try not to overthink or over analyze the situation, your reaction and possible outcomes. Doing so could result in several things that can affect how you go about doing the right thing:

  • You start self-doubting yourself. When you arrive at a decision on the right course of action to make things right, you want to make it confidently.
  • It’s not the end of the world. Doing this one right thing doesn’t mean that you are incapable of making the correct decision in the first place. Take the mistake in stride, and learn from what you did wrong.
  • Nothing would happen. If you are too panicky, you’ll scare yourself into acting on time. If you are really unsure, talk it over with others – the subjective view from others can be a refreshing viewpoint on the situation.

Keep your emotions in check. An emotion can quickly become too much to handle. If you’re dwelling on how to do something right to fix a problem, ensure you make time to step away from the situation. Take a breather, and don’t try to solve everything in a self-set time frame.

  • Pay attention to any physical bodily reactions. Sometimes, our bodies can physically show signs of stress. Keep checking in with yourself if things are getting too much to handle.
  • Don’t try to control or hold back emotions. It’s important to let anything and everything in to feel it all. Our emotions are natural, they make us who we are and they play vital roles in what we believe is the right thing to do.
  • Refrain from acting on impulse. Our initial reactions to situation may not always be the best one. Think carefully if you want to react, as impulses may not always be the best way to go about doing right things.

Talk to someone. This can relieve any pressure you have on yourself. It always helps to talk out problems and what you are struggling with.

  • Make your voice heard. Address your problems so people know what you’re struggling with. By verbally acknowledging that you are struggling with doing the right thing, you aren’t so caught up in your own thoughts, running around in circles.
  • Find someone who understands why you need to do the right thing. They will have an easier time understanding your struggle, thus more likely to give applicable advice.
  • Have a fresh perspective on the situation. Perhaps you’ve been dwelling on how to solve a problem for too long. By having another person’s input they may bring in to light other ideas that you may have missed.

Evaluate how you handled the situation, what your thought processes were like, and if applicable, who you spoke to for advice. Doing the right thing in the moment of need is only half the work, as the other half lays in the personal growth you go through. Every situation is different, and the right thing that is needed varies. Look back and see how you can learn from all of them. When you think you’ve done the right thing, ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • How can doing this particular right thing reduce doing the wrong thing in the future?
  • Am I happy with the result(s)?
  • How did I handle this differently from past situations?
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Maintain Your Reputation

Carry out what you do in a manner that appropriately represents you. Your representation should be kept in mind. This is vital if the situation is in a professional (i.e. work) setting. Ask yourself some key questions to help you decide on what is the right thing to do and how to do it:

  • Will this decision go against your morals?
  • Who could you potentially cross? Also, how will you go about avoiding this?
  • How will others think of you?

Touch base with others and act as soon as possible. Doing right by others is just as important as carrying out a right deed to avoid guilt. It doesn’t have to be a formal “group debrief”, but speaking with other involved individuals afterwards can relieve some residue tension. Keep in mind that talking with others can also positively result in the following things:

  • Engaging with others throughout the process of trying to do the right thing can keep everyone on the same page. Adequate communication avoids discrepancies between ideas and reactions.
  • Try to diffuse tension among others. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to reconsider acting without considering other people’s feelings.
  • Ask why and how people are reacting to you in certain ways. Do they not agree that what you are doing is the right thing? Are they still mad? Asking why someone is acting in a certain way can put you in their shoes, and you can make better decisions with there perspective in mind.

Let everyone make his or her voice heard. We all have reputations to maintain. Whether it is for others to see, or for ourselves to be the person we are, or strive to be, it is important to keep in mind how we present ourselves and represent others.

  • Ensure you are acting in a manner that won’t be detrimental to others’ reputations. This is especially important to keep in mind in professional settings like the work place.
  • Do the right thing so it doesn’t make others doubt your judgment. If others perceive you in a certain way, you want to keep in mind what others will say about you. Before carrying out the decision, try asking around if what you think of doing is truly the right thing to do.
  • Don’t ignore advice. You may feel like what you are doing is the right thing, but listen to what others have to say about it. They can help you tweak ideas and your delivery method.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.
— Oprah Winfrey

This post was adapted from How To Do The Right Thing, wikiHow.

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Debunking a Myth

There are no atheists on their death bed.

As a humanist (atheist), I have heard this comment more times than I can count. In fact, it was said to me earlier today. I want to share an experience of mine that debunks this myth.

I had an acute pancreatitis attack in March 2017. Due to other pre-existing conditions, my body was unable to fight all that was going on in my body and my organs were starting to shut down starting with my kidneys and liver.

An MRI showed that about 25% of my pancreas was permanently damaged from the acute attack, my right kidney was only 10% of its normal size and that my left kidney had over 50 kidney stones in it.

I was in bad shape. The surgeon told my wife that I only had a 20% chance of making it through the emergency surgery on my pancreas and kidney.

I made it through the surgery and I was in the Intensive Care Unit for 10 days. The first 4 days were touch and go. During these 4 days, I had ample opportunity to understand my proximity to death.

Never once did I ever consider turning to a god — any god — for help. I was at total peace knowing that I was most likely going to die … just like every other living thing on Earth. I had lived a full life. I was ready to die.

I had treated others with respect and did my best to help those in need of empathy, compassion and support. I lived my life to make every day count because I knew there is no such thing as a hereafter in which one is rewarded or punished based on the life they lived. I knew I had to make this one life matter.

As it turned out, I didn’t die. I was released from the hospital 14 days from the day I went in. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity for my humanist (atheist) belief to be tested and confirmed.

“Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.”
– Penn Jillette

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Grief, Bereavement and Loss

— Warning —
This post deals with death and grieving.

Most of us go through a period of grief and bereavement when someone we love dies. No two people experience grief in the same way. Some externalize the grief with visible signs of deep sorrow and emotion. Others internalize the grief and become somber and withdrawn. Regardless of how we handle the grief, we must go through the grieving process to get through to the other side.

If you are completely overwhelmed, support is available when you’re finding it hard to cope with stress, anxiety or depression. Your local mental health professionals are trained, ready and eager to help you get through this difficult time in your life.

Common Symptoms of Grief and Bereavement

  • shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to loss, and people often talk about “being in a daze”
  • overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • anger – towards the person you’ve lost or the reason for your loss
  • guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or did not say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying

These feelings may not be there all the time and powerful feelings and emotions may appear unexpectedly.

It’s not always easy to recognize when bereavement, grief or loss are the reason you’re acting or feeling differently.

Actions to help you get through the bereavement and loss

Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member or health professional. 

Try these 7 ways to feel happier, which are simple lifestyle changes to help you feel more in control and able to cope:

  • Manage your stress levels. If you have a lot of stress in your life, find ways to reduce it, such as learning a few time-management techniques.
  • Enjoy yourself. Doing things that you enjoy is good for your emotional well-being.
  • Boost your self-esteem. The best way to improve your self-esteem is to treat yourself as you’d treat a valued friend, in a positive but honest way.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol. When times are hard, it’s tempting to drink alcohol because it “numbs” painful feelings. But it can exaggerate some feelings and make you feel angry or aggressive. It can also make you feel more depressed.
  • Exercise. Even moderate exercise releases chemicals in your brain that lift your mood. It can help you sleep better, have more energy and keep your heart healthy.
  • Get adequate sleep. Around 7 to 8 hours is the average amount of sleep an adult needs for their body and mind to fully rest.
  • Build your resilience. Resilience is what allows you to cope with life’s ups and downs. Making something worthwhile out of painful times helps your resilience grow.

Consider peer support where people use their experiences to help each other.

Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps

As a final thought, keep in mind that time heals all wounds the vast majority of the time. Allow time to heal your pain and hurt.

Look up, put on a smile and, after some time, we’ll see you on the other side of your grief, bereavement and loss.

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Our Purpose

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of other men —above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein


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