3/18/13

Free Communication Calls USA

Make free Calls to the US and to your loved one anytime.

Google Voice Android Mand standing with ballon

Over the years it has gotten cheaper and less expensive to communicate with loved ones.  The internet has made it easy to make low cost and free calls to loved ones.  Since I am from the USA this post will regard calling the USA for cheap.  Yet many other countries offer the same deals.  So how do I call the US for no money and talk all I want.  Also what do I use for text messaging the USA for free.

Well love them or hate them I use Google Voice.  This is a excellent way to call your loved ones.  It is a Voice over Internet Protocol that uses Google chat.   Now there are way you can use this that are very simple to do.  It is best to set up your Google Voice prior to leaving the USA and it is free to do.  However if you fail to do that.  Here is a way you can set this up right here in the Philippines.  For those in the US just skip this part.


  1.  First you will need to download Spotflux (this is a VPN) it has zero adware and spyware so you get a USA IP address.
  2.  You will need to download whistle phone and set up an account with whistle phone.  This will give you a USA phone number
  3. You will now need to clear your browser and cache. 
  4. Start Spotflux
  5. Start Whistle Phone.
  6. Navigate to Google Voice sign-up for an account.
  7. Once you have signed up for an account you will then set your Whistle Phone as your call back number
  8. It will then ring your phone and you now have a Google Voice account and a ring back number.  
  9. You can unistall Whistle Phone and Spotflux.

Now that you have done that what can you do with it?  


Google Chat showing how to make free calls
Well right from your Gmail you can make calls.  It really gets better.  They are free and zero charge to you minus the internet connection fee you have.
Also by going to the Google Voice on the web you can then send free text messages and receive free text messages.   Yet this feature is going to be free all the way to the end of 2013.  Just as it has been since the start of 2010.  





Now what do I do when I want to make calls and receive text messages.   


I use an app called GrooveIp with my smart phone.   Now this is so simple to use and is available to Android users.  The calls can be made over Wifi or 3G.  Then I set my Google Voice to forward my text message to a smart mail box that I set up.  Now this costs me 200 pesos a month yet I never miss a text message.    I get all my text messages and all my voice mails set to my Philippine Cell phone just as if they were back home.     That is the easy way to set this up.   Follow the set-up guide in the app.

The best way to use this is with a PBX.


Again this is not that difficult to setup.  I used a program call Sipdroid on my Android phone.   What this did was allow me to use the PBX and a Codec or compression of voice so that it transmits better over 3G network.  What Sipdroid does is allow you to set up a PBX that is free of charge.   Then after it is all set up I wrote down the configurations.  Then I download CSip Simple.  That gives me the option to change a few codecs.  Here is the set up for CSip Simple after you have downloaded Sipdroid and set it up.  Just use the basic setup and follow this guide:

Username yourname-200
your pbxes pw
server pbxes.org
domain leave empty
username caller id leave empty
port 5060
protocol tcp

That is it now you can registrar you account and off to the races.  What I have found with extensive testing is that I changed the Codec to Speex. I did this on both the high and low side as I found it just gave the best quality overall.  

Here is the easy way to do that.  Just go to the setting in CSip Simple.  Then go to Media then codec. Now select the speex codec.  This is a lower bandwidth compression for voice over IP.  There you are done.

Enjoy making those free calls over the internet to the USA.  







3/16/13

US Credit and Living Abroad

Credit Cards and dollars

Being a Philippine credit Ghost is not all that fun.


When I first moved to the Philippines I had a few debts and few credit cards.  Which were all paid off and left my credit in ok condition prior to my departure.  That was February of 2007 and though I had ok credit and nothing to scream about I was able to get loans and credit cards.  At that time I also closed my bank accounts and opened a prepaid Master Card from Western Union.   I did this because of the fees they charged for overseas transactions and it was convenient.   These fees can be extremely high as much as 40 dollars per 1,000 dollars you take out.  So read this tip to save money.  Click Here.    So lets flash forward to present day March of 2013.    I am currently in the process of taking my wife and children back to the US.   I have two children and a wife so some of the expenses to this process listed below.

The wife and children need:
NBI and CFO - $160.00
Philippine Passports - $190.00
Certificate Birth Abroad Children - $225.00
US Passports Children  - $240.00
US Visa Process Wife - $850.00
Air Fare for Family - $3500.00

So as you can see this is a situation that would strain many a budgets.  This is not to include the nickle and dime expenses that happen and they seem to happen at every turn.  So getting a line of credit to help cover the expense that come up is important.   Yet here I am the Ghost of Christmas past.   I managed in the last 6 years of zero credit have nothing on my credit report.  I had no Bank reporting and zero updates to my income or my address.   At this point I am Casper and no one would consider me for a credit card or loan.  Mostly it was establish some credit and we will give you some credit.   Now that is an oxymoron.   Plus then you must complicate it I am not living in the US.  So combined all those situations I am a credit risk.   In addition on my return to the US I would also have problems reestablishing credit for housing or other needs that revolve around credit.

So as a warning to others as you move your life overseas.   You should keep some form of revolving credit and always keep a US bank account.  You never know what the future may hold.  I have solved this issue with a line of credit but I must reestablish and relevance to credit worthiness. 

Living off the grid can be fun.  Yet when that sudden emergency or when you need those extras in life it is always necessary to maintain a plan.  When I first came here I never thought I would be here this long.  Nor did I give much creedence to needing of credit cards or banking accounts.

3/14/13

Philippine Success in Business

Article Written by Guest Writer Matt Wilkie


Matt Wilkie Philippines
Matt Wilkie is a expat living in Cebu, Philippines offering advice and help to newcomers to the Philippines.  Check his latest blogs at Tropical PenPal

Expats Can Do Successful Business In The Philippines.


We are already into year six and our most recent edition of businesses has been BPO24hour.com.


But what I find in the Philippines within the expat community is that there is often a looking for failure or negativity in people starting business here in the Philippines.

In reality though its just as hard here as anywhere else, where I see many people fail over the years is down to market conditions and how things are run. For example giving a business to a family member of your wife with no experience is pretty much guaranteed to run aground very quickly. Yet giving the opportunity to develop a business with you with the same person who has been experienced in something particular and unique can actually blossom.

Understanding where people make money in the Philippines is part and parcel of this and for me its about looking at not only what they do but how they do it. Because getting things like new rack mount servers into Cebu is something that can run aground with corrupt customs officials. At the same time knowing a family member who works at customs or is a regular importer can deal with your headaches. But isn’t that corruption? Actually its the opposite! Because we have already paid all the fees associated with goods but you will often find that “extras” are added in what seems almost random costing. Which in some cases can see a $100 item getting $100 of taxes added to it for no apparent reason. These are part of the problems of doing business in the Philippines.

But doesn’t mean you have to be defeated! Instead look at where these things are and how to fix them, get round them, work with them. Which for me what should be the easiest route is finding an IT company in Cebu who will sell me a rack mount rather than importing my own. Not as easy as it sounds as most computer companies don’t seem to supply them. But workable! Just time consuming in sourcing. Last resort will be a direct import and crossing my fingers with relatives help.

But that gets me onto BPO24hour.com as this venture is blossoming rather quickly and expanding well. It was not a business I had looked to get into as although I know the inside of an office very well from my surveying background I am not telesales orientated. But this gets back to the expats around me and also the local market. There are call center’s all over the place and we seem to be the one furthest South we have come across.

Understanding the local market that if people don’t have to take 2 – 3 bus rides into the city and can earn the same money at a business within 10mins of their house, who will they work for? Because what has happened is initially it took a bit of canvassing for trainees to get people to try us. But once people became aware that we are here the experienced people started arriving.

Now we see that we have both experienced and trainees working side by side. The trainees are learning quickly as they have good coaches and our most recent additions have seen us recruit Quality Controllers with over 3 years experience in the industry from a major Call Center in the city.

For us we see the business is going to continue to grow and with it I am hoping to share the expansion with others who can manage other call center’s under our umbrella. But right now this is one Expat business that is expanding quickly and successful in the Philippines. Oddly enough its not hard to find other call center’s owned by foreigners or foreign backed around Cebu.

Because lets face it who knows your home market best, you who lived there and as a previous consumer or someone who has only seen your country in the movies? Adding this edge is why we openly look to get skilled staff from the expat community but also OFW’s. Having knowledge they can share as well as help develop people’s accents are all part and parcel of developing the business.

Which gets me back to the title Expats can do successful business in the Philippines, but often they don’t advertise it and often take a back seat. There are many reasons people do that here and some are for safety others could be that they simply don’t see the advantage of the limelight. Privacy is often something people like to have and as one of the biggest money spinners in Asia at the moment is technology related either via call centre’s, web design, SEO and other’s one thing they don’t need is a person. As most are based on results and internet trading. Not Joe Blogg’s from Kentucky which is what gets me back to negativity on business.

The fact is many expats come here and decide to open a small business with high expectations and little business knowledge. In reality though those with business knowledge and experience generally don’t talk too much about what they are doing. Quite simply they don’t need to they just get on with it.

After several years in the Philippines I can honestly say that most people would fail in business in their home country never mind here. The emphasis comes about by many looking to expand their pension income or looking to keep idle family members busy (idle as in available). Throwing money at idea’s doesn’t work especially if its then given to someone else to deal with. But even worse when no figures or planning has gone into it, which is often the case with businesses in the Philippines that expats do.

Which in conversations with talking to people who have already been here over a decade and are very successful in business you find they did exactly what we do. Initially they chipped away at things on a small scale until something clicked. Some of our businesses make good money others broke even, but its all been about logging the information and experienced gained. Not all projects will be successful but they won’t all fail either.
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Philippine Bubble Man

Tim potter Philippines Bubble Man

 What is up with people and there warped sense of reality.

I have lived in the Philippines for the past 6 years and people still amaze me.  I belong to several internet forums and groups.  People that are planning to come here and live build this sense of a grandiose life and that the troubles of the worlds do not exist here. 
There is this constant comparing of the Philippines to the US.  They compare the city life in the US to the city life in the Philippines.  When you can not even compare.   However for the sake of arguing lets do a comparison.  Los Angeles County which is more populous then 42 states and Metro Manila (NCR Region).  So I will start with something simple.  Population Los Angeles County has 10 Million people and population density of  800 per sq km.  Metro Manila has a population of 11.5 million people and population density of 16,000 per sq km.  This type of population in a small compact area leads to crime, poverty, theft and poor services.  Compare if you will yet there is nothing to compare.

What I have found over the years is that if you are looking for city life and want a cheap inexpensive city there are better option the world over.   The true beauty of the Philippines is not found in the cities but the more rural remote locations.  There is a cost when you move out to these areas.  However if you are looking for beaches, parks and fresh air.  These are the places.  Not in the cities where population over run has affected everything.  

If you are a person that bores easily and can not find happiness in the simple things then this type of living may not be for you.  Yet the province is a place where you can kick your feet up read a good book or just talk with neighbors.   It has a feel of small town America to it.  This relocation to the province is not one to take lightly.  As simple services are just not available or of poor quality.  Internet, Phone, Hospitals, Grocery stores (that cater to western needs) are all lacking when you step out there.  They are adequate yet not optimal.  So you must be committed to this new life.  

For all those that say that Cebu or Manila are no better then major US cities is hog wash.  This is a third world country and it is that way for many reasons.  They are over populated, polluted and dirty.  So before you step off the plane you should know what life is going to be like.  There are many that have made choices to live there in the cities and will tell you a different story.  These are your Philippine Bubble man who justify that decision.   So come enjoy life but know what you are getting into with a third world country.  



3/10/13

Philippine Internet Dating

two people sharing a moment of internet love

Phenom Philippine Internet Love


I belong to many different Forums and Bulletin Boards all dealing with subject of living here in the Philippines.  There are many reoccurring topics that always seem to come up.  Many tend to lead to the struggles of the new relationship.  There is also that constant question of if I should or have to support the family.  You need to understand first Families in the Philippines.   So follow that link and read that first.

Getting back to these dating sites and people that frequent them looking for love and relationships that seem to elude them in their home countries.   With these sites the world has gotten much smaller and people can communicate with people from all over the world.

 Thus they lead to this phenom what I call Philippine Internet Love.  


People fail to realize a few things when the journey down this road.  The first is the vast cultural difference  between the countries.   The Philippines is nothing like the US.  They operate, socialize and communicate 100% different.  The second thing is the Philippines is extremely poor.  Poverty strikes in all social classes here in the Philippines.  This failure leads to many issues of support of families and support of the extended families.   Again read the Families in the Philippines as that will give you are greater understanding.

The other thing that I have found is people are taking shortcuts to really getting to know someone.  They are not spending actual time with this person.  When I say actual time, what you do on a day to day basis.  Coming here for a 2 week vacation or spending 3 weeks here at a shot is not telling.  You are relaxing and enjoying life.  It is a vacation and not reality.  Reality is sitting at home on Wednesday night watching TV and maybe with a pizza.  Can you and her be happy with just those quite moments alone?

I am not saying that people do not have successful internet relationships.  As there are many out there that have had that success.  What I am saying is there will be difficulties as you adjust to normal life. People can get on the webcam or internet for one hour a day and be anything they want.  They can fake life and fake what is actually happening.  That is a little harder when you see that person daily and spend actually physical time with a person.  That does not involve a vacation where things and enjoyment have no limits.

I will convey a recent posting about a gentleman in the US.  In October of 2012 he had begun to explorer the world of internet dating.  He talked of things to make a recent contact happy and what he should do.  He planned a trip to the Philippines in February of 2013.  Fast Forward this to March of 2013.  He is now married for several weeks after his internet romance and is having problems.  His problems revolve around supporting of the family and he is not sending enough.   This highlights my issue of how well did they know the circumstances surrounding each other.  Did she understand his financial situation and he hers?   When dealing with a Third World romance it should be an issue discussed.  It should be discussed in any relationship however the impact here could be greater.  So my real question was; Is he really in love or in love with the fact of being in love.

There are no shortcuts in life.  You are trying to build something for the future and not just tomorrow. You are are laying down the building blocks to a life together.  If you take shortcuts or skip over the fundamentals of a Friend first and lover second.  Then you will have problems.   There is nothing better then spending days doing nothing.  Sitting around in those quite moments to just enjoy each other.  Boots on the ground here is the only way you can do that.  However many can not because of life.  So take it slow and not be pressured.  If it is to happen it will happen.  Rushing a life long commitment can cause it to end before it ever had a chance to start.

Please share or like.  Give me a little feed back on your experiences.

3/7/13

Apartment For Rent Cebu

Where we hang our hats in Cebu.

Most people when they think of the Philippines they believe it is a beach front paradise.

  However they forget that there are so many hills and mountains in the Philippines.  Just for a while we lived just a stones throw from the beach.  We have since moved back to the City and needed the amenities that a city would offer. What I like now is I am up in the hills away from the noise and pollution of the city.  Yet we are close enough to make a run in.  So while I miss this view of the beach below.


Tim Potter Sugar Land Texas
Beach In Toledo

I enjoy the comforts that my house in the hills now offers me.
Well all good things come to an end.  I will be moving out of my apartment on 1 May or sooner if I can get a renter.    

This is a furnished 2 Bedroom apartment.  It is two levels with running hot and cold water in the bathrooms. These are man size bathrooms with man size toilets.   It is located in the Gated Vista Grande subdivision above the smog and pollution of Cebu City. Yet that gives you just a hop skip and jump the local shopping areas.  It has tennis courts, pool and basket ball courts with in walking distance.  

My street is kinda lonely as it is a dead end and there are no other houses on the street.  So if you are into Frogs, Birds, and Lizards and not Karokee, roosters, Loud Motorbikes, or neighbors it is great.  Remember that quite kills and it is so darn quite.  

The apartment is very large the two upstairs bedrooms (this is a guess) are 14"X 14" with an CR located up there.  It has window A/C in both rooms.  Additionally it has a wash area on that level and a balcony.  

The bottom living area is also fairly large open plan with a split A/C to cool the place down.  However I rarely use it.  I use it more to take the humidity out of the air then to cool the place.
 The Maids room is downstairs and is nothing special 6X8 in size.  There is a CR and it is again Man size.  Then the kitchen which has hot running water though it takes a bit to get from the tank.  Living room is about 14X20 plus it has the kitchen and dinning area in an open plan. 

Outsider there is a covered car park and very nice patio to BBQ or just sit and listen to birds chirping.  

I will provide pictures later.   It is recommended that you have a motor of some sorts.  However I have not had any motor for over a year and transportation is available to get you down the hill.  

I have lived here a year my average electric bill has averaged right at 4K.   It comes with either dream or cignal satellite TV and smartbro 2Mb internet.   You must load the TV  Service. Internet is included with the place. Bottled water included and Washer Dryer is available for use.     Again it is fully furnished just move on in.  Requires 1 month rent and 1 month deposit.   Open to leases longer then 6 months only.  Move out date is 1 May yet I will accommodate and move if someone is in need.  

The biggest thing for me as I have lived in 5 other locations here in the Philippines is the peace here.  You are living in another world that just does not seem like the Philippines at all. It is an escape from the harsh reality of Cebu.  

Price is 21,000 a month.  

If interested leave a comment.  All comments are on Moderation and will not be published for this link.  I will then respond back. Thank You.



Tim Potter Sugarland Texas
Looking down my street















Enjoy


Keywords: Tim Potter, Sugarland Texas, USMC, Norseman, 




3/5/13

CFO Experience Cebu

CFO Logo for the Philippines

Prior to Filipinos getting a passport they must complete a class from the Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO). 


The CFO office (Click here for CFO website) is fairly easy to find in Cebu Philippines.  It is located directly across from San Pedro Park or Independence Park.  We arrived at the CFO office at 7:00 am as there are only 12 slots for the entire Cebu and Mindanao region.  We sat in the CFO office with a number from 7-10 till our number was finally called.  At 10:00 we received the papers to complete the application and registration.  We were asked for the documents to file for the registration at this time.  You are required to have two valid IDs and either a Passport or NBI clearance.  This gives you a total of three valid ids required to registrar for the class.  You must have copies of all three IDs that you will use. They have no facilities to make copies so be prepared.   The form is very hard to make out who goes where and what goes where.  Saving you the issue Petitioner is not the person that is registering for the class.   That is the spouse or fiancee.

We completed the registration portion and had to wait for pictures.  After this point they then take an hour for lunch and inform you to come back after lunch.  The spouse or fiancee is not invited to come back after lunch.  They informed me that class takes about 3 hours to complete so arrive back at 4:00pm to pick up your significant other.   That is exactly what I did however they were not done.  So I sat outside and just waited.  The classes ended at 5:00pm and they still had an interview to be completed.  This goes based on your number when you arrived.  We were number 8 of the 12 and had to wait for that to be completed.   The interview had no worries it was a painless process and completed fairly easily.  Some additional documents were required so it is best to have those documents when you arrive.   My wife was asked for my divorce decree, and pictures of our wedding.   We have a spousal visa or direct counselor filling.   Those with other types of visas were required to prove a relationship.  They were required to show additionally proof.  She completed this around 7:30pm and we had to wait another 30 mins for the release of the document.   So then we were off and to the house with the CFO document in hand.

I am not sure what happen and can only speculate so take this for what it is.  Speculation.  There was a female that arrived just prior to us.  Completed the class and then went to the interview.  When she left the interview she was in tears.  Crying and really upset and stormed out of the building.  She did not stay to receive the last steps of getting the CFO document.  So this signaled to me that this is not just silly requirement and can have a serious impact on if and when you go to that other country.

So 12 hours and much waiting and sitting we were done with the next step in this long drawn out process.


3/4/13

NBI Clearance Experience Cebu

Today my wife Zol and I visited Philippine National Bureau of Investigation. (NBI)


Tim Potter's Wife NBI certificate
We had a plan when we headed out of the house that we we would get her NBI clearance and the head over to Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas.   Now both of these office are required prior to getting a Philippine passport.  So this is a must have for Filipinos to immigrate to another country.  Well to say the least we only managed to get the NBI completed.

So we arrived at Robinson's Cyber Gate Mall Cebu City Philippines at 9:00am and received a number to wait in line.  The office opens at 9:00am sharp.   Well we got our number and it was 210 for the day and we were informed to come back at 1:00pm as they would begin the process of clearing the numbers for the day.  Well it is not worth a trip home and back to the mall so we strolled around the mall for next 4 hours waiting and waiting.  Then at 1:00pm we arrived back and were instructed to take a seat.  Now this may not seem to bad.  There was about 10 of us waiting.  However little did we know that there was another 100 people in another area that had not been cleared from the morning session.  So as NBI feverishly worked to clear those from the morning we sat on the benches with the other 130 other people waiting to get cleared.

How this works is they take you 50 at a time up stairs to the third floor.   Where they finger print you and take a photo.  So 2:00pm passed us by and then it was pushing 3:00pm and finally it was our turn to head up the stairs.   Once you arrive up the stairs theu go over the form and how to fill out the form.  They instruct you of every single block.  They cover what IDs are acceptable and such. (CLICK HERE for FAQ)  After that process they line up for station one where you go and pay.  After you pay you are instructed to take a seat back in the same order.  Then one by one they encode all your information into the computer.  They take a picture and all 10 finger prints digitally.  Now it is just a process of waiting this out till the print the final sheet.   This process took about 90 mins and we headed back out the door and NBI complete at 4:30pm today.

Silly me for even considering I could actually complete CFO and NBI in the same day.   So tomorrow we are off to the CFO office at 630 am to get a number as there are only 27 seats for the entire Philippines.  They open at 9:00 am.  Report to come tomorrow.

3/2/13

Families in the Philippines

When people move to the Philippines from the west.  The biggest single complaint I hear is about the family moving in.  How this seems to be the biggest invasion of privacy and inconvenience.  


You must first understand the culture and how that culture operates to understand the dynamics that fall on this.  The Philippines operates on the collective idea.  Where everyone contributes to the family and assist each other.  What is yours is mine and same the other way.  This goes against the mentality of the western mind.  The family is more then just blood and relationship.  It is a way people live and survive.  Understanding the economy and how poorly people are paid.  Is just one dynamic of this structure.  Let me give you an example:

My father-in-law is a farmer and carpenter by trade.  He lives on 2 hectors of land and farms that.  However there are times when the work is not there.  Either the weather or crops are not ready.  The same applies for his other trade of being a carpenter.  So there are times when the money becomes lean.  Yet living in the home is my Brother-in-law.  He does not have a trade yet works at a bakery 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.  He earns the bare min of 180 pesos a day. ($4.50)  Now this income is not much and yet it is enough to assist the family or collective when those hard times of crops and work are limited.  He assists in the farming along with his wife and my mother-in-law.

This type of living arrangement is very common in the Philippines.   The reason is most people are living hand to mouth.  They do not earn enough to save for that rainy day.  What they earn today is tonight's meal.  


This type of living arrangement bleeds over into everything in the daily life.  When a trip to the Market or the store.  The children remain home and with someone to care for them.  Then because of this fact many things are just not suited for people with children.  The stores and markets are not designed to accommodate you with children.  Transportation is also not very accommodating to children and families.   This in a way is by design however it a product of the collective life that people live here in the Philippines.

This type of mentality also applies to supporting the parents and family members.   Many think that it is a form of greed and taking from you.  Yet it is not greed but a collective mentality.  I will not think there are some that would feel they hit a jackpot with a wealthier individual coming into the fold.  Yet that would be the case in any country in the world.  The term poor seems to always relate to money and people consider themselves poor.  Yet the Philippines is different many may say they are poor, yet phrased properly they consider themselves blessed and very lucky spite the lack of money.

wife and tim Potter Philippines healthy
Wife and Tim Potter Philippines
I have seen this mentality on display with my parents-in-law staying with us as we accomplish our visa process.  They have assisted in watching the two children as we accomplish things.  They assist around the house from cooking and cleaning.  It is a collective unit to get the days chores done and life done.  There is no arguing over who does what.  It is just done and everyone has a role to the end goal of the day.  When my wife was in the hospital everyone from her family arrived.  They collectively got the funds together and ensured everyone arrived.  It was not about the individual but about ensuring that my wife had support.  It was a real shock to seem them all here.
So when I hear people from the west complain about supporting the wife or girlfriends parents.  I get this inner chuckle because they do not understand Filipino living and how they live as a collective for the greater good of the family.