EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

Opposition to Kaliwa, Kanan & Laiban Dams

Today March 14 is the international day of action for rivers and against large dams. Today also marks the first week since the "Bloody Sunday" operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in CALABARZON region. Among the nine (9) individuals that were killed in the simultaneous operation are Randy Dela Cruz and Puroy Dela Cruz who are Dumagat indigenous people (IP).

     Their communities are affected by the construction of large dams in Rizal and Quezon provinces - the Kaliwa, Laiban and Kanan dams.

Puroy and Randy are also members of Dumagat Sierra Madre opposed to the ongoing Kaliwa Low Dam project which the government is implementing despite the absence of free prior informed consent (FPIC) and other requirements by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Prior to the Bloody Sunday massacre, the Dumagat communities are constantly subjected to threat, intimidation, and red-tagging due to their unwavering commitment to defend their ancestral land against large dams.

     Currently, fear and terror are haunting the communities of Dumagat in Rizal as their communities have been heavily militarized since the incident. Families and supporters of the murdered IPs are struggling to raise resources to finance the funeral needs.

     We, the Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dams (NOtoKKLD) appeals for continued calls for Justice for Puroy Dela Cruz and Randy Dela Cruz and for the other activists, development workers, environmental & human rights defenders that have died in the hands of AFP and PNP. An impartial, thorough, and speedy investigation should be carried to determine irregularities and prosecute authorities that have abused their power.

Financial support for this campaign is also welcome, you may use the following accounts BPI: Charmane Jay Maranan (0919233249), GCASH: PAMELLA HORNILLA (09163258140), PAYPAL: CASEYANNECRUZ

Justice for the Victims of Agent Orange

Veterans for Peace (VFP) e-news, March 23, 2021:

"Sixty years ago, the United States used approximately 19 million gallons of 15 different herbicides, including 13 million gallons of Agent Orange, over southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed during the spraying and many more continue to be exposed through the environment. Agent Orange exposure continues to negatively affect the lives of men and women in Vietnam and in the United States."


VFP hosted a webinar on the lingering aftermath of the despicable use of agent orange by the US military since the 19602. In this powerful panel, Hoan Thi Tran and Heather Bowser talked about their personal stories as disabled children of parents who were exposed to the toxic compound agent orange. A defoliant deliberately mixed strong enough to kill people, the US said it used agent orange to clear jungles where it suspected Vietcong forces were hiding. The US Army Chemical Corps and the Flying Crews were charged with the task. It was poured over people, too. US personnel ordered to spray it in many areas succumbed to illness as did Vietnamese people. Not only did they suffer from cancers and other diseases such as Parkinson’s, their children and grandchildren suffered deformities and illnesses, too. Jonathan Moore discussed the U.S. legal cases around Agent Orange, and Tricia Euvard cited the current lawsuit in France. Susan Schnall laid out the broad health effects of Agent Orange, and Paul Cox briefly described and weighed the legislation on Agent Orange that U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee would soon introduce. This webinar also occurred in conjunction with the recent release of the powerful new film “The People Vs. Agent Orange.”


In 1960, the United Nations passed a resolution to create a treaty against chemical weapons because of discoveries of damage related to their toxins to all people, animals and plants. The use of agent orange was a violation of this treaty and international law, and as such, a war crime.


The struggle to get justice for this monolithic crime continues. Tracking the history, we can see how costly the use of agent orange has been in terms of life and dollars. The US Agent Orange Act of 2005 assigned some compensation totaling $75 billion to US military veterans. Though the US government cannot be sued, there have been lawsuits against chemical companies. Many litigation cases by US veterans and non-resident aliens have been dismissed. The US military and government claim the effects of agent orange were unexpected “collateral damage” rather than intentional harm. However, it has been shown that the level of dioxin in the mixture sold to the US military was designed to cause death.


The effects of agent orange are still being studied and learned. For instance, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s, bladder cancer and other illnesses have been known as consequences of exposure, though not officially recognized until 2021.


Veterans and their allies persist in educating the public about the true crimes of US wars. VFP reported on one historic action in its e-news release of April 6, 2021.

"Many veterans came home from Vietnam with a mission: to tell the truth about the wartime atrocities being committed and demand an immediate end to the killing. In April 1971, a group of more than 1,000 veterans launched the Dewey Canyon III operation, a ‘limited incursion into the land of Congress.’ April 23 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential anti-war actions of the era."


VFP and the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs hosted an online forum about this operation and the lessons it offers on April 23. 

Unsolved Missing Persons

I have been learning a lot about unsolved missing persons in the US, Australia and Canada in the past three weeks. My main source has been the CanAm Missing Project and the video series tagged "Missing 411" of the said project, which is run by policing expert, researcher and author David Paulides and his team. (Beware impostor videos.) See the website called canammissing.com and the CanAm Missing Project channel on Youtube. David Paulides has composed a series of books covering different regions and victim profiles as well as two feature-length documentary films. Over 1200 of these cases have been uncovered so far and the books and movies highlight many of them.


The cases that this Project examines are unexplained mysteries. Criminal causes have been excluded. Urban cases are not considered; the project looks into rural cases, many in national parks and national forests but sometimes near a village or even on the fringes of a metropolitan area. These people have simply disappeared, often without a trace. It has always happened to individuals walking alone. They can be any age, but the missing includes alpha males and females with high levels of education, such as physicists and physicians, who are usually experienced in the outdoors, well equipped and very fit. Some are seasoned hunters or active/ former military or paramilitary personnel. No case has turned up in which the victim was carrying a transponder (aka personal locator beacon) and a firearm. There are no witnesses to the disappearances; people in pairs or groups do not go missing in this way. (There is one exception, a father-daughter pair.) Most of these missing persons are of European descent, though some European visitors and local people of other ethnic origins have disappeared. (There could be a simple cultural explanation for this, in this blog writer's view. Who most likely hunts or hikes through back country?) The youngest case is age 20 months and the oldest in the mid-80s. Some of the victims have physical disabilities. Some are poorly equipped. They do not disappear directly from shelters or cars; rather, they are always on foot outdoors and usually on known trails and roads. 


Sometimes human remains are found, the bodies having been displaced from the last site seen or point of departure from companions several days, weeks, months or years after the location of discovery had been thoroughly searched by expert rescuers and searchers numerous times. There are some survivors who are found either sleeping or unconscious, especially children, but who have no memory of the lapsed time and cannot explain what happened. (The CanAm Project does not discuss alien abductions accounts, though does refer to the research into alien abduction witnesses.) Discovered living or expired, the victims are often found in or beside bodies of water or at a much higher elevation away from the known or supposed route. Their shoes have always been removed, yet their feet are clean and show no significant injuries. Bodies are usually dry and clean without signs of assault. All or much of their clothing has been removed. Of the evidence, if any, that shows up sooner or later, it is the shoes, flung here and there or set neatly in the open; other articles of clothing may turn up in strange locations, which never show any indication of animal predation--no blood, hair, lacerations and such. Autopsies have detected high levels of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the bloodstream of a few of the deceased. HOW?! Most autopsy reports cannot conclude a cause of death. If a cause is cited, it may be challenged as implausible.


Another noteworthy aspect: these type of missing persons cases have been carefully mapped out. Mapping has revealed clusters of missing cases spanning over a century. There are large and small clusters in most states of the US and in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario in Canada. Sheesh, there is a cluster pegged in a mountain area I can see from my home in the Greater Vancouver area in BC!--Seymour Mountain. A little farther away is another, Eagle Mountain Park! These are popular recreational areas in provincial parks. There are no clusters in the central North American continent where large bodies of water are few and mountains absent. There are clusters in the Blue Mountains and the outskirts of Melbourne, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. Indigenous people ("Amerindians" in the US) have been interviewed; they recount ancient lore and contemporary stories of strange disappearances and sightings among them. There are some places they do not roam. Also, sites of the missing frequently have local names with the word "Devil" in them! How and why such names?!


State park and forests authorities likely reluctant to divulge data and opinions on the matter, the Paulides team has tracked down search and rescue, police and news documents, and interviewed 100s of associates of victims or survivors themselves. More information comes to David Paulides directly from his readers and viewers who have even more stories to share, even stories about similar situations in other countries. He believes that the parks officials are withholding information, particularly lists of the missing within park boundaries. Officials such as those at Yosemite National Park, the place with the largest cluster of missing people!, deny having any knowledge of missing people and defy the law in refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. There are indications that somebody knows something, as FBI agents have been seen at search sites for no apparent reason. 


Indeed, the whole business is shrouded with mystery and intriguing yet frightening implications. In fact, many witnesses and observers in the cluster areas have strange tales to tell: flashes and great orbs of bright lights, bone chilling howls and chatter in the darkness, bigfoot sightings, shadows, UFOs, inexplicable parting grasses and branches, the sense of being watched and odd sounds such as flute music, voices out of nowhere, the thunder of stampeding horses or cattle and loud snaps and bangs. 


David Paulides does not publicly offer any explanation. He likes to provide facts, relay what people have to say from experience and what experts say based on scientifically informed consideration. However, he does conclude that there is an obvious pattern. Therefore, everyone should be aware of the danger.


David Paulides does not recommend everyone stay home. He himself is a self-professed avid hiker and camper. He never tells anyone not to enter state parks and forests. Rather, he provides some safety tips for those desiring to continue to enjoy the outdoors away from urban life. #1 is never go alone! Don't allow yourself or any companion to be alone even for an instant! #2 is carry proper equipment, even if you plan a short day-hike: a locator beacon, a phone/ GPS gadget, a paper map, a loud whistle, a compass, first aid supplies, extra food and clothing, a waterproof lightweight blanket, a garbage bag for rain and so on, and plenty of water. (Drinking from local water sources except true springs can make you terribly ill!) He strongly recommends that those licensed to carry them and trained to use them take their weapon and extra rounds. For one thing, firearm is a loud noisemaker. However, Everything can fit into a lightweight, waterproof backpack with hip straps. Of course, there are jackets and vests with large pockets. Finally, dress for the weather and wear comfortable, protective footwear. Once you have gathered together this stuff, you will feel more secure about any eventuality and be most able to protect yourself. 


In my view, it is worth the trouble. I have been a local hiker, myself, and know that it is easy to get lost, get tired, hungry and dehydrated, or have an injury. Moreover, the weather can change suddenly and dramatically, especially in mountainous and coastal areas. I would add that hiking/ climbing and camping in the wilderness is no time to use substances including alcohol, although I know many (yahoos and city dudes) out there like to imbibe. It will just add to your risks and trouble.


Personally, I am of an age now when I avoid regular high-impact activities as my knees are already showing signs of wear. That's why I only do short hikes in urban/ urban edges settings. I do those alone as the areas are very safe and many people are around. I have belonged to hiking groups and have many wonderful memories and stories from those times. Yes, I have trekked serious mountain trails alone, but only twice. The power of the natural forces around me become too real and intimidating to venture further. I know my lack of training. I have started out on a solo trek in the coastal and Cascades Mountains (the latter a danger area, according to Paulides!) for up to an hour, never able to relax, the whole time feeling that something bad could happen. Heck, I passed over fresh bear tracks, stood on a precipice overlooking a valley with serious mountains and threatening dark clouds in the distance. I sensed all the unknowns and the millions of years of evolution which have unleashed power I cannot comprehend to either push up or tear down tall peaks, create valleys and deep lakes, etc. I must respect it all. I for one do recommend that most people stay close to home, leave the wildlife and wilderness unharmed and be with what you are raised and able to be with.


Community Celebrations

Various community and grassroots organizations have been featuring celebrations online. I have watched a few unusual but very endearing ones over the past few months. Some of them were put together by my friends and associates.


Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a play on the Lunar New Year greeting in Hong Kong Cantonese, Gung Hay Fat Choy, this annual events combines a Robbie Burns Dinner with Canadian Scottish and Chinese heritage. Robbie Burns, a romantic Scottish nationalist and poet, was born close to the time of Lunar New Year. This event promotes the truth of history and multiculturalism.  There are bag pipe players, poets, singers and speakers.https://www.facebook.com/WORDvancouver/videos/483912249435238


Cuba Solidarity Festival - Cuban cultural authorities and musicians planned an online concert to give thanks to North American Cuba solidarity activists. This concert boasts some expert jazz performers in Cuba, the US and Canada. There are a few words of solidarity, but most of this video is fantastic music.  For Cuba! For Solidarity! International Concert Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1017433785335802


I am a member of a politically relevant and active choir based in my area. The Solidarity Notes Choir reached its 20th year of learning and singing songs for social justice and peace last year. For this occasion, we made a video to show its history and role. We are now rebuilding and rejuvenating this choir to ensure its future. Check it out! https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#trash/FMfcgxwLscxRBtflJKJxNdRxdCFBDnNz?projector=1 


Finally, here is a concert recorded at a Vancouver cafe in 2017. It features my chum's group, the South Vancouver Big Band. Very professional.

https://www.facebook.com/southvanbigband/videos/616173629357459 





New Things

We here value the big and the little, for the little may be bigger than you think. As I consider how I am doing so far this year, I therefore reflect on all new experiences and all events in my life and what I have been witnessing adjacent to my life.


Verging on feeling gloomy again and noticing my body get a little stiffer in recent weeks, I found a new exercise routine. It is a 10-minute series of 9 movements which can be expanded over a longer period. I found this set on a Youtube channel of two aging physiotherapists who provide tips to the 50+ age group. The exercises are geared for people at any fitness level and many can even be done while sitting. I am in pretty good shape for my age, having always been physically active in one way or another, so I expand on the harder elements such as the squats, push-ups and arm pulls. I like having a short yet expandable series as I find some routines get monotonous. With some brief movements that can be done any time of the day without necessarily changing clothes or showering, I am more apt to performing them most days. Of course, I get outside to roam around, often incorporating errands into the promenades, as an alternative. This winter in my region has been exceptionally rainy and dark, though, so I needed to get in motion with indoor activities. (I don't usually go for a few weeks without some pointed exercise because I start feeling too uncomfortable to tolerate the inactivity.)


I resumed library use last week. I "checked out" an e-book and downloaded it from my local library for the first time ever. I also went online to put one of its books on hold. Just picked it up this morning, which was the first time I had entered a library in close to a year!


I have been sampling e-books using my mobile device while in transit. Travel and long waits are the occasions when I am most likely to read. I had not been reading on the bus as I ride the buses so little these days.


I came across some great advice while sampling a motivational book. It is written from a "positive thinking" perspective. "Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn" by John C. Maxwell is available from the Google Playbook Store for $3. Maxwell's main message is to expect more losses than wins and use losses as opportunities to learn and grow. Not an uncommon viewpoint, but he has his own way of arguing and interesting types of examples. What I wish to underscore here is his roadmap for learning. He writes a whole chapter on each place in the map.  As an educator, I see it as a philosophy for learning in an context. I quote his map here.

             Humility: the Spirit of Learning

             Reality: the Foundation of Learning

             Responsibility: the First Step of Learning

             Improvement: the Focus of Learning

             Hope: the Motivation of Learning

             Teachability: the Pathway of Learning

             Adversity: the Catalyst for Learning

             Problems: Opportunities for Learning

             Bad Experience: the Perspective for Learning

             Change: the Price of Learning

             Maturity: the Value of Learning

Pretty good. I'll let you stew on it. I have already devoted months of this blog on positive thinking as applied to aging and addressing problems; in fact, that was the premise for this blog back in the winter of 2013/14, as many of you readers know.


My skills at writing and using technologies for communication have thrived since I started this blog. I've been using iPads for teaching, for instance. I am getting better at using Vistaprint's new platform and blog entering procedures. Again, I regret the long delay in catching on and keeping up the blogging.


Speaking of teaching, I have been teaching beginner French totally online for the first time. What else is new with me? Hmm. I boiled and ate purple potatoes for the first time yesterday. Taste is similar to that of Russets. 


Speaking of food, I have been trying new seed mixes for the wild birds on my block who feed at my porch. I now have two hanging, cylindric seed feeders along with two hanging suet "cages." Lots of little birdies including some new visitors have been gobbling up my offerings. The type of bird feed in my area is limited and costly, though, so I have been experimenting with stuff off the supermarket shelves and making my own recipes. The corn meal base mixture passed. Today I provided a formula of uncooked human cereal and rice combined with chopped peanuts and sunflowers. So far, so good. It is a job keeping the greedy and messy starlings away to prevent them from spilling a lot of it and eating too much too fast.


The resident flocks of brown and black chickadees and the juncos are regulars from dawn to dusk. The local towhees, flickers, nuthatches and Eastern (Lincoln?) sparrows appear every day, too. The newest species visiting my porch are a few pairs of house finches, up to 20 siskins and a couple of delightful kinglets. 


I have come to know the species well enough to feel confident about identifying and tracking them during the formal annual bird counts. I participated in the Cornell (ornithology) Lab's annual North America, February count for the first time ever. It was a great experience! It happened to snow the weekend of the count, but I enjoyed trekking around, binoculars and notebook in had, regardless. I took a little time out on three days: first, I just observed the activity at my balcony, before walking neighbourhood streets the next day and winding up on a walk through residential areas to a small shopping plaza. A couple of extraordinary things occurred during those times. Making my return to my place near the end of my first outdoors count, the area robins returned! I found most resting together in a couple trees while a few ventured into gardens to forage through the snow. I counted about 40 robins. Another fantastic sight was the sudden arrival of around 60 Herring Gulls to the shopping centre. They were following a woman through the parking lot. I had never seen such a situation before. However, I noticed many gulls circling over the park next to the shopping centre as I passed by in a bus this morning; on my return trip an hour later, I spotted that woman taking things out of her bags and cart to feed to the gulls, all of whom were rather patiently standing around her for their bites of the goodies. My role in this national count was uplifting. I think I'll do it again. There is another national count in May.


We are two months into 2021 already. The spring equinox will soon pass us by. Better not to be impatient for the spring and the sun, but to relish time every day.


pushing democracy

I've been watching an online forum put on by some British revolutionaries. After showing a documentary on the Cuba medical system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum participants have been discussing the implications for the British medical system's response to the pandemic. One key conclusion that arose from this discussion is the accusation of "social murder." The speaker who raised this concept quoted a recently published article in the British Journal of Medicine that quotes Frederick Engels (Karl Marx's close associate in building revolutionary theory and action programming). It was Engel's who first used the term "social murder", which he generally intended to mean the deliberate neglect of sectors of the population to the point where thousands of people die because of lack of intervention where and when there could have been state intervention. The speaker underlined the state's preference in choosing "the economy" over people, which of course means, in the type of economy Europe had in his day and still has now, choosing to keep profits for a privileged minority rolling in rather than rolling out medical and social assistance to the general population. The speaker referring to this term "social murder" rightly called attention to the BJM article as "very remarkable." He described the article as a scathing criticism of the NHS of the UK's lack of action to protect the whole population from COVID-19. It means scientists and physicians believe that the state and corporations are directly responsible for genocide. WOW! I think the authors, editors and the publishers of the article, and the readers that support it, are correct. Many of the forum participants engaging in the post-video viewing discussion pointed to factual circumstances that provide evidence to support the cries of "social murder." They spoke to the government's limp response at the onset of the pandemic in the UK when PM Johnson and company basically told the populace to wash their hands and be careful, but that life would be business as usual (expression deliberate by this blog's author). They also highlighted the lack of planned pandemic management and the failure to have a response ready to begin with. The underscored the extreme reluctance to close down any businesses. They spoked to the lack of quarantine support, testing and PPE distribution. In short, authorities allowed the pandemic to flourish to the point where today over 100,000 people are expiring every day, and where an extensive lockdown has been imposed as a last minute thought. They talked about overcrowded housing where the poorest live, the lack of financial support for the folks who need it the most and the absence of planning to keep children connected and involved in the classroom with special measures and in reduced classroom sizes. The forum participants revealed how many among the Brits are fuming and devastated by the existing predicament, how teachers, social workers, factory workers and others are anguished and furious. This is a condition in which, as one of the speakers suggested, where conspiracy theories and reactionary thinking can thrive, adding another dimension of danger to the mix. The situation is paralleled in the US, Canada, many European and Latin American countries, sadly. The only way forward is for people to act to take care of their communities at the grassroots level. Waiting for the government to rescue everyone never resolves things. People must push democracy from the ground up. Legal and parliamentary measures must be attempted, of course, but the most powerful and therefore important response must come directly from the majority of the working people and oppressed themselves. Discussions, exchanges of info and ideas, support group formation, political mobilization and coordination, street protests, alternative peoples' media and such must get into action. This is how basic change can and will transpire. It is how it did in Cuba, for example.

Blog

Just Peace-Review of 2018

Posted on January 1, 2019 at 3:24 PM Comments comments (33)
Time to sum up the year, I guess. I did review my short- and long-term goals in the fall, finding myself mostly on track and arriving at the decisions I had wanted to make by then. I have made some adjustments to the goals regarding financial planning.

I am feeling good—refreshed after a break and very positive from assessing my present situation.

Christmas Holiday

First, let me talk about my holiday. I took the plunge, splurged and did a Mayan Riviera resort stay. My first time in Mexico and on an all-inclusive holiday package at a big resort. It was wonderful and worth it, even though I traveled solo. Just shy of a week away, it was a nice break that did the trick however short. I swam every day, lazed around by the beach or snoozed in my room, enjoyed the food and hospitality. I watched the live shows a couple of evenings and worked out at the spa gym a couple of times.

It felt great to be able to have a holiday at Christmas and to experience Christmas in a different way.

Probably the most worthwhile thing I did on this holiday was to take a day-long, guided excursion inland to see Mayan ruins. I had always wanted to visit a Mayan pyramid. There I was under the sun on the day of Winter Solstice at the pyramid of Chichen Ixta witnessing a Mayan procession and soaking in the history, art and spirituality of the place.

En route, we stopped to marvel at some high-quality, local handicrafts. We also paused to view a Spanish church made from stones of the Mayan structures. I witnessed Mayan youths performing indigenous dances, games, songs and prayers. We also took time out to explore and swim in an underground lake (“cenote”). What’s more, I had the chance to chat with some travel companions and listen to their extraordinary stories along the way. In addition, I relished the unanticipated sights of wildlife around the resort—birds of prey, other birds such as magpies and pelicans, small mammals including coatis (“tercones”) and a raccoon, deer, lizards and butterflies.

It was super special to be there at the time of Winter Solstice. I am sure I felt the power and beauty of the occasion. At least, the view from the quiet beach under the clear sky lit by the light of the full moon over the Caribbean Sea was perfection itself. It felt exhilarating to be there. This is the moment when I felt my spirits lift and the tensions and worries built up over the past months dissipate. The exposure to the moonlight and the good waters of the region acted like a balm. I was re-energized. A great way to conclude a year.

Decisions this year.

This past fall, I had pledged to myself to make some decisions regarding financing, livelihood, living arrangements, retirement and more. Here are some reflections on most of these decisions.

-I concluded that it is best to continue renting at least for about three more years because of the housing benefits for seniors that I can now access. That means I have opted not to try to buy a place, for now. Therefore, I am making improvements to my apartment with enhanced décor and proper furniture to replace makeshift set-ups. I am reorganizing things and making use of storage space that has just come available. That is, I am settling in here for a long haul.

-As for my livelihood, I have decided to rely on teaching employment no longer. I am instead making more progress with self-employment: writing projects, private tutoring, official testing. More work seems to be coming to me. For instance, a private institute contacted me today to set up an interview. If we go through with the job, I’ll have two or three shifts (12-16 hours a week) tutoring children. Also, a prospective student contacted me directly, circumventing the tutoring agency, to schedule French lessons four hours a week. To add, I recently had a couple of short projects reviewing English translations. Finally, I am maintaining a role as an official speaking examiner for some hours of testing most weeks. The hourly rate for most of this work is fairly high. I have been getting some unemployment benefits due to my previous months of employment with the academic English programs. Perhaps I’ll have enough income from other sources to do without it in January. I am feeling relieved to have more self-employment. It was my plan to depend more on self-employment after returning from teaching in Korea two years ago, it is apparently panning out.

-Finances. What to do with the retirement savings so far accumulated? My nest egg was release from some investment programs this past fall. I was avoiding using that money for living and luxury/ leisure expenses until I decided about buying a home. Now that I have decided not to buy a home, I have decided to make some of it available for travel every year and for living comforts such as the furniture. I think I may end up arranging something like an annuity so that the savings can go towards what they were intended, which is supporting my retirement life. I am so relieved to have resolved this question, for I was beginning to feel very constrained practicing frugality and continuing to endure makeshift arrangements such as the sleeping mat I’ve used for a year and a half, the shabby lighting here, and the sagging work table that’s been in the dining alcove. My place is more comfortable and pleasant now.

Summing up the year.

My life progressed. It generally moved in a positive direction.

I received blows, of course. The worst was being thrown out summarily in the middle of a new sessional instructor contract. I blame it on the unreasonable fear and negative imagination of people in charge at least of the program I was working in, as well as poor institutional communication and management. That was hard to live through.

There was also the ongoing strain of unfair and erroneous federal tax assessments. The assessments have been demanding a large payment, including interest and penalties. It is difficult fighting this anonymous bureaucracy in the series of blunders and misunderstandings and oversights about my financial situation. Gradually, it is getting sorted out, after a ministerial inquiry, meetings with a bank financial advisor, and numerous letters. The strain is easing.
Despite these problems, I have been able to keep income flowing in. Self-employment activities are increasing, without me making huge efforts to solicit the business. Though recent experience has turned off the desire to rely mostly on employment in teaching, I still have teaching prospects. I am meeting a children’s after-school ESL institute later this week. I am also meeting a new private student this week. Finally, there is a new writing project. If I complete a book that another ghost writer started, and books are sold, I am to receive a percentage of the sales revenue. It is an important book connected to my just peace activism as it is based on research and experiences of an activist seeking reforms to nuclear power plants and nuclear accident evacuation procedures in the US.

Furthermore, I am settling into this rental apartment, having made a decision about planning my retirement and using my retirement funds. This is a relief, as I now feel grounded in a place and position in life. Though I am not yet declaring myself retired and applying for senior’s pension benefits, I am enjoying some other kinds of senior’s benefits, which offer some relief.
Finally, I ended the year with a warming, distracting and relaxing vacation outside the country, getting away from it all, and also fit in some celebrating with co-workers and relatives. There was a fine Christmas party paid by the English testing company in late December, and I hosted a nice dinner party for family yesterday. If I want, I can attend a friend’s house party to welcome in 2019 tonight.

Things are looking and feeling good for me just as 2019 is launched.

Just Peace-unjust employer

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM Comments comments (69)
Employer, a private, profit-making college selling courses to international students, told me to get out and never come back today. No reason given. No warnings prior to this day.

Sounds like an employer one should not work for, right?

Alexander College on Kingsway in Burnaby and W. Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I never felt good and this action on the part of the employer is a good show of its attitude. I was not planning on accepting any further contracts with them.

But to kick you to the curb just before midterms?---never heard of such a thing!

To begin with, very little support and acknowledgment. Some women in admin positions came across as hostile as well as snooty.

There is too much management and supervision of everything. "Feedback" was two impromptu meetings giving very negative comments, and not all very relevant never mind fair or reasonable in third week, leaving me bruised and cold. No positive feedback except they had no issue to make of my teaching. In fact one neophyte super said, super impertinently, you are a fabulous teacher and all the students really like you.

The gossip mill ran overtime. The feedback made shocking direct claims about my character and offensive innuendo--nothing about my work performance but attacks on my character. "We want a team player." What was my team? Apparently, I was to give all to a team to which I clearly did not belong.

I felt it. If they wonder why I wasn't smiling with them much and why I bristled a couple of times, they should know. I did not feel welcome or supported.

They ditched me in time to avoid paying me severance. This must be why they were doing feedback so early after I started. Once over the 3-month mark, harder to let someone go and more expensive.

Just Peace - tax letter

Posted on September 23, 2018 at 5:22 PM Comments comments (32)
Appalling assessment by Canadian tax authority trying to take a chunk of my retirement savings. I was not aware they could do this; in fact, a bank's personnel told me I could save money in Canada this way without taxation while I was an officially categorized resident abroad. I am a Canadian citizen and I went abroad to work specifically to save for retirement.

Copy of a letter of appeal for tax relief


I am again writing to seek tax relief from amounts owing on a series of TFSA Notice of Assessments received since August, 2018, but covering TFSA accounts contributions from mid-July 2011 to 2016. I was a self-declared non-resident of Canada for taxation purposes as I was living and working abroad during that time. I had no other income besides my foreign employment income from teaching English abroad. As I returned to live and work in Canada in January, 2017, I have declared myself as a resident of Canada for taxation purposes.

 

I have challenged the above-mentioned charges and all the penalties and interest added, which amounts to around $19,000, through a Ministerial Inquiry. That Inquiry found that the law allows the assessed amounts, however cruel the law may be.

 

The TFSA assessment authorities are demanding I pay more than I contributed to my TFSA savings account—a substantial chunk of my life savings. The main purpose of going abroad to work was to be able to save funds for the future, namely my retirement years, and now, despite all the self-discipline, work and hardship to save those funds, the Government of Canada wants to take it away.

 

Let me highlight the unfairness of the tax rate applied to the TFSA contributions: up to 12% of the total amounts held in such an account per year (1% a month). Nobody else but mobsters or kidnappers would demand so much from a victim.

 

I had no idea I could or would be taxed. I clearly told the bank financial officers that I was a non-resident when I started the Royal Bank TFSA, but they told me then and again later that I would not be taxed. I shall write to RBC to complain.

 

While abroad, my foreign employment earnings did not reach much more than 30,000CD per year. After my return to Canada in 2017, I have been working part-time. My taxable income for 2017 was …(low). On August 2, 2018, I was dismissed from the part-time job I had from November 2017 till then. I resumed steady but part-time employment (26 hours a week) only three weeks ago, on September 4. I have had to struggle to find a little additional income through self-employment to cover all living expenses. I hope I can resume saving money, as I am fast approaching the age of 62 and I must prepare for my years as an elder.

 
I am a single, self-supporting woman with no dependents. My rent was increased from $875 to $910 last July. I pay $163 a month for TV and internet,, $200 to $300 for groceries and household supplies. 

…(My rent is high enough and my monthly income low enough that I am applying for a government housing subsidy.)


As you could imagine from my profile, I have had to depend on the use of credit cards. I currently owe around $2,000 to credit card companies. I have not been able to avoid charging some expenses to these cards each month, so there is always somewhere from $500 to $1500 owing on each card for the value of purchases plus high interest.

 

Due to income constraints, I am lacking some common household and personal supplies. I will need to acquire more in the near future.

 

In the light of all these factors, I request full relief. Certainly, the late penalties and interest are unfounded.

 

Had CRA notified me of its earliest TFSA assessment right after the processing of the 2011 tax return, I would have an opportunity to pull funds out of the TFSA accounts and stop contributing to them. As things went, however, I had no knowledge that the contributions would be taxed. Who would imagine that a “tax-free” account is not tax-free, especially when bank officers suppose it is tax-free and the CRA does not make citizens aware that non-residents are taxed on TFSA contributions? It is not fair or appropriate that I should pay such large amounts in tax, penalties and interest.

 
END


Just Peace - letter to friends

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (14)
Tonight I am posting a copy of a letter I just wrote to overseas friends and colleagues. I taught English in Korea for 10 years, returning to Canada early last year.

Hello, you all!

This is Barbara from BUFS in Busan, Korea who returned to Canada after December, 2016. This is a long letter for any of you interested in catching up or curious.

I have been thinking about my time and friends in Korea a lot lately, so I am writing. I just went through all my Gmail addresses and used the ones I could remember. I guess some addresses are outdated and I don't know where all of you have gotten to, though I have chatted with a few of you in recent months.

I now live comfortably near the university where I graduated just outside Vancouver. I'm still working in English education. 

It was not a shock to return here, but it took some adjustment. It went well socially as I reconnected to family and friends. 

Employment was more difficult. At first, there was very little response to my job applications. I was doing some tutoring and substitute teaching, including work tutoring kids at a Reading Town in 2017. Then I had a regular teaching schedule at a new start-up program. There were so few students and such a limited program that it was super boring. Finally, it failed. I was happy to be dismissed. 

I thought I was going to need to rely on self-employment, so I searched for private students and started some ghost-writing projects, etc. Just today,  I finished some training for certification in conducting IELTS Speaking exams. The writing is a bit low-paid but interesting and kind of fun because we write on a wide range of topics--I added chapters to a booklet on starting a trucking business and I wrote a booklet on accelerated learning, for example. I'll take the IELTS Speaking Examiner certification test in a few days. That can give me a few hours of examinations a month, mainly on Saturdays.

In August, however, employers started paying me more attention and replying to my applications. I just got hired at a well established international college. Actually, I had offers at two of them and accepted the best one. I do not teach language, though; I teach study skills (English for Academic Purposes) as a university preparation program, but it is still part-time. My title is Sessional Instructor on a contract salary. I have 15 hours of classes, 3 hours 5 days a week. In addition, I am a tutor in the college's Writing and Learning Centre for 11 hours a week. 

Having been hired at the last moment, getting started and learning the ropes has been challenging. What's more, this institution is ridiculously bureaucratic and deeply committed to operating without teaching admin staff by means of every electronic management and communications system it can. I have passcodes for several online systems, locks and copiers, which are all hard to keep track of. We use two class management systems for grading and online communications with students, and the MS Office 365 program for internal communications and shared files. I feel scattered.

 I am a nomad because there is no instructors' office or department office. My base is a small student locker, except I am allowed a few hours at a shared tutoring desk. There is no lunch room, so I can be found munching on a sandwich in a corner like a rodent here and there before my mid-day class starts. Teachers get to share a few cramped desks in the photocopy rooms, where there is a tiny fridge and where the copiers are so overused that they are always breaking down. Also, I work at both of the College's campuses. I commute from one to the other each day, compelling me to commute 3 times a day every day for work.

One of the campuses is situated where I spend a lot of my childhood, stirring up lots of memories.

This college is growing; established in 2006, it now has 2500 students at both locations. Tomorrow I'll start teaching in a newly built classroom in a space that used to be a gay men's nightclub.  Most students are Chinese and Indian from the Punjab. The number of students from India is surging at present. We have a few Korean students. They come for the academic orientation and for key subject courses so they can transfer to universities, subjects including economics, sociology, English literature, math, etc. The first choice in Canada is Toronto where the numbers of international students are highest.

Korean restaurants are all around the Vancouver area; I can pop into a modern cafe and feel like I never left Korea! There are plenty of Korean students and business people around. I'm quickly losing the little Korean I had learned, though.

I am connected to the ex-expat English teacher community. My colleagues in my academic English section have all spent long years abroad teaching. So have all the classmates I met in the IELTS training course.  I feel quite at home among them. That's why I have been reminiscing about life in Korea. 

A lot of people here are concerned about peace in Korea. I have joined a group that takes a petition around the metro area to talk to people about supporting the peace process in Korea.

Vancouver is one of the most expensive areas to live in all North America. Housing, gasoline, food and many services are over-priced. There are some improvements all the same. Transit is improving and it is cheaper now than 12 years ago because the fare system changed. Electricity is still relatively cheap. Prices of organic and some imported food are decreasing. Some commercial services are lower in price now, such as gym memberships. Internet and mobile phone services are in the high price range, though there are deals and some competitive options. There has been some relief regarding government services, in that medical plan premiums are lower and unemployment insurance and pension benefits are calculated differently and to the advantage of recipients. As well, there is so much public pressure on housing that more rentals and social housing are being built.

Apart from the high cost of living, I am very happy to be enjoying familiar territory in a vibrant and scenic environment with lots going on. Now I have a decent job, I would be able to afford getting out more, except that I don't have so much free time now!

It's nice to think that some of you may have made it this far into my letter. Feel free to send me a line here if you care to.

Ciao!

Just Peace - Fall Preview

Posted on August 25, 2018 at 12:21 AM Comments comments (8)
Until a few days, I was getting all psyched up to buckle down as a full-time, self-employed person as of September. I had and still have contracts set up to be doing a combination of jobs under the business name of Edwise Editor and Education Consultant--tutoring, ghost writing, testing and subbing. I was feeling good about being able to enjoy that status as an independent professional controlling my own hours and projects, and doing the kind of work I like more or less under my own terms. I signed up with a tutoring agency, enlisted to sub at a local EFL college, applied to be a contracted testing official, and agreed to working on call, online as a ghost writer. I had achieved a dream of being in a position to be able to make a regular, decent living that way.

Then--darn it!--the institution that contracted me to be a sub offered me full-time work. Although I intend to retain a little of self-employment on the side, I could not turn out the good hourly rate of pay doing what I am well qualified to do, 40 hours a week. The deal was to sit in their writing and study center standing by to assist students with their writing assignments, unless I was requested to substitute for one of their regular instructors. The terms were flexible: I could leave on the afternoons when I have appointment with my private students, and I could work regular part-time or full-time hours in the writing center. Sounded easy.

Within what seemed was a few seconds after I was processed as a new contracted sub, though, a director informed me that they were short one regular instructor. She offered me the position. It is 15 hours over five afternoons. We negotiated. I still get a complement of writing assistance time to make up a full-time schedule, and the coordinator of the writing and study center still offers flexible terms. I can thus keep my private student. Given the flexibility and the relatively high hourly rate for instructing, and the projected monthly income this arrangement would give me, I have said yes.

I find myself with decent, full-time work at a fine establishment with high-quality, professional staff and serious students in an arrangement that suits me well. I think I can manage it well, because hanging out at the writing center allows for an instructor to plan lessons and get some personal tasks done on the job, outside classroom teaching hours. On the less favourable side, it means working downtown every week day again, which means taking that monotonous and tiresome bus commute over and over again. Ughh! Actually, I will be working between two locations, downtown Vancouver and a nearby suburb, which means taking the bus three times a day, that (I hesitate to ponder the amount of time commuting, sigh!) is two to two-and-a-half hours a day. At least I'll have only one class and the same students for a full term to deal with, rather than managing multiple classes and different groups of students on a short rotation of a few weeks, as I have had to do before. Though I won't have my own office space, but will be using space shared with colleagues and students, at least the work to do outside class time will be easy and flexible. 

If I want, I can take on another student on Saturdays, or possibly be in charge of testing on Saturdays. I have an interview coming up with the testing organization in the second stage of their hiring process. The tests only take place on Saturdays, and it is well paid work that is not difficult. If they allow testers to work one or two Saturdays a week, I'll agree to it. Otherwise, the tutoring agency is sure to need tutors on Saturdays. 

The work will take a lot of time, leaving less time for the political activism and personal errands. I must get organized to fit it all in.


Just Peace - self-adjustment

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 9:22 PM Comments comments (21)
I am having to adjust to a bump in my career, which has naturally put a monkey wrench into my finances . Due to a lack of enrollments, I am no longer employed by the English-as-a-foreign language program where I have been working since last November. This is a start-up program initiated by people running a tutoring service and investors. Management has traveled extensively and carried out an elaborate marketing strategy without attracting participants. Yesterday was my last day of work there. I leave in good standing.

The job search is arduous. In the first place, employment in EFL/ESL tends to be precarious since it is usually irregular, most frequently providing merely part-time and contract positions. Secondly, competition in this field is fierce in this city. I can always get something because of my credentials, but weekly hours are usually inadequate or jobs temporary. As proof of that, I have had three English teaching jobs since last year. Thirdly, many Canadian employers in the field require Canadian certification and turn their nose up at international certification. That requirement constrains my eligibility and I do not want to invest the time and money to get Canadian certification.

Luckily, I received notice of dismissal in time to apply for autumn term positions. The first positive response I got to my renewed job search was occasional tutoring sessions. I have been applying to several institutes looking for instructors and education administrative support or coordinators. I can only keep trying and hope for the best.

Actually, I feel I won't miss the last job--only the paycheque. I was isolated being surrounded by Chinese speakers. With so few students, and the students being of low level and motivation, it was dull.  In fact, I had been searching on and off for something else before I received the dismissal notice. Of course, one prefers to have an offer somewhere else before leaving, but, other than the occasional tutoring contract, I did not get one for a proper job. One wants the income, after all. In the end, I left the boredom and demoralizing situation at work for the boredom and demoralizing situation of being stuck at home on weekday afternoons. 

I have the time, but little money. My options for keeping myself busy are limited because of the lack of pay. I am forced into very conservative spending, yet again. It has been necessary to apply for unemployment benefits.  (I do not want to use savings, though I'll have to dip into some.)

The circumstances call for a concentrated effort to keep the spirits and energy up. I have to get back to a focus on positive thinking.

It takes some effort especially since my predicament is an echo of my past life in Vancouver. I survived through years of precarious employment, constantly struggling to bring in income, swinging from studies to stabs at demeaning work. Constantly defending myself, fighting to scrape a living together while feeling more compelled to participate in mass struggle for a new way.

I returned to Canada after years of stable income, a solid career reference and a small nest egg. After a bit of shuffling to get resettled, for which I was prepared, I was fortunate to get into steady work and keep it for nearly one year. I guess I am used to more security than what I currently have as an unemployed person. That means I should be grateful for the privilege and advantages I have.

I should recall that I wanted to change jobs, anyway. I was hoping to get into something more interesting, and better paying. The failure of the program to provide students in the next term for me is an opportunity for me to keep growing. The prospects can be stimulating and heartening.

As an officially recognized "senior" citizen, I can enjoy some advantages. Just last week, actually, I was offered a small bachelor suite in a lower income complex for 55+, though I chose to refuse it for the time being because like the spacious and pleasant living arrangement I have at present. My name remains on the waiting list there. In the meantime, I am applying for a seniors' housing subsidy, as I now meet the eligibility criteria to receive one.

Further to that, I am fortunate in that I have over a year of employment in Canada behind me, and can qualify for unemployment benefits, which are calculated at 50 per cent of the previous employment income.

Also, some of my savings securities are maturing this fall, freeing up cash and giving me more options. I may be able to by an apartment in a rural town and rent it out for additional income.

Anyway, it is summer, a perfect season to have free time. I should be grateful and make the most of my free time in the summer weather. This is what I told myself last summer when I was getting anxious about the lack of employment security and substantial income. I let myself enjoy the summer season last year, and things worked out eventually, at least for a few months. I should relax. Something will work out again.

In fact, while writing this blog entry, I just got an invitation to a job interview. While it is only for subbing, it is a job interview. More than that, it is about a position in a program similar to the type I have been working in this year. Things are showing signs of success already.

I am fit again to get out a enjoy the outdoors. Though walking is not the best way to enjoy nature and warm weather because my knee still gets aggravated, I am in better physical condition now. I have completed 15 sessions with a personal trainer and achieved some benchmarks of individual fitness for a female my age. I can go on lengthy bike rides again. I went across town into Vancouver last week, and I rode from my place through two municipalities yesterday. Those trips were 20 and 35 km each, accomplishments for me.

Inside or outside, I must keep up my exercise one way or another. Now I have the time to keep up a few trips to the gym plus a bike ride here and there every week.

I can do useful projects in my free time. Planning bike rides is one kind of project. Another is planning for the tutoring prospects. I am looking for teaching materials. Today I went to a bookstore and a library. I bought a new appointment book. I'll continue the search tomorrow.




Just Peace -new things

Posted on June 29, 2018 at 11:58 AM Comments comments (4)
Again working on maintaining a positive outlook, I make an inventory of the new experiences I have had over the past year. It is the anniversary of my moving into this apartment, so I review the past year. Here is a list of things I had not experienced before the past 12 months.

-this apartment
-having a balcony with the apartment
-my current job
-editing novels
-starting a Just Peace Committee locally 
-starting this Just Peace blog
-joining a local ILPS committee of activists
-participating in a national assembly of activists in Canada
-joining a national committee of activists in Canada
-using a local car share service
-joining in protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion
-getting to know local indigenous leaders and visiting their protest camps
-learning new songs
-singing in concerts with community choirs I had not sung with before, one time at a venue that was new to me
-having a personal trainer
-learning new physical exercises
-developing and trying out in practice some new kinds of teaching activities
-working in an English for Academic Purposes programme
-seeing relatives I had not seen in person for a decade and a half
-using certain software programs and services for the first time
-sleeping on a Thai futon
-having a smart TV
-setting up hanging baskets
-setting up a hummingbird feeder
-seeing species of birds and flowers I hadn't seen before, and outside my place
-developing new friendships
-ordering food using my mobile device
-trying some new types of food
-getting groceries delivered to my door
-writing and distributing a newsletter to neighbours
-using health and beauty products I hadn't used before
-hiking to Port Moody from my home
-cycling in this area
-ordering groceries online

That is all I can think of, for the moment. I may have missed something, but the list is already long. The range and number of new experiences is a kind of wealth, in my opinion. This long list is thus a sign of my wealth and means that my life is thriving. I should be conscious of this truth and rest easy in this awareness, for I am living well and continuing to make the most of this life on Earth.


Just Peace - my progress

Posted on June 17, 2018 at 5:01 PM Comments comments (13)
This is the semi-annual check of my progress according to my own goals set at the start of the year. I am living up to them, generally, though my 5-year picture remains feint.

Health and fitness

I finally got a doctor to examine my problem knee. No treatment other than exercise is recommended. I therefore joined a local gym a month ago, and enlisted a personal trainer to work on specific exercises to strengthen my shoulder and knee joints. All the while, I have been taking a glucosamine compound daily, which is supposed to rebuild cartilage. After some weeks of both therapies, the joints, even the thumb joints, hurt less and my knee does not swell so much. These are costly remedies but well worth the investment, I feel, so that I can keep mobile and function normally.

Activism

I lead the founding of the Just Peace Committee in Vancouver and it is growing. We have made solidarity statements and attended solidarity functions, attended the national assembly of the International League of Peoples' Struggles as a full voting member, and planned a series of fora. I was nominated and elected as a member of the national coordinating committee of the ILPS. Also, I have kept involved in the Solidarity Notes Choir, and sung at major events recently. Finally, I have been active in the opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and terminus expansion in this province, British Columbia.

Work

I have succeeded in getting work both in teaching English to young adults and writing and editing education and other materials. I have kept my job at the institute, though it is on a part-time (29 hours) schedule and still at the starting wage. I have been asking for a wage increase, and expect one especially since the employer was impressed with my writing and editing of textbook materials. I edited another novel; however, the author does not want to pay me fairly. Communications with him got unpleasant as he showed no appreciation for my labour and tried to rationalize paying me little. I must send him another notice. I may receive more academic work to review--possibly a book by a retired professor on women and French literature, and a journal article by a linguistic professor on the Vietnamese language.

Housing and finances

I am looking into selling a small investment property; unfortunately, the value has remained near the price I bought it for. I am starting a second year in this apartment and must pay a increase of $35. I am looking into my options later this year for some term savings accounts will mature in the fall. I should get a tax refund this summer, which will pay for the personal trainer and other bills.

Family and social life

I went to a birthday party for my uncle who turned 90. At this party, I got reconnected with cousins and had a nice visit with my brothers and sisters-in-law. I continue to visit and offer help to a disabled brother and his wife, and they are doing well. The sister-in-law's family is in closer contact with her, which is a relief to both of them. Furtnermore, I have deeper friendships with fellow singers and activists. 




Just peace: my 2017 in review

Posted on January 1, 2018 at 3:41 PM Comments comments (7)
Keeping in tune with positive thinking, I will review the past year of my life. (I have not come to any summary of the political world of 2017 yet.) In sum, it was a time of successful growth and more new experiences.

The biggest thing, of course, was packing up my life in Korea, moving to Canada and creating a new home. That was a major transition; hence, the theme of my blog in 2017, which started out, by the way, on my 60th birthday.  Well prepared and optimistic, I made a smooth transition. I carried through the steps of landing regular employment and settling into a long-term living arrangement.

I arrived with a temporary living arrangement set up in a friend's home and  was soon rooming in a kind of boarding house as I extended the employment search. Within a short period, I got a bit lucky when I was offered a lease with soft and affordable terms for a decent apartment. I got regular part-time teaching and full-time summer relief work, with a little editing on the side. Though I'd had to reach into my stashed resettlement funds, by November, I had begun teaching in a new institute with a timetable substantial enough to cover the monthly bills.

Living and livelihood basically taken care of, I was able to pay more attention to social groups, activism and family matters. I rejoined a singing group and the dragon boat club. They involve social activities and political causes in addition to their main foci. I thus reconnected with colleagues, friends and associates, making new friends and associations along the way. I returned to local boating competitions and choir performances. 

What's more, I rejoined a local activist circle with the national and international connections I've been immersed in for several years. That has meant staying connected with activists and causes abroad, and those in south western BC and central Canada. Coming from human rights activism at an early stage some 20 years ago, 35 years of anti-war activism in Canada and overseas, and as certain tensions and military actions intensify around the world, my part in progressive activism has evolved to my present focus on just peace.

What  positive and new experiences did I have in 2017? 

Technology: I downloaded mobile phone apps, started using cloud software at work, bought a new laptop and got tech support with it, and extended the content, appearance and tools on my website. I also acquired a wide-screen, smart TV. As well, my phone has a new service plan with features new to me. Oh, yes--I also tried online dating, a little.

Family: With birthday and Christmas events recently, my relations with siblings and adult nieces and a nephew have developed. We've had some very enjoyable times together, we're planning more.

Romance: Though the online dating has bombed, I got out and tried it. Anyway, I've been getting to know single, eligible men through mutual friends and hobbies.

Health: I manage to keep my weight under control. After dragon boating, basic yoga routine, biking and hiking in the summer months, I found some symptoms of pre-arthritis stages, so I cut down the sportsy activities, even day-to-day walking. However, I seem to be adjusting. I can alter physical activities and pace them appropriately to avoid the inflated knee and sore appendages. For example, I have changed the exercises at home, and returned to some moderate walking from day to day. As an example of the walking, I sometimes walk the distance a few bus stops to catch a bus farther away, and walk around to do errands near my workplaces. I recently tried a session of curling for the second time in my life. I want to do some short hikes and get back on the bike when the weather is more conducive to outdoors exercise. 

Writing: After editing another academic article, I reviewed a novel for the first time. I just started editing another novel last week. Obviously, I have kept up the blogging and moved into a new theme for the current year. As for my creative writing, I've only written a couple of poems. I started a new non-fiction project, which is on hold at the moment.

Activism: I attended an international conference to build an anti-imperialist movement against wars of aggression, state repression and militarization last summer. I then created the petition opposed to a military solution to Korea and other conflicts, getting a few hundred signatures all on my own. For the 10th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in Russia, I worked with the local committee and coordinated the planning of a special event, which turned out to be a well-attended and informative occasion. I presented on a dual theme of socialist women and a stance against imperialist war in a presentation on Rosa Luxemberg's contributions. After building a network out of these activities, I just recently proposed a new committee to establish the Just Peace Movement in Greater Vancouver. There has been some positive response from people interested in pursuing this movement.




Just Peace - peaceful day

Posted on December 24, 2017 at 4:17 PM Comments comments (4)
It's a peaceful day. Significant holidays can often feel peaceful, at least in one's own universe and despite the larger contradictions and points of trouble around the world. It is fulfilling to be able to rest; a holiday is a respite for many. The underpinnings of the global and local economies remain, and some machines are still grinding; not everyone gets a holiday or can afford to take a day off. Nevertheless, the underlying ideals of a religion- or/ and tradition- based day or season of remembrance, positive values, solidarity, and celebration make one pause, whatever their situation, to reflect and breathe.

This is my first Christmas as a resettled Canadian. I missed it for nine of the ten years away in Asia, in a land where there is some deep, sedate religious meaning for maybe 20 per cent of the population, where it was a national day off yet not a big time of general celebration. I missed some of the feeling and ritual, though I could see and hear a few low-key signs of Christmas in cafes and on the face of churches. In the university semester system in South Korea, we were not supposed to travel around Christmas--the semester and school year were wrapping up and there was usually some grading and paper work to complete. As well, winter programs were just starting. (I know one or two colleagues who secretly sneaked away to return to their homelands in time for Christmas, though.) The teachers in public schools still had to be at work, many preparing winter "camp" classes to be held in January. Teachers at the after-school academies for children sometimes got five days off between Christmas and New Year, which was not much time if one wanted to escape to the US, Oceania or Europe. While I was teaching kids, I did not get time off around Christmas. No, the traveling had to wait, and it often wasn't until around Lunar New Year that the opportunity would come--not a substitute for an occasion as significant as Christmas.

Today, however, I have recaptured some of the feeling. I have been participating in the seasonal socials, doing some related errands, saying "Merry Christmas" or "happy holidays" a lot, and indulging in some of the festive food and drink. It is especially gratifying and restful not to have any visiting or shopping to do today. There is some editing waiting, but it can wait some more. 

It is the day of Christmas Eve, which has fallen on a Sunday this year. I can enjoy the luxury of staying home and doing nothing in particular. No bus trip to get to the usual choir practice; the choir is taking a couple of weeks off. I have done housekeeping tasks, of course, and cooked up a batch of homemade pancakes and one of spaghetti sauce, tasks which do not seem like big chores but are rather relaxing to me. Anyway, it is only the noon-hour here and I can hold off from other chores today. 

I have been thinking about dropping by a local United Church because that can be a nice experience on Christmas Eve, even though I am not an active Christian and generally have doubts and reservations about formal religious institutions. If you have been following my blog, you'll realize that I am somewhat of a spiritual with some belief in a greater power of the universe and other dimensions of existence. I have an appreciation for the symbolism and some of the lessons of religion, and see merits in prayer and meditation. I have some appreciation of the texts, which I largely see as educational and semi-historical mythology, and problematic at the same time.

Interesting. I just paused and turned on the TV while on a break from blogging. I happened to catch the end of a documentary segment on the History Channel called, "Finding Jesus". Historians trace the real context and figures of the story of the Bible and try to render a more substantiated interpretation of the story of Jesus. Just when I turned it on, his segment of the series happened to be addressing the efforts to institutionalize Christianity, which was very controversial. Many followers of Jesus Christ did not want it. They were suspicious of the aims and politics and ownership that the new institution might take on. This portion of the documentary serious was concluding with a summary of the story of Judas. Portrayed as a complicated character tormented by inner conflict, the man who betrayed Jesus and got him captured, flogged and paraded as a public example by the Roman authorities. The viewer can infer the significance of Judas' story when historians claim that the book of Matthew describe how he ended up: regretting having betrayed Jesus but still lacking faith, he hanged himself. It is a lesson on the importance in and life-affirming force of having faith, perhaps faith in the values that Jesus taught and demonstrated, and faith in God, or some greater goodness.

I have been more mindful of having faith in recent years, and that is partly what this blogging project is about. Faith in what? Call it goodness, the power of life, positive energy--having faith can largely mean believing that improvement will happen, that goodness is there, that negative or life-threatening and defying energies or forces can be vanquished, that there is a higher (collective) consciousness trying to guide humanity to make wise choices and defend the good or life. Those are my interpretations, and I do waver or neglect allowing myself to work it all out in my mind. I do not think there is a final answer; rather, I think there are signs, there is a feeling, there is evidence of success in making positive change and happiness happen. That evidence, those signs make me calm or make me smile at time, whatever someone is saying to me or whatever local and world events are going on.

I holiday can be a good time to reflect and affirm one's belief in the positive, however it is construed. A holiday is a moment of solidarity in this general kind of belief.

Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.


A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.


Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.


Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 


Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 


I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.


Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 


On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.


I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 




Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!


I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.


I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.


Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).


 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.


The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.


I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 


Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 


However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.


It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.


My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 


There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.


2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 


I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.


Ed Wise

TEST

15 January 2020

THIS IS A TEST OF THE NEW PLATFORM FORMAT AND BLOG ENTRY SYSTEM.