|Posted on January 1, 2019 at 3:24 PM||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.
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.
|Posted on October 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM||comments (79)|
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.
|Posted on September 23, 2018 at 5:22 PM||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.
|Posted on September 16, 2018 at 11:50 PM||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.
|Posted on August 25, 2018 at 12:21 AM||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.
|Posted on August 3, 2018 at 9:22 PM||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.
|Posted on June 29, 2018 at 11:58 AM||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.
-having a balcony with the apartment
-my current job
-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.
|Posted on June 17, 2018 at 5:01 PM||comments (18)|
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.
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.
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.
|Posted on January 1, 2018 at 3:41 PM||comments (110)|
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.
|Posted on December 24, 2017 at 4:17 PM||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.