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Just Peace-unjust employer

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM Comments comments (76)
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 - full time work

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 3:58 PM Comments comments (7)
I started full-time work as a Sessional Instructor and writing tutor at a local international college. As with any new situation, there has been a lot to learn in the past couple weeks, so it can feel stressful. This particular job is particularly complicated with a lot of information and procedures to adopt.

To begin with, the work is kind of administrative heavy, using all the electronic communications technology it can. That means that there are countless files is disparate places filed in variously named folders. Also, the teaching staff must handle a lot of administrative tasks ourselves because we lack administrative support personnel\ One has to learn lots of procedures and rules. There are many numerical access codes and many systems to log into with different passwords. The institution is using two of my email addresses, so I am receiving messages in different mailboxes daily. Moreover, we lack space. The downtown location is overcrowded. Expansion is underway but the construction is behind schedule, so we have an agreement to use space in a neighboring college about two blocks away. After learning the ropes at that place, we'll soon have to adapt to a new space. I will have classroom space and a tutoring desk over there. I hope there will be proper staff room and eating area; there is not at this time. There is no adequate location for sitting down to have lunch. I have to eat on campus since my class starts at noon. After traveling to work then preparing for the day, I need to eat something before a class period of three hours. The way it is now, I carry a lot of stuff around with me all day and I have to eat quickly in the hallway. The food has to be cold and simple to do that. Fortunately, I can say that I can use a small locker. That is my base, as ridiculous as it is. Not to mention the various errands required to get started: buying teaching supplies, having a hair cut, food management and so on. To add, I have been going to a business support center to get copies printed because the teaching staff's main photocopier was in such high demand that I could not access it, and was broken down from overwork whenever it was free. I spent $35 last week on copies! 

This chaos adds to the stress of starting a new job at a new place of employment with new co-workers.  I feel scattered because space and work materials are scattered, which makes me feel stressed. I like to be well centered. I am used to having my own office area.

As my last job was slow and only part-time, I have to admit that I am not used to the pace. It has dawned on me that I have not had full-time much in my life.  True, I had full-time teaching contracts on salary for 10 years in Korea, but teaching hours were scheduled for 15 to 22 class periods a week, and preparation time generally took 5 to 15 hours a week, varying from week to week. I think the last time I worked in a full time job in Canada was in 2005 when I was a research assistant. I could work on my own and arrange my own timetable, mind you. though. Hours were cut after six months, though, due to a lack of project funding. Prior to that, I think I had full-time work for another six-month stint some five years earlier, in 1999. I was on a contract at a federal public service office. Before then, I remember a full-time, federal service employment for two years into 1990.

Yeah, I'd rather work less as long as I had a full-time salary. Who wouldn't?

I'll have to pick up my socks and get organized to keep up with the new scenario.

Just Peace -late transformation

Posted on September 3, 2018 at 3:39 PM Comments comments (6)
My brother and his wife were dinner guests at my place last night. We had a nice time. My sister-in-law can get quite negative and be difficult to please but the dinner went well. Actually, her attitude and disposition has changed for the better lately.

They are a little older than I. They have both been officially labeled as mentally disabled for most of their lives, and therefore unemployed and on low income.. It's a shame because they are very sociable and have generally good character. My brother was ambitious and into many things, working hard to save money and accomplish a lot. She was a daycare worker and had a family as a young woman. They both eventually accepted their situations and understood their diseases, but have maintained some bad eating habits and never excerised, so they also endure some physical ailments now. My brother has had diabetes for a long time but he is not careful about his sugar intake and his blood sugar count is often too high sometimes these days. Also, he tends to eat too much.

They both experience intense fear and anxiety every day; is expressed more as outright fear but she has often displayed intense anger when anxious, but she has been improving greatly in recent times. Her demeanour is brighter, anxiety reduced and willingness to engage in life increased. It is a relief to all. 

I think the turning point was a near-death experience about three years ago. A dedicated hypochondriac before, she visited hospitals so frequently that she caught a super-bug, which was very debilitating. She had good reason to get to the emergency ward in that period. She had a close call one week but came out of it. I wonder if she had some opportunity for counseling during that time because she began to turn herself around. Anyway, she evidently reflected a lot and vocalized questions about various causes for mental illness and her life's circumstances. She does not want to hang around hospitals. Feigning or exaggerating illness used to be a way to seek attention; she doesn't seem to need as much attention. I think that, besides better appreciating some vulnerabilities and disadvantages in her early life that were factors, she realizes that her behavior and outlook have been self-defeating. Now it appears that she is regretful she squandered so much potential and time in life before and held herself back.

It is simultaneously wonderful and sad that someone should experience an awakening like that. It's great that she has more energy and will to take life on and is more open to living and trying new activities. It is heartening to see someone growing and feeling better. However, it is sad that she and her husband are so constrained by low income and have little means. Of course, their learning has been hampered by the illness, problematic responses by family and associates and the kind of emotional baggage that accompanies someone with long term disability. The illness still defines them and gets in the way. Both of them, she especially, are more aware of how it gets in the way.

Dependent on a housing subsidy, financial assistance and supportive services, they are trapped in a bureaucracy. There is always tension between their view of themselves and their wishes and those of the state's institutions. Also, they are always reminded that they are lacking something or not as well equipped as most other people apparently are. (The incidence of mental health issues is very high in the US and Canada.) In fact, funding and services for the mentally ill has dwindled over the past two decades.

However, the present regional government has been increasing social funding and raising rates for social benefits, which my brother and his partner have been enjoying. Just a couple of hundred of dollars more each month can make a huge difference to the very poor. 

Also, we can happily report that federal government pension benefit rates have gone up and the calculating of benefits owing has been improved, resulting in a higher monthly disability cheque for my brother. 

It takes strength to face society and get out there for someone in their kind of situation. Fortunately, there are lots of caring people who offer ideas and material support. The family pitches in if they are aware of something lacking that they can supply or something damaged that they can fix. However, they cover up some problems.

Here's an example. Though another sibling had bought them a great new bed they liked, I got the sense that they were not using it. After several months, it finally dawned on me that it was probably too high to climb onto. I surprised them by getting step stools for each side of the bed and now they sleep in it. 

Sometimes their solution to an issue is not really the most practical. For instance, they were not opening the patio sliding glass door because it was loose and they worried that the pet cats would escape through it. They did mention this problem frequently, appealing to the building management and another sibling. No remedy for years. They endured an enclosed, small apartment on the hottest of days, trying to get relief from fans. (The ceiling fan has not been working for a long time, and the management is taking a very lonnngg time to fix or replace it.) Finally, I ordered a local company to custom make a pet-proof screen and it was installed a few weeks ago. BIG RELIEF, of course!

There are magic moments. They are expresions of sensitivity and compassion from concerns people who notice a difficult situation. For example, the screen company never charged me! Without pronouncing that they did not intend to charge me, they simply never got my payment information and never sent my brother a bill. Amazing! It was a job valued at about $270 CD plus tax!




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 -decision

Posted on July 18, 2018 at 10:48 PM Comments comments (3)
I made a loose 1-yr plan for 2018 but have been unclear as to how to carry through most of it until very recently. I have already reported that I have kept my pledge on the health, political, employment and social fronts, doing particularly well on the health and political decisions, though merely satisfactorily on the social and employment activities. I also made pledges about finances and transition to retirement, and this is where my vision was blurry. However, a review of my finances and a little impromptu research gave rise to an epiphany.

Just yesterday, some fog lifted and my sight into my future cleared up. At the end of 2017, I penciled in a couple of decisions for fall of this year. One is whether to take a step toward retirement, and the other is what to do when some of my savings are unlocked around that time. Noting the release date of some funds and prompted by some new knowledge, some ideas for solutions to both these questions hit me this week. 

After starting to feel constrained by circumstances and unsure of what I was doing at this stage, I now feel more liberated by the prospects. I can see much more potential. I can get a sense of adventures to come, which excites me. It is good! The boost of optimism energizes me.

The picture now seems brighter and I now feel confident on how to act in the coming months. I will pool the unlocked funds and see if I can't apply them to a new investment that should provide more steady income, plus widen the avenue into a future position and  lifestyle. Whereas my prospects seemed dimmer and the vision of my life as a senior hard and dull, I now see a happier and more interesting life ahead because I have realized I have more options. 

This is an uplifting experience also because I can see the fruit of much saving and scheming starting to form. In this fresher light, the benefits of having worked to set aside funds and conserve my spending, and thereby my pleasures and whims, shine through.

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 - good life

Posted on June 28, 2018 at 12:22 AM Comments comments (6)
This blog continues to serve the propagation and practice of positive thinking. I still must pause and count my blessings in order to keep peace of mind. Positive thinking can help one find a more peaceful path by cultivating a more peaceful and satisfied soul.

I've been a bit bored lately. I live simply on a confined budget, which sometimes makes me feel confined. The fact that money owing to me is delayed makes me feel even more disgruntled. 

When I stop and take stock of the good things about my life, though, I am reminded I have a lot to be thankful for and happy about. For example, I look out my window beyond my pretty little porch and see trees, flowers and a patch of the ocean. During the day, all sorts of birds sing and chirp, and flutter around just outside my living room. Hummingbirds sip from my flowers and special hanging feeder. Last night at this hour, I could sit and, through the tree bows and between the pointed rooftops, watch an astoundingly beautiful sunset of brilliant rouge-tangerine glow with yellow and rose edges. Stunning!

The house is in reasonably good condition and the apartment is a pleasant, large space, for which many other people are paying much more. The neighbourhood is green, calm and friendly. Basic services and supplies are close by, and I can access some home delivery services. I have access to a vehicle of a car-share cooperative nearby. What's more, it is familiar to me and holds many fond memories.

I have a suitable job that demonstrates my best knowledge and sills in the field of English education. The employer is fare, kind and the hours are regular. I have a straightforward commute of around 40 minutes each day. It is an undemanding schedule and workload. I am not poor. I live a high standard of living.

I know a lot of people in various social circles in this area. Family members are around, as are a few good friends. 

I live in a community with many public services. Health care is guaranteed. Libraries offer lots to read. Transportation is generally convenient. Parks and recreational spaces are numerous.Stores are full with a wide array of food, housewares and supplies, the necessities and luxuries. 

I possess a good advanced education. I am in very good health for my age. I can speak more than one language and sing competently. I have met a lot of very interesting people in my life and many of them have been generous, open and kind. I have traveled widely.

After returning from many years abroad in a foreign land with a lower living standard and fewer freedoms, I am enjoying life in a modern, wealthy and democratic country in an extended time of peace. I can participate in raising questions, calling for improvements, sharing opinions and discussing options with near impunity, activities not everyone can do everywhere.

In sum, I have a lot to be grateful for.

One can get distracted and pulled off course. One can cave into petit-bourgeois yearnings and habits, and start to whine and complain if one does not pause and realize what one has going for herself. It pays to slow down and be more mindful, conscious of all that the Earth and the human world have to offer. There is so much beauty and magnificence to wonder at. Despite all the conflicts and problems, the human condition has been rising, overall. 

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.