Monday, October 31, 2005

Accounting and Expats

I have to take the time to vent on an issue I've been dealing with for almost six months. I gave power of attorney to an accounting firm in Calgary, CompassTax, to deal with my taxes. I was very pleased with what they did for me with my tax returns from previous years. I had screwed them up, and Peter J. Simpson, and his company CompassTax were very helpful in fixing them.
However, with my last tax return I was bitterly disappointed. It was a fairly simple return, one T4, interest claim from my student loans, and a declaration of non-residency. Typing that into the computer programs would take minutes. It cost me almost $600 for that service. I have a friend who paid a little more for his business taxes.
I complained about the amount I was billed, and for the past 6 months have been waiting for a resolution to the problem. Basically I've been delegated to being told that they are looking into the issue, and then not hearing from them until I pester them again. But it's always a reply of "We'll look at your file." Being in Korea, I'm pretty much stuck emailing them, it's most convenient... but for them it's also the easiest to ignore, I think. I'm pretty much fed-up with this whole situation. As an expat, I don't seem to have many options to dealing with companies like CompassTax. It's not like I can go down to their office and demand to see Mr. Simpson.
I've sent a complaint to the Southern Alberta Better Business Bureau, but they may not deal with it since it is a "billing" issue. Where can you go when you feel like you've been ripped off?
Maybe I expected too much, and I was definitely naive in expecting a reasonable billing rate. $600 for 15 minutes or typing, a phone call to my parents(still don't understand that one) and continued neglect. I should have become an accountant, but then again, I don't think I could treat someone like that with a clear conscience.
To fellow expats, maybe it's easier to deal with it yourself.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fire Drills

I always can remember what fire drills meant as a student and as a teacher. It was hopefully in the middle of a class I was all to happy to get out of.  Usually, it was an orderly walk down the hall, and out the nearest exit. In Jr. High, our VP, Mr. Brownlie, would stand at various exits saying the fire was there, and that we had to use an alternate route. In high school fire drills usually came at the end of the day because they hardly expected anyone to come back. (gotta love High School.) Any which way, it was an evacuation drill, plain and simple.
One time when I was teaching in Hall Beach we had a Halloween Party. One of the parents had her baby in the hood of her amouti. The baby was attracted to the bright red rire alarm, reached behind her and pulled it. Even though we new it was a false alarm, we had to evacuate. What a time to be dressed as a minotaur, in shorts and sandals. It was below -25 Celsius. Still, my role as a teacher was to make sure all my students had evacuated with us.
In Korea, things are done a little differently. Students aren't involved. I don't even know if there is an orderly evacuation plan. In a way I kinda doubt it. In the year I've been here, there has not been a fire drill. Well, not until today.
What we were doing was way different. It started and ended with military style speeches which I didn't understand, and saluting and bowing to the Principal and such. You can see the military tradition from the 50s-80s era is not forgotten. Then what we had to do was fight the fire and take care of the wounded. There were teachers assigned to a bucket brigade, to the fire hose, to first aide duty and stretcher duty. I was one of the stretcher bearers. I have to say, though this was suppose to be a serious affair, it was fun.  The fire department seemed satisfied with out performance.
I'll try and download some pictures from the school website and upload them here.
It's the differences that make my stay here interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Haven't posted in over a week so I figured I should do something regardless. Today I had a truck-driver cut into me not once, but twice. The last time I was pretty much close enough to touch his mirror.I'm pretty good about placing myself in a persons vision, but this guy was either not looking, or just didn't care. I figure its the "I'm bigger so I have the right-of-way philosophy that buses and rigs use here.
I wound up avoiding getting hit, by doing a quick turn onto a different street. Of course it meant that I had to take the long route to school through the Hanjae tunnel. Actually, I love that route, but it's at least 5 minutes longer and worse if ther eis traffic. Before buyng my first Korean bike, I rode to school with the vise-principal and he would drive that way. He once commented that that I seemed to like going through the tunnel. Like I said, I do, and it's because when you come out of the tunnel you are looking down over part of the city and right out at bay and Dolsan Island. This time of year the sun bounces off the water giving everything a golden shine. It put me into a MUCH better mood. I'll have to take that route more often.(Just hopefuly next time it will be by choice.)
PS. Yes mom, I'm being careful.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thanks giving

Hi Everyone,
Hope yu had a nice Thanks giving long weekend. Several of us got together an had a nice little Chicken n' stuffin dinner. It was pretty good. I'm dead tired because we played Balderdash afterwards until about 12:30am... Getting home at 1:30 is not that good when you teach an early class the next morning. Alas, it is Thanks giving. I even wore my Calgary Flames jersy to show my thankfulness for  hockey being back, even though I will get to see none. Take care all.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Me and My Twin

Yes folks, after more than 30 years, I've discovered that I have a twin. Yup, hard to believe, but like me, its big, a little odd looking(in a good way), and could stand to loose about 20 kg. Yup, my Twin is a motorcycle, an Africa Twin to be exact.
I went to Seoul to buy the beast. It's suppose to have a 650cc engine, but for some reason the original 650 was transplanted with a 400cc from a TransAlp. Yes, I'd like the 650 or even a 750, but truthfully the 400 is enough engine for me right now.
I almost threw the bike on a train for Kwangju, but decided that I wanted a little adventure and would drive it from Seoul to Daejon, and then on to Yeosu. All in all that's a 6 hour ride in a car on the Expressway, which I'm not allowed on with a bike, so I took the side highways.
Escape From Seoul
I think this was the hairiest part of the journey. It's difficult to get out of Seoul without using an Expressway. I was very fortunate that I found someone who know how I could get out. I'm generally skeptical of directional advice from Koreans as people "loose face" if they can't help you out, which means that you can never be sure if the advice you get is accurate. I've been messed up a few times. I couldn't even find a map, as I forgot mine in Yeosu (hmmm, so odd of me to forget something like that.) Luckily, this guy had a map taped to the wall of his shop (gas station) and was able to give me really good directions on how to get out.
Slowly I drove to Daejon. I was a great ride, about 160 km from Seoul(200 km or more on the alternate highways) It took about 3 hours for me to drive there. I spent in Daejon, with the intention of going shopping at Costco the next morning. (Hmmm ground beef, and Halloween candy, I love Costco.)
After shopping at Costco, I went on the hunt for a map of Korea, so I could finish my trip to Yeosu. I should have just headed straight out of town. After finding a tourist information center at the main train station, I headed for the nearest highway South, Highway 17 which actually goes straight to Yeosu, via Jeonju. There was a problem, chunks of the highway only exists on the map as it's still under construction. Instead I wound up on a really small road (I think the old #17),with a tonne of holiday traffic. The average speed was 60km/h and the road winds through valley after valley. I bet you for every 100km I travelled, I covered only 50 km as the crow flies. It felt like I was driving forever. Bonus though, my butt didn't feel that, unlike when the other bikes I've owned here.
I stopped in Jeonju for a quick bite to eat (a possible mistake, because I didn't feel too hot after my late lunch.)
I have to say, I had a HUGE smile on my face for the last stretch,from Suncheon to Yeosu. Being able to accelerate going up hills that normally slow me down on my VF, is sooooooooo nice. Yes, 400cc are enough to keep me happy (for now).
The bike needs some tinkering, which I'll do over the next few months. I'm happy I bought it for sure. I'm not sure if it can be the bike I want for the future, but you never know, maybe with a little TLC and another transplant, I'll be able to do some serious adventure touring with my Twin.
Cheers all...