Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Taxes

If you are a resident of a foreign country, and your taxes are deducted from your paycheck (a fat percentage, may I add)! You might expect not to have to pay income tax in your original country. This would be true for all but two nations on the globe. Yep, you guessed it... one of the stingy two is the good ol' US of A.

I've been wading through the international tax laws during my lunch break, and I am about to bang my head against a wall. OK. I *think*, if you live in a foreign country and make less than 80,000 dollars a year, you don't have to pay american income tax. (no problem there!). I checked the irs site, and here's what they have to say...

"To claim the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, or the foreign housing deduction, you must satisfy all three of the following requirements.

1.Your tax home must be in a foreign country.

Ok, so far so good. Just let me check out what a "tax home" is real quick.

"You are not considered to have a tax home in a foreign country for any period in which your abode is in the United States. However, your abode is not necessarily in the United States while you are temporarily in the United States. Your abode is also not necessarily in the United States merely because you maintain a dwelling in the United States, whether or not your spouse or dependents use the dwelling."


Ok, I must admit, I've been playing the "Brain Age" game on the nintendo DS, and it says I'm a ripe old 57. So I'm not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box. But... WTF?

Perhaps they have a form 1042SUPEREEEZZZFORYOUSTUPID form I can fill out? Because right now I just want to figure out how much I will be gouged for and cry with patriotic pride into my Asahi beer.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Back to the future

Hey... so I'm back in Japan, after a well-deserved thanksgiving break.

You know, I was getting really used to Japan and started losing my 'gaijin eyes'.. ie, seeing everything rendered through a foreign lens, where everything is either mysterious, awesome, quirky, or all three. I like to equate looking at a foreign country from the outside something akin to looking at an aquarium.

"look at those pretty rocks!" you say, or "my goodness, look at the weird fish with 17 arms, isn't that a hoot?!"

Whereas, living in the foreign country is like being a new fish in that aquarium. You think about it that way for maybe two, three weeks before you start realizing that the pretty rock is a pain in the butt to swim around, and the weird fish with 17 arms is trying to eat you.
You no longer think of things in terms of aesthetic or quirky values, but how they help or inconvenience you in everyday life.

This practical vision is, in a word, boring.

But! Now I have refreshed my vision from being back in the US, and I can say with confidence: Japan IS weird! It is marvelous in its own quirky way, and before my gaijin vision fades again I think it's time to post some pictures i took on my phone. Tee hee.

Imagine going to your local Toyota dealer to try to test-drive a car, and you see THIS! It's a one-seater, basically a futuristic glowing wheelchair. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me give it a test-drive. This summer when we went to the beach, Takeshi caught an octopus. "Look what I caught!" he said proudly. "It's still alive and squirming! Let's take it home and eat it!" Normally those sentences do not go together. EeeWww!! ... but we did end up eating it, and it was.. actually pretty tasty, when chopped up into bits and cooked with rice and soy-sauce and cooking sake in the rice-cooker.
Man, you think you're having a bad day, and you come home and BAM! There's a giant praying mantis waiting for you on your doorstep like a little butler. I wonder if I gave it my hat, would it hang it up neatly on one of its many protruding limbs?This little gremlin is the mascot of a glasses store. I don't know what her name is, but she's kind of creepy. Although nowhere near as creepy as the plastic colonel sanders near our station... that thing is in the middle of the street with hands in a grope-ready position and a leer in its eyes. It's my very own "Kentucky Fried Chikan"!
I was innocently making miso soup one day while Mr. T was slicing up some sea-bass he caught to make sashimi.. and plunked the head in my nice soup.
"What are you doing?! There's a monster in my soup!!"
I said, half mortified, half giggling. I just had to take a picture.
On the quest to find my dad an *authentic* manekineko, we stopped at a different shrine first by mistake. This shrine's theme: snakes. Snakes! (does anyone but me think of the *badger badger mushroom mushroom oh here comes a snaaake* song? anyone? no? ^^)
This one wrapped around the torii looks like it's about to strike. >_<;
There is a shrine dedicated to "Manekineko" or lucky-cats about three stations away from my house.. dad sent us to get him one. Here's where they were all lined up by people who bought them for the express purpose of making a wish and leaving them at the shrine. (oops, hope it wasn't bad luck to take it home!)
But yeah. Kinda creepy, huh?
Don't ask. This moving truck has a large sign reading "Duck!" on the front. Perhaps its to warn for the times when they throw furniture out the window to plow through particularly congested rush-hour traffic

Here's to gajin eyes forever! *clinks glasses*