MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Category: Laos (page 1 of 17)

Stormy Weather!

Wow, we had a heckuva storm out my way yesterday afternoon. It started rolling in about 4 p.m, and I was thinking it would be nice to have a breeze and maybe a bit of rain. The clouds looked pretty benign, but the full force of the storm hit around 4:30 and it was anything but “nice.” I swear we had a mini-tornado. The winds were coming from all directions and they were extremely strong. The roof of my house was being lifted a few inches and dropped back down, more than once. The neighbors’ trees, large and strong, were being bent to about a 60 degree angle, debris was flying through the air, and the rain, only about 15 minutes worth, was fierce!

After it was over, about 30 minutes later, I took a walk around. Our house was OK, but the neighbor in front of us had part of his roof blown off, much of the roof of the karaoke across the road was destroyed, and a small pavilion in the rice field behind our house was torn up. Their was sheet metal all over the yard, and I don’t know where it came from. Plus, the power was knocked out for about 3 hours. This was a bad one, and had me a bit scared. Below is a photo of the pavilion and of the neighbor doing repairs to his roof. We’re supposed to get more storms again this afternoon. I certainly hope they’ll be nothing like yesterday’s.

Pavilion after storm

The pavilion behind my house after the storm yesterday.

Neighbor roof repair

My neighbor repairing part of his roof.

More Lockdown News

So, the lockdown will be eased quite a bit beginning tomorrow, and I reported in a previous post that Vientiane College would re-open on May 18th. However, the Lao government clarified the school opening guidelines. Universities, colleges and language schools (that’s us) won’t be able to resume classes until June 2nd, so that’s another month off, which, thanks to our fantastic administration, will be paid to us that are on contract. Nice! Thanks to all the folks involved in this decision. Now, let’s hope that the lifting of the lockdown won’t result in an outbreak of covid-19 infections. The government said that if there are outbreaks, then the provinces where they occur will be put back on lockdown. Fingers crossed.

P.S. For your info, bars, karaokes, movie theaters, gyms, and other similar types of venues will not be allowed to open yet. I’m not sure when that will happen. There’s a karaoke (open air) right across the road from my house, so their closure has been nice. I had gotten used to the noise, but it’s been closed since the end of March. I suppose I’ll have to get used to it all over again when it does reopen.

Lockdown Revisited

Many of the lockdown constraints in Laos will end this Monday, May 4th. I think many businesses will reopen, including restaurants, with certain provisions in place, including limitations on the number of people that can be in the business at any one time; masks, of course, will be mandatory. I don’t know about bars, karaokes or other types of entertainment venues. I imagine they might still be shut down.

Vientiane College plans on reopening May 11th for registration, with full time evening classes to begin on the 18th. A few daytime classes will also start the week of the eleventh. I have been far from bored during the lockdown; there have been so many things to keep me occupied around the house. Reading, digital art, morning jogs and catching up on movies and TV shows, among other things, have filled my time. Still, I’ll be happy to get back to work (not to mention earning some money!). Let’s just hope that there isn’t a resurgence in covid-19 cases after the reopening. More later.

Lao in Lockdown

Laos has been locked down since April 1, meaning everyone should stay at home. Of course, people with essential jobs are still working, but most other businesses have been closed, as well as all the schools. Vientiane College, where I work, has been shut down since before April 1, so I’m having an extended vacation, so to speak. I still go jogging in the morning, which I consider essential, and that hasn’t been a problem with the authorities, though I’ve never seen any that early in the morning. I also see quite a number of bicyclists riding for exercise at that time, sometimes in packs of three or four, coming from the city or heading back that way. I’ve also been to one of the foreign markets to replenish my food reserves. I thought I might have a problem doing that because some districts of Vientiane have been blocking travel in and out of their area if you don’t live there. However, I didn’t see any roadblocks on my way to and from the market.

Yesterday, the government said that the lockdown was going to be extended from April 20th to May 3rd. At that time, schools and some businesses would be allowed to open. So, perhaps, Vientiane College might be able to re-open in time for the original start of our next trimester, May 7th. That, though, might be unlikely because I imagine that it might take another week to set up registration times for the students and to get the word out that we’ll open again and to get everything ready. I expect to hear from the administration soon about the school’s plans.

The Lao New Year holiday just finished. The government cancelled all planned activities and warned everyone that social distancing was in place (and the lockdown) for the holiday, meaning no celebrations outside our homes and no more than four people celebrating together, other than immediate family. We’ll probably know how this worked out near the end of the new lockdown date, around the end of April. Laos has had no new infections, that people know of, for about three or four days now (19, as of this posting), but if covid cases start increasing as the month goes on, well, the warning to not celebrate probably didn’t have much effect.

The government also banned alcohol sales and distribution from April 13th to the 20th. The only effect that might have is that when the small mom-and-pop markets run out of beer, they won’t be able to get any more. Also, mini-marts, liquor stores and others won’t be able to sell alcohol. While jogging today, I noticed one of the small markets still had many cases of canned beer left and I would guess it is selling to people who want to buy, which would be quite a large number of people. Lao folks love their alcohol, especially during holidays. (P.S. I stocked up when I heard about the ban, though I don’t drink a whole lot. I still have some BeerLao left–come over to the house and we’ll tip a few!)

Covid in Laos

There hadn’t been any confirmed cases of covid-19 infection in Laos up until about a week ago when a couple of people were found to have the virus. Since then, six more people have been infected, and all of them are related, in some way, to the first two cases. Just about everything has shut down, though, including bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues. Even the two “mom-and-pop” restaurants in front of my house have closed. And, most amazing, the karaoke just across the road has shut down. Ahh, peace and quiet in the evening for a while, unless the neighbors decide to crank up their music, which they did last night. Luckily, I’m pretty well stocked up on food, so I’m staying at home, except to go jogging in the morning and maybe take a bit of a walk in the evening after the day’s heat has gone down a bit. (Lately, it’s been around 100 and will be for about the next three days.) To the heat and the virus, add in the horrendous air quality of late (> 150), and Laos is not the most pleasant place to be right now.

Vientiane College shut down, along with all other schools, a couple of weeks ago, so I’m on extended vacation at the moment (paid, thankfully). Our next term was supposed to start on May 7th, but that increasingly looks unlikely. Hopefully we won’t be out of commission for too much longer after that. So, I’m just sitting at home, watching movies and TV shows, doing a bit of digital art, playing online games (Lord of the Rings, Eve Online), reading and drinking beer. What’s a guy to do? We’ll get through this, but it could turn out to be rather boring after a while.

Oh, one other thing is that in the middle of April is arguably the biggest holiday of the year in Laos, the Lao New Year (Pee Mai Lao), but, because of the virus, the government has cancelled all of its holiday events and advised people not to gather in large groups for celebrations (this includes weddings and birthday parties). I’m really curious to see how many people follow through with that. I suppose there will be at least a small party out on the farm where Nai’s sister lives and where I used to live. I’ll go out there for one day (out of the three that comprise the holiday) and be sure to social distance myself from the others. How much they’ll do the same, I don’t know. If things get out of hand, I’ll boogie on out of there and go back to my house.

So, in finishing, I hope everyone stays healthy and safe. Catch up on your reading or gardening or whatever and wait it out. More later.

Rain!

Yes, rain, glorious rain! We haven’t had any in months, literally. The last few days, though, we’ve had around an inch, I think. It’s been quite a severe drought due to various factors, including climate change and the increasing number of dams on the Mekong River. (Check some of the factors that are screwing over the Mekong, including China, Laos, and Vietnam.)

Any amount of rain is welcome, but it definitely hasn’t been enough to break the back of the drought, which probably won’t happen until the rainy season starts in late May and June. When I went jogging this morning, there was a nice sprinkle that got me moderately wet, but once I got back to my house, the rain came down quite nicely, soaking the ground. It’s finished now, and there isn’t any rain in the forecast for the near future, but we’ll take any that we get.

Drought Over? Not so fast

Not long after my previous post, it started raining. It turned out that a tropical storm/depression, Wipha, was possibly heading our way, after hanging out around Hong Kong, bringing several inches of rain with it. We had a lot of rain last night, but when I woke up this morning and checked the forecast, it turned out that Wipha was turning in a more northerly direction, toward southern China. The forecast had changed also, with rainfall predictions quite a bit less than previously forecast. Right now, Thursday morning at 10 o’clock, it’s sunny with partly cloudy skies here in Vientiane. Oh, well, any amount is better than none. Will keep you posted.

Bigtime Drought

Although it’s raining heavily this morning, Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia are in the middle of a terrible drought, with the Mekong River in some places at its lowest level in a century. Not only is the lack of rain during the monsoon season affecting the level of the Mekong, but some are also blaming the upstream dams in China and in Laos itself.

Whatever and whoever is to blame, the water level in Vientiane is near record lows and farmers and fisheries are suffering. Here’s a chart of the current level on the Mekong River Commission website. Let’s hope this much-needed rain continues.

Baseball in Laos? Yes!

Although in it’s early stages, baseball has been gradually growing in popularity in Laos. This past weekend there was an international tournament played in Vientiane, with 10 teams from 5 countries competing for a trophy and other prizes. The teams were from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and Korea, which had the most teams here.

An article in the Vientiane Times yesterday gave a nice overview of the sport in the country. It seems that this was actually the 5th annual Korea-Laos International Baseball Tournament, but it’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. The tournament was played at the football (soccer) field, an all-grass setting, so no infield dirt or pitcher’s mound. However, the article stated that through funding from Korea, two new “stadiums” will be built before the end of 2019. I imagine that there won’t be two stadiums built, but, rather, two fields at a new baseball complex with seating. You never know, though.

So, I went to the football stadium this past Saturday to check it out. Here are a few photos from the event. One note: the sight lines were terrible, so I was unable to make any good photos. The “dugouts” were opaque plastic boxes which you couldn’t see through, the officials’ and umpires’ tables were directly behind home plate, there was a large schedule board blocking the view from another angle, and a concessions table also blocked the view, along with various protective nettings. I hope the new fields will not include these kinds of encumbrances to viewing the games.

The Times didn’t have the results of the tournament in yesterday’s edition, but I’ll check in today’s paper. I’ll update this post if there is any further news about the event.

UPDATE: The Tuesday Times reported that the Laos team tied for first in the tournament with a team from Seoul, South Korea, with each getting 33 points. Hmmm, I have no idea what the points represent. Run differential, perhaps? Anyway, congratulations to both teams.

(A further note on the photos. For a better view of an image, right click on the photo and select View Image. To get back to the post, you’ll have to click the Back Button on your browser.)

Laos baseball
Players from one of the Korean teams do a few warm-ups before their game. There were very few interested spectators at this particular game. The stands were mainly populated by friends of the players or by players from other teams. The Laos team was scheduled to play later in the afternoon, but I left before that particular game. Perhaps there were more people watching then.
Laos baseball
Kids are getting more and more interested in the game. I hope, eventually, that the sport becomes much more popular.
Laos baseball
Girls are involved, too. Check out the very long hair on this young lady.
Laos baseball
Because there is no pitcher’s mound built into the field, a portable mound was used. I’d never seen one of these before. Also, because of the grass infield, there weren’t too many stolen base attempts. Players were sliding into the bags, but I think they were using plastic-cleated shoes, not the metal spiked ones, which would probably have stuck in the grass, allowing for potential injuries.
Laos baseball
It’s a hit! Or was it? I think this guy knocked a single. They were using metal bats, which I hate, but, due to the cost of breakable wooden bats, I suppose the metal ones are a necessity.
Laos baseball
A minor collision at home plate. It was a bad throw, so the runner was safe.
Laos baseball
The Laos team was getting a pep talk from their manager or coach before their game, which was an hour or so from starting. I took off before then, so I didn’t get to see any of the action.

High Water in Vientiane

I went into Vientiane a few days ago to see how far the Mekong was from topping the embankment (levee?) that was constructed after the big 2008 flood. It has quite a way to go before it gets that high, but it is flowing through some sluice gates and other channels to flood the park that’s on the city side of the road that runs along the top of the levee. I watched a video of the effort to pump water out of the area, and you can watch it on Facebook here.

Though it’s not going over the embankment, the river has flooded the new addition to the night market in that area. Here are the new vendor stalls that sit, usually, right above the river. Someone who did the planning must have thought that the river would never get this high again. Tell that to all the sellers who had to move their goods to higher ground.

flood

Night market vendor stalls under water

flood

More night market stalls under water.

We had no rain yesterday and there’s none in the forecast for today or tomorrow, but the water level is forecast to keep rising for the next few days, according to the Mekong River Commission daily bulletin. (If you click on their link, check out the Nongkhai report–it’s only a few miles downstream from the old place where I used to live and is much more relevant than the Vientiane report.)

The river has crept nearer to the old place, but it’s still safely below the houses. However, if the water does get higher over the next few days, that situation could change. Thankfully, many of the houses are built on stilts or on foundations that are several feet above the ground. More later.

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