MontanaRon

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

Category: Laos (page 1 of 18)

Boring Update

Well, it’s been a while, but there’s not really much to write about, though that is debatable. Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the government has eased some of the restrictions and has told all pertinent interests to prepare for more reopening soon. That’s not because the number of covid infections is going down; on the contrary, it’s been skyrocketing. The last few days Vientiane has had over 600 cases of infection with no signs of slowing down. I think the government has given up trying to keep this delta variant in check and is just continuing to get as many people vaccinated as it can. I think I read that about 40% of the population has been double dosed and many others have had one of two doses of the various vaccines that are available.

Schools, of course, are shut down for now, and they have been since near the end of April. However, some schools are doing online classes, and Vientiane College is among those who are doing so. I teach one class a day from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and one on Saturday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Teaching online has been fun and interesting, really. But, it’s sucking up my time like a black hole. I’m still learning and improving my ability to use Zoom and Google drive, classroom and other items from Google. It’s been somewhat of a steep learning curve, but I’m starting to get better at it. One of the major reasons I like teaching online is that I don’t have to ride my motorbike back and forth into Vientiane six days a week! But, if I want to go into the city to get groceries, there’s no problem doing that.

It’s left hardly any time to do any digital art for now, but I hope to get back into it soon. I miss being able to play around in Photoshop and other painting/compositing/etc. software. I could probably spare 30 minutes a day here and there, but I prefer to spend more time per session than half an hour. Hopefully, I’ll have some art to post here soon. I’ve got my fingers and toes and eyes crossed that we’ll be getting back to a near-normal state soon. More later.

Digital Art–Rivals

Here’s my newest piece of digital art, one I’m titling “Rivals.” The photos and background textures are mine, except for the two birds–the one at the bottom and the one at the upper left; I got them from Pixabay.

digital art

In the news, Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the number of new community cases has fallen, and the school is being allowed to open on September 1st. Hurrah!! Hopefully. Although the number of cases has dropped from where it was, we’re still getting some. There were 7 cases reported a few days ago, but the government didn’t tighten up the restrictions already in place. The big concern might be the huge number of imported cases, Laos workers returning from Thailand by the thousands. About 10% of them have the virus and are being hospitalized or put under observation. They’re mostly quarantined off from the general population, so perhaps we won’t see much of an uptick with community cases. Thankfully, there have been only a few deaths reported. Keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well as far as the school reopening. More later.

Lockdown Continued

Yes, we’re still in lockdown here in Vientiane, though the government has eased some of the restrictions. Important for us is that some schools can begin to reopen, though most won’t be able to start up again until September; that includes Vientiane College. It’s frustrating, but, overall, the Lao government has been doing fairly well at keeping the virus out of the country. Lately, the only cases have been from Lao workers in Thailand who have been coming back to Laos. The government checks everyone at the border crossings and hospitalizes all who have the virus. I think there are a bit more than 2,000 people who are hospitalized at the moment, but there have been five deaths, which is five too many. Compared to our neighboring countries, though, we’re doing pretty good. Thailand and Vietnam have been getting hammered by the Delta variant, and Cambodia and Myanmar have also been having problems. Hopefully, vaccinations will keep increasing here in Laos (and elsewhere) so that this crap will end.

As far as Vientiane College is concerned, it will open again in September if all goes well. Thankfully, the administration has continued to pay us throughout the lockdown and most of the teachers are now doing some extracurricular work to prepare for September. I’ve been making some short (2-3 minutes) videos for posting on the VC Facebook page. I’m making some vids about idiomatic expressions (“piece of cake”) and a “Did you know . . .” series that other teachers are also doing. (Did you know that the 10 most common words in English are . . .?) I’ve also been doing some other odds and ends to try to earn my keep. LOL

I haven’t been doing much digital art lately, but I’m going to get back in the groove very soon. I’ve been playing around with Photoshop actions a bit, and here’s a comp that I want to work on some more. It’s an original photo of paintings being sold by a vendor in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic. I hope to add some more extras to it soon. More later.

Still Locked Down in Vientiane

Yeah, we’re still in lockdown here in Vientiane, even though there haven’t been that many cases of people testing positive for the covid virus. The Laos government has extended the lockdown in the capital until July 4th, at the earliest. They’ve eased some of the restrictions, but schools are still not allowed to open in Vientiane, and that includes Vientiane College (VC). Most of the rest of the country is doing fine and other provinces are not locked down. The government has previously stated that the lockdown won’t end until there are 14 consecutive days of no covid cases. If they stick to that rule, this lockdown in Vientiane will never end until everyone is vaccinated. Luckily, I received the second dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine on Wednesday last week, and, happily, I didn’t have any bad side effects from it like I did with the first dose. Also, many people in Vientiane have been getting either their first or second dose of the various vaccines that are available, so that’s a very positive sign.

Although it’s mostly closed, VC will be able to start some of the daytime classes this week, classes that are restricted to adults that have been vaccinated. These are mostly scholarship programs and government or military classes. The administration is sending a proposal to let the school start evening classes next week with the stipulation that only adults who have been vaccinated will be allowed to attend. Here’s hoping this entirely-reasonable proposal will be accepted. Because our younger students can’t yet be vaccinated, they will be excluded from classes for the time being. The school has also begun training teachers in conducting online classes, in case we’re put into a rigorous lockdown later on. So, adult students who sign up now will still be able to have classes without worrying about being forced to stop, even if face-to-face classes wouldn’t be possible.

A big shout out to the administration; they’re continuing to pay teachers for June even though we’ve not been working, and it’s been indicated that we might get paid for July also, even if we’re still kept from teaching. Beyond then, I’m sure that if we’re not able to open, there will come a point at which the school will be unable to pay us. I’m prepared for that eventuality. This lockdown is starting to get boring, so I hope I can start teaching again soon.

Good News Day

This is actually from my journal of May 31, so it’s a bit old.

It was a pretty good day. First, I went to my doctor to renew my high blood pressure meds, and he told me that they had a new test that checks for the presence of blood clots, so I took it. They took a blood sample, ran the test and reported that the results were good-no clots. Hurray! That’s something I worry about because I have a bad case of varicose veins, but he said they shouldn’t be a problem because of the anti-coagulant I’m taking for the blood pressure protects against blood clots.

As a side note on visiting the doctor’s office, the attendant always weighs me. I’m down to about 163 pounds (74 kg), down 5 pounds from a couple of months ago. Awesome!

I’ve had it in mind to look at buying a smartphone, my very first one. I took a survey from Vientiane College (where I work) that wanted some information about conducting online classes if we get shutdown in the future because of a lockdown due to covid concerns. We’re closed right now until June 21st (hopefully, it doesn’t get extended). Some of the questions concerned phone apps, like What’s App. I don’t really have a good phone; I’ve got my old Lenovo tablet, which is basically good only for reading on the Kindle app. It’s pretty lousy for anything else, so after seeing the doc, I thought I’d go to one of the big Samsung stores and look at the phone I had in mind, a mid-priced Galaxy A52, which seemed to check all the boxes as far as what I was looking for in a phone. So, I was just going to look, right? Well, I don’t have to look anymore-I bought it. $412. I’ve never had a REAL smartphone before, so I’ll be having fun with this for a while.

This, from today’s events, June 8th. The number of cases of covid in Vientiane has been dropping steadily, down to just a few or only one for the last couple of days. Today there were only two found in the city and none found throughout the rest of Laos. That’s great news, of course, and hopefully we’ll be able to open school on the 21st, as planned. More later.

Digital Art–Taekwando Nightmare Dream

Vientiane lockdown has been extended for another few weeks, up to June 4th. At the rate people are still showing up with the covid virus, this lockdown will never end, it seems. The school is scheduled to open on June 10th, and I certainly hope that happens. The administration was kind enough to pay everyone for the month of May, though we didn’t do any work, but if the same lack of work extends far into June and beyond, I’m fearful that there won’t be any income for a while. Got my fingers crossed.

So, what to do with all this time off? Create some more digital art, of course. Here’s one I’m calling “Taekwando Nightmare Dream.” I was originally just going to practice creating displacement effects in Photoshop, but my Muse had other ideas. All the photos are mine, except for the fellow delivering the flying kick on the right side, which I got from Pixabay; they were taken when I worked in Andong, South Korea way back in 2005, and they’re photos from a phys. ed. student demonstration, except for the photo at the upper left. That’s one I took of my former taekwando master showing off. I added some textures and a few other bits and pieces. Enjoy.

digital art

Vientiane Still in Lockdown

Yes, we’re still on lockdown until at least May 20th, but the way things are going it’s going to last longer than that. Though Vientiane had only one case yesterday, we jumped to 14 today; way too many for the city to end the lockdown any time soon. So, if it goes on, there will be no school re-opening any time soon, so no pay, either. Gotta watch my expenditures!

Haven’t been doing a lot with artwork lately, though I have been keeping up with tutorials. I’d also like to learn how to draw, so I found a couple of free websites that look very interesting–Draw a Box and Ctrl+Paint. I’ll have to give one or both of them a try.

I messed around a bit with painting ideas in Photoshop and Topaz Labs this morning and came up with this, made from a photo taken in my favorite place on earth, Glacier National Park in Montana. Enjoy. More later.

glacier national park

Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

Vientiane in Lockdown

The Laos government has been doing a great job of keeping the covid virus out of the country, with only a few dozen total cases and none, really, for the past several months. That all changed a few days ago when a couple of fools decided to cross into Thailand illegally and cross back into Laos, again illegally. One lady went into Thailand just for cosmetic surgery, according to accounts. Another lady crossed the border to visit some friends and then brought them back into Laos with her. Unfortunately, those people all had the virus and were in contact with many other people here in Laos. The second lady was also, again unfortunately, a student at Vientiane College. After crossing the border, she came into the final class of the term on April 9th and was there for about an hour. Luckily, the other students and the teacher in that class tested negative for the virus, but the school spent a lot of time and money having the entire complex disinfected. Classes were supposed to resume on May 5th, but that date has been pushed back until at least May 10th. If the situation worsens, we could be under lockdown for much longer than that.

Due to the actions of these people, Vientiane and much of Laos is under lockdown until at least May 5th. After months of no one getting infected with the virus, there have been over the last three days 28, 65 and, yesterday, 88 people testing positive for the virus. People are supposed to stay at their homes, not go out except to buy food, and work from home, if possible. There are other restrictions and there is a large police presence on all the major roads to ensure that the rules are enforced. I think they are mainly out to check temperatures to find any one who might have the virus. I was thinking about trying to go to a market in the city, but I might wait a few days. I went out jogging this morning, and there were some Army guys setting up a roadblock in the small village that I jog through (I wear a mask), something that wasn’t done in last year’s lockdown. Of course, all restaurants (except for take out or delivery), karaokes, bars, etc., are shut down.

(By the way, I’m not the only one out jogging early in the morning. There are a few other runners and quite a few bicyclists, and I think, in my opinion, this isn’t a problem. We stay away from other people and wear our masks. I see very few people out and about while I’m jogging, and those folks aren’t anywhere near me. Also, I don’t look at jogging as recreation, but as a necessary part of keeping up my health. Since I have high blood pressure, exercise is very important, even though I’m taking medication to keep my BP near normal.)

There’s much more to this and events are unfolding quickly, but if you’re interested the Laotian Times is a good source for news. The numbers seem quite minuscule compared to the US or India, but it’s relative. For Laos, these are very bad numbers. Hopefully, as more people are tested and vaccinated, those numbers will go down. Until then, well, patience is a virtue.

P.S. I was vaccinated back on April 3rd with the AstraZeneca vaccine. I’m due for my second shot on June 28th.

Pi Mai Lao

Happy Lao New Year! That’s what Laos celebrated last week on the 14th, 15th and 16th. The holiday is also celebrated in Thailand as Songkran, and it’s based on the traditional Laos New Year, which occurs in April, the hottest time of the year here. The dates have been standardized, so the holiday is always at the same time. I’ve posted about it before, so just go to the search box and type in pi mai–you’ll find plenty of posts about the holiday.

Of course, with the pandemic still screwing things up, the celebration was somewhat subdued. I went out to The Farm, where I used to live, on Thursday to join in the festivities, but there really wasn’t much going on. Compared to past years, it was quite calm with only a few other people visiting Nai’s sister’s house. His sister Nui and her husband Noi were present, a few nieces and nephews also visited with some of their children, and a few of the neighbors also came over to drink the ever-present Beer Lao and eat a bit of Lao food. So, I didn’t take that many photos, but here are some of them.

friends

Pahng, Nai’s niece, and Vee, his brother’s wife, get ready to dig into some grilled fish, one of my favorite Lao foods. Gotta have some Beer Lao, too.

Friends

A few neighbors also visited, including Noy, on the right, and an unknown man from Luang Prabang, down for the holiday.

Leo

This is Leo, one of Nai’s niece’s boys. I’ve got other photos of him from previous years. Just do a search for Leo.

Go, Ohm, Savan and Leo

Nai’s niece, Go, with her three boys. From the left are Go, Ohm, Savan and Leo.

Ohm, Savan and Leo

Here the three boys are lying down for a short nap. From the left are Ohm, Savan and Leo.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you have a great, wonderful day with your families and loved ones. In Laos, of course, Christmas is not a big deal, but next week’s New Year’s Eve and Day are celebrated by more people.

For today, I might ride my motorbike to visit Nai’s family, only about 5 miles away, but much of the journey is over a very bad, dirty, pothole-filled road. If I go, I’ll take some photos and try to get some of them posted in the very near future.

The school’s on break between terms until January 10th, so I’ve got plenty of time to work on my digital art. Here’s a recent composition I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. It’s entitled “Moonlit Desert City.” I’ve been adding and subtracting objects from it, fiddling with blend modes, shading and tones, and generally playing around with it. I’m still not satisfied with the results, so I’ll probably keep working on it. Anyway, here’s the most recent iteration. (P.S. That’s me on the far left with my eyes peeking out from the mask.)

moonlit desert city

Moonlit Desert City

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