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

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 15)

Another Year Goes By

Yes, Happy Birthday to me again, as another year passes by all too swiftly. It’s my ??th birthday, but I couldn’t really celebrate it today, since I had to go to the school for a bit this afternoon, and I have to get up around 5 a.m. tomorrow to get ready to go to classes, so it’s early to bed tonight. I’ll probably do a later party tomorrow.

We did do up a birthday cake. Here it is.

My ??th birthday cake.

My ??th birthday cake.

Now, if you really want to know how old I am, try to count the candles. I tell ya, it was horrid. Before I finished lighting all the candles, my fingers got stiff and I went through several books of matches. To top it off, wax was everywhere, which made the cake almost inedible. Though it’s been decently mild here lately, the build up of heat from the candles forced us to turn on a couple of fans to cool us down. As a matter of fact, we needed three fans set very close to the cake and turned up high to get the candles blown out. Well, at least it didn’t start a fire. (See previous birthday posts here and here.)

All in all though, I’m happy I made it through another year. It’s certainly better than the alternative! Thanks everyone for your well wishes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my family, friends and readers in the United States. I hope you all enjoy the day with friends and loved ones, wherever you might be.

It’s just a normal work day here in Laos. I’ve seen one advertisement from a restaurant/bar that is serving a special Thanksgiving meal, but it’s during my classroom hours, so I won’t be going. I probably wouldn’t go anyway, since I don’t like riding my motorbike at night unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Again, hope you all have a great day and I hope the weather hasn’t messed up your travel plans. More later.

LoTRO Ecstasy

I’ve written before that I’m, more or less, an addict of the Lord of the Rings Online (LoTRO) role-playing game (See the Blogroll on the right). When I worked in Korea, I played, if work didn’t interfere, up to 3 or 4 hours a day (longer in the cold winter months), and I at least logged in just about every day. I really immersed myself in the 6 characters that I created. I was living life in Middle Earth as, variously, a couple of elves, a couple of men, a hobbit and a dwarf. The graphics in the game are incredible, the best I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t in a hurry to try to get to the highest possible level because the immersion factor and the attention to the details of Tolkien’s books are superb, in my opinion. In other words, it wasn’t the destination, but the journey that was important.


Looking at part of Hobbiton, The Shire.

Michel Delving

Another part of The Shire. Michel Delving, I believe.

I knew, however, that when I moved to Laos, a country with poor Internet conditions, I would probably have to give up the game. The download speeds would be slow and connection would be spotty. For the most part I was right. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that there are places where the download speeds might be fast enough to play the game. I thought that I’d give it a try.

My first big concern was downloading the game files to my laptop. My old computer, with the game already on it, had been stolen about a month after I got here, so I had to get the files to my new laptop. The game is huge, and a complete download is 13.5 gigabytes. With a slow connection that was going to take a LOT of time. Perhaps, I thought, I could go into Thailand, where speeds are faster, and download it there. Then I discovered that the school’s wi-fi connection allowed speeds of up to 1 Mb/s (megabyte per second) when there weren’t too many other teachers around that were using the connection. That would be early on Saturday mornings and during the weekdays. I tried it, and after a few weeks I got the complete download this past Tuesday!

The other concern was being able to actually play it. It’s very graphics intensive, so I still needed those quick download speeds. Now, I’m not about to sit at my desk, in full view of all the other teachers, and play LoTRO in my spare time, so I needed to find another place to play. I wondered if the various cafes and restaurants that offer free wi-fi would have good connections.

I went to a coffee shop near the school and, after getting the wi-fi password, I logged into the game. I was quite nervous–is the connection fast enough, will other stumbling blocks show up? After a few minutes, voila, I was in. All my characters were still there with all their upgrades I had earned along with the house I had purchased with in-game (not real) money. Yes, you can buy a house in the game to store all the trophies and loot you’ve found, and you can decorate the inside and outside with a variety of Middle-Earth furniture and lawn decorations.

My house in Middle Earth

My house in Middle Earth

View from house

Looking out at the view from my house.

I am in Seventh Heaven! I won’t be able to play every day, and I’ll only be able to play for a couple of hours on those days that I can play. For starters, that’s good enough for me.

Eventually, though, I know I’ll want to increase my playing time. The Internet that I’m able to get at The Farm sucks, in a word. I’m barely able to read email and check the weather. But, Nai’s brother, Pui, works for one of the providers that install the Internet into homes. I talked to him several months ago about the feasibility of installing it at The Farm. He said it could be done, but it would cost around $450. That was too expensive, in my opinion, but now that expense seems smaller in light of the fact that I can play LoTRO again. I’m going to talk to him again the next time I see him and ask about monthly fees, download speeds and download limits. If everything is even just minimally optimal, I’m going to have it installed.

At any rate, for now, I’m ecstatic! Are there any LoTRO players among my loyal readers? Let me know with a comment, please.

By the way, the game is free to play (F2P). There are options to pay real money (not that much) for some nice enhancements, but if you’re not inclined to do that, you can still get an amazing game experience without paying a dime. I’m sure that if you’re a fan of the books, you’ll be quite impressed, and even if you’re not a fan, you may still be bowled over.


A view of part of Rivendell

Still Bloggin’

Yes, I’m still around, but I’ve been way too lax about blogging. I suspect that many bloggers come to a point where they lose interest in blogging, at least for a short while. Some, however, just give it up altogether. I’m of the former group. It’s been quite a while since my previous post, but I’m not giving up on blogging. This blog, for better or worse, has been active (more or less) for more than ten years, and I hope to keep it going for at least another ten. So, loyal readers, both of you, stay with me. I’ve got a post or two coming up about boat racing on the Mekong, including the big one, the Vientiane Boat Racing Festival. I’ll try to get something more substantial up in the next few days. Thanks again for reading, and, as usual, more later.

Rainy Season Arrives

Despite the sun and heat today, the rainy season in Laos has begun. During the previous three weeks or so, swift-moving thunderstorms brought some rain showers, frequently quite heavy, but they didn’t linger. They also had some hellacious thunder and lightning. I was alone at The Farm one night when a simultaneous sizzle, blinding flash and deafening crack shattered the night. The lightning must have been extremely close, needless to say. Lucky, the family dog, was already in the house and he came whimpering over to me. I think he was whimpering. It might have been me. The past three days, however, rainy weather has settled in, bringing a steady drizzle for a large parts of the day and night.

I’d like to say that I’ve been an innocent bystander, or watcher, of these showers, but I had some direct involvement with them this past Saturday. Since I have a 9 a.m. class that day, I left for the college on my motorbike at 6:30 to make the 25 kilometer ride. I don’t usually leave that early, but it was raining, so I wanted to leave myself plenty of time to ride cautiously. At The Farm, there was only a slight sprinkle, so it didn’t seem like it would be a terrible ride, though I knew I was going to get wet. Unfortunately, just outside of Vientiane it began to pour. By the time I got to the school, I was drenched. My clothes were literally dripping wet. I keep a good set of “teacher clothes” at my desk, so the first thing I did was change out of the wet clothes. I hung them on my motorbike handlebars, down in the covered parking lot. It was a bit of fun, ridin’ in the rain (Gene Kelley comes to mind), but I don’t want to do it too often.

I’ll have to invest in some rain wear, since the worst part of rainy season is ahead of us. According to one website, June and July get about 10-11 inches of rain each month, and August and September get 12-13 inches. So, I’ve definitely got some rainy bike riding in my future.

In the near future, though, I won’t be riding the bike too much. The present Vientiane College term finishes this Saturday, and I don’t start teaching again until July 10th. (Shades of the Korean university vacation time!) In the meantime, I might take a trip up to Vang Vieng for a few days, or, preferably, down to Pakse to see the Chutes de Khone, the Khone Waterfall on the Mekong River, the widest waterfall in the world.

Another Drenching

I got nailed again today by a torrential downpour on my way to work around noon. The first shower drenched me just as I was passing by the new U.S. Embassy building construction site, about 5 kilometers outside of Vientiane. It was coming down so heavy that I had to pull over and duck under an awning until it passed. After the rain finished, I resumed my journey, only to catch up with the rain a few kilometers down the road. Again I sought shelter. This happened to me a third time when I got into the city. I just kept catching up with the slow moving storm. I finally made it to the school and changed out of my wet clothes into my teacher clothes. It’s supposed to rain again tonight around the time that I ride back to The Farm. If it’s coming down too heavily, I’ll find a cheap guesthouse to spend the night.

10 Years of MontanaRon

Wow, I just realized that January 3rd was the 10th Anniversary of my first post on this website. 755 posts later, I’m still hanging in there. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog, loyal, intermittent and new readers alike.

I should probably do a retrospective of my favorite posts, but I don’t have the time right now. Classes begin this Monday, and I’m still sending out applications for a new job. No luck, so far. It’s the age thing, of course. Prospective employers here in Korea first look at, before they look at anything else, the age of the person applying, then they look at your photo, and, then, and only then, do they look at credentials. If they think you’re too old or not good-looking enough (or, in some cases, not white enough), you’re application documents go in the trash can. Ridiculous.

Anyway, here’s to another 10!

Season’s Greetings

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice and . . .

One of my favorite times of the year is here, that time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. It always brings back great memories of the past, all the way back, of course, to childhood days. Despite the stress of the holidays, I hope everyone has a great holiday season.

Of course, one of the things I don’t care for at this time of year is the winter weather in the northern latitudes; e.g., Korea and Montana. Right now it’s not too bad in Yeosu, with temperatures a bit over 40 degrees F. (6 C.) It’s been getting down to a little below freezing at night, and, of course, we get our usual share of howling winds that contribute to a much colder wind chill temperature.

In a vain attempt to stave off winter, I kept my header summer photos up a bit longer than usual, but you’ll notice that I changed them to the wintry scenes that I usually have up. Those scenes show a lot of snow, something that we don’t get in Yeosu, thankfully.

Anyway, again, Season’s Greetings to everyone. Good health and cheer to all.

That Time of Year, Again

Yup, it’s the time of year for a couple of things. First, Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends in the States and to all Americans wherever you happen to be. For me, it’s just another day, a regular working day, no less. I won’t be cooking up anything special; I’m having pork cutlets, mashed potatoes and some baked beans (cooked on the stove). I don’t have an oven, so roasting a turkey or chicken is out of the question; I content myself with memories of past Thanksgivings. I can smell the turkey roasting in the kitchen right now, and I remember the smell of the pumpkin pie being baked the evening before. Mmmmm, are you all enjoying the aromas, too? Getting ready to sit down to a nice feast, and watch a football game afterward? Maybe later playing some board games with the kids? Whatever you do, have a great day!

Let’s see, what am I thankful for? I guess I’m thankful for making it through another year. By that I mean my ??th birthday, coincidentally, falls on Thanksgiving this year (or vice-versa), as it does every 7 years or so. Whoopee! Party time! Break out the good Scotch and light the cake! Well, I was gonna light the candles, but I’m afraid of starting another out-of-control conflagration. (See here and here.) I had to quit adding candles about here and was afraid to light them up.

birthday cake candles

Also, taking all of the candles back out so that I could eat a thousand or so calories of goo just wasn’t worth it, so I threw the whole mess out. Happy Birthday, MontanaRon and Happy Thanksgiving to all. More later.

Leaving Yeosu

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been busy job hunting. Yes, I’m leaving Chonnam University here in Yeosu at the end of February for various reasons that I won’t go into now. No, I haven’t been fired and, no, nothing earth-shaking has been going on. I’ll write another post later and fill everyone in on the details, more or less.

I’ve sent out more than a few applications, and, as a matter of fact, I had an interview yesterday with the good folks at Hanseo University up in Seosan, a smallish city about an hour-and-a-half bus ride south-west from Seoul. However, from Yeosu I had to take the bus to Seoul and then another bus to Hanseo Uni. That’s about 11 hours round-trip normally, but because there was some road construction and the inevitable traffic jam in Seoul, it took 13 hours. I didn’t want to stay overnight in Seoul, so it was a long trip up and back.

I think the interview went OK, but there’s a lot of competition for English-teaching jobs in Korea, so I’ll have to sweat it out for a while until I find out if I got the position. I’ll let you know more about this whole thing later. In the meanwhile, I’m keeping my fingers crossed hoping for a good outcome.


Today, Saturday, we had to work several hours to fulfill with our contractual obligations, so we had a fun day with our special Vision English classes. As happened last year at this time, I was asked to be Santa Claus in one of the activities we did. Huh!? Well, our students had to go around to various places on campus in a scavenger hunt activity, find the relevant teacher, and complete the English language tasks that were assigned. For SantaRon (yours truly), the students had to tell me two presents they wanted for Christmas and one present they didn’t want, and they had to give me reasons for wanting and not wanting the gifts. We also had some sports activities in the afternoon, which were interrupted by rain.

Not withstanding the fact that a normal day off was taken away, everyone seemed to have a good time, including me. But Santa wasn’t impressed.

Santa Ron

Where’s the Action

Anyway, it was all kinda fun, despite the rain and Santa’s boredom. It’s still raining quite heavy right now with more to come later, but Santa’s kind of happy to be high and dry in his apartment, wondering where Rudolph is hangin’ out, and dreading another Christmas run. Ho-ho-ho. More later.

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