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

Tag: personal (Page 1 of 28)

Thai Trip Report Part 3

Delay after delay after delay, but, finally, here is the final part of my Thai Trip Report, where I spent some time in Bangkok and Nongkhai. There isn’t much to report about Bangkok, so the video doesn’t contain that much about the City of Angels. [EDIT: I removed it as a matter of fact.] However, the Nongkhai section is a bit longer. I always try to spend some time there on a Saturday since there is a street fair every Saturday, weather permitting. So, here’s the vid. Enjoy!

[Edit: I removed the original video I had posted and replaced it with this shorter version. I took out the Bangkok section because it didn’t add much to the video and I reduced parts of the street fair at night and the kids’ dance practice.]

Thai Trip Report Part 2

We made our way to Patong Beach on Phuket Island, where we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. It’s a decent hotel that is only a two-minute walk to the beach and some of the rooms have a nice view of the gardens. It’s moderately priced and the staff has always been very helpful and friendly. About the only negative aspect is the rather meager breakfast, but it’s free and will provide you with enough food to get your day started.

One of my favorite ways to start the morning after breakfast was to take a walk along the beach. There aren’t a lot of people out at this time, so it’s quite peaceful. However, the beach lounge chair vendors are setting out their chairs to get ready for the crowds of sun worshippers who will arrive a bit later in the morning.

Directly behind the area where we spent the afternoon and early evening at the beach is the Kudo Hotel, which attracts a mostly younger crowd to its outside lounging area that has a swimming pool. One of the reasons for the age of the clientele might be that at the front of the hotel is the Daily Dose, a coffee shop that also sells cannabis, I believe. So, you can lounge by the pool, toke up with a hookah, and enjoy the nightly entertainment that the hotel provides. (Watch the video below)

Nai likes to sleep until the early afternoon, so he might miss out on some interesting events. One morning, after walking the beach, I went back to the hotel and came upon some folks from what I think is a middle school that’s right across the street. It appeared that there were administrators, teachers and students, including a student band, walking and marching down the road away from the beach, going to one of the main roads in town. They eventually ended up at what looked like a temple area. There’s a short clip of them on the video below, and I made another video of the entire procession that you can also view below.

Overall it was another enjoyable five-day stay at Patong beach and I’m sure we’ll go back again at a future date. Enjoy the videos.

Phuket video:

Patong Middle School Procession

Thai Trip Report part 1

I recently had a two-week vacation in Thailand, so I’m going to do a few posts about that trip. My friend Nai and I spent some time at Patong Beach in Phuket, a few nights in Bangkok and a few more days in Nongkhai. This first part will be about two airports where I had a chance to take some videos. You can see the video I made at the end of this post.

The first airport was Udon Thani Airport. Udon is a city of about 400,000 people, so it’s not exceptionally large and doesn’t have a huge airport. The inside of the airport, like the departure area and the boarding gates, is clean, modern and comfortable, but it doesn’t have that many food and beverage options. Nai and I spent the night in Nongkhai, which is right across the border from Laos. Because we had an early flight from Udon to Bangkok, we took an early (6:30 a.m.) taxi to Udon, which costs 800 Thai baht, if memory serves me correctly.

From Udon Thani, we flew into Bangkok’s Don Meuang International Airport, which serves mainly as a domestic flight center. It used to be the only international airport in Bangkok, but with the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2006, it was relegated to a secondary role. This airport used to be in terrible shape, but with an upgrade, the interior is now very attractive, and, in a lot of ways, I think it has a much nicer ambience than Suvarnabhumi, though I haven’t been to the big airport since 2019.

One complaint I have about Don Meuang is that upon arrival, it seems that debarking passengers always have to take a shuttle bus to get to the arrivals area and the bus takes around seven minutes (I timed it) to travel from the plane to the terminal. Perhaps a minor hassle, but I like to step off a plane directly into the terminal.

So, here’s the video of the two airports. I’ll continue with my trip report in the next post, soon I hope.

Happy Birthday to Me

Yup, it’s that time of year again, where I’m reminded that I’m not getting any younger. As a matter of fact, I’m three quarters of a century old. Putting it that way, it sounds really old. But not as old as saying I’m in the middle of my eighth decade. Oh, well, looking forward to the next quarter century! I don’t have any plans to celebrate since I have to work today. Here’s a previous celebration, but this year’s party will be much less subdued. LOL

Speaking of work, I just had a nice three-day weekend as Laos celebrated with the annual That Luang Festival. I had attended the celebration at That Luang a few times in the past, but found it too crowded and too hot, so I stay away from the area these days. Most of my students felt the same way when I asked them if they were going to the festivities. Can’t say that I blame them; if you’ve been once or twice, there will probably be nothing new to see or do.

Next weekend is another three-day holiday as Laos’ National day is on tap. It’s the equivalent of July 4th in the United States. The communist party puts on a big show for this one, and I stay away from it also.

After next week, the term is finished and we get a nice month-long break. Around the middle of the month, Nai and I are going to Thailand and the beach in Phuket, one of our favorite holiday excursions. Surf and sand–can’t wait!

Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving day (November 23rd this year) in the United States, a day to give thanks, overindulge (I’ve been just as guilty of that as anyone!), watch a football game, play family board games, prepare for Black Friday, and to be grateful for what we have. That’s one of the suggestions for art journaling in one of the digital art courses I take (Photoshop Artistry). Our mentor, guru, and chief cook and bottle washer, Sebastian Michaels recommends that at least once a week we devoted some time in our personal journals to list the things we’re grateful for. I don’t do nearly enough on that subject; I should definitely include it in my journaling efforts.

Here’s a blog post from Bella Grace Magazine, one of the many arts and crafts mags from Stampington, titled 15 Simple Everyday Moments to be Grateful For:

Without fail, life gets even busier as the holidays approach. Our never-ending
to-do lists become even longer, our calendars more full, and quiet moments
to ourselves feel impossible. That’s why it’s vital to seize these tiny pockets of
magic we may experience every day and take note of them, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

1. Waking up to sunlight streaming through your
bedroom curtains
2. Hitting all green lights while running errands
3. A hot shower on a chilly morning
4. Watching the steam rise from a pot of something
nourishing cooking on the stove
5. An unexpected conversation with a stranger
6. That sigh of contentment when you’re finally done
with your tasks for the day
7. Getting that messy bun just right on the first try
8. The sound of cozy-scented candles crackling
9. Hearing the first notes of your favorite song
10. Finally starting that new book that’s been sitting
on your nightstand
11. Settling in to watch an episode of a beloved show
you’ve watched more times than you can count
12. The feel of a dog or cat’s nose pushing into your leg
13. Someone offering to take something off your plate
14. Slipping into your coziest loungewear after a
long day
15. Catching a scent in the air that makes you
feel nostalgic

Not all of these pertain to me (loungewear?), but I can add some more to the list.
16. The smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning.
17. The aromas of pizza and bread being baked or served.
18. Holiday breaks from work.
19. Showing off your handyman skills by fixing something around the house.

And so many more. What are you grateful for today?

Also, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Pride Month in Laos

You might think that recognizing Pride Month in a somewhat repressive, but mostly benign, communist country would be a no-go. That’s not true, though. First, there is an LGBTQI group in Laos with a presence on Facebook, Proud to Be Us Laos, that participates in quite a few public events (see the Facebook page above), and recently the government allowed for the celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT Day) for the first time during Pride Month this year.

Also, the U.S. Embassy showed its recognition of Pride Month by decking out part of their outside wall with the Pride colors. Here’s a photo I took when riding my motorbike to school last Saturday (sorry, it isn’t the sharpest of shots).

Pride colors on U.S. Embassy wall in Vientiane, Laos.

In addition, Vientiane College is also celebrating Pride Month with colorful streamers adorning our reception area. Here are a few shots I took on Saturday morning after classes had finished.

Pride streamers at Vientiane College, Vientiane, Laos.

Pride streamers at Vientiane College, Vientiane, Laos.

So, it appears that things are looking up for the gay, lesbian, etc. population of Laos. Let’s hope that more acceptance is forthcoming!

Relaxing in Nong Khai

I spent a few relaxing days last week in Nong Khai, Thailand, which is just across the border. My house is actually closer to that town than it is to Vientiane, since the bridge across the Mekong River is about 8km away, whereas the distance to downtown Vientiane is 16km. Nong Khai is a fairly small town that many tourists probably bypass if they’re heading to Laos, but there are a lot of expats who have retired to the area.

Nai came with me and we stayed at a small hotel, the Baan Mae Rim Nam, located on the banks of the Mekong and right on one of Nong Khai’s chief attractions, the Walking Street, a river walk that runs for several kilometers next to the river. It’s a great place for strolling, jogging, bicycling, or relaxing. I especially like it at night when it’s gently lit by streetlamps, and families and joggers are abundant. There are quite a few bars and restaurants along the walkway, and the one we frequented, Macky’s Riverside Kitchen, puts a few of their tables out in the evening next to the river’s edge. It’s so nice to sit outside, when it’s not raining, and dine or have a beverage and do a bit of people watching. It’s also great for viewing sunsets:

sunset

walking street in Nong Khai

Walking Street at night

dining outside

Outside Macky’s Riverside Kitchen

sunset

sunset boat practice

A crew practices for the boat races that will take place in a few weeks or so

Down a bit from Macky’s is the Irish Bar, which also features a decent restaurant and a good view of the river and the walkway. The owner, Mick, an Irish expat, of course, is a jovial fellow, so stop in and say hello if you’re in the area.

Another highlight is the Saturday Walking Street market, which has a number of food stalls, handmade crafts, and a stage area where bands entertain the market goers. Usually. Unfortunately, it rained quite a bit on the Saturday we were there, and the market was washed out. Oh, well, next time.

We also went to the former Tesco-Lotus shopping center (I think it’s just called Lotus now) and replenished our wardrobes. I needed some new shirts, jeans, socks and other types of clothing, and Thailand is cheaper than Vientiane right now, since the inflation rate in Laos is quite high.

All in all, it was a relaxing time in Nong Khai, but even better, it was a chance to get out of Vientiane and visit Thailand after being stuck in Laos since December of 2019, mainly because of the covid virus epidemic restrictions that had been in place. I’m looking forward to December when I have plans to get down to Bangkok and perhaps to one of the beach areas, like Phuket or Koh Samui.

New Laptop

I found that I’d have some extra time at the school this term because a couple of my scheduled classes were cancelled due to low enrollment in those particular classes. The number of students we have in all classes is up a bit from last term; it’s just the luck of the draw that these two classes lacked students. I still have two classes to work, from 6:45-8:15 in the evening M-F and at 10:45-12:15 Saturday morning. But, because I’m still receiving my standard salary I have to act as a cover teacher, filling in if someone calls in sick for the early class from 5:00-6 and 9-10:30 Sat. If there are no absent teachers, then I have that extra time to do whatever.

I tried hauling my big laptop back and forth from home to the school so that I could work on digital art or whatever else I wanted to do, but that laptop is a bit too heavy and bulky to run around with, so I purchased a new laptop a few weeks ago to use at the school and keep locked in my office desk. It’s a Lenovo Yoga Slim7 and it’s a nice portable rig, with a 1TB SSD internal drive, 14″ screen, and a few other nice features. Cost about $1300, which, of course, is more expensive than buying the same outfit back in the ‘States. Naturally, after I got it, teachers started calling in sick, so I haven’t had much opportunity to make extensive use of it, but I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity now and then.

The new laptop–kind of looks like this.

New Term at School

I’ve had the last month off after the first term at Vientiane College finished on April 9th, but we start our next term on May 9th. While the school had enough students during the first term to keep the doors open, so to speak, we’re all hoping that registration increases this time around, though the admin people don’t expect to reach pre-pandemic levels until next year, probably. But, everyone has their fingers crossed.

For the upcoming session I’ve got three classes so far out of my usual four. I’m teaching one class for middle-school aged kids, one adult class and one class in our Diploma program. That one is a Creative Writing class, something I’m looking forward to. I taught another writing class just as the pandemic hit back in 2020 and we had to cut the term short, so we didn’t quite finish our classes. Since then, the writing class has been revamped by the teacher who taught it last term and it looks like it’ll be a lot of fun!

For my fourth class time slot, I’ll be a cover teacher, covering for others who might be out sick or can’t make it to class for whatever reason at that time. Hopefully, the classes will fill up so that I can have a regular class then, but being a cover teacher is fine with me. It doesn’t affect my pay or the time that I have to be at the school.

Anyway, only a few days left until it’s back to work, though we have a mandatory workshop this Friday at 2:30 p.m. More later.

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.

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