MontanaRon

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

Tag: personal (page 1 of 26)

My Now Page

If you look at the top menu, you’ll see a new page up there called Now. What is a Now page? The idea for it comes from Derek Sivers. The page lists things that I might be up to right at this point in my life, like what music I’m listening to, what books I’m reading, etc. “But, can’t you do that on social media?” you might ask. No, you can’t. Here’s how Sivers explains it on his about Now page:

What is a “now page”?

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

See examples by browsing nownownow.com.

Although it’s normal to make the web address “/now”, just like it’s usually “/about” and “/contact” in those other examples, the URL could be anything.

Don’t Twitter and Facebook updates do that?

No. If I wonder how someone is doing these days, it doesn’t help me to see that they went on vacation last week, are upset about something in the news, or even got a new job. That’s not the big picture.

Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year.

Like, “Still living in Dallas, though considering moving to Austin. Working at ABC. Really getting into cycling. The kids are age 3 and 6. I’m reading a lot of Pema Chödrön, and listening to a lot of jazz piano especially Brad Mehldau. I’ve stopped taking on web design clients, since I’d rather keep improving my back-end database work.”

That’s what a now page is for. You can’t get that big picture from any other outlets I’m aware of.

I’ll try to keep my Now page updated either every couple of weeks or perhaps only once a month, depending on what I’m up to. Check it out, if you want.

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.

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.

I Need More Time!

Don’t we all? That’s one of my major excuses for not creating more art. I just don’t have enough time on the weekdays, working a full-time job. I usually go into the school around 1 p.m. and don’t get back to the house until around 9 at night. I also work Saturday mornings, finishing at 12:30 in the afternoon.

On Saturday after school I spend too much time napping or just being lazy; I’m usually quite tired, and I like to spend the evenings sipping a few beers and watching some U.S. TV series that I’ve downloaded (The Walking Dead, The Expanse and a few others). On Sunday, I do manage to get in at least a couple of hours of creativity, but, again, I goof off too much, playing my favorite online MMORPGs, Lord of the Rings Online and Eve Online, then watching a few hours of TV at night.

That, then, is a major element of concern for me in creating art–how can I find enough time to do it. As part of the Photo Artistry course, Sebastian asks us to go through our days and find where we can get rid of wasted time (TV, social media, etc.) and use that time for creating. One area that I’ve changed is the time that I go jogging in the morning. In the past I’ve usually gone out at 7 a.m., jogging and walking for about 45 minutes every morning except Saturday. So, I thought I’d start at 6:30, freeing up half an hour for more art. It’s still a little dark at 6:30 to go out on the busy road where the first part of my jog takes place, so I’ve been waiting until 6:40, when it’s light enough that I feel safer. Eventually, when the sun starts coming up early enough, I want to go out at 6 o’clock.

I’ve also gained some more free time by not going into work so early when I don’t really have to be there. Going in at 1:00 and getting my lesson planning done by 3 leaves me with a couple of hours where I don’t have much to do but read. So, I’ve started going in at 2 o’clock. Voila, another hour. Now, about the weekend . . .

Early Morning Showers

Another day, another morning rain shower. Much of the rain during the monsoon season falls at night and continues into the early morning. So, my attempt at staying in some semblance of shape by jogging has suffered. I usually do a couple of miles around 7 or 7:30 a.m.; any later and it’s just too hot, and the traffic on the road picks up as people start heading to work in Vientiane.

There’s still a lot of rain ahead of us, but I think we’re over the hump, past the mid-point of the monsoon season. Hopefully. The Mekong has slipped over its banks in some areas near Vientiane, including at Nai’s sister’s house, where I used to live. The river has flooded the family’s crop lands, but, luckily, it hasn’t reached the houses yet. It’s not nearly as bad as in 2008 (see my previous blog entry), though I haven’t been to the old place to check it out. Right now, blue sky seems to be breaking out, so if it stays nice, I’ll try to get out there to take a few photos. In fact, our usual rain shower was pretty short, so it looks like I might be able to take a jog this morning after all. Better get going.

P.S. The schools’s on break until Sept. 13th, so I’ve got all this time on my hands. Just got back from a short stay in Bangkok. Not much to say about the trip, but maybe I’ll write up a short post about it later.

My First UFO

It’s been very hot this week with high temperatures around 100F (38C) and the humidity has been high. Some mornings I wake up and I’m already sweating. Until last night there had been no sign of thunderstorms and rain, which would cool things off a bit, for a while. But, we had a very violent storm come through from the north yesterday evening around 7 o’clock. There was little rain, but lots of high wind and lightning. I thought the roof of the house was going to get torn off, and, though there were no nearby strikes, the lightning was flickering all around us, enough so that I probably could have read a book by the light.

I sat on the front porch, which faces south and was somewhat sheltered, enjoying the relative coolness that the storm brought. As I watched the clouds zipping along, I noticed a pale, silver wedge, shaped like a boomerang and somewhat blurred, going in the opposite direction, toward the north, against the strong wind. It couldn’t have been at a great altitude because it reflected the lighting from the street lamps. It raced past almost directly overhead and became obscured by the house. I thought about running to the back of the house to see if I could catch a glimpse of it, but I remembered the back door was locked and it would have taken some time to get my keys and unlock the door, by which time the object would have been long gone.

What was it? It came out of the south from the general direction of Thailand. Is the Thai or Lao military testing a flying wing? Just kidding, as neither of them has the resources, the technology or the know-how to even begin to think about doing something like that. I don’t have a clue about what the object was, so I’m going to chalk it up as my very first glimpse of a UFO.

Calling it a UFO doesn’t mean it was some kind of extra-terrestrial space craft; it just means that it was something flying that I couldn’t identify. A flock of birds, maybe? A rogue cloud? Some kind of weird lightning? I give it a shoulder shrug. UFO.

Drawing

This is something I drew in Photoshop earlier. It kind of resembles the object that I saw. Same brightness,
blurry look.

New House, New Location

The school has been closed since April 8th, but we go back to work this week, with a teachers’ workshop on Thursday and regular classes on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be quite happy to be starting up again. The break has seemed interminable with several “disasters” punctuating the time off.

First, my computer crashed and I had to get Windows reinstalled. Unfortunately, I lost some data and applications that I hadn’t backed up, but, thankfully, most of the important data (photos, documents, etc.) were saved. Then I had trouble with my debit card at the ATM and had to straighten that out. A few nights ago, Nai had an altercation with a couple of guys who tried to rob him and he got knocked around pretty badly, but seems to be OK. He told me he gave as good as he got. The cops arrested the thugs. A few other nuisance situations also occurred to make this a less than enjoyable break.

On a more positive note, though, I’ve moved into a, literally, new house in a new location. I’m the first one to live here and the owner is still upgrading the surrounding “yard.” (Not so much a yard as a weed patch; he hauled in a bunch of dirt to cover a lot of it, and I hope he plans to add some real grass.)

Here’s why I made the move. The old place, which I used to think was paradisaical, had gradually been degraded over the last year. The owner took out the entirety of the banana grove that had surrounded the house, erected fences that encompass the land, and started raising goats. Goats, goats and more goats. There were 13 of them on the tract that the house is on, and they had free run of the place, meaning that they crapped and urinated everywhere when I couldn’t chase them off–on the front porch and the concrete walkway surrounding the house and anywhere else they could find. The smell was atrocious and the noise they made destroyed the tranquility of the place. Not to mention that the neighbors had some parties at which they used huge concert-appropriate speakers and amps and cranked up the music until it was pulsing through your body; you couldn’t escape the noise and it was impossible to sleep or to even carry on a conversation. It was like a torture chamber. A few times I just gave up and rented a guesthouse room in Vientiane for the night. Then the owner said he wanted me out by May 1st because he wanted to move back into the house. Absolutely. No. Problem.

So, Nai found this new place and it’s much nicer than what the other place had become. It’s 30 minutes closer to town and I don’t have to ride my motorbike over that completely sh**ty dirt road leading to the village. For that reason alone, I am grateful to have made the move. The house is located about 100 yards off the main road that runs between Vientiane and the border crossing between Laos and Thailand. It’s a bit noisy at times, being located near a couple of karaoke restaurants, but it’s not that bad. It’s a heavily traveled road, so the traffic noise can be disturbing. However, the karaokes are good neighbors and close when they’re legally supposed to close (11:30 pm), which not all similar places do, and the traffic settles down at night.

I was disappointed, though, when I found that the device I was using in the countryside to connect to the internet rarely works at all here. I thought I would have better reception, being closer to town, but most days I can’t connect at all. Lo and behold, there’s an internet cafe which has extremely good, fast internet right in front of the house on the main road. Not only that, since I’m near the main road, one of the local internet providers is going to run a fiber optic line to the house in a couple of weeks, so I’ll have my own connection, always on. Hooray! It costs about $37 a month and I hope it’s worth it.

Of course, since the house was unfurnished, I’ve been spending money hand over fist buying furniture and what-not for it. (Another good reason to be getting back to work, earning money again.) We hired a pick-up truck to haul our other stuff (refrigerator, stove, bed, personal items) here. There are still a few more items I have to purchase, so more money will be leaving the coffers before all is said and done. Oh, yes, the old place cost $50 a month; this one is $200. But, I guess that’s the price to pay for leaving “paradise.”

The beneficial things about living here are that it’s much closer to Vientiane, it’s on a paved road and I’ll have a nice internet connection. Being closer to the city, I’ll probably be much more inclined to go to the movie theater or to take in some cultural events on the weekends.

Not beneficial–the cost and the noise (at times). Mostly, however, the noise won’t be a problem since I’ll be at work during the day and into the early part of the night. So far, it’s not been a big problem.

We’ll see how this new place works out. I signed a six-month lease, so I’ll have lots of time to either get to like it or to hate it. More later.

House

This is a view of the front of the house. In the back there’s a very large field (see previous post), and behind me and to the right of the house there are some other houses-not too close, but not much to see. To the left of this photo are some fish ponds. See the next photo.

Pond

Here’s one view of the fish pond. There’s another larger one beyond it. Yes, it is stocked with fish, which the vendor in front of us grills and sells. I might end up stuffing my self too often.

Pond

Here’s another view of the pond.

Health Benefits of Traveling

It’s an agreeable morning in Laos. The last few days have been quite hot and humid, but there’s a gentle rain falling and a cool breeze is blowing through the open windows and front door. In the kitchen of my new house that I’m renting (more on that in a later post), I can look out at a small herd of cows grazing on chaff from the newly-harvested rice field that stretches into the distance. Very relaxing. Quite agreeable.

Rice Harvesting

A modern harvester works on a field of stick rice (glutinous rice). Many farms in Laos still use the old method of harvesting by hand with machetes or scythes.

Cows Grazing

After the harvest, the chaff is left for a few cows to enjoy.

You never know what you’ll run into while you’re traveling or after you’ve settled in somewhere. Vientiane can be hectic sometimes, but not far from the city you can find some bucolic scenes like these. It’s a bit like Frodo talking about his Uncle Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring.

“Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ ”

So, traveling can lead to some interesting, exotic, adventurous locales. Traveling’s good for you. There are a lot of advantages to be had in traveling. What are they? Head over to Positive Health Wellness to read “8 Reasons Why Traveling is Good For Your Health.” It’s an interesting and informative article, and maybe it’ll set off your wanderlust. Do some traveling and exploring, if you can. Steer a canoe down a scenic river, enjoy the grandeur of majestic mountains, or just watch the cows. The benefits are many.

The Most Dangerous Thing I Do

I usually ride my motorbike to and from work, 25 kilometers each way, six days a week, and five of those rides are at night, Monday through Friday. This is the most dangerous thing that I do, and it is, without a doubt, the most consistently risky thing that I’ve ever done. It’s been said that this is one South East Asia experience that you can live without. I’ll vouch for that, since I’ve had a fair number of close calls. I’ve been at times incredibly aware and careful and, to tell the truth, very, very lucky. Some other riders, though, have not been so lucky.

This is from a recent article on Yahoo! News, dated Aug. 28, 2016:

“Look at me, stay with us,” the paramedics shout as a barely conscious motorcyclist is bundled into a volunteer ambulance in the Laotian capital Vientiane, where rampant drink driving brings nightly carnage to the roads.

It is a grim scene familiar the world over.

But in Laos, an impoverished and authoritarian communist country with almost no state-funded medical services, these kind of vital lifesavers are volunteers and entirely funded by donations. . .

And they have never been more in demand.

Poorly maintained roads, dilapidated vehicles, an increase in motorcycle use and the widespread prevalence of drink driving makes Vientiane one of Asia’s most precarious capitals for road deaths.

I’ve seen two terrible accidents in the last couple of weeks on my ride back to the village, both of which occurred at night (rather than my Saturday afternoon return ride from Vientiane).

The first involved two motorbikes and a pick up truck. It looked like the two bikes had smashed into the back of the truck, putting quite a large dent in the tailgate. I came upon the accident, which happened in the lanes leading into town, and saw the pickup had pulled into the lanes leading out of town and had parked half on the road and half on the sidewalk. The two motorbikes were down on the other side of the road, looking pretty torn up. A couple of motorbike helmets lay in the road. As I drove slowly past, I noticed a large crowd of people surrounding the area, but ambulances and police hadn’t yet arrived, so this had just taken place. Then, I noticed a young lady, perhaps in her early-twenties, sprawled in the middle of the pavement. Her head was turned away from me, with her right cheek on the road, lying on her right arm with her left one behind her back. She looked pretty, from what I could tell, but, unfortunately, she looked quite dead. Usually at least a few people will be trying to help these accident victims, checking to see if they’re OK, comforting them while waiting for the ambulance, applying some makeshift first aid, or, sometimes, checking for a pulse. No one was near this victim, but many were looking at her from a respectful distance. I’ve ridden past a number of accident scenes in the last couple of years, but this is the first one that brought tears to my eyes. The victim looked so very much alone, lying in the middle of the pavement under a harsh street light. I can only imagine what her parents must have felt. With any luck, perhaps she was just knocked unconscious.

The other accident happened about a week later only a few kilometers down the road. Again, two motorbikes were involved, and it looked like they had smashed into each other. As I came upon the scene, I saw one guy, wearing a helmet, limping heavily to the side of the road with the aid of a bystander. Another man lay face down on the pavement, no helmet on, and a man was checking for his pulse on the side of his neck. The bystander stood up and walked away. I don’t know if the victim was dead or just unconscious, but I think the former. I went slowly and carefully on my way, though I don’t take time to dilly-dally and gawk, like many other people do. Again, this had just happened, probably no more than a minute before I passed through the area, which is right across the road from a karaoke bar that is usually very crowded. Of course, many motorbikes and cars are parked there, and, of course, many people get quite drunk there. I’m always extremely careful when I drive through the area because of the number of cars and motorbikes entering and leaving, and because of the number of drunks I’ve seen staggering down the middle of the road.

So, the conclusion is that I will continue to drive my bike with the utmost care and attention. It’s usually fun and a bit exhilarating, but it’s certainly no time to take risks. Wish me well.

« Older posts

© 2020 MontanaRon

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑