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May 19, 2015

Many thoughts...

My chosen home, Đà Lạt, is in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, about seven hours (300 km) northeast of Ho Chi Minh City and three-plus hours (130 km) from the Pacific coast at Cam Ranh. This is the beginning of VN's rainy season
and it's an interesting experience.

The two places I lived in the 35 years prior to moving to Đà Lạt both had rainy seasons that were quite different regarding the variables of duration and intensity. Fort Lauderdale had mostly brief (< 30 minutes) and intense thunderstorms, while Olympia's rain was almost always light to medium showers that went on for hours. Many people in the U.S. Pacific Northwest say that they get more annual inches of rainfall than in New York, but that it takes longer to fall. I frequently told my training classes that, like the Inuit people who have 20-something words for snow (it's actually over 50), we have 19 words for drizzle. One of the funniest moments by a participant was when one asked me to list them all.

Here in Đà Lạt, and everywhere I've been in VN that has a rainy season, we have the best of both... if you like rain, which I do. We have hours-long driving thunderstorms during which the streets are virtually empty of motorbikes. Those that are out are colorfully decorated with flowing ponchos. Those rain-soaked headlights of red, green, blue, and yellow are normal headlights are actually just covered with a poncho. I'm looking for photos and will post one soon...

As someone who started following politics in the early 70's I'm amazed that I am still shocked at the myriad of ways my government is constantly to screw its citizens while allowing trillions of dollars (that's at least TWELVE zeros to the left of the decimal point, as in > $2,000,000,000,000) in corporate profits to go untaxed. The U.S. Treasury (which gets its funding from our taxes) also pays millions in corporate welfare to corporations who pay no taxes on their huge profits. WTF???

More than once I've said that my number one problem here in Việt Nam is my inability to accept the fact that a well over 90% of Vietnamese males over 16 I've encountered smoke a LOT of cigarettes. Today I read an article that said Vietnamese Smokers Spend $1 Billion per year on Cigarettes. Since there is no way to count only the cigarettes purchased by Vietnamese, these figures actually include the cigarettes purchased by foreigners... so the per-capita numbers are lower, though still alarming.

To me, the biggest issue here is the huge cost in lives and money that Việt Nam is facing 20 or 30 years from now when tens of thousands of these men develop various smoking related cancers. Even if VN had a decent public health system, which it doesn't, is a hidden and looming huge national tragedy.

The good news is that the powers that be might actually do something about it: Vietnam Moves to Ban Smoking at Weddings and Funerals.

Cigarettes are the only product I know of that, if used EXACTLY as directed, are guaranteed to kill the user. Why do we still allow their sale anywhere?

In wandering around the Internet, I found some very interesting Abandoned America panoramic photographs.

I also found a great review of the 2015 model of my Suzuki DR-Z 400S.

A couple weeks ago I wrote of my frustration with how things are going during my first six months or retirement. I am still thinking along those lines and, if I do leave, the moment I decided to go will very possibly be Thursday, 14 May at 5:43 am when VERY LOUD music playing from goddess-knows-where-but-close-outside-my-hotel-window woke me abruptly and unpleasantly. VN is, almost 24/7, a LOUD country and if I am unable to ignore such volume as I sleep, I am doomed.

This brings me to one of the things about Vietnamese culture that is completely baffling to me... the apparent lack of concern for how one's actions affect others. Who the hell plays LOUD music with the windows and doors open in a crowded urban setting at 5:43 a.m.???

In my nine total months here, I have witnessed countless examples and over the last week I photographed a few of them:

The standing woman thinks it is perfectly acceptable to walk up, lean in, and start talking because 'It does not matter that the bank employee is already helping someone else or that there are two people in queue. What matters is that I want/need help NOW.' I see this in banks, stores, and train stations. The only place that a queue seems to hold is at airport security and immigration.

'I can park my motorbike wherever I want—even if it completely blocks the sidewalk.

'Even if there is plenty of space within a few feet where I could park and not impede anyone.'
In most cases, sidewalk-blocking parking forces pedestrians to walk in traffic—an especially dangerous thing to do because, especially in the cities, many motorbikes travel the wrong way down the street along the curb.

These are things that, like the omnipresent smoking, will most likely never change. If I am to continue living in this beautiful country, I must change how I process and react to them. It's that simple... and that difficult.

To that end, I am now thinking about places I want to go and things I want to do prior to leaving Asia for the final time... in case it comes to that.

Ride Thailand's Golden Triangle; tour Myanmar; ride Northern Việt Nam north of Hà Nội; and visit Son Doong cave.

If you're interested in reading and seeing more about beautiful Đà Lạt, here are a few recent articles:

From French villas to slums, Đà Lạt's lost charm

24 Aerial Photos Of Old Đà Lạt

The Sad Story of Đà Lạt’s Disappearing Pine Trees


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