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May 2019


Today's Topic: Rain, police, and Mindfulness

Rain.  Wow, what a gully washer we had today! For three hours non-stop it poured rain like there was no tomorrow! Thinking I would venture forth after it stopped to see what the streets were like, I slipped into my flipflops, unlocked the inside house door and then the outside sliding steel door, and stepped out into the narrow alleyway that snakes its way from my house to the main street. As I stepped down into the 6" of water in front of my house, I thought to myself: "Wow, some rain." As I moved away from my front step, it only took a few meters to realize that the water was getting deeper the farther I sloshed my way down the alley. Six turns later, at the half-way point to the main road, I stood in water up to my knees. Because I'm not always the sharpest tool in the chest, it was only then that it occurred to me that it would be in my best interest to turn around and return to my house - no need to step on some unseen object under the murky water and brake an ankle, I supposed. is my understanding this is the type of rain I have to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. I guess I better buy a pair of swim googles and brush up on my back stroke.

Police: The local police were out in force today. Uniformed and plainclothes officers, batons and walkie-talkies in hand, were walking up and down the street, pointing at motorbike (xe mày) drivers who were not wearing helmets.These xe mày drivers immediately pulled over to the curb where they were herded to a waiting coral to commiserate with the other busted drivers. After dismounting from his or her motorbike, each driver was carefully, and silently, guided to one of two officers behind a makeshift desk. Once there, they handed over their state-issued identification card and motorbike operator's license. Next, because they are masters of mental telepathy, without a single word being uttered out loud, they simply, and unceremoniously, reached deep into their pockets and ponied-up the 200,000 VND cash-only fine (about $8.00 USD) for not wearing the required, state-approved motorbike helmet. I might add here that 200,000 VND represents approximately 30% of the monthly income of the average Vietnamese citizen. Some were also paying the additional 150,000 VND ($6.00 USD) per passenger fine. No receipts today, just money exchanging hands. Oh...and because I never go anywhere without my point and shoot camera, I attempted to take a photo of the operation, only to be confronted by an "assertive" policeman before I was able to even point my camera. I didn't argue, I moved along, "nothing to see here."

Mindfulness. There's an old saying that goes: "If you think you're pretty good at giving orders, try ordering your dog around. If your dog obeys, try ordering your cat around."  I gave a three-hour presentation on Mindfulness last week to a class of about 50 psychology students. I'm just going to say..."if you think you're pretty good at explaining mindfulness, try explaining it to people who have several different cultural definitions of the word mindfulness". Oh...and don't use that quote in your Powerpoint by John Connor from the Terminator 2: Judgement Day movie. You know...the one that starts out "The future's not set...". I can guarantee that your average Vietnamese, Confucian-Buddhist fate-oriented culture, is going to push back hard on that one. I'm just saying... 

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