Viet Nam

My first wife always wanted to know what I discussed in my therapy sessions with the psychologist, and I told her that was MY time, MY business, and not open for discussion.  She would do her best to make me miserable for not disclosing the sessions, but I knew that if I did, the therapy would be tainted and would lose it’s value to me.  Her intent was obviously to disrupt and destroy my sessions, which were really helping ME understand and deal with the problems of my marriage.  The one time I did disclose something was during our joint therapy session with a different team of psychologists and then my wife became hysterical, began screaming at me and the therapists, and stormed out of the session saying that she was quitting all therapy.  You cannot force someone to go to therapy, but she also could not force me to quit mine.

Now my wife, who reads this blog, is asking me to write about things that upset me here in my adopted home, but fortunately I am well enough to realize that she is not trying to control my writing as much as she is asking me to write of my issues.  She asked me to write to the newspapers and voice my opinion, and I really did a couple of times without telling her.  Nothing I wrote ever made it into the letters to the editors, and most of the letters are pretty benign.  It doesn’t seem to me that it is a good idea to criticize too much in this land where internet connections are terminated at the whim of the government and a public display of dissatisfaction may lead to not very nice results.

That said, I am a bit perturbed by traffic and the lack of enforcement of the traffic laws.  Motorbikes, the main form of transportation here, drive in every direction on both streets and sidewalks without regard for other drivers or pedestrians.  You have nearly as much chance of getting run over on a sidewalk as you do crossing the street, and there is really no defense for that.  Electric motorbikes are completely silent, and I have often been brushed on the arm by a bike passing me from behind while I am walking on the sidewalk.  One takes defensive actions by staying close to the buildings so only one side is exposed, but if you are threading your way through a sidewalk filled with a restaurants tables and chairs, some motorbike driver may come bearing down on you and force you out of his way.  If the  path through the tables is so narrow I have taken to bumping people blocking my way, a rude act but sometimes the only way to get through.  I am not alone in this type of rude act–you might even call it ‘The Ho Chi Minh City Way’.  People do it all the time, and in HCMC the rule of thumb is to not say: “Excuse me!”  Sad fact is that there just isn’t enough room–not for motorbikes, not for cars, and not for pedestrians.

My solution is not a viable one.  On tuesday I took a cab down to the American Consulate to pick up my new passport.  Traffic was so bad that it took nearly an hour for a ride that normally takes 20 minutes (15 if no traffic).  At first I thought it was because we were in rush hour, but it was 9:30 am.  On the way home it was just as bad and took just as long, and that was 10:30 in the morning.  If you remove the sidewalks as an alternative road for motorbikes, the congestion will be impossible.  Right now any additional traffic causes gridlock, and people block the intersections making it impossible for the cross traffic to proceed–much worse than anything that would occur in the USA during rush hours.  Also, there are no superhighways, no limited access roads except on the outskirts of the city, and then they are short and in places there is little use for them.

I remember when they built the Congress Street Expressway in Chicago (now called the “Eisenhower”) and had to tear down a lot of homes.  Here that would not be an issue for the government often exercises  their right of eminent domain and tears down whole neighborhoods giving minor compensation to the homeowners and business owners on the path.  The trouble is the expense and the bureaucracy.  There are so many difficulties to get urban planning approved that it often founders and finally dies.  The idea of only permitting even number plates on one day and odd number plates on the other day would be impossible to enforce.  The only traffic law I see enforced and obeyed is wearing a helmet driving a motorbike.  99.8% of the people obey that, but they don’t bother doing it for their children.  Some people even say that wearing a helmet causes a child to be injured more severely than if they had no helmet.  People just ignore the law they don’t like.

So I take a taxi and enjoy the fact that I don’t have to fight this traffic and am only at risk from a drunken driver, an angry bus driver, or a truck driver in a hurry.

At least if I die it will be in air conditioned comfort.


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