Seven Years to the Day

Seven years ago to the day, in 2004 as I was preparing to come to Vietnam to work with the Mennonite Central Committee, I created a blog on Blogspot and wrote the first post. I was inspired by a volunteer who was serving in Vietnam before me and liked the way that his thoughts and experiences were easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

I migrated the blog from Blogspot to nearly a year and a half ago to kinda start from a clean slate again (I’d cluttered the other site with pictures and more links than were necessary). But I’ve kept it going for seven years.

There are plenty of times when I go through dry spells (I don’t think that writer’s block is the appropriate term in my case) and don’t post for a month or more, but I always get motivated about something and come back and start writing again.

Let’s see how a couple things have changed since 2004:

-There was no Gmail for the public (it was invitation only beta then).
-It would be three years until the iPhone was released (imagine life before smartphones).
-Gas in Ohio sold for $1.64 a gallon (it’s $3.18 as of today in the town near my home).
-I was highly skeptical that an African-American man would ever be elected president in my lifetime (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one).

I see no end in sight for this blog and will continue to write, and I always hope that my posts will be more consistent. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment; it is the interaction with others that I enjoy the most.

Keep writing.


Vietnam’s Most Ridiculous Law

I’m sure that there are many other pointless laws in this nation, and I’m sure that many people will not agree with this, but the way I see it, the most pointless law in Vietnam is the mandatory helmet law.

Motorbikes are the main form of transportation in Vietnam, and most of them do not exceed 125cc (mine is the average and is 97cc). It takes a lot of time and empty road to get them going fast. I’ve probably maxed out at 40 mph on an empty street before encountering traffic and having to slow down.

A simple fact of transportation is this: the faster you go, the more dangerous it is. With speeds averaging 20 mph or so in the city, wearing helmets is just annoying and hot.

Another simple fact about motorbike helmets in Vietnam that lawmakers didn’t take into account when they passed this law: People look ridiculous when they hop off their motorbike and step into a shop wearing a helmet. I’ve seen people in taxis and elevators wearing helmets, and I just look and them and wonder why. Clearly, the “I look like I have seizures” and/or “I’m in a Renaissance fair” looks are fetishes of higher-ups in the nation.

Fratire aside, this is the real reason why the mandatory helmet law in Vietnam is ridiculous: There are no safety standards. That’s right, I could tie a large ceramic bowl to my head with a piece of string for a strap and the police would not pull me over.

Imagine laws designed to protect people without standards. Cars in the states could have bailing twine for seat belts and balloons for airbags. Parachutes could be made out of a couple trash bags. Catchers’ masks could be made out of papier-mache.

If there are laws in place to protect people, there need to be benchmark standards for the equipment that actually protects them.

My suggestion: change the law to make it legal to drive within cities and towns with no helmet. Outside of towns and city limits, make it mandatory to wear larger helmets that cover more of the rider’s head, rather than the plastic baseball caps with a strap that pass for legal helmets now.

It’s just common sense.