Finding One’s Way and Eating Well

January 17, 1955

Dear Dad & Russ,

You just can’t imagine how busy we are. We dive right into things every morning at eight and from there on it’s like a beehive all day. Comes 4:30 and we’re all in – but still smiling. Lots of good old Canadian spirit in this office. No matter how busy we are, everybody manages to stay happy. I meant to write to you before but, honestly, over the past week I’ve hardly had a chance to light a cigarette. You see, I’ve been given the job of preparing the monthly accounts and, due to the fact that we’re behind in this little job, I nearly went nuts. As a matter of fact, I just finished them an hour ago, all ready for tomorrow’s dip bag to Ottawa. Whew! What a relief. Today Mr. Duder gave me an additional responsibility, namely setting up a small library with the books we have in the mission Well, more fun. I’ll either get back to Ottawa with lots and lots of experience or go crazy in the effort. If we’re working to the point of distraction, you can rest assured that Mr. Duder is working just as hard if not harder. He’s so easy to get along with and always has a word of encouragement whenever he sees you.

Luckily, last week was rather “cool” for these parts. 80 degrees or so all day long. We’re all waiting with a bit of premonition for the “hot” spell that is due any day now. If you suddenly get a letter from me merely saying “120 degrees today – Love, Dave”, you’ll know that it’s too hot to write.

The other day I was going to the bank in one of our delegation cars and one of the officers here asked me if I would mind dropping off an envelope for him at the British Embassy. I said “sure” and away I went. Upon leaving the bank it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t the faintest idea where the British Embassy was. I climbed into the car and told the Cambodian driver to take me to “L’Ambassade de Grande Bretagne”. He just looked at me. Then I tried “Angleterre”. He smiled all over, nodded his head madly, said “oui, oui” and promptly took me to the American Embassy. He pointed gleefully to the Stars & Stripes and said “Angooterrrrr”. I said “no” and tried “L’Ambassade de Grande Bretagne” again. No response. Then I tried Angleterre and “Anglais”. Again he smiled all over, nodded and said “oui, oui” and took me straight to the Japanese Embassy. Great pointing to the flag of the Rising Sun and chattering of “eesee meesoorrrr”. I said “no” again, but by now I was getting crafty and it suddenly occurred to me hat this fellow must know the flags of the various Embassies, so I hastily drew a wee Union Jack on the envelope I was delivering and he got me there in no time at all. Just a small matter of adaptability as they say in higher circles.

On Sunday, January 10th, Frank Finnie arrived from Hanoi to help me set up the accounts. He was on his way to Delhi for a short holiday from the hectic life behind the bamboo curtain. On Monday night, Cecile Fyen (our steno), Glenn Bright and I took Frank out to a big Chinese dinner. We went to a place called “Le Petit Tricotin” and found a little table in the garden part of the restaurant, all surrounded by palm fronds and a great tree overhead. A very good band was playing Viennese waltzes in the dancing part of the restaurant, so the whole thing was quite atmospheric (China and Vienna atmosphere, that is). A Chinese girl arrived at the table and gave us each a delightfully scented face cloth to wash with before dinner. Now here’s what we had for dinner: shark fin soup with crab, asparagus with crab sauce, chicken with mushrooms, fried shrimp in a scrumptious sauce, and sweet and sour spare ribs. Yum. All washed down with Chinese tea. Well, what a meal. We could hardly walk away from the table.

Then, last Wednesday night, two of the officers, all the NCOs and yours truly were invited to the home of a Miss Lee Sauve, a Canadian nurse with the World Health Organization (WHO). She lives in a delightful villa in a very nice residential section of town. We had a terrific dinner including cold chicken, fish salad, spaghetti and meat balls, and three different kinds of pie. Some of her Canadian friends were there also, including two other nurses with WHO and a young lady who works with the U.N. Also present was a hilarious Dutch woman named “Willy” who just kept us in stitches all evening talking about her adventures during the war in Europe. We then saw some of Lee’s coloured slides of Phnom Penh and Manila, and they were most beautiful. A wonderful evening was had by all and it certainly was a nice change to go “social” for an evening.

Last night, Roger, Glenn and I attended a band concert in the band shell directly below the Phnom. You’d honestly have to hear this band to believe it. Almost seventy pieces in all – sounded like the New York Philharmonic. The band – or should I say orchestra (it had violins) – was the King’s Royal and was so good we could hardly believe our ears. Just like a Sunday night band concert on Parliament Hill back home.

That’s about it for now,

love,

Dave

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