January 24, 1955
Dear Dad & Russ,
Today is New Year’s Day in this part of the world. Which makes it all so very confusing, having just finished OUR New Year celebrations. Everything just came to a dead halt today in Phnom Penh and shall remain in that lively state for three full days and nights – the duration of the celebrations. All the stores are closed and my dirty laundry (which usually takes but two days to return) shall not put in an appearance ‘till the weekend. At the time of our New Year’s all the little Chinese waiters, servants, etc., went around wishing us Bonne Annee, so no we are returning all the Bonne Annees. More fun.
Sgt. Glenn Bright has been posted to Vientiane up in Laos. He left Phnom Penh just this morning. We all certainly shall miss Glenn very much – he was such a grand guy and got along so well with everybody. Last Wednesday evening Major-General Snow invited all the Senior NCOs over to his hotel room for cocktails before dinner in honour of Glenn’s departure. SENIOR NCOs include all ranks from Sgt’s up and I was included. Huh, you might say? Well here’s news – I’ve been promoted from Honorary Lance Corporal (rank bestowed upon me for building a Christmas tree) to Honorary Sergeant (rank bestowed upon me about a week and a half ago as reward for being the only person in the office who could open the safe after all other attempts had failed). So, folks, as you can see, I’m getting up in the world (honorarily militarily speaking) as I am now a Senior NCO. Who knows? I may even be an Honorary General by the time I leave this crazy, mixed-up country.
Then, on Thursday, Major McCuaig, our Canadian Medical Officer in Indochina, arrived in Phnom Penh, well supplied with needles and bottles, and we knew what we were in for. You guessed it. More vaccinations. Each of us received a cholera shot in one arm and a smallpox vaccination in the other. The M.O. said that these shots were the last for some time and we were all quick to agree that they were indeed quite enough. Did you know that since I first learned that I was going to Indochina, way back last August, I have received no less than THIRTEEN shots of one kind or another.
Saturday afternoon we went over to the swimming pool and got involved in some water sports organized by about six little French girls, ranging in age from about 5 to 12 years. Major-General Snow and some other officers were there and also Lee Sauve, the WHO nurse whose home we had had dinner in the week prior. They, too, got involved in these games and believe me, by the end of the afternoon, those wee tikes had worn us older folks (that’s me) completely to a frazzle. We sure had lots of fun though. Yesterday morning, we went over to the pool again and after lunch we went back for more. OOO La La – was that sun ever hot. I’m afraid we Canadians now bear a very definite resemblance to Canada’s first inhabitants. You’ve never in your life see such a bunch of red men. Oh well, serves us right for going swimming on the 23rd of January and getting all sunburned. Really, though, it was well worth it. The water was crystal clear and as I was loafing at the edge of the pool looking at those bright tropical flowers (sigh) I couldn’t help thinking of how much the whole place looked like an Esther Williams movie – you know – the type of movie when everything looks too beautiful and too lush to be real?
Well that just about brings you up to date on happenings last week. Of course, you realize that all these things took place during after-office hours. Believe me, during the day this office looks like anything BUT an Esther Williams movie. Esther never worked this hard in all her life!
Dad, if you should ever see a book entitled “A Dragon Apparent” in one of the book stores, I highly recommend it as good reading. It’s all about travel in Indochina and would certainly give you a good idea of the type of country your youngest is now living in. The author is Norman Lewis and the book is published by JonathanCape, 30 Bedford Square, London.
Bye for now,