February 26, 1955
Dear Dad & Russ,
Firstly, a word about the enclosed enclosure that I am enclosing. (Now doesn’t THAT make sense for an opening line of a letter!)
The picture (yes, that’s me) is one I had taken last week for use on my Identity Card (International Commission). I also had one taken with my glasses on but honestly! It was terrible! These people just haven’t got the knack of taking pictures of people with glasses. You see, very few people over here wear glasses (although I really think about 90% of them could use them, the way they drive!) so the local photographers don’t get much practise in taking pictures of people in glasses. The one I had taken was so bad you couldn’t even see my eyes. And besides I was grinning like a mad fool in it so I didn’t quite think it was fit for an Identity Card. However, the enclosed picture is the one I chose. Please note the “new look”.
I’m not as pudgy as before and, of course, the moustache (at full bloom in this picture) does change my appearance considerably. I look as if I’m going slightly bald, but that really is not the case at all [oh yes it was!]. You see, over here what with the heat and swimming every day (to say nothing of little bugs) I find it much more comfortable to keep my hair cut real short. Actually, it’s a brush cut but I keep brushed down flat and parted. And by the way, that’s a broken nose I’m sporting! WHOOPPEE!!! It doesn’t show!! Also, please note the colour of my face. Of course, being in black and white doesn’t give you much idea, but you can see that my shirt is white and I’m not! As a matter of fact that picture was taken the evening after our boat ride on the Mekong, so I’m really quite red.
Howie and I went for another boat ride with our French friend yesterday. This time we went south on the Mekong, down toward Saigon. It was so interesting to explore the shores of this mighty river! As I told you about our last boat ride, we again saw many big Chinese junks and small native canoes. Also more fishnets drying in the hot noonday sun. The jungle is thick along both sides of the Mekong south of Phnom Penh. We saw villages of thatched huts close to the water’s edge and stairs carved right out of the earth to allow the natives to get down to the water. We travelled quite a distance (Phnom Penh was out of sight) when we spotted a tiny island in the Mekong. We stopped there for a few minutes and had a bit of a swim. The island was very, very small and consisted wholly of sand with a few tufts of long grass growing in the middle. Actually, I think it must have been just a sandbar that’s uncovered at this time of year when the Mekong is at its lowest. One thing I do know – it sure was hot!! We were all walking along the sand when suddenly and with one accord we dashed into the water. That sand was so hot it nearly burned the bottoms of our feet. I think we’re going out in the boat again on Monday, but I’m not sure.
And today, after a rather hectic morning at the office (end of the month accounts, you know) I retired with the gang to ye olde swimming pool where we just loafed around in the hot (and I do mean hot!) sun all afternoon. (Sigh.) I’ll often think of this when I’m freezing to death next February back in Canada. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather freeze to death in Canada any February than get sunburned in Cambodia!
Oh, and I wanted to tell you right away about the “go ahead” on the news of my return to Canada in September (or August).
The temperature tonight is all out of proportion for the end of February! I don’t know what the exact temperature is, but I feel sure that it must be somewhere in the 90’s. Each day now gets just a little hotter. I hope it doesn’t get too much hotter – sure makes it hard to work in this heat. And having to sleep under a mosquito net all the time doesn’t help matters much.
Today our new steno arrived from Canada. She seems quite nice and has a great sense of humour – which is all important in this part of the world. If you can’t see the funny side of things that go on here every day, I’m quite convinced a person would go out of his mind. I’m still laughing!
Right beside me on my desk is my “Thai Airways Co.” return ticket to Bangkok, Siam. And tomorrow morning my Thailand visa will be ready. So I guess I’m really on my way. Hard to believe. By the way, Mr. Tran Dinh Van, the Chinese merchant with whom we deal a lot here in Phnom Penh, and who took us for a drive one Sunday afternoon, is leaving for a vacation in Bangkok tomorrow. He insists that Cecile and I look him up when we get there so I guess we will. You know, if anybody told me last February that I would be flying to Siam within a year and meeting Mr. Tran Dinh Van, a Chinese merchant from Cambodia, I would have told that person that he was absolutely and completely out of his mind!! Isn’t it amazing how just one short year can change your life so completely?
It’s just about time for me to turn in, but rest assured that I will certainly try to get a letter off from Bangkok. Of course, having no typewriter shall greatly impede me (the way I yatter on oand on) but I shall drop you at least a short note from Siam.
lots of love,
PS – Funny thing just happened. I was sitting here in my sampot (sarong – it’s the coolest thing to wear in the evenings and we all wear them) when suddenly Mr. Duder walked in. He took one look at me and grinned from ear to ear. Then he said, “Next plane home for you, Dave. Can’t have you going native on me!” What a character! However, I don’t think he meant it and I probably still won’t be home for another six months.
DA few minutes later – sequel to the “sampot incident”: Mr. Duder just gave me 100$00 (piastres) to buy him a sampot too!! He’s decided to “go native” too – says they look real cool. That’s our Commissioner!!!