REST AND RECUPERATION - HONG KONG
Camp Alpha, Tuesday, August 19, 9:30 am:
On my way at last, or at least I will be by 2:00 o'clock this afternoon. I went down to the R&R office yesterday morning to get a copy of my orders for the orderly room and the people at the R&R office had lost me in the shuffle. Worse yet, they had me down as canceling out and no orders whatsoever on me. So checking back through their files they found their mistake and whipped me out a set of stand-by orders (since reserved seats have to be in 8 days in advance). Well, I've gotten this far till now. Camp Alpha is the departure point for most R&R flights in southern South Vietnam. Cam Ranh Bay takes care of northern South Vietnam.
I'm sitting here in the NCO snack bar to the piercing howl of some African screaming about his problems. Typical of the army at large, white boys don't invest their money in Jukeboxes.
Anyway, Camp Alpha is almost as bad as the 90th Replacement in Lon Binh and is run by the same people. My bed for the night sagged so much under my fat body, that it felt as if I were sleeping in a foxhole.
The only significant difference between here and Lon Binh is the mess hall, it's pretty nice here, which in itself is surprising.
Being here with different GI's from all over the area just confirms my suspicions that the mentality of the average GI draftee is below that of Pavlov's dogs. I thank the Lord for making me a halfway decent Mormon who loves his wife more than anything. I couldn't live like these guys do, they have no purpose in life whatsoever, except to get drunk every night and feel sorry about it the next day. Thank you dear for keeping me straight!
Of course, one underlying factor might be that I'm almost 28 years old and seen a little bit of life and the world. Most of these guys are l9-20 and have never been out of their home state except in the Army. I guess I shouldn't be too harsh on them.
Good news! I hate the Army and so I resubmitted my early out and might be home next week if it goes through. Think you can be ready for me by next week, say on the 28th or 29th of August? If not, I'll stay here and dodge rockets a little longer.
Sorry I didn't write last night but I was lucky enough to get in a hootch where the lights went out at 9:30 pm instead of 1:00 am. So I'm feeling a little more rested now and can think about what I'm doing.
I was worried about having enough ($200) to go on R&R and yesterday everything fell into place and I ended up with $330 of my money, plus $l50 of other peoples. The company bought my clippers for $35 (I paid $25) and I got a partial pay of $40 from finance. So I ought to be able to buy a few trinkets to go around.
It's been unbelievably hot and humid the past week. I kept getting dizzy the last week in the shop. Sunday I found out my orders were no good so I let the new barber take over while I went to correct the error and I never went back to the barbershop except to use the phone. And the two times I was in there for a few minutes, Pix called once and Dave the other. Such fate.I have to get changed into my khakis in a few minutes but I can't until I buy a new belt (I forgot the two I have in Cu-Chi), then I ought to look pretty straight.
I guess I'd better stop this foolishness and quit spoiling you or you'll expect a long letter every time.
I just finished another book, "The Last Unicorn". A sort of fairy tale with a moral. I got stuck reading about Soviet education when I was so tired, so I switched to some lighter reading. It was a good book, in fact I have about ~ good books to send home with my baggage; most of them are reference books about classes I'll be taking.
I hope you're well and happy because just thinking about seeing you again makes me happy. Take care and maybe you'll get a "come pick me up" phone call about the end of next week or so.
p.s. Call you tonight from Hong Kong.
YMCA, Hong Kong, Wednesday, August 20, 8:15 am:
I've just awakened from a very good nights sleep and I'm contemplating getting up. It's like Christmas morning when you know so many neat things to see but to get out of bed is a hardship.
Talking to you last night was wonderful but as soon as I hung up I knew I had goofed. I forgot to ask what kind of tape recorder Kerry wanted. I'll have to call again and ask.
This place is beautiful. What a change from the South Vietnamese. The people walking the streets are clean and the streets are unlittered, even though Hong Kong is grossly overcrowded. The difference, I guess, is the people themselves, which just goes to disprove my old theory that a gook is a gook. I guess some aren't so bad after all. But I'll reserve my final judgment until I've finished my business dealings and left. If I still like them then, OK.
Being a British Crown Colony, they observe British driving rules which scare me to death. It takes some getting used to when cars are passing on your right. The only means of travel I have is taxis and the taxi drivers here don't try to take every penny like the Saigon gooks.
Arriving at night, or at least evening (7:00 pm), the place was lit up like Las Vegas. Every ten feet was a different shop with shelves loaded with stuff and a neon sign in Chinese telling you all about it. I can hardly wait to get out and visit some of them.
At eleven o'clock last night, when I came back from the mission home to the YMCA, this town was jumping. But at 12:15 am, when I went to get a Pepsi, the place had nearly folded up completely. I was surprised as I walked along the sidewalks to see so many people working in tiny rooms by themselves; tailors, etc. I even walked past one little shop where the shopkeeper slept in the doorway with his feet sticking part way out the door.
Well, enough talking about it. I guess I'd better get out into it and start taking pictures for you.
The Chinese people are even helpful. The night desk clerk did his best to get me settled last night.
YMCA International House, Hong Kong, Thursday, August 21,
I've got so much to tell you I guess I'd better start from yesterday's letter. After I wrote you yesterday I went down and exchanged rooms and got a single (I was in a double). $5 a night is about all I'd pay before I'd sleep on the beach, so it worked out nice. The hotel I was going to stay at was $10 a night, so I'm saving some bucks. After making sure I can stay till I leave Sunday, I went out sight seeing. I took the #7 bus for HK 20 cents (about 3 1/4 cents u.s.), to the Star ferry and rode over to the China Fleet Club to do some pricing of goods. Then I decided to check the American Express, but the money hadn't come yet, so I took the ferry back to Kowloon.
Hong Kong, being an island, has to have a good ferry, and the Star ferry is fantastic. A boat leaves every five minutes, so you don't have to wait. And 1st class (the upper deck) is only HK 25 cents (or 4 cents u.s.) We could live like kings here on just the GI bill money. And with the Fire Dept. salary we'd be in the upper 1%. Anyway, back to the war. I came back to Kowloon and decided I'd better get fitted for my suit (1) so they would have it finished in time.
But before I knew what was happening I had spent $175 and bought one blue gray suit, one brown stripe suit, one blue plaid sport jacket, and one pair of blue slacks, plus three tailor made shirts to go with them. I really felt guilty about it but I guess I won't need anymore for another ten years. Then they tried to sell me a pair of custom-made shoes and I ran out quickly. I think you'll like what I got. The sport coat is double breasted, four button and the suits are continental three button with the slacks, no cuff, no pleats but with belt loops.
I probably could have gotten the suits cheaper if I had gone somewhere else, but the place I went is under contract to the Army and if they do lousy work I have someone backing me up.
I have to go to a fitting at one o'clock today and a final fitting tomorrow, so at least I'll get to see what I'm buying before they take all my money.
You'd go mad over here dear. There are whole blocks of stores selling nothing but blouses, others that sell only purses, and blocks more of women's shoes and dresses. And inexpensive, wow! A knit dress for $8 or so, blouses for $2.50 with all the lace on the front. I'm going crazy because I don't want to buy you the wrong sizes. Well, enough of that.
In letter #2 I'll mention how I spent $250 in a camera store across the street from the suit salesman. I love you.