YMCA International House, Hong Kong
Thursday, August 21, #2
This is letter #2 this morning - the Great Photo Robbery. After leaving the tailors I was wandering around looking at all the different shops when I spied a small camera shop and thought I'd check the prices. I didn't really intend to buy anything then. But when he started quoting prices, it all sounded so cheap that before I realized it I had spent over $200 and had two bags full of stuff. Most of it was for the guys back in Cu-chi, but I did buy me a wide-angle lens, tripod, 3x converter and pistol grip. If the money comes in today I'll buy a telephoto. I had so much stuff I had to take a taxi back to my room.
Then I went downstairs and took a steam bath and massage. The steam bath was great but the massage was rough. The Chinese guy that worked me over really had strong hands. But I felt so good afterward it didn't really matter. Oh yes, I weighed myself on the scales as I came out and was 200 lbs exactly, so I've lost some weight in the past five months although not much.
After the steam bath I went out walking around again and ended up walking the back streets where the Chinese do their shopping. The sights are groovy but it's the smells that make the impression on you. The different foods cooking, all blend in to make a wonderful aroma in the evening air. So much different than Vietnam, which stinks. And the people here are all dressed nicely except for the unfortunate few that do the heavy labor.
The girls all wear nice cotton dresses and most of the men, slacks and white shirts. when we get back from Europe we'll have to start planning a trip to the orient. Before we get too old to enjoy it. I'm really sad dear that I can't share this time with you. I know how much you like to shop.
Hong Kong reminds me of the trips to Glendale when I was little. It seemed so big and so many stores with neat things, and the most I ever had was a quarter.
Hong Kong is sort of like that except that I'm older now and it takes more to impress me. There are faults with the system though. I shopped for two hours looking for some socks big enough for me and ended up buying Jockey brand socks from the U.S. I guess I should have had some tailor made.
YMCA International House, Hong Kong
Thursday, August 21, #3
I'm suffering from a severe case of writer's cramp on beginning this 3rd letter. Anyway, on with the story.
I came back to - on second thought I didn't come back but took the bus toward the mission home, got off at the wrong stop and walked two miles to get there. I guess the Missionaries here hadn't read the article in the Church News that said they would take care of you if you came to Hong Kong. So I just went by and visited for a few minutes. They made me feel like a nut that was bothering them. But anyway, Elder Rockwood, the Mission President's assistant, did tell me to go to a Chinese movie, which I did last night. It was called "Raw Courage" and was along the lines of the Japanese samurai movies, with lots of sword fighting, etc. In Chinese history, the equivalent of the old West, Cowboys and Indians. The swordsmen, two guys and a girl, were super human it seemed as they took on whole armies and beat them while trying to save the crown prince (a baby) and restore him to the throne after the wicked prince had killed the king, etc, etc. The subtitles were good after you got used to them. There are so many dialects of Chinese that there were Chinese subtitles right over the English ones.
When I got out of the show about midnight, Hong Kong was just starting to close up the shops and retire for the night. So I grabbed a Pepsi on the way home and came back and played with the camera stuff till 1:30 am in the morning. I got up this morning at 10:00 am because my small pox shot is itching so bad I can't stand it. I have to have it checked today at a hospital, for the record.
Goodbye dear, till later. I have to go eat lunch now and go to my fitting. I love you and suffer for you (three letters at once). Take care.
Kowloon, Hong Kong, Friday, August 22, 7:30 pm:
Lover, or at least at this very moment I wished it were so. I could use a little sympathy right now. It's very depressing just laying here wishing you weren't just laying here, but unable to go anyplace because one leg is cramped up and your feet are blistered and sore. And besides all that, the money you were expecting hasn't come and that worries you because it's five days overdue.
But on top of all that I worry about all the things I wanted to buy my wife but can't now. Even though she says don't bother - it bothers me. I'm ready to come home right now. I've seen the sights of Hong Kong and have spent all my money and must yet suffer through another day.
I spent yesterday wandering around the city looking and than last night I took a ride up the peak tram, which goes up the side of a mountain so you can see the harbor lights and all. It's really a romantic place except when you're alone and lugging a tripod and camera. All I got out of it was tired. But it was refreshing, except when I had to leave, my leg cramped up bad.
Today I spent with Jeff, a Stanford college student doing some summer teaching and welfare work at his own expense, here in Hong Kong. I shipped home some tape recorders from the APO for him for $9.50 which would have cost $45 minimum to ship through the Hong Kong mails. That's the minimum shipping charge from Hong Kong to anywhere. Anyway, after that he treated me to dinner at a little out of the way place. Really good! The Chinese have a way of cooking things that really make them mouth watering. The four-course meal only cost 85 cents and I was full after the first course.
My smallpox vaccination is really bothering me. My whole shoulder is swollen and it runs around under my arm into the glands in the armpit. Very painful, but I guess if it keeps me from getting smallpox, it's worth it.
The Missionaries turned out to be a bunch of duds and I haven't heard from them since I got here except the two times I went up there. I do indeed plan on writing a rebuttal to that article in the Church News. It was at the least very misleading. Even the Mission President turned out to be a dud. It sure wasn't like this in Germany! Thank goodness!
Tomorrow should be a busy day. I'm going down and sit in the American Express office until it closes and bug them every minute about my money. It probably isn't their fault but I don't care.
Then I have to pick up a tape I'm having made of Chinese music. Four albums on a 7-inch tape for $5. The music is nice I think.
Then I have to pick up my suits and shirts and make sure they're OK or else beat the salesman to death.
Then if my money didn't come, I'm going to get roaring drunk and fall in the harbor and drown, but only till 10:00 pm because then I have to call you and tell you I love you.
And Sunday morning at 6:00 am we fly back to Gookland to visit the war again. And in great anticipation that my new orders will be there telling me to go home the next day.
Kowloon, Hong Kong, Friday, August 22, ll:00 pm:
Just finished playing with the camera lens' again and since it's still too early to go to bed, I thought you might like to hear of tonight’s adventure.
After depositing your last letter in the mail, I left to go somewhere, anywhere, just to get out. I ended up on the bus and went down to pick up my tape with the four Chinese albums on it. It sure sounded good on their machine, so I hope it'll be a little good on mine.
Then, as I left, I decided to visit the thief’s market on the way back. One mile of stalls, lit up by Coleman lanterns, with just about everything to offer. I ended up buying a pair of tweezers for HK 50 cents. Oh yes, $l U.S. is equal to HK$6, so when I say HK 50 cents, I paid about 8 1/2 cents U.S. for a pair of tweezers.
I tried to buy a band but the Chinese must all have small fingers, because none of them fit me. I think I'll wait till I get back to you before I get a band. I want to plead my case just one more time before I give in completely.
I was tempted to go in one of the Go-Go houses tonight but decided it wouldn't be any fun to just look, so I didn't.
Anyway, back to my big adventure. The sights were wonderful, but the smells are what impress you the most. About every 10th stall sells something to eat or drink. There were apple vendors who even peel the apple for you. Coconut squeezers who sell the juice they get from squeezing coconuts. Stalls where fresh octopus is deep fat fried to your liking. All kinds of herbs, rice, tea, and tidbits can be found to please the palette. There are even herb doctors that will make you a balm of some kind to cure any rash, infection, or disease right in front of everyone. And of course, there were the gamblers, fortunetellers, and con men with their funny stories and fast hands. But also there were children, running the stalls, playing, and even sleeping right in the middle of it all. I guess there's some kind of magic in children because I sure love them.
As I was nearing this place I stopped to look at some live fish swimming in a restaurant's pool. Here you can choose your own fish or lobster or eel live and they kill and cook it for you right on the spot. But anyhow, as I was standing there a policeman came up and tried to be friendly (as they all do), and told me the different names of the fish. I can't for the life of me remember what they were but as we were talking, a group of people stopped to join in the conversation. The Chinese, that is the decent ones, are very conservative and won't be seen with Americans or foreigners at all for fear of scandal. All except the kids. Yesterday, as I was walking down the street, I stopped and gave a HK$l to a boy playing and he couldn't believe it - a treasure - so he told his friend and he ran a half a block to catch me to get his. But before I gave him one, I made him pose for a picture and he stood so stiff and straight I thought he would break. Of course, the Chinese belief is that a picture takes part of the soul onto the paper, so most Chinese forbid their picture being taken.
Well, my arm is suffering so I'll say goodnight dear. I wish I were home to say it with love, but it won't be too much longer now.
Kowloon, Hong Kong, Saturday, August 23, 6:00 pm:
I just put my suits away in my room and I'm now going bowling with some of the guys that sold me the suits. You'll love me again when you see the clothes I bought. I even look fashionable again. I won't embarrass you when we go out now except for my bald head and pot belly. But those are minor.
My blue tweed wool sport coat – 6 button, double breasted - looks out of sight. My brown stripe, double breasted, 4-button, is mod and my blue 3-button, conventional is conservative so I can make it with anybody.
I even trimmed my moustache this morning because it was bugging me. It looks and feels better now anyway. I didn't have any scissors so I used my comb and a razor blade. Almost took my nose off several times, but make it
Tonight, or at least this afternoon, I ate Chinese style (with chop sticks) and surprisingly enough I did OK. I got so good I started showing off and almost spilled a whole bunch in my lap, but I saved myself by quick action.
I sure did enjoy talking to you today dear. It somehow makes us seem so close even though I'm still 7,500 miles from home.
I have to go out and spend my last few dollars now because we can't convert them back into greenbacks.
The Chinese are very accommodating and try very hard to please you - completely, opposite of the Vietnamese, who only do what they have to in order to get by.
I dread going back for a week. But knowing I'll be home soon keeps me going.