89. Quy Nhơn Chicken 🐓

In conversation with Chief Steward the next morning, he liked very much the thought of tailor-made slacks too.  He asked if I wouldn’t mind taking care of the transaction for him.  I offered a smile attached to a ‘No problem chief!’ and so he scribbled his measurements on a slip of paper and handed it to me with a few dollars from his wallet.

It may be only the 2nd time I went ashore but it felt like I’d already done it a hundred times.  Hot and muggy was the forecast for, like the entire time I would be here so naturally there was an ongoing thirst for ice cold beers!  🍻

Upon reaching shore, my first order of business was a detour to the Indian shop delivering CS’s order and measurements.  I was told 36 hours should see all the slacks ready.  

The first establishment we chose to walk into had a few people sitting at the bar, others were seated at tables; the majority of bodies being young Vietnamese girls and music played crisply out of a jukebox up against a side wall.  No sooner we sat down at a table, we were flocked by some of these girls.

In what sounded like their best broken English they’d proposition us to buy drinks for them.  They took our drink requests which would only be beer 🍺 and went up to the bar.  No hard liquor or sodas even were served here.  

It would seem the sodas were reserved for drink in the cafés.  I gotta say, these bars certainly knew how to grab their share of business from the foreign visitors! 🍹 The girl’s drinks we bought for them (later we learned) was simply colored water and each one cost near twice the amount of our beers!  

In our socializing I learned the power of the American dollar in Vietnam;  approximately $5.00 would cover feeding their entire family for a week and the impression we all got was they’d pretty much do anything for these dollars.  

Some girls smoked our cigarettes and others did not but all were quick to light ours for us.  They were skilled in giving a nice little massage here and there, arms, shoulders, neck and/or running their fingers through our hair.

I smiled big when I looked at one of the guys across the table from me … his eyes closed in sheer delight and grinning away as the girl on his lap was massaging his brain!  

The one girl attentive towards me began massaging my head, gently pulling on my hair (which I had lots of it), of course it felt nice. 

The guys and I continued to talk amongst ourselves for the most part as we could tell they weren’t about to leave our company so easily.  It was of little matter to them as they too conversed amongst themselves. 

“Tonight you stay with me and you pay,” one would say to her guy and another would verbally climb over that (sometimes literally) and using as persuasive a voice as possible, “No! You come with me!”  We each heard this approach circulate around our table.

🍻 After a few beers and a considerable amount of dollars later, I noticed it was getting dark.  We all agreed it was time for food. A couple of us made sure to keep an eye on the time, curfew is definite, there was only one boat back and make no mistake, we’d best be on it! 

The girls collected a few dollars from each of us and a couple of them went quickly outside, coming back with some freshly prepared chicken for us to eat.  

It was made in a street kitchen just outside the bar.  Of course they ate with us.  The chicken was flayed open, seasoned, cooked between two racks over an open flame and it was delicious. 🍗

“Now we go home.” they’d say to us, gently tugging at our arms.  “No, no! We’ve got to get back to our ship!” protested a couple of the guys; definitely speaking for all of us in the group. 

We promised them we’d return tomorrow and breaking free at last, we headed as swiftly as possible through the town and down to the beach.  

We remained in the Qui Nhơn harbor for just over a week.  The best description of my daily routine on the ship; same, same.

Every early evening almost immediately following the dinner shift and next morning’s prep, I’d scurry down that rope ladder to catch the boat into town.  

Returning to the same bar as before, these girls who overnight became our friends, were waiting for our return.  

On the fifth day I picked up the slacks; lookin’ good!  After the shopkeeper showed them to me, I paid him and he wrapped them up so nicely, knowing they would have to travel a very long way.  

I asked him to wrap up the Chief Steward’s slacks separately.  I noticed the shop had some postcards amongst their wares so I bought a few;  one for Diana and my kids and some for the family in Fiji.  

Back at the bar which we had made our own for the week, our company had now become more like one on one, no longer flanked by many.  We’d play the jukebox, dance with the girls, eat chicken, socialize, drink beer, and generally let our hair down as it were; wanting only a little bit of fun and relaxation.  

We remained diligent to the curfew at the end of every evening and always managed to wiggle away from our friends just in time.

A couple of days before our ship pulled up anchor, I was able to send out those postcards from our ship’s post office.  By now I was confident that half of my ‘war-zone pay’ salary, the 1st paycheck, was already on its way to my family in Santa Monica, via the pay center in New York.  

You know I felt great that I was providing for my family even while on this other side of the world but I never thought my life would go down a path like this one.  

While I cannot even compare to the soldiers’ lives here in Vietnam at this time, I certainly was learning to understand a small piece of it.

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A coastal town located in central Vietnam, Quy Nhơn wasn’t established as a city until 1986 and it is home in the Bình Định Province. 

 

 

 

 

 

85. Open Sea Routine

First full day out on the ocean and with the Golden Gate’s disappearance into the now east, so to had to go my thoughts of what’s to come.  Well, at least on hold in the back of my mind.

It was time to go full steam ahead in the expected routine of my job which has only slightly varied from when we were at docks.  The transition was smooth enough as far as I was concerned, demonstrating to the CS I knew my assignments very well.

After breakfast our Chief Steward calls a meeting of kitchen staff, chef included.  “Things change a little now that we’re out to sea, you’ll find the law is different than when we were at dock.  Trash of any kind and especially cigarette butts will never be disposed overboard, is that clear?  There is a proper place for everything and I do mean everything!”

He went on, “It’s now time to get dressed up real warm ’cause we’re gonna stock the deep freeze and the main refrigerators.”  Coats, beanies and gloves were provided and we quickly bundled up.

The supplies that were loaded prior now had to be put away in orderly fashion; items must be readily available.  Bottled water, juices, milk, meats, veggies, etc., no hassles and wasted time trying to locate anything.

“Consider one of the engine room guys coming into the kitchen for a drink or snack, they shouldn’t have to waste time searching for anything in the refrigerators, so organization is always priority,” the CS spoke as he pointed out where to place the various items.

The boxes were opened, the large freezer and fridge shelves were stocked and the empties were broke down flat, bundled and placed in the holding spot.  At the next port they’d be removed.  The dry pantry was handled the same way minus the coats, gloves and beanies of course!

3rd day – our Chief Steward calls everybody to gather.  We would now receive instructions for handling a case of emergency.  An alarm was sounded. “Line up on deck and wait for the 1st or 2nd Officer’s instructions.”  

In each of our cabins there was a life jacket for every individual.  “Do not stop to put it on.  Grab it and get topside asap!  You can put it on as you go or once you are up on deck.   We will do this drill every third day.”  

I realized quick enough we’d be eating real good on this ship.  You say you feel like having a pork chop, the kitchen obliged by sending out a hot plate with about a half a dozen of ‘em!  There was no chance of anyone dining alone because someone would catch a whiff and be beside you in no time flat, sharing in the delights.

Away from the kitchen CS had the linen closet key so I always had to ask for that; seems like we had greater concerns than to worry about linens disappearing – oh well.  At least three times a week I’d change out the sheets and towels I used, all of us being responsible for our own.

Making certain the Skipper’s quarters were always clean and amply stocked with the necessities for his comfort was another factor of my duties; remember he was my personal assignment.

Daily routine breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Once in a while the Skipper would make casual conversation with me.  I was the only Hindu person on board his ship and he asked me if I was actually from India.  I shared with him the short version of being born and raised in the Fiji Islands.  He was kind enough and for his liking, our Captain soon nicknamed me ‘Fiji’.

Coming out from one of the cabins, Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” sounded throughout the corridor -other tunes too but that one several times a day.  

Two of the deckhands, a middle-aged man and his son from the southeastern U.S. were the occupants of that cabin and this seemed be their favorite song.  It didn’t take long for that tune to stick like flypaper in my brain and to this day, it surfaces at the funniest of times.

My break after the lunch service was always a breeze, kickin’ it on the aft deck.  Often I’d get to see various fish leaping from the water and capturing my attention.  Otherwise I gave in to a sea of thoughts.  And in the evenings I anticipated with great pleasure, the sunset.

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These Boots Are Made For Walkingreleased in November of 1965 and was written by Lee Hazelwood.  By the end of January, 1966 it had topped the charts taking over the  #1 spot in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Cinema utilized the song in Full Metal Jacket, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and most recently in Ocean’s 8, just to name a few.

 

64. Diana

Next day.  As per my new routine, I made my rounds about the complex after breakfast.  I thought to give Dave a call and share with him my meeting of this young lady on the bus, whom I shall here name, Diana.  The call would have to wait till the afternoon as I knew he would be out during the morning hours – no cell phones yet.

Upon returning to my apartment, out of boredom I skimmed through some of the magazines there on my coffee table while listening to the radio.  Now what?  I rested for a little bit.  Oh yes I would call ‘mom’ and fill her in on my day up till the moment; to tell her about Diana or not, hmmm.  I would tell Dave first.

He was already home by now and Mrs. Elson called Dave to the phone.  I took a deep breath, ‘Okay Dave, don’t make a big fuss but …I met a girl on the bus.’  He gave a light-hearted laugh and replied, “Hey that’s great!  What did you guys do?”

I gave him a detailed account of how we met including our exchange of contact information.  I told him that she seemed interested in me I felt due to all the questions she asked me; where was I from, what do I do all day, and asking as many get-to-know-you questions as she could.  

Both our days had already been planned out and so we wouldn’t have any more time to spend that day.  Then Dave suggested that we should double date.  I was confused.  ‘What the hell is a double date?’ Dave just laughed at me!  

Then he explained it was more of a comfort thing.  “We would go for some dinner, take in a movie, go dancing or head out to the beach, whatever we like really.”  We could do anything as a normal date but we’d all go together and make a day or night out out of it.  “See the comfort?”  Well I really liked that idea.  

Dave and I finished our call.  In the late afternoon I decided to call Diana.  I asked her if she’d like to meet for some lunch or something.  She excitedly agreed.  We would meet tomorrow then.  She asked me if I knew the Chevron gas station on the corner and I said yes.  “Good,” she replied quickly, “meet me there tomorrow at noon.”

I had a date!  That night after my dinner and evening rounds of the property, I stayed in just taking it easy, doing much thinking about various things and listening to the radio.

Next morning routine the same although now my step was lighter.  I was definitely happy about meeting with Diana for lunch today.  

Noontime was just around the corner and with one last check in the mirror I headed out the door.  We arrived at the Chevron station at nearly the same time, both of us hungry for an adventure and some lunch too.

“If you’re interested I have a great place we can go for lunch,”  she proposed.  I was open to suggestions.  “They have the most marvelous turkey burgers!” Diana claimed.  With a big smile I told her, ‘Let’s get going then.’

We walked to this establishment, it was only 3 blocks away from where we stood.

Diana showed me the burgers on the menu and getting the feel for what I might enjoy, she then ordered for us.  She requested my burger to be well-cooked and ordered coffee for me.  She had a milkshake with her burger.  

She was absolutely correct, I really enjoyed that burger!  We were clearly entertained by each other’s answers to random questions in between bites and sips getting to know more about one another.  Lunch was my treat although she did make the hand on the check gesture, something I certainly was not used to.  

Afterwards we walked around the village for a little while.  We both had so much to say and there was never an uncomfortable silence between us.  I offered to show her ‘…from the outside,’  I specified this politely for her comfort, where I was living.  We walked that way and I showed her.  

“You could walk me up to my place and see where I live too, if you like,” she offered in return.  And so we walked up the hill to her apartment.  Diana asked me then if I’d like to come in.  ‘Of course, I would love to.’ I did not hesitate to reply.  

It was a nice little place.  She mentioned that she had a student from India staying with her at the moment.  It was a one bedroom apartment and the girl slept out on the sofa.  She was in class at that time, so it was only the two of us.

We sat and talked for quite awhile.  In there somewhere she made something for me to drink though I cannot recall now if it was hot tea or something cold; irrelevant I’m sure.  I looked around the room and noticed a lot of her decor reflected the Indian culture; travel posters, fluffy colorful pillows, books and what not.  

I asked her about her obviously immense interest and knowledge of things Indian.  Diana proceeded to explain that she gathered much information from her roomate.  She’d also studied through many books and asked a lot of questions of Indian students who’d give her the time of day.  Many did as they seemed to enjoy her interest in their culture as well as the attention paid to them.

The afternoon was effortless.  After a while I knew it was getting late, the light outside was changing and although her roomate had not returned, I knew I should be going back.  Besides in the back of my mind, I gave thought to the owner of the apartment complex might be looking for me.

The attraction between Diana and myself was definitely mutual and when I saw the opportunity to go in for a first kiss, there was no hesitation from her, only magnetic attraction and it was very, very nice.  We found ourselves holding on to one another; it was secure and exciting all at once.

Forcing a break at last from the comfort of the cuddle, I got up to leave.  Diana walked out to the street with me, hand in hand.  In parting she said to me, “I’ll stand right here till you’re down the hill.”  We shared a goodnight kiss or two and more hugs.  

It felt as though we both knew one another for a long time, the comfort was incredible and then I walked away but not before assuring her that I’d call her again.

In about fifteen minutes I was home.  What a day!  I was feeling really good about the time spent with Diana.  I slept peacefully that night.

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