88. Cash & Tailors

 

I climbed down a rope leading into the boat which would take us from our ship to the Qui Nhơn Harbor shore.  We didn’t tie up at any dock instead, the boat took us aground into the sand.  The trap/exit door opened up and we’d jump out onto Vietnamese soil.  We walked up the beach and into Qui Nhơn town.   

Being hyped up right from the start, I felt a little scared but it was certainly comforting knowing that I was never alone; we were always in one another’s company …mostly.  And as we walked, carefully at first, thoughts of what the Skipper and some of the Marines had told us, rushed to the forefront of my mind.

Absorbing the street scene crowded with men, women, children, the young and the old, I began to relax;  they were basically just people like me. There was plenty of street cooking which smelled amazing and lots of little shops and bars.  I felt eyes on me.

I’d see them waving in order to attract us into their shops.  Thinking of the families back home, I saw some things which interested me such as handmade trinkets, clothing, jewelry and the like.  

I detoured with a couple of the guys into one of these places, a tailor shop.  The tradesmen were Indians, like myself. Why I found this as a surprise, I do not know.

And perhaps we were obvious as new to the area because almost immediately, we were asked to join them in food and drink.   “Let’s talk, have something to eat and enjoy.”  They actually closed the shop for a couple of hours.

After a shared meal and hearing the stories of where we came from originally, how we found ourselves in this little corner of the world etc., they asked us, “What can we do for you … what would you like to buy?”

From these Indian tailors, I would buy a couple of slacks.  As measurements were being taken I asked,  ‘Aren’t you afraid to be here in this war zone?’  

The shopkeeper reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash from both pockets.  In his fairly decent English he explained, “Of course we’re scared sometimes but this is home.  If we must run suddenly, at least we have our money with us. My wife and kids do same. It’s how we handle.”   I remember thinking to myself just how fascinating living a life this way is.

After a much enjoyed evening in comforting hospitality of the locals, we knew it was getting late.  With the Skipper’s speech still fresh in my mind, it was definitely beach time.

Making my way there I remember looking at the sights along the way and thinking of the fun time ahead tomorrow.  At the shore we were just in time to hear a Marine’s voice blaring through a bullhorn, “Load ‘em up!”

Several of us to include guys from some of the other ships in the harbor, climbed aboard this fairly large boat and off we went.  Each various group would let them know which ship they had to return to. I called off the Trans Western.

Thank goodness for our Marines for in this dark night amongst all the boats anchored offshore, there was no way we ourselves would know which one was ours.  We arrived at our ship and quickly climbed up the rope ladder.

Myself and the other guys headed straight for the mess hall to raid the refrigerator and pantry for a late night snack before turning in.  The chef had tuna salad and fresh breads waiting to be turned into midnight sandwiches.

A full day it was and I was more than ready for some snuggling down in my bed.  That’s the sum of my first day in Vietnam. Not bad at all.

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51. Aloha! It Would Seem My Destiny Lay a Bit More To The West

I slept comfortably, wonderfully and completely.   🌴 Maybe it was the lull of the islands?  No matter, it was a very restful night. Waking up in a private home in Honolulu wasn’t anything I had ever planned but here I was.  🌺

It sounded like James was already in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  I got up, straightened my bed, washed and got dressed.

A gorgeous morning meal was waiting for me, so simple but I never forgot it.  He prepared these beautiful pancakes, the syrup tasted Hawaiian 🌸 hey! what can I say, it did.  And the side dish was the tastiest Hawaiian papayas, banana and pineapple ever.

After breakfast was devoured and cleared away, James asked me what I was thinking.  Well I had to follow my gut didn’t I?  I told him I thought his kindness to this stranger couldn’t have been more appreciated.  His hospitality was a blessing I didn’t even realize I needed.

‘I feel I must continue my journey to California,’ I told him in a relaxed voice; it was exactly how I felt.  It was also exactly how James reacted.  “I understand good man, follow your dreams I say!”  We smiled.  He called Pan American Airways, effortlessly rescheduling my flight for that very evening.

As I was repacking my suitcase James came into the room with a piece of paper.  “Here’s my address Blue.”  What a warm heart I thought to myself as I looked at the paper he put into my hand.  He continued with a smile, “Write to me some time.  I’d love to know how things turn for you and I want you to know that you’re always welcome back here.”  

Before I knew it we were off in his car, down the hillside and back into Honolulu.  He drove me around the town for awhile, showing me more of his world, here and there.  I enjoyed every moment of this kind gentleman’s company.  

James wanted to treat me to a ‘farewell’ lunch at a restaurant he personally favored, carefully planning it to be later in the afternoon, closer to his delivering me to the airport time.  

Good thinking on his part; I just knew he wanted to be certain to send me off with a full tummy.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and comfortable conversation.

The airline had recommended I be at the airport at least two hours prior to the scheduled flight time.  ✈️ Even though I had a confirmed ticket they wanted to be sure I was present.  Nearly the same as today but actually very different lol

And so the time had come to part ways.  He left me off at the Honolulu airport and drove off after a warm, sincere good bye … or rather Aloha!

🌴