Saigon, French Indo-China

Monday, August 19, 1929

Today was one of those rare days you dream about. Many good things happened—one of them being connected with the orchestra—it played another new piece—then the soup was stuffed with spaghetti instead of bread.

I must have been up at eight, though the shock of its knowledge came later. After writing a letter to Millicent, I went down to the Chartered Bank of India, Australia, & China to return a letter they had erroneously sent me. It was sent from New Haven, Conn. to a C.F.D. Lippincott. Can it be I have a relative coming to Saigon?

Dropped in the shipping agency a moment, then hoofed it to the other end of town for mail and to get a couple of magazines from the Consulate. There was a letter from Jean forwarded from Bangkok. Perhaps the remainder of the forwarded mail will be showing up soon.

At four I again went to the shipping agency to see about the boat. And to my great surprise and wonder, the promise of trying to get me a cheap passage actually materialized. The result is that I sail on a Chinese cargo ship for Hongkong as a first-class passenger—the only way a white man is permitted to travel on them—and with food included it is thirty dollars, just about half price, plus three dollars tax. In U.S. money this is $14.72 I think, all included.

Sure is one heck of a big relief, for I was bemoaning the fact that it seemed as though I would have to sink at least thirty grand into this four-day run—all of which is plenty. $33 gold 3rd class on the Messageries ships! Hope I can get cheap ship rates to Shanghai and Japan also. The hitch comes in living in China. Ten to one it’s sky high for a white man.

You see some queer-looking specimens in Saigon—French I mean. Occasionally an artist of some description or other with his Fiji mop of curly locks scattered to the four winds. Then there is the vivacious little cuss who is everywhere at once and spouting off like a volcano. The self-esteemed “lion” or dandy who is all dolled up in his white linens and who received his friends with a feeble handshake and a murmur, not bothering to put aside the paper he is reading. The good M. Chaillet toddling his 220 about shaking hands with his guests, etc. The young couple who bring their dog to meals and chain him to the table. The 35-year-old girl who has a strong face with a wind-blown boyish bob. The native gentleman, short and chubby, a good double of the man who took the movie part of the Prince of Pilsen, even down to the smile. The group of gay soldiers in white or khaki who have that carefree jovial French soldiers’ attitude. The beanstalk widow who has seemingly wrapped ten yards of black cloth about her, starting at the bottom and working up, wrapping tightly so as not to lose the effect of a bean-stalk. Under a black hat shine two black eyes, real ones I thought at first but since have noticed all widows darken their eyes, paint their lips and more than likely don’t spare the powder. Gives them sort of a sad, pale beauty at a distance, which vanishes and makes you shake your head on second sight. Good old French noses are usually scattered among the guests. The most disagreeable thing about habits here is the handshake. I have watched any number and don’t recall seeing any good hearty clasp. These weakly, fishy shakes you get remind you of a hunk of dough or shaking hands with a bunch of soft bananas.

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