Saigon, French Indo-China

Tuesday, August 20, 1929

Queer day this! when I went for mail, of which there was none, I met my Scotch sailor friend Scotty at the Consulate. He was full of troubles. After I left the party the other night, it soon departed in rickshaws. When this old boy woke up, he was in a rickshaw all right, but his two companions were gone. He was hauled down to the cooler. His papers were lost and it was one the following day when he was finally released. His ship had already sailed and he was stranded in Saigon.

The Consul put him up at the Hotel Cote d’Or down Boulevard Charner a block from me. In the several days of his stay here he as accumulated a few burdens on his mind. Like a typical sailor, he seriously spilled them all to me. He is a conscientious devil even when drunk.

First there was his room—It was all right you understand but he got tired of it. Saigon was too hot. He couldn’t sleep—was always restless. Did they clean shoes in these hotels? He had seen other shows sitting outside the doors and so he put his out twice but nothing happened. Aw, the place was all right, but—well, you understand. Then he couldn’t speak French. You know it makes it hard on a man who can’t speak the language. He can’t ask for nothing—when he speaks to the “boy”, the latter throws up his hands and shakes his head. Can’t make him understand nothin’.

Then he didn’t have any clothes, only the blue working overalls he was wearing. Yes, you know a man hates to go around in these, especially around such a hotel. People all look at you.  And they wouldn’t let him eat in the dining room in that outfit. Had to eat in his room. He couldn’t talk French and the “boy” just gave him any old thing. Did I like the food here? They don’t serve you right. They bring you a little bit here and a little bit there—a good number of courses but not much in any one. And then he had to take what he got because nobody spoke English. What are you going to do? You can’t shoot the “boy”. The law protects him. Aw, the room was all right, but you understand, it’s too hot for a man to live here in Saigon. Then there wasn’t nothing, nothing to do. He spent a lot of time sitting in the park. Say, how do you get your clothes washed? Wash them yourself? Can they do it at the hotel? Well, the Consul is having a Chinese tailor make me a pair of trousers and a shirt this afternoon and I think I’ll get these clothes washed.

Such was life—a few newspapers from the Consulate helped to pass the time and then they were good to read for you could find out about what was happening and all these new inventions and everything. Yes, the Consul had got him a job on a ship sailing about Thursday—the Golden Hind Mountain or something. He’d be glad to get away from here. You know, the people here seem kind of hostile to you. Can’t understand them and they don’t pay much attention to you. Anywhere in America—Texas, California, Oregon—people were different.

Shanghai’s the real place. It’s a real good city. You can always have a good time there and you know everybody speaks English—yes, even the natives. Hongkong’s all right, but Shanghai is the place. Kobe is pretty good and Yokohama is all right—haven’t been there since—aw—I was there the month after the big earthquake. Remember that? Well, I was there then, yes. . .

And on he rambled in his quiet serious voice, the Scotch o’ him sticking out all over from his blue eyes and ruddy face to his accent. You might have thought he was laying judgment upon a nation.

Leaving him to his woes, I returned for lunch. The day was phony because it rained at nine this morning instead of three this afternoon.

The shipping agency said my boat, the Pong Tong, was in but hadn’t started loading yet so it may be here till Friday. I am to get the ticket tomorrow. Across the river by the M. Maritime offices is the Commissariat where one must have his passport further decorated before leaving the port. This done, the business of the day was fini so I came back and finished my second Current History magazine in an attempt to get up on the events of the last year which I have purposely ignored to be more in the spirit of the country through which I was traveling at the time.

The fact that the soup this evening was utterly devoid of floating bread was a strange ending to a stranger day. The moon is practically full now—day after tomorrow if I remember the date correctly—and is a great encouragement and incentive to take a long walk in the park after dinner. But then the fact you have to walk alone doesn’t help any either. Love and kisses.

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