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Saigon Kids™ Stories: Why I Was Exiled – In Saigon Some Things Are Not What They Seem (Part 1)

by Admin (ACS)

Previously in *Saigon Kids Stories: Exile From Saigon* my Saigon journey came to an abrupt end with my exile to Hawaii.

If you’ve spent any time in the Orient you know orientals are very indirect compared to the barbaric directness of Americans; and, things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Such was the case with my exile from Saigon.

I spent my final days in Saigon packing and preparing for the trip to Hawaii, and trying to act as normal as possible, as though the whole thing with Ling had never happened – or face the wrath of God from the State Department and U.S. Embassy, if I didn’t.

Over the next couple of days, I told the kids at school and the Cerle Sportif the State Department was sending mom and I home. This was the part I always disliked about our transient life as a diplomatic family. It was never easy saying good bye to my friends – knowing our paths would probably never cross again. But, over the years I’d learned to cope with it by never allowing myself to become too attached to anything – either people or places.

This was more on a subconscious than conscious level. It was always in the back of my mind that everything was temporary for an unknown brief period of time – it had become a part of my nature. Perhaps this is why I was always more adventurous then most kids my age. I’d learned to seize the moment because everything was temporary and could cease to exist in the blink of an eye.

My method of coping worked with everyone except my *special girl friends* – the one’s I either had an insane crush on or I’d fallen madly in love with – and, this time was no different. Sure I knew we’d write mushy love letters to each other. But, that too was only temporary. Eventually the letters would become farther and farther apart until they stopped all together. With each parting I’d feel the pains of a broken heart and pine for the loves I’d left behind – as a small piece of my heart would always remain with them.

The night before departure I stayed up packing my suit cases, guitar and carry on bag.

Breakfast the next morning was solemn. None of us had much to say. Unlike our usual cheery breakfast when we’d all talk about our plans for the day – starting our day on a happy note. Even the servants where usually quite and long faced.

As late mid-morning approached our chauffeur and servants started loading our luggage into the car. Around 11:00 am we started for the airport.

Staring out the car window as we traveled down Cong Ly toward the airport a sadness came over me as I realized this would be the last time I’d ride along the streets of Saigon. The last time I’d go any place in Saigon. The last time I’d walk the streets and alleys – the fragrant air filled with the smell of soup Chincoise, roasting meat, jasmine and dust, nouc mam, charcoal fires – the aroma of this Paris of the Far East – Saigon pearl of the Orient.

Soon it would all be over and Saigon would be just another memory tucked away in the back pages of my mind with all the memories of other places and people were I’d lived before — everything was temporary.

The car came to a stop in front of the terminal.

As we got out of the car a group of State Department officials, some with there wives, approached us followed by a group of my friends – to see us off and bid us farewell.

The chauffeur unloaded our baggage handing our carry on bags to us, and instructing the porters to take the rest of our luggage to the Diplomatic check-in area.

Dad and a couple of State Department officials accompanied mom and I to the Diplomatic check-in and Customs area. We presented our *purple passports* — I loved traveling with my purple (diplomatic) passport because they never checked anything or hassled me with security and baggage inspections. They just looked at the passport picture, looked at me, stamped the appropriate pages and handed it back to me with a big smile on their face.

After checking in we had about an hour to kill before boarding time. It was a typical departure with mom and dad milling around with all their State Department friends and me hanging out with my friends, saying our good byes.

Then over the PA system they announced the boarding call for our flight. I said my final good byes to everyone — hugging the girls while sneaking in a good bye kiss. We all promised to write and keep in touch. I told everyone I would — but, knew deep down inside the letters would only be — temporary.

We walked over to our boarding gate. At the gate, dad shook my hand, looking me in the eyes as he said, “You’ll be the man of the house while in Hawaii. I’m counting on you to look after your mother for me. Make me proud of you. Have a good trip son”.

“I’ll take good care of mom for you dad. You take care of yourself. I’ll see you in a year or two when I graduate from boarding school”.

I turned, flashed my boarding pass and purple passport at the gate attendant and stepped through the gate stopping on the other side to wait for mom and dad to say good bye to each other.

Mom and I walked across the tarmac and up the steps to board the plane. Before entering the plane I turned at the top of the steps,looking back toward the terminal, waving to my friends — and good bye to Saigon.

As I was waving good bye to everyone I noticed a lone oriental girl standing by herself off to the left of everyone else — she waved back. Although I was too far away to see her clearly I knew in my heart it was Ling. My heart raced as questions flashed through my mind. How did she know when I was leaving? Why would she risk coming to the airport to see me off? It makes no sense at all for her to be at the airport. What’s going on with her? I guess I’ll never know now.

I looked directly at her waving one last time as my lips formed the words “I love you”, then I turned stepping into the plane.

I took a window seat on the terminal side of the plane in the first class section. Soon the plane started to taxi away from the terminal. I just starred out the window fixated on the mysterious oriental girl until the plane turned and I could no longer see the terminal — my last vision of Saigon being the mysterious oriental girl waving to me from the terminal window.

The stewardess began her pre-flight safety speech — how to fasten your seat belt, where the emergency exits, life rafts, oxygen masks are located. I always found this funny as it implied, “okay folks we are about to take off, but just in case this bird stops working and we go down in the middle of the ocean 3,000 miles from nowhere … this is how you get out of this thing so you can float around in a tiny rubber boat for days and days hoping somebody finds you before you run out of water or are burnt to a crisp by the sun”. I always wondered just how many life rafts they actually had on the plane and if there were enough to hold *all* the passengers — or, is that why they also had a life jacket under each seat … just in case there was a life raft shortage.

I’d heard the pre-flight safety speech so many times, I knew it by heart — so wasn’t really paying much attention to what she was saying, but I sure was watching how she was moving about demonstrating how to fasten a set belt, put on a life vest, and the oxygen mask. She sure is a cute little blonde. I wonder how old she is? She could easily be a Playboy Bunny. She’d have to be at least 21 years old, but not over 35 (they retire stewardess’s when they turn 36). I’d guess early 20’s. I wonder if she is going to lay over in Honolulu. The Pan Am stewardess’s always stay at the Ambassador Hotel in Waikiki. Fred’s uncle, Clem the barber, works nights at the Ambassador. He’s always talking about the Pan Am stewardesses. If she is laying over, maybe I can show her the sights. Take her down to the surf and canoe club — teach her how to surf. Boy, wouldn’t that turn some heads, if I showed up at Healani with her on my arm! I wonder if she’d go out with me? Heck I’m *almost* 18 — I bet I could pass for 21. She can’t be that much older.

“Bob, when they turn off the seat belt sign would get my carry on bag down from the over head compartment for me?”

“Yeah, okay — Yeah, sure Mom.”

I looked out the window as the plane picked up speed racing down the runway for take off. As I felt the plane lift off slowly climbing higher I watched as Saigon and the earth below us became smaller and smaller until it looked lifeless with no visible signs of movement. Just patches of green and brown colors with the rivers and waterways snaking through them. It always fascinated me how once you got so high there appeared to be no life on earth.

As the plane completed a wide sweeping turn the South China Sea came into view and land became a distant speck on the horizon. The plane leveled off at cruising altitude as I heard the familiar “Ding” just before the stewardess’s voice announced, “The Captain has turned off the fasten seat belt and no smoking sign. You are free to move about the plane. We’ll be serving refreshment soon.”

I got up from my seat, opened the overhead compartment and got mom’s carry on bag for her.

Before returning to my seat, I went to the Restroom. Once inside I light up a Basto taking a long slow drag. I suppose my parents knew I smoked, but they had never given me permission to smoke, so I didn’t smoke in front of them. Dad smoked so smoking was never really an issue in our house. They’d never told me it was okay for me to smoke, nor not to smoke. But, after being expelled from school for a week for smoking in boy’s bathroom when we lived in Hawaii before, I’m sure they knew I smoked. I never really tried to hide it from them. I did like most kids in those days and didn’t smoke around them. But, as soon as I was out of their sight, I’d light up. Back then it seemed everyone smoked — adults anyway. Once a doctor told dad he needed to smoke because of the high stress levels associated with his job. Mom had tried a few times to learn to smoke, but never cared much for it, so dropped it.

I finished my Basto and returned to my seat. I reclined the seat closing my eyes as I laid back. My thoughts drifting to Hawaii. Wondering if all my friends where still there and if they’d even remember me since it had been a little over 2 years when I left Hawaii for Washington, DC. I was sure most of the military kids I knew had left already, but I wondered about the local kids.

My thoughts were interrupted as I head the sweet voice of the Stewardess asking what we’d like to drink. I slowly opened my eyes gazing into the smiling face and sparkly blue eyes of the cute blonde Stewardess I’d been admiring earlier. My eyes drifted down to her name tag pinned over her right breast — Cindy. As I read her name the words of a popular song came into my mind, “Cindy, oh Cindy don’t let me down ….”

With a devilish grin I looked into her eyes asking, “What are you offering, Cindy?” — half hoping she’d say, “Coffee, Tea or ME”. In her soft sweet seductive voice the drink selections rolled off her lips. “Could I please have a Pepsi, Cindy?”

“You sure can, Sir.”

I winked at her saying,”It’s Bob, Cindy. My father is, Sir.”

“You got it, Bob. One Pepsi coming right up. And, coffee with cream and sugar for you Ma’am.”

As Cindy walked away mom looked over at me saying, “You need to stop that, she’s too old for you, Bob.”

I just looked at her and grinned.

With the exception of a scheduled 1 hour refueling stop on Guam turning into a 10 hour maintenance and repair layover, the flight was pretty routine.

I kept flirting with Cindy every chance I got. She seemed receptive to my advances appearing to flirt back, much to mom’s dislike. Either that or she was just being polite to make the flight more enjoyable. Anyway, we had fun kibitzing back and forth.

Upon landing at Guam they announced we’d be there for about 1 hour for refueling before proceeding on to Honolulu. They opened the doors and shut down the engines which also turned off the air conditioning in the cabin. In a few minutes the air in the cabin became hot, humid and stuffy – if you’ve ever been on Guam, you know what I mean. The heat and humidity on Guam makes Saigon seem like Antarctica.

One of the Stewardess’s announced we were welcome to exit the plane and visit the Blue Dolphin Lounge.

Mom and I, along with others on the plane decided to head for the Blue Dolphin. Even though it was the middle of the night, when Guam was the coolest, as we exited the plane a wave of liquid air and heat engulfed us. We walked across the asphalt tarmac about 300 feet and through the gate of the 3 foot high chain link fence then along the asphalt path leading to the Blue Dolphin. It wasn’t hard to locate as it was the only building. A one story flat roofed building painted bright blue with white trim. The remainder of the terminal consisted of a roof extending out off one end of the building to the curb and road, with empty baggage carts setting around and a closed ticket counter.

As we entered the Blue Dolphin we discovered it wasn’t air conditioned as we had anticipated. Just fans hanging from the ceiling as they turned slowly stirring the liquid air. Everything inside was bright blue, except the ceiling was a light sky blue. Three walls were adorned with fish nets, shells and assorted photographs and paintings of dolphins. The other wall was what appeared to be a bar and food counter. But, it was closed. There were chrome legged tables with bright blue tops, and matching chairs scattered about the room.

We sat down at a table, as I looked around for a waitress – there were none. I noticed some vending machines along the wall next to the Bar counter, including a soda machine.

“I’m going to see what they have to drink, you want anything mom?”

“A 7-Up if they have it, or anything cold.”

As I walked over to the vending machines mom picked up the paddle fan on the table and began waving it back and forth fanning her face.

The soda machine was one of those old top opening kind with the bottles of soda hanging from metal bars in ice water. I opened the top of the soda machine, put a dime in the coin box and slide a bottle of coke along the metal retaining bars to the gate and pulled it out. I deposited another dime and got a 7-Up for mom. I stuck the tops of the bottles into the bottle opener on the side of the machine to pop the caps off. As I returned to our table holding the bottles in my hand, it was apparent it had been awhile since they’d put ice in the machine as they were luke warm at best. So much for cold soda!

I gave mom her 7-Up and walked back over to the machines to see what they had for snacks. One of the machines had sandwiches, but all it had left was 3 egg salad sandwiches for 15 cents each. I got one and sat back down at the table with mom. I unwrapped the sandwich from it’s Glad Wrap encasement, finding a wilted lettuce leaf, a thin layer of egg salad between two slices of smashed white bread. As I raised it to my mouth to take a bite, it smelled funny. I took a bite and immediately spit it out – yep, it had gone bad. So much for fine dinning at the Blue Dolphin.

I looked at the school house style clock on the wall noticing it had been about 45 minutes since we landed.

“If they are on schedule, we should be departing in about 15 minutes, mom.”

“I guess we should get back on the plane.”, she replied.

As we started to get up the announcement came over the PA system. “Due to mechanical problems the flight will be delayed while the necessary repairs are completed. You are welcome to remain in the lounge or re-board the plane. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more and have a new departure time.”

“Well, you want to stay here in the lounge or get back on the plane, mom?”

“Let’s just stay here for now.”

After an hour or so I saw Cindy enter the lounge with a couple of the other Stewardesses.

“Mom, I’m going to ask Cindy what’s going on with the flight. Be right back.”

I walked over to there table. “Hi, Cindy!”

“Oh, hi Bob! This is Beth and Carol.”

“Hello, Beth … Carol, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“So, do you ladies know what’s going on with the flight? What kind of mechanical problems are they having with the plane? Any idea how much longer it will be?

Cindy replied, “Oh, while doing a routine maintenance inspection during refueling, they found something wrong with a control lever for one of the wing flaps. So, they have to replace it, but they don’t have a spare part available so they sent to the other side of the island for a machinist to come in to make a replacement part.”

“Is he here yet?”

“No, but they’re expecting him soon.”

“How long will it be once he arrives?”

“We don’t know. But, once he arrives he’ll have to make the part, and they’ll have to install and test it to make sure everything is working okay. So, it might be awhile.”

“Sounds like it could be several hours before the plane is ready to fly again.”

“Probably.”, Cindy replied with a smirk on her face as she batted her blue eyes.

“Sounds like Pan Am will be putting us all up in a hotel until they get the plane ready to fly again.”, I said snickering while winking at Cindy.

“First time to Guam!”, they all gigglingly replied in unison.

“Umm, yeah! Okay, why are you all laughing?”

“There’s only one hotel on Guam. It doesn’t have enough rooms to accommodate all of us.”, Cindy said.

“Doubt they even have enough rooms for the crew.”, added Beth.

“Don’t forget, no air conditioning.”, Carol chimed in.

By this time the Blue Dolphin Lounge was filled to capacity with the flight crew and passengers sitting around the 15 or so tables, others standing or sitting using the walls for a back rest. The soda machine and vending machines were empty.

There was nothing to do but wait around in the *Blue Dolphin Steam Bath* for the machinist to arrive so they could complete the repairs to the plane.

I’d always dreamt of taking a steam bath surrounded by beautiful Playboy Bunnies or Airline Stewardess’s — but, this wasn’t anything like in my dreams.

“Well, ladies it’s been enjoyable, but I better go keep mom company while we wait this out.”

“Have her come over an join us.”, Carol said, as I stood up.

“Okay, will do.”

I walked over to where mom was sitting. “Hey, the girls said for you to come over and join us at their table. Grab your bag. I’ll bring your chair and drink over for you.”

I picked up mom’s chair and drink leading the way over to the girl’s table.

“Mom, you know Cindy already, this is Carol and Beth. Girl’s meet my mom, Eva.”

“Hi Eva! Sit down and join the party.”

I placed mom’s chair between Carol and Beth. Carol had just turned 30 years old, and was closest to mom’s age of 36. They hit it off right away.

We spent the next several hours chatting about our travels around Asia, Saigon and Hawaii, joking around and laughing about our *all-night sauna on Guam*. Finally, after about 5 hours or so, the co-pilot came by and told the girls it was time to start preparing the plane for take off. He estimated the repairs would be completed and the flight ready to resume in about an hour or so. The girls gathered up their things and headed back to the plane.

Mom and I decided to go ahead and re-board too. As we walked out of the Blue Dolphin Lounge down the asphalt pathway and across the tarmac to the plane, I had no way of knowing that in just over 10 years I’d return to Guam opening a garment factory making dress shirts for Sears and J.C. Penny.

Once on the plane and seated the girls made sure we were comfortable and brought us cold refreshments and warm lemon scented hand towels.

About 45 minutes later they announced final re-boarding call and we were airborne in about a half an hour.

As the plane leveled off at cruising altitude the Captain turned off the Fasten Seat Belts and No Smoking sign.

Carol announced over the P.A. System they would begin serving refreshments and taking meal orders shortly.

I unfastened my seat belt and reclined my seat.

Cindy came by asking if we’d like something to drink. Mom ordered coffee with cream and sugar. I ordered ice tea.

A couple minutes later she returned with our drinks placing them on our trays.

“For our in-flight meal we’re having Cream of Tomato Soup with Bunques Crackers, Broiled Filet Mignon with Parslied Butter, Croquette Potatoes, Buttered Green Peas, Tropical Salad with Cream Sauce, and Chocolate Run Cake for dessert. Or, if you’d like something a little lighter I can make you a vegetable and fruit platter. Or, our Pan American Chef’s Salad with French Dressing is very good.”

Mom ordered the Chef’s Salad, and I ordered the Filet Mignon meal.

After taking our orders Cindy headed off to the Galley, just as Beth arrived pushing a serving cart. She placed a linen covered dinner tray, on our seat back trays, complete with linen napkin and silver ware. Followed by a glass of ice water with a twist of lemon. “Here’s a warm towel to freshen up with before your meal,” she said as she lifted the lid of the steam tray picking up a lemon scented hand towel with tongs placing it on the small plate she’d set on our dinner trays.

Cindy reappeared saying, “I thought you might like some Hors D’Oueweres to nibble on while your meal is being prepared”, as she placed a plate on the dinner tray in front of each of us, “chilled Utah Celery Hearts, Green Ripe Stuffed Olives, Garden Radishes and Assorted Nuts.”

“Thank you so much, Cindy, this was very sweet of you.”

“Is there anything else I can get for you?” (Oh, the thought I had, but kept to myself.)

“No, I think we’re okay for the now.”

“Okay, just let me know if there is anything else you want,” she said as she walked away.

A few minutes later Cindy arrived with our meals and we dug in — until we started nibbling on the snacks she’d brought earlier, it really hadn’t dawned on us how hungry we were. So when our meals arrived we wasted no time devouring them.

After we’d finished eating, Beth came by taking our dinner trays, and giving us each another warm lemon scented hand towel.

Stuffed and contented I reclined my seat all the way back, closed my eyes and dosed off with thoughts of strolling along Waikiki beach under the moon light hand in hand with Cindy.

In what seemed like only a few minutes I was awakened from my romantic dreams of Cindy by the familiar chimes of the P.A. system and Cindy’s voice saying, “The Captain has announced we’ll be landing at Honolulu in about one hour. We’ll begin preparing for landing in a few minutes”.

Slowly I opened my eyes and yawned. Mom looked at me saying, “Boy you were really conked out. You’re just like your father. You can sleep anywhere”.

“Guess so, mom”.

“I think I’ll use the restroom before they turn on the fasten seat belt sign”.

I walked back to the restroom entered and lite up a Bastro while relieving myself. After finishing my Bastro, I turned on the cold water splashing it on my face and washing my hands.

As I exited and turned to return to my seat Carol was coming down the isle toward me.
“Hi, Carol. Looks like we’ll be in Honolulu soon”.

“Yes. I can’t wait to get to the hotel and get some rest. It’s been a long trip with the layover in Guam and all”.

“Yeah, bet you girls are really bushed. Will you and the flight crew be staying at the Ambassador Hotel?”

“Yes we will. How did you know that?”

“Oh, one of my class mates, from when we lived here before, had an uncle that worked as a doorman at the Ambassador. He used to tell use the Pan Am flight crews always stayed there — and how he got to check out all the Pan Am stewardesses”, I replied with a devilish grin.

“We’re staying at the Hawaiian Village. After you girls rest up, if you have some free time, give us a call and we’ll meet you at the Shell Bar and listen to the sounds Martin Deny playing Quiet Village”.

“That would be great. Of all the times we’ve passed through Hawaii we’ve never seen Martin Denny at the Shell Bar. I’ll let the other girls know”.

“How long will you be laying over in Honolulu?”

“The last I heard we’ll be here for 3 or 4 days”.

“Mom and I’d love to show you girls around, if you’re up for it. We’ll rent one of Kaiser’s pink jeeps at the Hawaiian Village, all pile in and give you girls the grand tour of places the tourist never see or even know about. It’ll be fun. We can talk about it while listening to Martin Denny at the Shell Bar”.

“I better get back to my seat now and see if mom needs any help getting ready to land”.

“Can I get you anything to drink before we start collecting glasses?”

“No thanks, I’m good”.

I returned to my seat settling in for the landing.

“Mom, the girls have never had a chance to take in the Martin Deny show at the Shell Bar while passing through the Islands, so I invited them to be our guests. Once they get rested up Carol said they’d give us a call to make arrangements to met up at the Shell Bar. She said the last she heard they’d be laying over for 3 days. So I told her we’d be happy to give them the grand tour of the Island and show them all the place the tourist never see.”

“Oh, really. That sounds like fun. But, you are underage for the Shell Bar and we don’t have a car to take them touring.”

“They’ll let me in the Shell Bar as long as I’m with an adult and don’t drink booze. Besides Rodney, Kimo’s cousin works there and plays with Martin Deny sometimes. He’ll pull string if I ask him.”

“What about a car?”

“I told Carol we’d rent one of Kaiser’s pink jeeps to take them touring in”, I replied with a smirk on my face.

“Oh, you did, did you. And, just who is paying for all this, might I ask. And, who is going to do the driving?”

“Hmmm. I hadn’t really thought about that, mom. But, if you don’t want to pay for it, I’ll take care of it. Either you or one of the girls can drive. I’m sure they all have a driver’s license. I think my license I got right before we left Virgina has expired. Besides, I think the jeep rental contract say all drivers have to be at least 21 years old.”

“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you. But, you really should discuss these things with me before you commit us — you know.”

“Yeah, I know. Guess I just got caught up in the moment with Aloha Spirit while chatting with Carol. If you don’t want to do it, I’ll tell Carol and the girls you’re not up to it.”

“No, that’s okay. Actually, it sounds like fun. It’ll beat sitting around the hotel room, that’s for sure.”

“Cool! I’ll let the girls know everything is a go.”

I laid my head back on the seat gazing out the window watching the clouds as reflections of Saigon drifted through my mind wondering if the mysterious oriental girl at the airport was really Ling. I wondered what would become of Ling — will I ever see her again?

(To be continued…)

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