By Helen Nolan

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It was a beautiful feeling. Chapter Four ALL PLAY AND NO WORK I NEVER DID see Ricky B. Mansing III again. After his trip to Australia in mid-1967 to recruit Third Country National staff to work for the Post Exchange system, the Filipino contingent of the workforce buzzed with dissatisfaction and they took the opportunity of the Tet Offensive to put out a ‘contract’ on him: $US1,000 to get rid of him, in any way. He was lucky. He heard about the contract just two days before Tet and made hurried and secretive arrangements to leave the country permanently.

We all turned. Where there had been four marble cherubs standing peeing decoratively into the pond (hence the tinkling sound), there were now five. A small Chinese boy had climbed onto the fountain wall and had joined his marble mates in a pee. We just didn’t know where to look! It is considered terribly rude and uncouth to show any emotion in public in Vietnam and we couldn’t lean back and roar with laughter as we desperately wanted to. We had to cover our faces with our napkins, choking, tears streaming down our faces, trying not to look at each other.

We made ice-blocks from tap water and fed it to our American guests at home as a private joke among ourselves. We never took malaria tablets (they were huge orange once-a-week pills, which produced bodily effects known as the Saigon Quickstep). We made friends with neighbourhood women and children. We had a favourite papasan, a kindly toothless old gentleman who waited each morning outside our villa with his pedicab to pedal us to work. We went to his home and met his wife and children. We ate in Vietnamese restaurants, Japanese and Chinese 24 Between the Battles restaurants, and tasted the exotic culinary delights denied the fussy American.

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