Road to Great Wall of China
|My mother, Dorothy Williams Behling had a wonderful sense of adventure and an even better sense of humor. My grandparents saved all the letters she wrote to them while she was stationed in China working for UNRRA (United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Association) from 1946 - 1949. The following are excerpts.|
January 18 & 20, 1946Quite late Monday, December 23 we got word that we were leaving on the 24th and to be aboard ship by ten o'clock. We didn't make the ship until almost noon, but it didn't make too much difference. We had to have our passports checked at Customs, got our suitcases in our quarters and then just explored the ship until around 4:30 when we pulled out. Our ship was the Marine Flasher a C-4 transport and the reason we had to report so early was that they wanted us all aboard when they started loading troops at 3:00 p.m. We had 250 colored enlisted troops, 200 (white) Army officers, two Chinese nuns, 8 Chinese Air Force Officers and 20 other officers and a number of enlisted Chinese men in the Air Corps, plus approximately 30 civilians, both American and Chinese. The ship's destination is Korea where it will return to the states with 35,000 troops. So we were definitely not crowded.
The women were quartered in the dispensary below deck. This was the Flasher's second trip so everything was quite clean and new. We had hot and cold water, showers and really everything very nice considering it was a troop ship and the officers had priority for the stateroom, but after looking at all other quarters we decided we had the best.
So with everybody aboard we pulled out of Seattle at 4:45 Christmas Eve. We all hung over the rail to get our last glimpse of land, then we spent the rest of the time until dinner unpacking, getting acquainted with the ship and with passengers. Before I forget the meals were excellent the whole trip - steaks, turkey, chocolate pies - all kinds of pastry. It was really amazing and most everyone gained weight.
After dinner everyone pitched in and decorated the dining room and Xmas tree both for us and the troops. We opened the boxes of Christmas presents for troops spending Xmas on the high seas and put the beautifully wrapped packages under the tree. There was a package for everyone including UNRRA and very nice gifts. My package had in it airmail stationery, package of Lifesavers, deck of cards, eversharp and comb, candy bar, tube of camphor ice. Little did I realize when I saw the Red Cross fixing those boxes for shipment overseas in the Newsreels that I would be unpacking them and getting a package, too. We made up a big batch of eggnog in the galley, gave out our presents, took a present from the grab bag, sang Xmas carols - we had a small organ, also a piano - and everybody I think had a wonderful time. I know I did.
Xmas day, I spent in bed, except for dinner which I managed. Yes, you've guessed it - I was seasick practically the whole trip - not bad enough to lose a meal, but I was able only to eat about one meal a day. Only one day I missed getting up and going on deck. Usually I felt miserable until about two in the afternoon, then I'd make myself get up and go on top deck and usually I got to eat dinner. But usually had to go to bed early, so at least I didn't gain weight. The kids would bring me rolls for breakfast, etc. so didn't starve completely. We were on board 22 days and all but about five were rough. On the Friday before we got here I began to feel good, so had a good time the last five days. However, I managed to be OK for the parties, etc. as everything was usually in the evenings and I felt pretty good by then.
We had movies on board and really had something to do most of the time - and the rolling of the ship made all kinds of things happen. Be eating dinner and suddenly our dishes go to one end of the table or in your lap. Walking through passageways you'd hit both sides and sometimes we wondered if we'd be able to stay in our bunks. Our suitcases would go scooting across the rooms and everything would go crash. Nothing like getting up in the middle of the night and tying down everything to our stationary bunks. We had boat drills everyday as the storms broke loose a lot of mines off the Japanese coast and floated down. We spotted several and on our last day out we saw one dead ahead and if it had been at night - well, there would have been plenty of excitement. As it was we swerved around it and missed it by 125 yards. But even with the storm the water was beautiful, white capped waves, different shades of blue, and the Albatrosses flying around.
New Year's Eve we had a party - the fellows put on a program, everybody contributed some liquor again and we had punch. The Negro troops had an orchestra, but since it was so rough, no dancing. We had whistles and everything that goes with New Year's Eve. Nothing like New Year's Eve on the high seas. At eleven p.m. we had a big buffet supper. So we couldn't feel sorry for ourselves a little bit. We listened to the Rose Bowl game New Year's morning and had turkey and trimmings for lunch and steaks that night for dinner. What food! Too bad I only got about one meal a day.
Intended to keep a daily record but couldn't do any writing or reading as it made me sick. I either had such a headache I could hardly see, or felt sick at my tummy. Finally decided I preferred headaches because then I got a meal in. The mess hall was about the worst place in a storm and many people couldn't stand it there. If your meal didn't come at once you'd have to leave - if it came immediately, you usually got it eaten, but no tarrying at the table. A nap usually followed.
And at last on January 6 we passed the date line, so we had no Sunday, although services were held Monday. And then after 18 days of bad, cold stormy, rainy weather we hit some tropical waters, and I felt wonderful, and we all blossomed forth on top deck, in shorts and anything else we could find and I got a beautiful sunburn as only I can get. But I definitely was not alone. The balmy days (two ) were simply wonderful and we'd see people we didn't even know were aboard. All the cameras came out and we had a gala time - then the weather turned cold again, but at last we were out of the storm. I was one happy gal then and I'd be one of the first up and last to bed. However, I didn't gain any weight as did the rest, thank goodness.
Then the water turned from a beautiful dry blue to green after we got into the China Sea and then we saw our first land on the evening of the 14th. Such excitement, felt like Columbus. Just two volcanic islands which we went between just as it was getting dark. And everybody was on deck. On the 15th we had a little excitement. The storms had set free a lot of mines off the Japanese coast and we were continually on the lookout and at 11:45 of the 15th one was sighted dead ahead. Being daylight it was seen in time and swerved around, but if it had been at night - well, that's a different story which didn't happen. So along towards sundown the water began to turn yellow and all afternoon we'd been meeting Chinese junks. They are so picturesque. We saw where a lot of Japanese ships had been sunk. (That's after we started up the Yangtze River.) The tops of the masts would be sticking out of the water, but I'm getting ahead of my story. At the mouth of the River a Navy boat was there waiting and after signaling back and forth we anchored for the night. The river was so low that they wouldn't take us up at night. So for the first time in days we could walk with everything still - walk a straight line even. Our last dinner was steaks and french fries and we had a lot of fun. Other ships came up and anchored too and their lights looked so pretty. We passed several ships en route and it's really a thrill to be way out miles from everything and a ship looms up and passes.
Getting back to our last night aboard, we finally made some arrangements for a dance. The hatch where our luggage was was partly uncovered ready to be open, so we fixed it up to dance on, rigged up a speaker on top deck so we could hear the records being played below in the library and we danced. A beautiful night, full moon. The last few nights were really wonderful with the moon on the water, balmy breezes and gliding through the water.
Before daylight the river pilot came aboard and by eight o'clock we were on our way up the river. We were so happy to see this in the daylight. Our first glimpse of China and only a glimpse for the river is so wide and the ground so flat, couldn't see too much until we got to where the Wang Poo river comes into the Yangtze. There we again dropped anchor and waited for another river pilot to take us up it to the dock at Shanghai. A small Chinese Navy vessel arrived around noon with the pilot, custom officials, representatives of UNRRA and we were on our way again. Chinese boats everywhere as well as practically the whole USA fleet. There was so much to see on both sides, that we just couldn't take it all it. Our Navy ships were anchored one behind the other down practically the whole length of the river - big white hospital ships, cruisers, battleships and everything. Then all these little Chinese houseboats, ferries, row boats scurrying in every direction.
Our UNRRA man had us in for a short meeting - gave us final instructions telling us the housing was so bad that we were to be billeted at the 14th Air Force base, then he gave us $10,000 in Chinese money which was to hold us over until we got our per diem money. You should have seen us flashing those $1,000 and $2,000 bills. U.S. rate of exchange is $1485 Chinese money for one U.S. dollar. Our second day here they gave us $87,500.00 to last us until the end of the month ($6,500 a day for meals).
And the different kinds of money! We just sit and laugh every time we go to pay a bill, because we don't know what we've got, or how much. It's getting fairly easy, but seems so funny to pay $350 for a cup of coffee. A steak is anywhere from $800 to $1,000, a dry martini is $1,900. And we darn near need a basket to carry it in.
But getting back again to coming in. We had to get the customs officials to OK our baggage and then we all stayed on deck to watch. Chinese peddlers in small boats came out to meet us, crying their wares - silks, small carved chests, robes, and lots of little odds and ends. All had a long pole with a net at the end, so if after making a bargain, they'd send it up for the money and then pass up your purchase. We docked at a pier right on the Bund which is a street with office buildings on one side and the ships are docked on the other. Very strange and interesting. We stepped on Chinese ground around 4:30 in the afternoon of the 16th. They took us to the American Club for dinner and then drove us out to the compound in Army trucks. They had opened a building for us and of course no heat, so the whole lot of us piled in and literally froze to death our first night in Shanghai. I had on heavy pajamas and heavy white long sleeve sweater and my robe fore the night was over, besides having my coat on top of the 3 blankets I had. However, now that the building finally got heated we have very comfortable but unusual quarters. Will tell you all about that in the next installment.
26 January 1946Shanghai! I'm sure there isn't another city like it in all the world. It isn't Chinese, it isn't American, it isn't English, it isn't Russian, but has something of all to make it International. The main part of Shanghai missed most of the bombing and so looks pretty much intact. We didn't see much that first evening, as we were piled into Army trucks at the pier and taken to the American Club for dinner. It was dark by this time so the most we remember is the crowds. Since housing conditions are so scarce, UNRRA had made arrangements for us to be billeted with the Army at the 14th Air Force Compound. So after dinner we again filed into trucks and came out here and it is a good 15 to 20 minute ride from the heart of the city.
This place, once a Japanese Institute, was taken over by our Army after the end of the war and has been renamed the Shanghai Research Institute. It still has a lot of Japanese atmosphere - especially the showers and bedrooms and part of the furniture. The building is divided into apartments with four rooms, bath and kitchen. We never figured out exactly what the rooms were for but we each took one and then when I discovered that the one I had had no heat, I moved in with Trudy and our house boy occupies that room most of the time. Oh yes, we have a houseboy and he really takes care of us. There's no hot water, so it's his job to see that we have hot water all the time, boiled water for drinking, cleans up the place, makes beds, etc. We're going to be really spoiled. In the evenings when we come home, he has our hot water bottles in bed with our pajamas wrapped around it - our robe and slippers are laid out. He does all our pressing - takes our cleaning and laundry out and brings it back. Then every morning when he hears us get up, he brings in coffee. You see we have to go all the way into town to eat, so a cup of coffee helps out.
I wish you could see our shower. There's a Japanese tub on one side of the room, about 4' x 4' and about three to four feet high, all concrete with a step on the outside and another on the inside. It's so dirty that we've never used it, but our boy fills it with hot water when we go to take a shower. It heats up the room, since there's no other heat. The shower then is a wooden keg on a rack with a shower attachment. The boy fills that too with hot water and when he gets it all fixed he calls us. The first time we took one, we thought he was going in and give it to us - but he didn't.
Now that the building has been heated it is very comfortable, but that first night was really something. I'm plenty warm at the office, too, since my desk is next to the stove (looks like a toy, it's so small).
The lack of heat was, of course, the first thing we noticed. Outside it was fine, but when one couldn't get warm when they entered a building. In fact it was colder inside than outside. Even the hotels have very little heat, a couple of hours a day maybe if it gets terribly cold. After the first couple days here it has warmed up and really feels like Spring.
Then the thing I was really amazed at was the noise. Honestly it's nosier than New York City, Chicago or any of them. There's very few cars, mostly trucks and jeeps (Army), streetcars and a few buses and then thousands upon thousands of rickshaws and peddybikes. The streets are, of course, very narrow, and I know that this is definitely one place I don't want to drive a car unless it was an Austin of which there are a lot, or a jeep. Everyone is yelling at everyone else, little children from about 6-12 are selling things - well, it's just the noisiest spot you've ever seen, but more fun. And it's even nosier at night than during the day time. The children are the cutest things you ever saw, and it's so hard to pass them by, but if you stop and give something to one, in two seconds you have fifty - and you not only can't give to all, you've probably got the traffic blocked and thousands of people laughing and yelling at you, with no one speaking a word of English but "Hello, Joe." Everyone with a uniform on is "Joe" and you hear it all the time. So far I've seen very few beggars - in fact, only a couple, but I haven't been around too much. These peddycabs - I don't know how to spell it - but anyway, it is a 3 wheeled bicycle more or less and the coolie rides and pumps it - when in an ordinary rickshaw, the coolie runs. Whoever brought that to China really helps the coolie except of course for the poor coolie who still has a rickshaw - for almost everyone wants to ride a pedicab faster and they are nicer. There are a few taxi and all cars over here are right hand drive. However, on the 1st of January they initiated right hand traffic and one never knows what is going to happen. The traffic jams are worse than anything you ever saw in the States. There are red and green traffic lights - policemen directing traffic, but I've about decided they're all color blind.
The food here has been wonderful. I've been here eleven days and I haven't even had a taste of Chinese food. I've never eaten so many steaks, french fries as I have here. We usually eat breakfast at the American Club which is a private business men's club that has opened its doors to UNRRA and to the American officers. We buy guest membership cards $2.00 (two dollars) American money a month, but it's worth it - the food is better and much cheaper. The Metropole Hotel is another of our favorites. Such good food and the place is so clean. We're amazed at the number of beautiful hotels. When you're inside dining or dancing, you can hardly realize that you're in China. Could be anywhere in the States. Course when you step outside you suddenly realize that that yelling mob could be nowhere but Shanghai.
We got around to see quit a few of the nice places. The officers from the ship were allowed shore leave from Wednesday until Sunday noon when they sailed for Korea. Shanghai didn't seem at all strange or lonely those first few days for wherever you were you'd see fellows from the ship even some of the civilian passengers and other UNRRA people who had left before we did. The French Club here, which has been taken over by the American Army officers, is a wonderful place. The last night the fellows were here they had a big party there - what food! And that huge, huge dance floor. We had the time of our lives!
Trudy and I met a couple of Army Air Corps flyers who were awaiting transportation to the States and they took us to the Russian quarters for dinner and dancing the two nights before they left. Then Helen, Gladys and I went to the Park Hotel for dinner and dancing with three Naval officers who were here from Okinawa for a week's rest. I'm beginning to believe what the fellows said about the fact that girls could be dated up every night. The one good thing about it is the fact that Shanghai has a midnight curfew and everyone - no exceptions - has to be off the streets by then or spend the night in jail. So that helps for you can still get plenty of sleep. Elizabeth went to two parties with officers of the English Navy. One evening they had dinner aboard a destroyer and other evening a farewell party on the "Black Prince". I had other plans for both nights so had to miss out on that.
There are six of us that are remaining in Shanghai to work. All the rest are going into the interior - some have gone already. My adventurous spirit brought me this far, but I'm satisfied to remain here. Oh, I want to see some other parts of China, but I'll see that on my time off or something. There's too much to see and do here.
I'm working in Registry and Communications and job is seeing that all cables coming in are answered and that all outgoing cables are properly made out, signed, etc. Since cables are the life line, so to speak, between China and the USA, I know everything that is going on. Very interesting.
There were a lot of little interesting items I wanted to mention, but they seem to have slipped my mind. There is a terrific shortage of paper here and it's a good thing we all brought some toilet paper. Soap is another missing item. If you ever see any of these little paper soap leaves - seems like we used to have some for camping - they would sure be a life saver.
I'm learning to like tea in a hurry. We have Chinese boys bring tea to our desks about four times during the day. I don't think the boys do anything but keep the cups clean and the tea brewing! I had my cleaning and laundry returned last night and my two dresses and tie which I had cleaned and pressed and my laundry of two shirts ironed too, pajamas, underwear, etc. only came to $1020 (Chinese), not even one dollar of American money. Can you imagine!
13 April 1946We learned a lesson that day we shall never forget while in China, and that is never take beer on an all day trip in China. It never dawned on any of us until after we'd been out on the river about two hours or so, and then! Luck was with us when we discovered that they were going to inspect an old electric plant about half way, or so we thought. So while the fellows went to look over the plant, Trudy and I sneaked off, or so we thought. In case you don't know, the Chinese are without a doubt the most curious people in the world, and before Trudy and I had taken ten steps we had about five people following us and we couldn't get rid of them. And then we bumped into at least three people who were doing what we wanted to do. By this time we were almost helpless with laughter and yet it wasn't funny, either. Finally we decided to find out what happened to the two Chinese girls that were with us, and after about ten minutes found them coming down the walk. We had difficulty in explaining what we wanted, for they spoke very little English, but we finally got it across and said to follow them. We did. Into a little old Chinese home, through a couple of rooms (also picked up a few more people to follow us) and finally they took us into a bedroom and pointed to a little wooden pot on the floor. Trudy and I looked at each other, then looked at the gathering in the doorway watching us, and we just about had hysterics. I finally shooed them out and as long as one of us stayed in the other room they stayed too. I don't know when I've laughed so at anything, at least until the next episode which I also must tell you.
We got back on the boat and continued our journey to Minghong. After going through the village we took the car which met us there and started back to Shanghai. There were several places these Chinese wanted us to see and so had made these arrangements. One of the places of interest turned out to be the insane asylum. I didn't even know they had them in China, but they do, and we saw some horrible sights. However, there is never a dull moment, and on the second floor of one of the building Trudy spied a bathroom, and thought opportunity was knocking for us, as this was about four hours after the above tale. So in we went, shut the door and then we discovered that there was no doorknob on the inside, and we WERE LOCKED UP IN AN INSANE ASYLUM, and all the noise we made didn't mean a thing. It's only in China that things like that happen. We finally got out, or I wouldn't be writing this, after pounding on the door, etc. And I don't know which was the most surprised at our getting out, the attendant who opened the door or us.
4 April 1946I wish I could describe the dinner I went to the other evening. It was something you just can't picture unless you were there, but will make a futile attempt. A bunch of UNRRA people, twelve, got together and we really had a wonderful time. We met in Major MacDowell's room for cocktails (I should say suite instead of room - some people really have accommodations here) then we departed in two limousines and went to this little old hole in the wall place. What a sight! With our eyes popping out, we walked upstairs and there was about three rooms filled with Chinese, all eating, and then finally we got to the last small room where there was one table large enough for our party.
First on the table were two plates of prunes, rather candied. These we ate with chopsticks and spit the seeds on the floor, just like the Chinese. Then next (I'm almost forgetting one important thing) a large bowl of boiling water was brought and in this everyone scaled his rice bowl, spoon and plate. With twelve people diving in at once, the tablecloth was soaking in nothing flat. With that done, the bowl was taken away and a tray with ten small bowls on it was placed in the center of the table. In each bowl was some sort of sauce, soy sauce, peanut oil, chopped onions, mustard, and six others. From these ten you mixed up your own sauce in your rice bowl. Well, we had to try practically everything out, and not one of us had the same sauce when we were through. Can't you just see twelve people busily making his particular sauce and tasting it and trying to see what else to put in? That took us quite some time, and when we were all finally satisfied, that was taken away and plates of cold meats brought in. This we dipped in our sauce, and was it delicious! As soon as one dish was finished another appeared. Fish dishes, candied apples, sweet and sour pork, chicken, ham, everything you could think of.
After about six or eight courses, and we were so full we could hardly move, a charcoal stove was placed in the center of the table and on this boiling water. Plates of sliced raw beef and mutton were brought, raw cabbage, watercress, spinach, etc. and this with the aid of your cooking ability you fixed next. First grab a piece of meat with your chopstick and dunk it in the hot water until it was done as well as you wished, then dipped in your sauce was really something. The vegetables were cooked in the same way and dipped in the sauce. So we stuffed some more and then when we thought it impossible to eat another bite, all the meat and vegetables that had not been cooked was put in and cooked and we had soup from that. And during all of this we were drinking hot rice wine. Honestly, I don't know when we've laughed so and had so much fun and good food. And you should have seen the tablecloth when we got through. One thing about a Chinese meal - you get just about as much on the cloth as you eat, and the dirtier the cloth, the more you enjoyed the meal. Well, by the looks, we really enjoyed that one plenty. We were so full we all came home so sleepy that we couldn't continue so the party broke up a little after ten.
4 October 1946No transportation within the city that amounts to much. To get on a streetcar or bus here never enters our head, they are so jammed packed, and besides you could probably never find the one you wanted, or how to get anywhere. We get so angry at the pedicab coolies, first, we ask them how much to the Cathay Theatre, or some such place, and finally when we agree on a price, and they assure us they know where it is, we're off. After about two blocks they begin to look around at us and if we don't say anything, they keep going straight ahead, and if you don't happen to watch where you're going, they'd keep right on going. And usually they have no idea where you want to go, and if you're in a hurry, they want to take their time, and if you want an easy slow ride, they just tear down the street. Finally if you do reach your destination, they have decided they want more money. Course it's always funny afterwards, but so exasperating at the time. One evening we got into a taxi and wanted to go to the Connidrom to hear a concert, and the first thing we knew we were at the Columbia Country Club, which was miles from where we wanted to go. Then he couldn't understand and we couldn't tell him, we stopped several people to explain to him, and after about three tries we succeeded, and arrived at our destination 45 minutes late, and then we wanted twice as much money, and we argued.
We have the same trouble on the telephones, too. To put in an outside call from the hotel to the office or something you plan on at least fifteen minutes, for usually you get the wrong number, then finally get some Chinese yelling "Wei!' (pronounced "way") and finally you yell "Wei!" back and hang up. We have laughed ourselves sick over some of the telephone conversations. Try to call someone over in UNRRA and usually a Chinese boy will answer the phone. You ask, "Is Mr. Chen in?" You hear, "Wei, wei." You ask again, "Is Mr. Chen in?" "He's gone." "When will he be back?" "Wei, wei." "Will you take a message?" "Yes." "Tell Mr. Chen to call UNRRA." "Mr. Chen out." "I know, give him the message when he comes in." "Mr. Chen out." "I know, but will you give him the message?" "Wei, wei, Mr. Chen out." So you give up and call back later and usually the same thing happens then, too.
And to get a cup of coffee with your meal is absolutely impossible, we've decided. When ordering a meal sometimes we'll ask for our coffee with our meal. the meal arrives, no coffee. You ask the waiter again. "Yes, yes," he says. Five minutes, ten minutes, no coffee. You ask again. "Yes, yes," he says and goes away. By this time you've completed your dinner and about ten minutes later your coffee arrives. We've tried again and again, and they will definitely not bring coffee with your meal. One day we thought we'd succeed as we told them we wanted our coffee right now - so we got our coffee a good twenty minutes before our meal arrived, so you just can't win.
We're getting so used to bargaining that we'll probably embarrass all our friends when we get back. I can just see myself going into some big department store to look at a dress or something, asking the price and when the clerk says, "$20," I'll automatically say, "Too much, give you $15."
I must tell you about our small flood. Last week, for two days it just poured down rain, the tail-end of a typhoon that hit Guam. One noon the day after it had stopped we left the Embankment Building to go over to the Metropole Hotel for lunch, and going over we noticed that the creek was pretty high, but didn't think much of it. But coming back, we got within a block of the Embankment Building and we noticed the street was covered with water, but since we were in a truck we continued on, and found that the water was knee keep and clear up to the front doors and we couldn't get into the building. We solved the problem quickly by going around to the back street and in the back door which we had discovered only two days previously. So then we immediately went into our offices and hung out the windows watching the rest of UNRRA return to work. Well, I'm afraid the China office didn't do much work that afternoon for too many funny things were happening outside. People got in rickshaws to go from door to another, and cars were stalled, people on bicycles fell off and got soaked. Children were swimming in the streets in the nude, everyone wading around, girls squealing when they thought they were going to be dropped in the water. The fellow that took my pictures was there with his camera and he got some pretty good pictures I guess. For one he got one of the sampans anchored in the creek to come over and rescue a girl standing on the engine of a jeep. There are only spots in Shanghai that get flooded when it rains, their drainage system stinks, and they never do anything about it. Another place about a block from the Park was flooded and streetcars couldn't get through and ordinary cars stalled. You couldn't get a rickshaw to take you anywhere as the coolies were too busy taking people across streets at a terrific price. $3000 to get across a street.
24 October 1946We had another very interesting experiencethe other evening when we went to a little place in Hongkew (you might call that district the slums in the States) to eat Sukiyaki - that is Japanese food and drink Saki - Japanese wine which is the same as the Chinese rice wine. You lost whatever dignity you may have had as soon as you entered the door, for you take off your shoes and put on little slippers which are too big and impossible to keep on. (Looks so funny to see everyone's shoes lined up in the hall inside of the door.) After you're shod in slippers you go over what I'd call an obstacle course, up and down stairs and all the time trying to keep the slippers on and, of course, doubling up with laughter as everyone looks so funny. Finally we were taken to a small private room which we could only enter after taking off the slippers outside that door, so you spend the rest of the evening in your stocking feet. In the center of the room is a table about four feet in diameter and only about a foot and a half high, this you eat off of while sitting on pillows. Japanese girls led us there and of course they were chatting and giggling all the time, and I don't blame them for we must look funny to them.
First we were given the choice of either beef or chicken sukiyaki and we chose beef. Then the wine was brought (this particular wine is always served hot - and it is really wonderful - the little Saki cups have just about one swallow in them so it keeps the girls busy filling them). First we had a very small dish (their chinaware is much different from the Chinese) with three tiny pickled fish (they were about the size of a sardine and consisted of head, tails, insides and all, but not very tasty). After that a large plate of various things all french fried which consisted of prawns, egg plant, even lettuce and several other things which we couldn't figure out, but they were wonderful.
With this plate of food you were given a small dish of sauce in which you dipped the fish and vegetables. It just can't be described. All food is eaten, of course, with chopsticks. Individual chopsticks made of bamboo and a toothpick came in wrapped paper like our straws in drug stores. When we were finished with this course, we were full, but now we were ready for the main dinner. All this time we've been shifting our position for it's not too easy to sit comfortably on the floor when you're not used to it. There were little rests on which you could lean against, too - life of ease, really. The main course - the Japanese girls brought an electric plate, probably some name for it but I don't know - anyway, when it was smoking she put in some fat, then took raw sliced onions, green onion, hearts of the cabbage, bamboo sprouts, thin slices of beef, noodles, a couple of vegetables we couldn't identify, and put them all in the skillet together with a special sauce, sugar and wine and cooked them. Then we were each given a bowl with a raw egg in it. Sounds very unappetizing and I was beginning to wonder, but I'd heard it was good, so decided to try anything once. After about ten minutes she put a huge helping in our dish with egg, mixed it all up and we ate it with chopsticks. Wonderful stuff, and you don't even know you're eating a raw egg. Full as I was before starting on the main course, I want you to know I ate four bowls full. All this time of course the girls had been coming in and out, our wine cups kept full, and we were really very content. The girls were dressed in their native costumes, but honestly you should have seen their teeth. Just a mouthful of gold and silver, I've never seen anything like it in my life. Otherwise their dress and looks almost surpass the Chinese girls.
"Unusual But True"
When Art Williams answered the telephone at six a.m. Thursday morning he was amazed to hear...."One moment please, Shanghai, China calling." The call came from his daughter, Dorothy Chloe Williams who is with the federal government in China. After having talked some 15 minutes, Art became alarmed at the size of the telephone bill and then Dorothy said, "I figure the bill now is about $800,000." Mrs. Williams was able to get Art up off the floor when she told him that those figures were inflation figures in China and that the bill would be only about eight bucks in American money."
A Note on the Background: The background which appears on this page was made from a scanned Chinese invitation to a party my mother attended in 1947.
|I'd be happy to exchange family information.|
Please send e-mail to Sam Behling.