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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: A Bland Holiday
By Clyde Blakely


Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1970. Having arrived in country a few days earlier and awaiting my permanent duty station, a two year tour prospect, I was feeling low. I don’t remember any holidays, except one.

Finishing guard duty one day I thought I’d try out the Vietnamese restaurant close to the mess hall I’d seen earlier, getting into the new culture sort of thing. I was surprised no other customers were there and had a seat anyway. The waitress and cook stood in the back and stared. Perhaps they don’t speak English, I thought. The waitress finally came out and asked what I wanted. Good, she can speak English. “May I see a menu?” “You eat here?” Was that a clue? I nodded my head. “U’sure, GI?” Yes, it was a clue! Perhaps US soldiers didn’t eat here or something. Not wanting to be an “ugly American” in this country I was to live and perhaps die in I reluctantly said, “Ah, I’d like to see a menu.”

I had heard the rumors about missing cats, dog soup, and…well, you know. I glanced at the exit door.

The menu arrived along with another uncomforting quizzical look. I didn’t see any “bulges” under her clothes that might have been a weapon.

Glancing at the menu, Good, they have hamburgers.

“A hamburger and coke please.”


Another glance at the exit.

“Okay, GI.”

As she placed the order, I quickly turned my head when they stared at me, again. Thankful I’d ordered just a hamburger and a safe American Coke!

Another “look” arrived with the hamburger. It was plain, in fact, tasteless.

I noted the waitress and cook were talking again with occasional glances my way. Returning to my table she again asked why I was eating there.

“I’m hungry,” now becoming upset with the “atmosphere” AND the bland burger.

“Why not eat mess hall?”

“I just wanted a hamburger, okay?!”

“GI, it Christmas!”

The hamburger lost any appeal. A holiday I’ll never forget and the only holiday I remember in VN because it was “special”. Not!

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This article has been read 607 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane12/07/08
Well now, I have no idea whosoever who might have written this. NOT!
Delightfully different, I could certainly imagine the discomfort you felt in that unwelcoming restaurant. It would have been interesting to find out why they were so diffident about your presence. Maybe a follow up conversation with a fellow GI to relieve the suspense?
Anyway thanks for sharing a particularly memorable Christmas dinner.
Karlene Jacobsen12/08/08
Very interesting and disconcerting. It's tough to imagine how unwelcomed that soldier must have felt. I'd love to find out why the wait-staff acted as they did.
Karlene Jacobsen12/08/08
It is so very difficult to say good-bye any time of the year, but must be heart-wrenching during Christmas; a time when our lives are so full of family, friends, and such.
Karlene Jacobsen12/08/08
I'm sorry this last comment was meant for another entry. Ooops.
Clyde Blakely12/11/08
Apparently I did not communicate well the jest of the story. It was not that a GI was being treated poorly but that he did not realize it was Christmas - the reason for the empty VN restaurant and the "reception" by the waitress and cook. Thus the bland(er) hamburger upon finding it was Christmas and right next door in the mess hall a wonderful Christmas dinner was currently being served - "Why eat here, GI?"

I do want to mention that the Vietnamese people I came in contact with (and there were many) were friendly and I made several friends while there. They were a beautiful people.
c clemons12/11/08
Yep Clyde, you did leave out the jest of the story. ( I am very surprised at you) :) After your explanation, now we get it! I know next time you'll be in the winner's circle again.