July 11, 1961 – monsoons, food, health and more Galbraith (Anita)

Dear Naomi:

We received your letter of July 2 this morning. Now I’m wondering just how long it will be before you receive this once since I’ve probably missed today’s APO pick-up and there isn’t another till next Tuesday. However, I’ve just written Edna and Irv regular mail to make a deposit, so there will be news of us, I guess, before this particular letter reaches you. It certainly pays to use APO, though, since at 25 cents a letter we’d all go broke in no time.

My own dear family has me almost frantic. I’ve had no word from anyone since we got here and just sent off a letter regular airmail berating the whole lot of them. I’ll probably feel like a heel when they write back that all of the kids have been sick, as is usually the case when I don’t get any news.

We’ve had monsoons for the past two days – more or less steady rains. No one bothers with raincoats or rubbers. People like us get into a car which drives up to the covered portico in front of the veranda; and the poor seem to enjoy getting wet. First of all, it must be so refreshing to them when you think of the heat they have to endure in their shanties and hovels; and second, it must be the only kind of bath some of them ever get. A most typical sight is a bunch of naked children splashing delightedly in the muddy waters that flood the streets every time it rains. Most of the children under a certain age – among the very poor, that is – seem to be naked most of the time; and infants, always. I don’t quite understand what’s done about the processes of elimination – I wondered about the same thing in Hong Kong and Japan where the children were carried all day long on the mother’s or sister’s back – but I imagine that if I keep my eyes open I’ll find out before long. I’ve seen plenty else, believe me.

As I just wrote Edna, Jon and I are having a bout with something. The doctor thinks it may be amoebic dysentary (no one escapes this or the kind Gene had, it seems) and if so, we’ll start the “cure.” Sent off a stool specimen for Jon this a.m. and the doctor and I are awaiting results. Just to show you where the emphasis has been, the kids no longer go to the bathroom to have b.m.’s; instead, they have “stool specimens.” Both Jon and I were miserable yesterday, and he had a rather restless night, but both of us are better, although somewhat weak, today.

You wondered about the food here. There’s plenty of it and I let the kids eat whatever they want except for things like fresh vegetables or fruit. Those I won’t let them have until we’re in our own home and I can be sure that the cook has soaked them in the proper iodine solution before washing them. Even then everything that can be peeled, must be peeled to keep germs to a minimum. Human excreta is widely used as fertilizer, and since that’s the product that transmits every variety of dysentary bacteria, you can see why we get so cautious. Actually, the meals here are nourishing and quite varied. Jon has always liked the cooking and now even Ruth is beginning to eat the meats (lamb, beef, pork) and chicken. For me it’s something of a luxury, as you can imagine, to have three meals cooked and served to me each day and I know that I’m eating better than at home. It just doesn’t show yet.

Gene may have lost some weight, partly from his dysentary and mostly, I think, from the fact that he doesn’t get to snack much. I do have a refrigerator up here and a cupboard stocked with items from the Commissary, but since we eat dinner so late (8:00), he doesn’t need to eat before going to bed.

As I wrote Edna, we are not too much farther along on the house situation, and that gets me down every once in a while. I finally blew my stack about this the other night ad we did get to see some people over at TCM who know what they’re doing. As a result, we learned that we don’t have to get a house with the requisite power already there because TCM can always get us at least two extra KW’s and that would be sufficient – with what’s already provided in the house – to run two of three air-conditioners. So that’s a help and as soon as I’ve got my sea legs back, I’ll go out again and look at some of the places I’ve already seen with this in mind. The inefficiency of the whole business is quite exasperating, to say the least; and I’m very envious of the Embassy people who arrive here one day and move into their home (with servants awaiting them and food in the refrigerator) the next. This is the only kind of arrangement that makes sense, as far as I’m concerned; and it would prove more efficient for TCM in the long run since it would save wear and tear on their technicians and families.

We have seen Ambassador Galbraith a couple of times, the last time on Sunday afternoon when he had us over to tea. He’s a marvelously witty person and his wife is charming – quite an intellectual, but simple and one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever met. He stands about 7 feet tall, it seems; and she’s quite tiny.

Did Sheila ever send out my long, six-page letter? I’m getting ready to do another one soon. I know you’re keeping everyone posted on us and explaining that we’ll get around to individual letters soon.

Jon has been sitting next to me as I type, insisting on pushing the carriage back at the end of each line. Ruth has gone out to the garden with Cecelia. It’s been raining for two days and the temperature has dropped to the high 80s or low 90s – positively freezing!

Gene and I have been invited out a great deal. There’s lots of entertaining, naturally, when women don’t have to do their own cooking; and as soon as we’re settled, we’ll have to have lots of company for a while. We have had guests here at the hotel occasionally for lunch or tea but have restrained for dinner because Jon and Ruth’s room adjoins the living room and when we come up after eating, they would be disturbed and want to get up and join us.

Our air freight, which arrived last week, is mostly in the bathroom, which is so large that we’d still have room for a bowling alley if we wanted to set one up.

I’m getting rather tired of having Jon push the carriage at the end of each line so I’ll end this now and wait for more favorable circumstances to write more. Give our love to the children when you communicate with them and, of course, I know you’ll be in touch with Dad to let him know I’ve written. Thanks for your letters. We enjoy getting your news, even though, to you, it may not sound as exciting (?) as ours.

Love,

Anita

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