Thursday, October 2, 2014

Letters from Esther - #7

I am writing up a series of letters my grandmother, Esther, sent "home" to her siblings in North Dakota as she traipsed around the world working for the State Department as a working woman before it was chic. Letters were chosen over phone calls because long distance calls were expensive, and it was sometimes difficult to hear well at a distance.

This letter is the next letter I have from Esther by date.


Esther Holien
USOM Box 32
Navy 150, c/o FPO
San Francisco, Calif.

Mar 20 9:30 AM


Miss Jennie Efraimson
North Dakota

 Saigon, March 19, 1959

Dear Jennie and All:

I just had a new ribbon put into my typewriter -- sort of hurts your eyes, doesn't it? And I'd better not make any mistakes cause they would be impossible to erase.

Well, the main purpose of this letter is to wish you a happy birthday. Of course it will get there late but at least I didn't forget it completely. How are you all? Is it getting spring-like yet?

Did I tell you I got a letter from Aunt Aina? Well, I did a couple of weeks or month ago and yesterday I got one from Uncle Alex -- both are quite excited about our visit. I had told them on my Christmas cards that I would stop there [Finland] on the way home in July 1960 and that you and perhaps Dad too, would also come.

I was going to tell you what he said, but will just enclose the letter instead. [It is no longer together with this letter.] I must answer both of them one of these days. I wonder how Rupert is making out on his plans -- to go to Finland this summer.

I write so many letters to my children that I can't remember whether I've told you some of the things that I've been doing. One of the highlights of the latter part of February was that I acted as a reporter for the Far East Mission Director's Conference that was held here. There were about a hundred people attending and three other girls and I took practically verbatim notes of everything that was said. I was a little afraid I might not be able to do it any more as its been some time since I took any dictation of any kind and especially that fast, but I did alright. I took some of it home at nights and borrowed a portable typewriter from a friend on mine and worked till one o'clock a couple of nights. Anyway I got a nice letter of thanks from the Mission Director. I'll quote it for you: Dear Mrs. Holien: As a conferee at the recent Director's Conference I was able to observe the efficient service you rendered as a conference reporter. I have been informed that you transcribed your notes accurately and expeditiously at the cost of considerable overtime hours. Your efficiency during conference hours, as well as the time you expended in typing for individual conferees, contributed to the overall satisfactory manner in which I think the conference was conducted. Please accept my thanks and appreciation. Sincerely, signed Arthur Z. Gardiner, Cirector." Pretty nice, eh?

Another recent endeavor of mine that I'm getting a big kick out of is learning to play the accordian. It belongs to the same girl whose piano I have on loan. A fellow here borrowed it but decided he wasn't getting anywhere with it so asked if I wanted it and of course I did. So for the past week I've been making quite a racket in my spare time. There's a book of instructions and I can now play a couple of easy pieces in C quite well.

Also I now have English classes every night in the week except Sat. and Sun. Have three new Korean pupils, for which I will get paid at 300 piastres an hour -- that's a little over $4. They are working for a Japanese electrical firm here and their employer is going to pay for their lessons.

And then I still have my little Vietnamese friends. The Koreans speak much better English and seem to understand it better than the Vietnamese. One of the Vietnamese has been absent for about six weeks and I was getting real worried cause none of the others had seen him either and didn't know where he lived. He finally showed up at noon today and has been quite sick. It was just amazing how much he had forgotten in that little while -- English seemed very difficult for him and he used to be one of the best ones. He's coming back to class on Friday but has no job just now and if he can't find one soon, said he was going to another city.

Well, with all this activity, plus the choir and regular work and parties and scrabble games, etc. the time really does go by like a whizz. Its hard to imagine that in two weeks I will have been here 9 months already. I still like Saigon very much and if I don't suddenly develop a terrific yen to be back nearer to my family, might even come back for another tour.

I guess I'd better close for now -- got some work I really must tend to. Write soon -- and I do hope you had a nice birthday.



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