Mama-San’s Frenzy

100 Piasters – No value

Saturday, March 30, 1968

After breakfast I went to Hill 37 to pick up our food allotment, and the Mess Sergeant was spouting off about a rumor he was being transferred to run another mess hall.  He wouldn’t be allowed to take any equipment with him and felt as though he was getting the short end of the deal.  As we loaded our food, I noticed a bakery rack with broken wheels and asked him if I could have it.  His natural inclination was to say no to everything, but today it was, “Take it, I’ll never be able to use it.”  As we loaded it, I asked, “Could you spare a few sheet pans?”  He let me have five.

Arriving back at Hill 65, I noticed Mama-San was having an animated conversation with one of our mess men.  She was negotiating a money exchange, and they were haggling about a price.  I decided to stay out of it, and after the situation was settled, Mama-San came to me with Hua at her side.  She had found out through her sources the Military Payment Certificates (MPC) we used for money were going to be traded out on payday, April 1st.  All old currency would be exchanged for new when the dispersing officer paid us.  This was an ongoing policy to prevent circulation of American money into the Vietnamese economy.  We were supposed to pay them in piasters for goods and services, but their currency was worthless . . . MPC was regularly exchanged.

Mama-San was in a predicament; she had hundreds of MPC dollars that would be out of date in two days.  She asked for my help in exchanging money and wanted me to turn in $100 of her money to the dispersing officer on payday.  After thinking it over, I said, “You buy my camera for $100, and I will buy it back from you after payday.”  She was suspicious and wanted to know how much I would pay to get it back.  I said, “Same, same.”  Hua said, “Bad deal for you,” and I answered, “Good deal for friend.”  I gave her my camera, and she gave me $100 in MPC.

Reb was thrilled with the bakery rack and removed the broken wheels.  He planned to build a solid base for it in his bakery.  Meanwhile, he detailed each shelf on the rack until it was shining like new.

Next Edition:  Jenny’s March Update

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