Ben Oostdam's

page 4

1957 - 1960

In November, on one of our Geology fieldtrips to Mount Royal, I met Janine Blum, a senior Arts student, who lived in Sault St.Marie, ONT. Although we did go out and have coffee and I fell in love with her, it appears that my living as a monk included abstinence, as well as monk's labor (of love) using her name as symbol for a geologic formation .
My U.S. roommate Toby Hamilton, a medical student, had invited me to stay with him in New York over Christmas, but somehow cancelled this. This became the first of a series of unhappy Christmasses. Perhaps in revenge, I used Toby's name to write to the Tax Authorities in Thailand in order to find out if they would pay a reward for information on tax-dodging, and sent the positive reply to my former Bank Manager in Bangkok, J.D. van Oenen to see if he would arrange that the Bank pay for my passage home. He was the one who had thought up the idea of paying the same tax on commissions for irrevocable credits as for revocable, even though the bank was supposed to pay double the amount. This effort at blackmail which could have "earned" me several thousand dollars, ran aground on van Oenen's poker mentality (he used to play that game with Foyn and other Portuguese) and my own over-developed conscience.
I also suffered from cold - what with first snow on October 27 - and was taken under the loving wing of the Douglas Hall matron who took me to the basement storage, where she allowed me to pick a warm blue-grey Canadian Air Force greatcoat which someone had left behind years earlier. This was my first experience with the unbelievable amount of "waste" generated by Americans.
On this occasion I also managed to get my hands on several dozen pairs of skis for use of the (not-for-profit) McGill Outing Club, which, I think, secured my election as Social Director of that organization.
The problem of protection from the severe Canadian winter solved, I decided to visit Janine in Sault St. Marie. I took a bus and hitchhiked, and arrived unannounced but heartily welcomed.
The welcome wore out over the next few days because of the jealousy of her soon-to-be-ex- boyfriend, so I left and hitchhiked to Indiana University in Bloomington for a visit to Roberta Fox, a friend of Rudi and myself in Bangkok. A virtual identical situation developed there, just to rub in the lesson that you should not see a girl at the spur of the moment, but give proper notice. But I did have some fun asking some small groups of Thai foreign students in my best Thai: "Pai nai, farang?" (where are you going, foreigner - the typical greeting in rural Thailand at that time). I hitchhiked back to Montreal, and had some hairy (scary) hours in the Ontario snow waiting for a next ride in the middle of the night. I think I was back in Douglass Hall before the end of the year.

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