Don Rowe

A WestPac Christmas Story In 1977, the USS Duluth pulled into Kaohsiung, Taiwan for a few days, including Christmas. During the time there, leading up to Christmas, I had begun to hang out at a particular bar, which was a favorite with a number of sailors, from various ships. At around 11pm on Christmas Eve, something remarkable began to happen. I noticed some commotion and asked one of the waitresses what was going on. She told me that the owner was closing the bar. It was kind of early for that and I asked why he was doing that. She told me that he was taking everyone out to dinner. As you can imagine, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but that’s exactly what happened. We found ourselves in a caravan of cabs, who pulled up in front of a restaurant and we all went in – everyone who was in the bar at 11pm - customers, waitresses, everyone. I’m not sure how many of us there were, but we took up a lot of tables and basically took over the restaurant – we were a large group of sailors from different ships and some waitresses, seated at big round tables that seated maybe 8 or 10 each, with at least one of the waitresses from the bar at each. A lot of commotion ensued in a language I don’t understand and a large cook pot with a burner under it appeared at each table. All kinds of things that presumed to be food that I had never seen before began to appear and were tossed into the now boiling pots, with the (bar) waitresses doing the cooking. Some different sauces were mixed up into little bowls for each person. As things came out of the pots and appeared on my plate and everyone else’s, I looked at one of the first items and asked the girl cooking what the round thing that I was considering eating was. She replied that it was a fish bladder or ball or something, (I really think she said bladders) told me it was good and indicated which sauce I should try with it. It was about 1” diameter – what part of what kind of fish did this come from? So I rolled it in the indicated sauce and ate it. It was tremendous! After the first item, I decided it was best just to eat and not ask what the other things were and everything was fantastic! I didn’t recognize anything I was eating, but it was all really good. As we were finishing up, I asked the girl I knew from the bar why the owner of the bar had closed the bar and brought everyone to dinner. She told me that he said that he knew how difficult it was for all of us to be so far away from home and away from our families on Christmas and wanted to treat us to a Christmas dinner. What a remarkable gesture! This man closed his business, which was packed with paying customers, lost several hours of revenue and paid for the dinners and transportation for all of the customers and waitresses. Then something else occurred to me – this wonderfully generous and caring man was a Buddhist. He didn’t even believe in or celebrate Christmas. That revelation made the experience even more special and memorable. Jesus, whose birth he was not in the habit of celebrating, would have been very proud of that man and what he did that Christmas Eve in Taiwan.

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