Tuesday, October 8, 2013

March 14, 1924 - Stanleyville

March 14, 1924

Dear Folks,
Just a few lines before we leave here for the bush. We arrived here on the 11th, everyone well and all baggage in good condition. But before long a man came along with a letter saying that Mr. Jenkinson would be here in a few days to meet us so we just went to a hotel and sat tight. Next morning I sent a runner to Yakusa[1], about 8 miles downriver, to arrange a visit with Dr. Chesterman[2]. The same afternoon Mr. Jenkinson [3]arrived with 130 porters, and said that Mr. Tatt would be along in a few days with 70 more.

Later in the afternoon I was told a motor boat was about to leave for Yakusa and so I grabbed my hat and coat and went down just as I was. Had a most pleasant visit with Dr. Chesterman and the other missionaries, staying overnight. Saw quite a number of interesting cases in the hospital and how the dispensary was run. Saw some cases of sleeping sickness, some of yaws and some lepers. There are many lepers here and the government has given Dr. C. an island in the river for a leper camp. Made arrangements for getting some tuparsamide [4]from Dr. C. in case I needed it, but as far as we can find out now there is very little sleeping sickness in our field.

In the afternoon Dr. Chesterman took me back to Stanleyville in a native canoe. We had a fine ride in the moonlight and I nearly went to sleep in spite of the terribly loud singing of the paddlers, 18 of them.

While I was at Yakusa Mr. Jenkinson had sent most of the porters on ahead with nearly all the boxes. We had found three new bicycles in our outfit, which we had thought before were old ones belonging to some men on the field, but now we are not sure but what they are own. At any rate we uncrated them and assembled them for use on the trip. We will have to take turns using them as there are five men including the two who have come to meet us.

This afternoon Coralee and I, with Dr. Chesterman, had dinner with the government doctor of the local district here. I was glad to meet him as it will undoubtedly be useful to know him in the future.  He treated us very kindly as he has other H.A.M. people before. I was to have met the doctor who is the medical administrator of a very large area with headquarters here, but he was not in the city. We may, however, still meet him on the road.

Tomorrow morning we shall start for Ibambi, our party being divided into two because it is too difficult to get food enough on the road for 200 porters at once. Coralee and I, and Mr. and Mrs. Kiessling will leave tomorrow with Mr. Jenkinson and the rest will leave four or five days later with Mr. Tatt. Our route is as follows:  Stanleyville to Banalia, 7 days walk; Banalia to Panga, 8 or 9 days by canoes on the Aruwimi River; then 8 days more by canoe to another stream, and finally 3 more days walk to Ibambi. Each day’s trip however means only from 3 to 6 or 7 hours travelling, averaging probably 4 ½ hours. Mr. J. bought chairs called “mandalas” for the women. These are made chiefly of bamboo poles about 20 feet long. Four men at a time carry one chair and 4 more are kept in reserve to relieve them, so that 32 men are required to carry the 4 women. 

Our trekking outfit is fairly elaborate, and consists of folding cots, chairs, tables and a stand – which is so arranged that it will hold either a canvas wash bowl or a canvas bath tub – besides bedding and mosquito nets. I will wear khaki shorts and puttees with knees sticking out, woolen socks and woolen army shirt.  

I turned over all funds to Mr. Jenkinson and was mighty glad to get rid of it. Most of it had to be changed into small coins; the porters are paid along the road. We have in nickel coins 2000 francs, each about the size of a half dollar, and 6000 ten-centime pieces or “makutas[5]”, each about as big as a quarter. It will require an extra porter just to carry the money.  A special steel box had to bought to carry the money in. The rest of the money is in paper.

Drugs are extremely scarce up here. I told the government doctor that I was able to get only 5 quarts of alcohol at Kinshasa and he told me I was very fortunate, that he had absolutely none and had stopped operating on that account.

It is definitely decided that Coralee and I will be stationed at Ibambi. Mr. J. told us our house is practically completed, and should be ready for occupancy when we reach there. Ibambi is the most centrally located station on our field and is where Mr. Studd [6]is.  We don’t know as yet where the rest will be stationed, though all will go to Ibambi first. The language at Ibambi is Kingwana, very different from the Bangala, which is used in the Welle[7]. Mr. J. will give us daily lessons in Kingwana on the way. If I could speak fluently in Bangala, Kingwana, and French now, I would be fairly well fixed for this neck of the woods. 

Well, bye-bye – we will probably have mail from you before you get this, and oh boy! How we are looking forward to it!

Coralee and Ralph

[1] Yakusu. 
[2] Dr. Clement Clapton Chesterman (later Sir Clement) 1894-1983, author of the Tropical Dispensary Handbook, a classic and invaluable aid to identifying and treating tropical disease. The first edition was published in 1928. He was a member of the Baptist Missionary Society.  Tropical Dispensary Handbook abstract 
[3] H.A.M. missionary, early on the field. I have not been able to further identify him.  
[4] Probably tryparasamide, a drug used in the treatment of trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).  This is described as a “new arsenic compound” in Time June 11, 1923. Medicine: Tryparasamide note in TIME magazine
[5] Makutas were still a unit of currency in Congo/Zaire when the Meyers family left in 1973. 
[6] C.T. Studd. 
[7] Uele

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