Wednesday, October 30, 2013

September 4, 1927 - Aru

In which Coralee describes their new home in Aru, and they welcome the long-awaited Indian motorcycle. 

Aru, Congo Belge

September 4, 1927

Dear Home Folks,

[Personal portion redacted.]

Yesterday was a big day with us. We moved into our new house. Our whole household i.e. boys and ourselves, worked hard and the place is pretty well in order today. I wish you could come and see our “swell” little place. I feel just like we had purchased a fine little bungalow at home and had set up housekeeping for the first time. 

We are alone for a change i.e.  no guests, so it makes it seem more like a home for just we two.

You should see my swell chambray curtains.  I sent to Montgomery Wards for it at 10¢ a yard. I got a medium blue and also the stripe to match. Then I sewed a band of the bias stripe material on the curtain about two and a half inches from the edge. They look very fresh and “grand”.

We have new cretonne (1) or the living room. I sent to England for it. It is a blue with pink roses. Cretonnes are very reasonable in England. For instance this was reversible and 48 inches wide and cost about 60 cents.

Well it’s great to be out here and we love it very much. From the veranda where I am writing I can see miles around. Some lovely hills and large stretches of grassland dotted with native villages here and there. Each village with its cattle “carral (2)” (is that the way it is spelled?).

They make these carrals by putting strong branches of trees in the ground standing upright like a post. They usually take a certain kind of branch that will take root and grow. This is necessary because of the white ants (3) that destroy wood so quickly.  They are usually built on a hillside, for drainage. The entrance is well closed at night because of leopards and lions. Sometimes the man will have a house in the enclosure or just near so he can be near to frighten away wild animals when they come.

This tribe (4) are strictly cattle people. So we are able to get fresh milk each day and make our own butter. It is a big help to us.

Not long ago, we had a real treat, a nice big pork roast. A man in the government poste had a pig and the boy didn't put it in its house at night and a hyena came and gave it some terrible gashes, so that it had to be killed. So they allowed us to buy some of the meat that was alright.

Quite often they butcher a cow in the Poste and we are able to buy some. It is always a real treat to us, who have no butcher shop around the corner.

I am very busy getting lawn planted. Here we don’t have seed for lawn. There is a short green grass that spreads very quickly, so we just transplant little rows or dots of it and soon, if kept well weeded we have a nice green lawn. It doesn't grow tall so we never need a lawn mower – better come out here and you won’t have that duty!

Ralph is terribly busy these days. He has charge of the station as Mr. Kemptner (5) he station superintendent is away for a few days’ rest.

Ah yes, much excitement the other day. A huge four ton truck came up the road to the station (they sound like an airplane with their cutouts open). It stopped at our house and the boy brought me a bill of lading for the Indian motorcycle that was sent us so long ago (2 years 8 months!). There it was right in that truck! Ralph was tickled skinny.  He’s like a child with a new toy. 

The machine is in fairly good condition considering its long and tedious journey. He hasn't been able to get it to “agomi” (6) that is cry. The natives always say a machine is crying when it is running. However he has high hopes. Maybe it will need some new parts right away but we hope to get it going and then we will try to sell either it or the Harley. One I guess to help pay for the other.

However the Indian hasn't cost us much. Just the transport and customs. I think the whole thing comes to about a hundred dollars. So I guess we will be able to weather that somehow.

At the end of the week we expect to go to Aba for a week’s general conference. It is a conference of all the Congo AIM workers. We also hope to have several workers from the Kenya field as guests. We will go in the Harley (7) and will be gone about ten days if all goes well. [Personal portions redacted.]

With heaps of love,

RALPH AND CORALEE





  1. Cretonne is a printed cloth, usually with small flowers.  Often used to line cupboards, drawers, or make seat covers. There is an example here, which looks like it might be similar to what Coralee describes.
  2. I believe she means “kraal”, an enclosure for domestic animals usually made of thorny brush, although her description in the next paragraph is a bit different than the normal preparation. The Wikipedia entry is here.  
  3. Termites.
  4. The Alur, a tribe which was divided when the borders for Uganda and Congo were delineated. There is a fascinating book about the Alur written in 1956, AlurSociety by Aidan Southall.  In some positive news for such a war-torn corner of the world, the divided tribe has reconciled after more than 200 years of discord. 
  5. Wesley and Flora Kemptner. Later reassigned to Aba. The Kemptners also served as dorm parents at Rethy while Esther and Edith were there. 
  6. Bangala.
  7. The Harley probably had a sidecar. They certainly had one for the Indian, which they received long before they got the motorcycle.

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