Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Motorship Gripsholm - October 23, 1945

In which Ralph describes life at sea on the Gripsholm, traveling with 850 other passengers to Alexandria, Egypt.   

Dear home folks,

There's no excuse for not writing now - a quiet sea, an hour and a half before supper, and nothing to do.  It's a lazy life and pleasant enough as long as the sea behaves, but we have more than two weeks longer after 5 days at sea and it will be a great day when the trip is over.

Thanks  for your letter received a little before we sailed. Sorry we didn't get it answered before leaving, but we weren't sure of leaving until three days before and that gave us very little time to get a thousand and one last minute things done, especially as one of the days was Sunday. Our passport arrived from Washington on Friday, a holiday. The Belgian and Egyptian consulates were closed that day and open on Saturday only from 10:00 to 12:00. Friday evening we drove out to Connecticut and spent the night there and came into New York the next morning for our visas. Saturday afternoon we had to spend in Brooklyn on business.  Sunday we had to speak twice, having a farewell service in the evening at the church in Hawthorne in whose missionary home we had been staying. Monday was another rush day, ending with a trip from New Jersey to Brooklyn for a farewell at the AIM home and then returning to New Jersey. We were required to be on the boat at Jersey City at 9:30am, but we didn't sail until 7:00pm.  In the end we had to leave some matters of business undone, to be finished by correspondence after sailing.

But we are glad for this chance to get over, for opportunities to get passage nowadays are very few and far between. our going this way via Egypt is not ideal for us as it means sending our freight including the car another way and means a long journey up the Nile with many changes from rail to boat en route. However we save a good deal of money this way and get out to the field months ahead of the time we would arrive by the next passage in sight, which would be in January.

Our ship is carrying a motley crowd - well over 100 missionaries, a great many business people,and Jews going to Palestine, a lot of Greeks going to Greece and Cyprus, some Italians and Egyptians and a bunch of deportees - 850 passengers in all. That makes it a very different kind of trip from the one we made coming home with only 9 passengers in all. But all in all it is pleasant and interesting.

We passed the the Azores this morning and some of the folks saw a couple of islands.  In a few days we will be at Gibraltar and according to rumor will later stop at Naples, Piraeus near Athens, and at Salonica or Thessalonia, then getting off at Alexandria in Egypt.  We hear that we will not be permitted to leave the ship in Italy or Greece. We have seen Naples but would enjoy a trip to Athens which is just a few miles from the port. I suppose we should visit Palestine too, but I doubt if time and funds will permit or if we will have the necessary permits.

In our party are 8 of our mission going out for the first time - two young couples and four young ladies, some going to Tanganyika, others to Kenya and the rest to Congo. There are also some missionaries from the Sudan on board with whom we had got acquainted while they were on vacation in Congo years ago. We are having daily prayer services on board as well as daily services for children and church services on Sunday. The Catholics and Jews have their services as well.

[Personal portion redacted.]

According to latest word from our girls they seem quite happy where they are and we trust they will remain so.  These long days on the ship with little to do makes us think about them a good deal, especially as so many things remind us of our trip home together.

I just got out of the swimming pool and had a fresh water shower - a real treat on this boat. I guess that is what makes me so pepped up and long winded. I'll stop for the present and perhaps add to this a few days hence sine it can't be mailed for a long time anyway.


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