Sunday, February 7, 2016

Aba, Belgian Congo - January 8, 1946

This letter is just a fragment, from Coralee to the girls. We are missing any pages beyond the first...  

Dear girls,

I'll send some Bangala letters along and also one I received from Frieda.

Daddy, Mary and Miss Lutz left this morning with Mr. Brandt for the Bangala Conference. So tonight I am all alone on the hill. Even the strong gara[1] wind died down this evening and it seems so still and sultry.  Maybe it will rain.

Sydney Parkinson, 1768
Orange bougainvillea
watercolor by Sydney Parkinson, 
1768, in Brazil while traveling with
Captain Cook on the Endeavor. 
Some odd details you'll be interested in.  The dead branch is still hanging in the eucalyptus tree, the one Eddie and Daddy tried to get down.  Nearly all my rose bushes have died. I brought cuttings from Rethi and I think one or two will grow.  Oh, yes, the first night after we left Orlando we stayed in a tourist home where the lady had a lot of cactus. She gave me slips of several... I passed them on to Mother Schuit. But one called an ice plant I brought. It suffered much enroute but it is growing. It makes me think of you and Florida. I was so interested in what you wrote about the orange bougainvillea. Wish I had one. I'd especially like a white one. The gold shower is simply beautiful these hot days.  There is a bouquet here on the desk...

1.  The gara wind is a strong north wind from the desert, very hot and dry.  Mom also remembers the east wind, which is the one that brought the locusts. She remembers seeing a great dark cloud of them coming relentlessly towards Aba.

Aba, Belgian Congo - January 3, 1946

In which Ralph talks about burning grass, a new car, and air service to  Aba!  

Belgian Congo
January 3, 1946

Dearest darling daughters,
We have been thinking a lot about you during these Christmas-New Year days.  We remembered that Christmas is a really big day at DuBose and have no doubt you had a very good time.  To you a Christmas without ice and snow does not seem so strange as it does to a lot of others. We hope to hear all about it soon.  Except for the early morning Christmas Carols and the presence of a lot of natives from the outschools, our Christmas this time was pretty much like any other day. You may be sure we missed you mingi pinza[1] and that made it hard to even think about Christmas.

We are happy to have received a couple of letters from you since our arrival here, but there have been almost none other from America except one from Eddie[2]. No second class mail at all has reached us so far, but I guess that's just as well for we haven't had time to do much reading anyway. We are just about floored by the prospect of having to look after almost the whole of the station besides our own department until someone comes to take over. We wish it were going to be Eddie and Nellie, but they have been assigned to Blukwa, for the present at least.

We were thinking of you a lot the other night too when the grass was burned on the station. One part, the north end, was done Saturday night and our end Monday night. All the whites came up our hill to watch, including Mr. and Mrs. Littlejohns and Miss Short who were passing through on their way to Adja where the Bangala Conference is to be held. They were going early to help do some hunting so that there will be meat for the crowd.  All went well on our hill until after we had nearly gone to bed and the natives had all left. Then some wind blew up and started the fire again which came up the back of our hill and nearly reached the big stacks of soli that had been cut for roofing. A lot of natives came back when they saw the fire and some of them stayed around until the night sinziri arrived to keep an eye on things throughout the night. However while he was looking at things around the hospital about 2:00 AM fire started up again and this time it reached and burned up the boys "little house" at the back of our hill.

You ought to see our swell "car", the nearest thing we'll ever have to a Jeep, I hope. It's a 1936 or 1937 Chevrolet Roadster with Rumble Seat (or is it Grumble Seat?). It runs fine but just at present it doesn't stop so well for something went wrong with the hydraulic brake system. Francis Sense, Jim LaFoureau's nephew, who now works at the SHUN at Aba came up to help fix it, but it still needs a small rubber part which seems to be hard to get. And so now the car is just part of the scenery, standing under the orange tree at the side of our house. It has 4 good tires and a good motor, but that is about all the good that can be said about it - except of course the Rumble Seat. It's not so hard to climb into that seat, but to get out is hard on a fat man, take it from me! It's a good thing we are having dry season now, because when it rains you have to put up curtains on the doors and they don't look very rain-proof to me. If we ever get the thing running again, or rather, stopping, I'm going to try riding with the top down just for fun. I wish I could send it to you when we have finished with it; you'd get lots of thrills out of it I'm sure.

One exciting bit of news to us, though it will be old to you when this reaches you, is that Eddie and Nellie are due to sail January 10th.  That's just about three months later than our sailing date. No doubt they are all excited now with only a week more left for "Sassparillas". And Aunt Rose Mary [3] must be very close to us now as she was due to arrive at Stanleyville 4 days ago.

But then there's one other bit of news that I'm sure will interest you. Aba is now an airport!  A new Airline has been started, running from Aba to Stanleyville and Costermansville [4]. A plane comes to Aba twice a week, arriving in the afternoon and leaving about six the next morning. They carry air mail, and one passenger.  The present planes are converted British light bombers we have heard, two-engined Blenheims. It is said that before long they will add two new American planes. Regular service was started last week. The planes fly over the Faradje road on their way to Aba, and so pass close to our house flying low as they near us.  That field is a little beyond the SHUN Coffee plantation somewhere on the ridge south of the swimming pool. We have not been to see it as yet as we have not had our car very long and haven't had the time anyways. Neither have we been swimming or fishing as yet, although they say there are a good many "big" fish in the pond now. How about you, do you ever go fishing?  That's where I'd spend my study hours if I were you.

And that reminds me, we are proud of your grades that you told us about, and hope you will have the fun of keeping them up like that. You won't do it by going fishing, but don't let the ambition for high grades keep you from having the fun and recreation you need. We're glad to hear about your "Orchestra". Keep it up! It will do you no end of good. I hope you both will be able to have regular lessons in music somehow and that you will keep up up the good work you have so well begun. You would be interested in hearing the natives sing at Aba these days. Elekana Yoga went to Rethi last year for the Fourth Year Course that was given by Miss Wambold, and he brought back an enthusiasm for song leading and has taught the natives here a great deal about keeping together and keeping time. There are also about seven of the school teachers who have been taught to sing in harmony, four parts; and they give special numbers at the services once in awhile and do it very well. One of them is Adolph, who himself is developing into quite a song leader on the platform! I'm sure Bumps and her mother would be amused to see him. There is a finer spirit among the Christians here than we have ever seen before. The Communion service the day after Christmas was a real inspiration to all of us. The new church building was about three-fourths filled by the Christians who took part in the Communion. That morning 18 were baptised in the baptismal pool in the new church.

Your Dad

1.  Mingi pinza =
2.  Eddie Schuit.
3.  Mary White?
4.  Costermansville is now known as Bukavu.