Friday, February 20, 2009

Congo (12) Brussels, Belgium, 11/23/1920 [DCS]

Brussels, Belgium

November 23, 1920

My own dear homefolks,

Seems that I never get a very great spell of writing letters anymore. I am very sorry we have not written you more often, but I think of you just the same, and wonder what has happened at home and the country around since I left. It’s been so long since we heard from you.

I have been keeping up with my Baluba better the last week or so, and have had a lesson regularly. B.M. says I am getting a pretty good start. Rowena and I are planning to sing one of the religious songs in Baluba with our “Ukes” accompanying us. Rowena has gotten her a mandolin and if she learns to play it well enough by that time she will play that. The two go well together.

I am so glad we put my light dresses in my wardrobe trunk, for you have no idea how they have helped me out here. I wear them every morning until we go out for dinner. Every one has something to say about how nice they look. None of the others left out their gingham dresses, thinking they would have no use for them. I got my napkins out of the trunk the other day, and am going to work on them at odd times. I certainly dread that table cloth. I have plenty to use until I get it finished, though.

While we were walking the other morning, we found a very good bargain in a tennis racket so we got it. Now I am going to learn to play tennis. Dr. Kelly says for me to be sure and play tennis as it is such good exercise. He says the reason some of the women out there are so sickly is because they do not take enough outdoors exercise- that they get interested in their work either at home or among the natives and don’t take time to get out doors. He says a day should not pass without a certain amount of exercise. That reminds me, B.M. and I take gymnasium exercises every morning soon after we get up. If we can keep it up out there, it will be good for me. It certainly did make me sore the first few times, but I soon got over it. B.M. has been in the habit of taking these exercises a long time.

I want you all to please do this much for me, will you? Don’t have anything to do with the moonshiners. If you only knew how often I thought and worried about this. Those are sneaky rascals and I got afraid to stay out there myself, and to think of mother there by herself gives me all kinds of feelings. There will come a day when all these people will get their reward, I am sure.

We went to the city hall today. It is a very ancient building, 1449. We did not take in all this time, but expect to go back some other time when we are not in a hurry. What we saw mostly was beautiful paintings and tapestries. The one most interesting to me in a way was the picture of a lady with a bugle; it was painted on the ceiling and as you went around the room, she turned clear round and faced you. This struck me as being very wonderful. Of course, the tapestry work known all over the world as Brussels tapestry is unusually beautiful.

Friday evening

The last few days have certainly been wonderful for this time of year here. The sun has shone every day and it does not seem so cold to me. But just listen, I have been to the real battlefield and have seen with my own eyes the destruction and desolation which exists there. The two nurses, Mr. Gilliam, B.M. and I went last Wednesday. We left here on the train and rode for possibly two hours where we were met in a car and went from Mennin to Ypres, a distance of about 12 miles through the country. Mennin had been bombed considerably, but when you went further, you saw so much worse. We passed through several villages which had been completely wiped awar, but they are trying to build the places again hoping that they can make Germany pay for the building. Many say there is not much hope of this, though. You see it is not only their homes, places of businesses, etc., which they have to rebuild, but their land is so torn up it will take years of work before they will be able to cultivate it. We saw large piles of shells which they have piled there while cleaning off the land. These shells had been shot not striking anything hard enough to explode them. In places you see these shells lying all over the ground, also the barbed wire and debris has not been gathered up and you see piles and piles of this wire that has been gathered up. There are many “pill boxes” as they are called, built of concrete which can hardly be penetrated by even the largest shells. These were built for protection. I was sorry but we did not get to go inside one of these. You see Mr. Gilliam was an officer of some kind in the war and was stationed right near Ypres for some time, so you see it made that more interesting having someone to explain everything. He went to visit his old trench and “dugout”. He had quite a time finding it as everything was so changed. I am surprised he found it at all for there was a woman in Mennen who spoke English that told us she lived about half way between Mennen and Ypres and which she went back she found no trace of her old home. Would not this be awful? But there were many cases like this. You just can’t realize how bad it really is unless you could see it. We took dinner in Ypres. This is a larger place than any of the other towns we visited, or at least it used to be. There was not a house left standing there, but more of the walls are left there. We took some pictures of different places, and if any are good, we will send you some. B.M. found several souvenirs in some old “dugouts;” he said they must have had to leave in a hurry for there were so many things left. It is my opinion that the owner was killed. We did not get home until nearly twelve o’clock that night, having had to wait quite a while in the cold for our train, but the trip was worth all that. I would not have missed going for anything.

The next day was Thursday, “Thanksgiving,” and I had to rise early for we were to have a Thanksgiving dinner here at our boarding place. We planned the dinner, Rowena, the two nurses, and I; and our landlady was to prepare it for us, all except the salad and the dessert which we were going to prepare ourselves. Miss Farmer and I made the dessert which was fruit sherbert. It certainly was good, too, even if we did make it. There was a service at the Methodist church we have been telling you about. There were a lot more there than I had expected. Then we all came home to dinner, our crowd, I mean, which now consists of eight. The dinner went off real well, only we had twice too much of nearly everything. That night we went over to hear Gillham’s victrola. He certainly has a good selection of pieces, and we spent such a pleasant evening. Almost made me wish we had gotten a victrola, but I will get so much more use out of my machine and we could not afford to get both.

B.M. and I went shopping this afternoon, and we found the best place to shop that we have seen since we have been there. I don’t know whether I can remember everything we got, but the main thing was a nice big lamp, with a shade both paper and a china one. We still have some room in our trunk where we can pack it. Also got an American flag and a Belgian flag, as B.M. says it shows disrespect to not put up the other nation’s flag.

B.M. has just finished having his French lesson and it’s nearly ten o’clock, so good night and pleasant dreams. I think of you often and wonder if everything is going on smoothly at home. Please write me all the news for you know I am interested in everything that happens out there.

I love you all,


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