Nov. 28, 1920
Dear Mother and Daddy:
No doubt you often have wondered how we could spend all this time over here and that we must be hard pressed for ways in which to spend our time. But we never have time enough to do what we would like to do. Then having this extra class in Baluba now (with the Hudsons and the two nurses) every day, our day is pretty well taken up (of
course both with the preparation and the recitation of my French and Dorothy's Baluba.)
Dorothy has been making good progress in Baluba and has taken quite an interest in it (which later means a great deal as you well know.) I have been pegging away at French and have made some progress, but it takes longer than a few weeks for one to be able to speak French fluently. However, I feel that our stay has been worth the wait in this respect.
Dot has written you something about our visit to the big battlefield around Ypres. This, as you perhaps know, was one of the most important and strongly contested points of the entire front. I can't give you a description of the whole field as we saw it, but will give you a few impressions. We took train at Brussells for Mennin; at Mennin we took a car thru the country for Ypres, passing a number of important (tho small) places in the war. I have often read and heard about how whole cities were literally wiped out. In all these small villages there remains not one house, only a few walls and the foundations, absolutely obliterated. And Ypres, poor Ypres, before the war a splendid city of 20,000 or 30,000, not one house remains--a mass of crumbled brick. And to see them gathering out from these ruins brick that can be used over again and trying to erect other buildings on these foundations is pitiful; the task looks so hopeless. Thousands of
heaps of crumbled brick. There are some people living among these ruins in all kinds of makeshifts for dwellings. All their buildings were of brick--and all razed to the ground. But the wrecked buildings cover only half the tale, for the land! The land seems to be almost worse. All around Ypres there are fields ruined by the shell holes; in many places you cannot find a spot on which you could put your dining room table without one or more corners being in a shell hole, and these shell holes are from two to five and six feet across and deep in proportion; some of them are tremendous caves-and there are all too many of these. The ground was ploughed over and over by these great shells, these splendid well kept and smooth farms. Each one of these holes must be filled up and smoothed. And what were once large forests--you see a few shattered tree trunks here and there, no limbs and most of them broken off; you can not easily imagine that these desolate looking places with a few broken tree trunks and the ground broken and heaped here and there with great holes were once beautiful forests. The destruction was on such an enormous scale that it is hard for one who has not seen to conceive how tremendous it was.
In walking around some of the trenches and scratching around in one of the dugouts, I found a little collection of souvenirs; some rifle cartridges, a spoon, some buckles, etc. Mr. Gilliam was stationed just out of Ypres during the war and found his trench and dugout still there. He having been there of course could tell us quite a bit about the field.
Dot has told you about our Thanksgiving Day dinner. The Methodist Mission had a Thanksgiving Service at 11 :00 A.M. at which the Hon. Brand Whitlock, American Ambassador to Belgium, gave a talk. Then a lady with a fine strong voice sang "The Star Spangled Banner." So you see we felt a little like we were among our own folks again to see "Old Glory" waving around us.
The "Anversville", the boat on which we are to sail for the Congo, is due in Antwerp tomorrow, Nov. 29. Antwerp is about 60 miles from here, and we expect to leave Brussells two or three days before the sailing date for Antwerp. So it will be not long now till we leave, between the 10th and 15th of Dec. I think we shall know some time soon, I suppose. Outside of our trip to Ypres and our Thanksgiving Day dinner, life has been flowing along smoothly enough. We have our lessons, study, go to our meals, and baths (for you know we have to get these at a public bath down town) and do a little shopping from time to time, and occasionally some sight seeing. So the days go by.
We have here near us two very great and historic battle fields, Waterloo and Ypres. Waterloo covers only a few miles in all, while Ypres, not to mention the other fields, is a great area. This trip to Ypres has made quite an impression on me for I never realized before the magnitude of this late war.
It is possible that we may hear from you before we leave, as we still have about two weeks. But at any rate we shall let you hear from us again soon.
Trusting this finds you all well, and with love to all.