Abiding Faith — Letter 17

Abiding Faith — Letter 17


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



While in Bukavu, I passed through Rwanda to get to the village of Luberizi. I stayed there several days.

I saw a giant tractor left by Communist China. Their intent was to create rice farming in the area

by damming the river named after the village. But according to reports the Chief of the village

misplaced funds and the project came to nothing.



Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)

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Letter 17

January 15, 1982*


Dear Son,

Just a line to let you hear from me. I doing fair. Hope this may Find you doing OK. I receive your Card. I really did Enjoy you all home for Xmas. It made me Feel so good. And Every Body was happy. I cant tell you how much I preshate you all act so nice. It add 5 years to my life. I never For get the beautiful Present you gave me. I will all ways Cherish it. It so nice. I prayed to the good Lord let all of us meet and Be a happy Family. So we were. I was sick But I just Enjoyed you all Been here. So much For that.

We had 7 inches of Snow the 14 of the month. It still on the ground and still cold, so you take care of your self. I going keep praying For you. And you pray For me. All here is doing OK. And send their love. So you take all mistake for love Bad hand riten for Kisses.

Bye From Mother

Keep in Touch

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*In May 1981, I received my master’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. A year later still impoverished, I was teaching composition and literature to freshmen and sophomores on an adjunct basis at the University of the District of Columbia, Connecticut Avenue campus. I was making preparation to go to Africa with the Peace Corps. During this period, I was living in the basement of Cecelia Fleming, a sometime girlfriend.

The following summer, I spent ten weeks in Zaire. I flew from Philadelphia to New York, from there to Paris Airport, then to Lagos, and then to Kinshasha. We changed planes. Air Zaire flew us to Bujumbura in Burundi; then a small plane took us back into Zaire, to an air field (Goma) near Bukavu. It was the longest air trip I had ever taken before or since, about twenty hours. I do not like flying and I was exhausted. Most of my time was spent in Bukavu, by Lake Kivu. This was the area in which Rwanda refugees retreated after the holocaust conducted by Hutus against the Tutsi people in the 1990s.

While in Bukavu, I passed through Rwanda to get to the village of Luberizi. I stayed there several days. I saw a giant tractor left by Communist China. Their intent was to create rice farming in the area by damming the river named after the village. But according to reports the Chief of the village misplaced funds and the project came to nothing. The village was exceedingly poor and bare-breasted women carried water on their heads from about a half-mile away.

In Bukavu, I was often mistaken for a Tutsi because I was tall with a high forehead. At a checkpoint between Rwanda and Zaire, I had to insist that I was an America. The response was “Incroyable!”

That August, I returned to Virginia with malaria still in my body. I delayed in taking the Aralen and my glands began to swell. On going to the doctor in small-town Jarratt, this physician, who thought because of my recently acquired accent that I was an African, frightened me with a pre-diagnosis of Hodgkins disease. I decided for myself that he didn’t know what he was talking about, calmed down, and decided to take the Aralen as instructed. After I took the pills eight days in a row, the swellings disappeared and I have not been troubled since. The only residue of my trip is continual sinusitis, which came originally from the red dust of Zaire. After I recuperated from my trip I returned to Washington and stayed for awhile with Cecelia and then moved to a room in Northeast Washington. My housemates included a fellow from Senegal and one from Chicago. I taught a class in the English departments of the universities of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

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