Monday, April 7, 2008

Kanduki: Second Letter

What a pleasant surprise! when I saw your letter! All right! I must answer you now.

You know that I am seveenteen years. In Zaire each family has eight or ten children. My family has teen children too. I am the 5th child and the only one boy. I am among student's children of my family. The for first girls are already teachers. My father and mother are cultivators!

Zaire is a "first rate" and big country. There are many animal, beautifull bird, many big mountain as is "Rwenzori", and a good river.

Oh, by the way, you asked me to send you some pictures. I am sorry becuase I haven't been fast to find it as much as I have sent this letter. Don't worry my friend so patience!

Now, you and me, we are looking forward to corresponded with each other. We are getting older and older. Perhaps someone among us will go to visit another in America or in Afrique. Can you think what will happenning?...

In Zaire, after Christmas, change of money have happened. Because of every thing became dear. But food is cheap. I play only football. Do you like music, cinema, theatre, reading (of books), as much as me? Are you a boy or girl? Will I see you in the future? Perhaps on a picture. Is the meat of cat best to eat? Here each person has goats or chickens at home because meat of it are good to eat.

At this end, you will may you tell your family that my family greet him a lot?

Dear Melissa, I'll be waiting too.

Voice of your affectionate
friend Kanduki

As a teenager I particularly liked "Is the meat of cat best to eat?" I wasn't sure how I was going to tactfully write him back and explain that the cats and dogs I'd described in my first letter were pets that we, as Americans, spent hundreds of dollars on every year and treated like members of the family, even though they served no useful purpose whatsoever. We just "liked them." I also liked that despite knowing my name was "Melissa," he had no idea if I was a boy or a girl.

I was really looking forward to corresponding with Kanduki. Our lives were so different. I felt like I was writing someone from the past. After I replied to this letter, I started thinking about what photos I wanted to send him; Pictures of things he might not have seen before. But I also didn't want seem like I was bragging, and I certainly didn't want to inadvertently make him feel bad. I kept trying to see my world through his eyes. What was ordinary to me that would seem extraordinary to someone "from the past."

Growing up, I was always aware of how much I had in my life that other people didn't. I often felt like Cinderella at a ball and would look around and think "whose life is this?" I think this was the first time, though, that I took a good look at grocery stores, and really noticed their obscene amount of abundance and luxury. I was suddenly in awe of them. If Kanduki could have seen those rows and rows of never ending fresh produce and food, I was certain he'd keel right over. I decided that was something that would amaze him. I wanted to take a picture of the produce section of a grocery store. But I wanted to take a picture from a smaller store so it wouldn't look like I was bragging. The other "amazing" thing I wanted to photograph and tell him about? -Traffic lights :)

Unfortunately, I never got to send him those photos. This was the last letter I received from Kanduki. I never heard back from him after my reply. As I said in yesterday's post, due to the distance of his village from the nearest mailbox, there was more than a 2 month lag time between our letters, so it took me a while to realize his next letter wasn't coming. I don't know if he chose to stop writing, or if his letter got lost, or if my letter to him got lost -or if, possibly, he just graduated! I didn't think to write him another letter to check. Partially because I wasn't sure if maybe I'd said something wrong. I was trying to be so careful, but I couldn't be certain. So, I just kept waiting for his letter and then figured, eventually, that maybe he'd lost interest.

I've thought about him a lot over the years and wondered about him. Whether he lost interest in writing or whether one of our letters just got lost and he was still waiting for a letter from me. Whether I'd said something that made him uncomfortable. What kinds of changes his village went through over the years. Was he still living there, or did he move elsewhere. What kind of adult he grew up to be. Was he a farmer like his parents, or did he have another kind of job? Was he a good person, or did he grow up to be a scary person? For all I know, he could be a drunken serial killer now. I hope he grew up to be a good person, but I don't know. I love these two letters but I have no idea what the real person behind them was like, or how he turned out. And I realize, as I've been typing this, that I always assumed he did grow up. It never occurred to me, until just now, that it's possible he never did.



Abbie said...

Great post.
Being from Africa myself, I cringe when I see letters like these because I know for a fact this is not the norm. The average person from Africa knows how to speak and write English properly.
Same goes for the depiction of Africa on TV and newspapers. I'm kinda used to it now, but I can't help that little part of me that wishes people see the real people and what they are about.

Anyway, I still keep in contact with my friend from germany. We grew up writing letters to each other, now we just use email. Looking forward to meeting him someday.

MP said...

I hope he did grow up..I wonder why the letters stopped.. I guess blogging is a sort of "pen pal"..we comment and are kind of answering a letter, aren't we. There is a great chance that we may never meet our fellow bloggers in person..

Thanks for posting this..very cool!

Melissa said...

Hi Abbie!

Thank you :)

Don't forget that the letters were being sent through someone who was working with the Peace Corps, so naturally she was going to be working in a less developed area. (Why would she be sent to one of the thriving cities in Africa? Lol!) Also this was a long time ago! His village may be completely different now.

I think (I hope) that most people know that there are impoverished as well as thriving/modern/developed parts of Africa (as is the case in most countries.)

MP: The internet has changed so many things. Especially for kids. Instant access to pretty much anywhere. I wonder what the next "big technology" will bring. Personally, I'm hoping for really good 3-D holograms :)

Alice said...

oh, i'm so sad! i wanted more letters from him, too :-)

MLL said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm impressed that you have
copies of old letters on your blog....I wish I had
saved some of mine!


Melissa said...

Hi Marcia! Thank you for stopping by (Sorry for the belated welcome!) :)