Letters from Sonja: Other Bits and Pieces of Life in 1960
Sonja summarizes other events that took place in 1960 to give us a sense of her life at the time before she takes us into 1961.
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First published: December 22, 2005
Project 13, Buziga Hill
We divided this project in two parts: Hubert was responsible for the house. The garden was my resort. But, of course, we helped each other.
I fortunately had help in the garden from Nyende who was from Tanganyika. His first big job was to dig two large pits to be used for composting all the compost-able material from the kitchen as well as from the garden. The reason was that the soil had to be improved. As we were living outside of the city of Kampala there was no refuse collection. Everything compost-able was put in the compost pits and Hubert took the rest to Kampala. Even in the early 60s of the last century, I was well aware of the dangers on some of these packing materials to the environment.
In January of 1960 Nyende planted 20 coffee trees for me. No, I did not want to become a coffee grower, but I liked the smell of the coffee flower and hoped they would grow so that the breeze brings a bit of that fragrance into our sitting room.
March 4th, 196-
Hubert is now working on a new kitchen for me. The dobi-room will be the kitchen in future. Hubert has already bought a stainless steel sink for our new kitchen with a movable water tab that mixes hot and cold water. We all admire the new piece, even Michy. In about 2 to 3 months my “super” kitchen should be ready. The carpenter already took the measurements for the built-in cabinets. He cannot even imagine what we are planning. Hubert now has to lay all water pipes and the electric wiring new. He is also fitting 2 new doors with steel frames. All the old doors are badly damaged by white-ants. Once the kitchen is ready, we will transform the original kitchen into a dining room.
March 18th, l960 -
In March we started getting rid of the elephant grass, which was growing in abundance in the lower part of the plot. For that job I engaged two people from the Congo, who were working at it the whole day. At times a third person was helping. The elephant grass had to be dug up piece by piece. These people were working very hard, but still the progress was quite slow.
It certainly was a difficult job.
Unfortunately the big tree in front of the house had to be cut down over the weekend. The tree was not stable anymore and during a storm the tree could have hit the house. Two people were kept busy with the digging up of the roots and a “Landrover” was then needed to pull the roots out of the hole, which has to be filled up again and new grass has to be planted. The slope has to be put into shape and steps have to be built to the next terrace. A huge termite hill is on this terrace, which has to be removed and the terrace has to be levelled out and so on. Then we have to start planting. Next month I will get 45 shrubs and trees from the Botanical Garden in Entebbe. All of them will be very nice flowering plants. I am very pleased already. (By the way, each plant cost 1 EAS in those days. They were small plants but did grow well.) The coffee does well already. It should be in flower for the first time in about 1 ½ years and bear fruit about ½ year later. There are still lots of snakes around.
June 22nd, 1960 -
Our whole house is a building site. For months we have workman who live nearby working here to help Hubert. Everything goes very slow. But the kitchen is more or less ready except for painting and some small alterations the carpenter has to make.
This shows just one corner of my new kitchen. Remember, it was 1960 in Africa.
August 25th, l960 -
Last Monday early in the morning Josef, our mason from down the village, turned up and suddenly wanted to carry on with the building project. That meant, that in the dining room – between the new kitchen and the sitting room – all the shelves, the old sink, the built-in cupboard – everything made of steel enforced concrete – as well as the ceiling, the windows and the door to the sitting-room had to be demolished. Maybe you can imagine what a lot of dirt this made. Practically the whole house could not be used anymore. In the meantime the dining room is finished apart from some work Hubert has to do to the ceiling and the painting. We got a very nice room out of the old kitchen. The kitchen was built in such a way that one could hardly move in it. The old window towards the backside of the house has been walled up. Instead we have put in a 2 m wide and 50 cm high piece of yellow cathedral glass at a height of 1.40 m. That looks really nice. We have done it this way as we have built the room to fit the furniture we have bought. Beneath this cathedral glass our glass cabinet, which has a height of l.40 m and a width of 2 m finds its place. On the side towards the lake, we broke through the wall and built in a window almost over the complete wall. There used to be no window before. Now all rooms except the kitchen have big glass fronts towards the lake.
Above is the view from the dining room. In the photo shown in earlier in Buziga that shows the back view of the house, the cathedral glass panel of the dining room can be seen.
Also a new door has to be built in. The floors have been redone too. They again are cement floors, which look very nice when painted red and polished. The only disadvantage is that the children cannot crawl around on the floor or else they get red too. We have bought the furniture from a German couple that went back to Germany. The furniture is really nice and almost new.
In our sitting room the big sliding door has to be renewed completely as all the woodwork has been eaten by white-ants.
Until the furniture is in place, we don’t have a table and have to eat on our lap.
August 29th, 1960 -
I have bought a new curtain for Michy’s room. He is very excited about his room now. I have also newly covered an upholstered stool in Michy’s room with the same material. Hubert has fixed a rather deep wooden “box” over the window, which holds the rails for the curtain. I have put all the Steiff animals on top of it. As soon as I can afford some paint, I will also paint the room.
Always slowly, but piece by piece everything gets completed.
October 20th, 1960 -
For the time being we have stopped our building project.
Our family in 1960
Early in March our car finally arrived from Germany.
April 6th, 1960 –
Most of the Christmas parcels that were posted in time last year, did not arrive in Europe. The reasons for that were the constant strikes at the post office, the railways and in the harbour of Mombasa that we have here and specially had last autumn.
July 11th, 1960 -
Hubert again had quite a bad Malaria attack. He saw a doctor immediately and with the help of injections and pills he has been cured again. This has again been very upsetting for me. It is hard to believe that a strong man like Hubert can be weakened so much. He has been sweating very badly, talking in his phantasm and groaning. This is very sinister. Hubert is now using a different medicine against malaria which I serve him with his breakfast very punctually every Sunday morning. I do hope that he now does not get another attack of malaria so soon. Barbara certainly is lying under a mosquito net day and night, but Michy for quite some time sleeps without one. Otherwise, I am sure he would have hanged himself already. He does not take any malaria medication. His only protection is, that every evening I wrap the whole house from A – Z in a cloud of DDT. I am quite fit. The mosquitoes don’t seem to like me.
July 19th, 1960 -
By the time we arrived back home from our visit to Entebbe, Mr. Hohnholdt and Mr. Wittmann, who is the representative of Städtler in Nuerenberg, and is travelling together with Mr. Hohnholdt, already waited in front of the house for us. Mr. and Mrs. Seefelder came with us for a cup of coffee and just as everybody had taken a seat, Mr. Otto, the representative of Leitz, Wetzlar, and Haji Karmali from Nairobi came to visit us. It is quite normal now that we have lots of visitors. Everybody is coming to enjoy the beautiful view from our house.
August 25th, 1960 -
Michy had measles. He is fine again. Then the motor of the washing machine burnt out. I am hoping the washing machine is soon running again.
We had our first peanut harvest in the meantime. Every afternoon I now have to roast some peanuts for Michy. He really enjoys eating things we are growing in our garden. We also had our first cabbage-lettuce from the garden to-day. That was delicious. Apart from that we have lots of beans, radishes and tomatoes. Soon peas and carrots will be ready. Michy even likes vegetables now, provided they come from our garden.
As we were so busy this year I missed the first Advent. Usually I made an Adventskranz, which at home is a wreath made from fir and decorated with 4 candles. In those years I used to make the wreath with cypress. This year, however I forgot it. But I had an Advent Calendar for Michy for the first time this year. Every morning he opened his little door and enjoyed the picture that appeared.
Both the children did very well this year. Michy now spoke English quite well. He even tried to speak English at home. However we wanted him to speak German in the first instance. English is an easy language for a child to learn, far easier than German. And the English accent – soon Michy will talk German like a foreigner, whereas I will never get rid of my German accent when I speak English.
Of course we still had Phylax. He was growing very well. Sometimes Michy and Phylax didn’t get on too well with each other. When I tied up Phylax however it did not take long before Michy would tell me what a good doggie Phylax was and how I should let him run free again.
Both our children gave us a lot of pleasure. Barbara was still a very quiet child. I had to wake her up for almost every meal. She was always in a good mood and could already smile very nicely. She already made the first noises (apart from crying, what even a good baby does from time to time). One Sunday Michy woke up Hubert very early in the morning just to tell him how clever his little sister was as she could already say “au”. When I collected Michy from Kindergarten once and took Barbara with me, Michy was so full of pride and called to his friends: “Come on and see my little sister. Isn’t she lovely? I have got a nice baby!” They all had to come and admire the little one and Michy’s face was one big smile.
Michy was still very lively. One always had to be on the look-out. He got the most impossible ideas.
Michy’s hobby now was to help me with the cooking. He also has endless “why”-questions. So time just flew by. Michy liked all food now because he was cooking now. Fortunately “Wutzi” was more quiet. She was a very good natured one and was thriving well.
This is a better picture of Gerd at the time. It was taken in Germany shortly before he left for Uganda.
We did not forget Christmas of course. Gerd decorated the Christmas tree this year.
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First published: December 22, 2005