|Letters from Iraq||CONTENTS||Basrah|
Early in August 1922, George Gosselink drove with his mother from Pella to Boyden, in the northwest corner of Iowa, to spend a few final days with his fiancée Christine Scholten and give their mothers, Jennie Gosselink and Hendrikje Scholten, an opportunity to meet and get to know each other. The time was too short. In writing to George’s mother later, Christine said, “Yes it does really hurt to think of having to be separated from him so long. The saying is often that the parting is the hardest, but though it was hard to see him leave that morning, all that day I seemed to miss him more, and as I thought of the three longs years before I would be able to see him again I couldn’t help feeling a little blue. . . . If he were going for selfish reasons and if I had no faith in God, I’m afraid it would almost be unbearable. But now when I think that it is the Master’s will and that he is everywhere and will care for us whether we are together or separated, it really places a brightness over it all and I can’t help but feel happy that God has sent this calling to him and that he was willing to accept.”
Map of Arabia
from The History of the Arabian Mission
by Alfred Mason and Frederick Barney, 1926
A few days later George said another difficult farewell to his family in Pella, his parents, brothers Nick and Bob and sister Nina, and boarded the train for New York. Dad had spent his whole life in Pella and had seldom been separated from his family. While in college he had sung with the Men’s Glee Club and had taken several tours with the group, twice to sing at churches in northwest Iowa and neighboring states and once to perform at churches in the East, when he had had a chance to visit Washington, Philadelphia, New York City, Niagara Falls and Holland, Michigan. He had seen very little of the rest of the country. Now he was headed off to the other side of the world.
In New York he had several more days to prepare for his voyage. He consulted with Duke Potter, then the Associate Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church of America, and met his traveling companions. James Moerdyk was a veteran returning to “the field’” after a year of furlough. He had joined the mission in 1900 and had served in Basrah, Amarah, Bahrain and Muscat, where he had toured extensively in the interior areas of Jebal Akhdar, the Green Mountain. He would be assigned again to Basrah and become a close associate and friend. Bernard and Elda Hakken, newly married and newly appointed to the mission, were headed for Bahrain for language study. Mike Schnurman, like Dad, was a short term missionary assigned to the Arcot Mission in South India. He would travel with the others as far as Bombay.
Their route would take them by ship first to London, then to Bombay via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, and then on to Basrah via the Persian Gulf. The trip would take six weeks.
August 13, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
Well – I’m still here and feeling fine and am enjoying myself, too – altho I haven’t much to do, I manage to enjoy myself anyway. Yesterday morning I plumb over slept – I never woke up once during the whole night from the time I went to sleep until about 8:30 in the morning. After I had had breakfast I got down to the office at 9:30. Just outside on the street I met Mr. Potter. He had been on his vacation and had not been back to the office since until just then. I was there just a few minutes when Mr. Moerdyk arrived and a few minutes after that a Mr. Schnurman also came. He’s just a young fellow, a graduate of Hope this spring. I believe, and he is going to India on a short term, so he will sail with us as far as Bombay, so that will be pretty nice company for me. Mr. and Mrs. Hakken I haven’t seen yet; they were due to arrive Saturday morning but they hadn’t come yet at eleven o’clock when we left the office again. We’re all staying at the same hotel here but Schnurman went over to Passaic Sunday to visit relatives and I haven’t seen Moerdyk all day yet.
I went over to Flatlands church in Brooklyn this morning and heard Prof. Lee preach. He is preaching there for five or six weeks while Roonds is on his vacation. Also met Mr. Ditmas again and was over to his house for dinner – had a dandy time. Soon after dinner I came back here and wandered around for a while. Went down to the pier where our ship is harbored. I saw the tops of the smoke stacks but that is about all, as the rest of it was behind buildings and the buildings were all closed. We surely ought to have a fine trip to England – the Mauretania is one of the fastest and biggest ships. Last week coming from England it made a record trip for time. And now I am back here at the hotel. It’s about four o’clock and I will spend the time until supper time writing a few letters. I think I shall go to the Marble Collegiate Church this evening.
I surely am glad that Mr. Moerdyk is going with us because he knows the ropes and knows how to get everything done in a hurry. We went down to the passport office yesterday and got our visas and everything on our passports fixed up in about half an hour where otherwise it might have taken two or three hours if he hadn’t been with us. In the afternoon we went to the station and got our trunks transferred over to the pier and the rest of the afternoon we spent in sight seeing and loafing. We were at Central Park for a while and saw lots of animals in the zoo and lots of flower gardens.
I feel fine and dandy and can’t say that I’m homesick yet and I hope you are not feeling so bad anymore either. I feel a whole lot better now than when I left home. You may think that I acted a little hard boiled or as if I didn’t care very much whether I left home or not, but if I did act that way I did it because I had to keep myself straight – it was awfully hard to leave home and think of leaving parents and brothers and sister and friends and everything behind (note 2). I appreciate, Mama, what you said about Crissy. I wanted to say something then but I couldn’t, but you know that I think an awful lot of her and I know that you’ll always be nice to her and try to help her in any way you can. I’ve asked her to do the same for you and I know she will.
Tomorrow all we have to do is to tend to a few things, and tomorrow evening you know Mrs. Alcott (note 3) is entertaining us at dinner on the roof garden of the Astor Hotel. Ahem! Such renowned people we are. Say, don’t let go of my full dress suit very soon yet because I may want you to send it up yet sometime. I wish now I had taken it. I won’t need it tomorrow night but maybe I will over there. Schnurman asked Potter about it and he said that it came in quite handy once in a while, especially where there were English people. They dress up in evening togs for almost anything. Schnurman bought a tuxedo to take along. Maybe it’s different in India than in Arabia. I’ll wait and see and let you know. And then Tuesday at noon we sail. I’ll try to write once more – either tomorrow night or Tuesday morning – and then you’ll have to do without news from me for at least a while.
August 14, 1922
Dear Mother, Dad and the kids:
Now for my last letter before I leave the U.S.A. It’s been a very interesting day today getting final things ready, etc. It surely costs a lot to send a missionary out. You know I got $75 already to start from home with. This morning Mr. Potter gave me $250 more. Of course I won’t need all that, but very nearly all, and besides that he has already paid for my steamship ticket, which is also quite a lot. I don’t know how much in all – I know it is about $150 from here to England. I land in Southampton in England and then leave again from London. I first got that money changed for traveler’s checks and also got about $20 worth of English money – four pounds. This afternoon Moerdyk and I went down to the pier to see that our baggage was there alright and got it checked to go on board so all we have to do tomorrow is to walk right on board the steamer and make ourselves at home. I am already somewhat acquainted with our ship. We had a chance to go on board and we spent about two hours looking it over, saw my room and everything. Now I am back here and pretty soon I have to get ready for the dinner party. Then for a good sleep tonight and tomorrow morning about 10 o’clock or so we get on board and sail at 12:00
I got a big pack of letters this morning marked “not to be opened until on board the ship.” They were all in one big envelope. I have a hunch Francis Van Der Linden collected and sent them, because it came from East Franklin Street. Also got Prexy’s letter and yours, also – was mighty glad to get it. I am feeling just first rate and am anxious to get started.
Your loving son and brother,
Saturday August 19, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
I won’t be able to mail this yet for a couple of days, but there’s lots to write and then I can write again before leaving England. We expect to get to Cherbourg Sunday night and to Southampton Monday morning. From there we go directly to London where we wait until the 25th when we start for Bombay on the Kaiser-i-Hind. We’ve had a very good trip so far, everybody feeling fine, no seasickness or anything of the kind in our party. We had the finest weather one could wish for the first two days out. Yesterday and this morning it was a little disagreeable outside, kinda chilly and raining and the water is a little rougher than usual, but that doesn’t keep us from enjoying ourselves. We spend a good deal of our time reading and when the weather is good we go out on the top deck and play shuffle-board or other deck games. We are pretty well toward the back of the ship and can feel a little of the vibration of the propellers, or screws rather, and hear the hum all the time, too. Up toward the front in the first class quarters you can hardly feel any of that at all, and a couple decks below us in third class quarters it’s worse than ours. I suppose you know we use second class. Third class is just about like riding in a Pullman train. This ship has four screws and it’s no wonder it makes such a vibration, especially as we are going along at about 25 to 30 miles an hour average. I could write much more but I thot I’d have to write you on this kind of stationery once, so will write some more later and stop now. Hope everything is going fine at home yet. Seems a long time to wait before I can hear from you again, but I’m not homesick yet.
August 20, 1922
Nearing the end of the first part of our journey. We expect to hit Cherbourg tonight sometime soon after midnight. We will stay there until morning and then move on to Southampton. We’ve had fine weather again today, a little cold but nice and sunshiny most of the time. We’ve had a very interesting day today. We saw eight or ten ships of all sizes. We passed up the “New Amsterdam” this morning. It left New York three days before we did, so you see we’re making some speed. We are making between 550 and 600 miles a day and average about 24 knots an hour. Toward about six o’clock this evening we passed near some islands, the Scilly Islands, nothing but rocks. They had several lighthouses scattered all over them which we could just see with field glasses, that is all except one which was quite near, at least it looked near but was still over seven or eight miles off. These islands are almost 200 miles from France.
We had church this morning, or at least that is what it was supposed to be. It was an Episcopal service and didn’t amount to much but some formal ceremonies, no sermon or anything of the kind. You see, everything on this ship is English and since England is Episcopalian the services on the ship are, too. There are quite a few missionaries on board, about twelve or fifteen, and this afternoon we had a short discussion together on the Sunday School lesson. There is a whole family of missionaries going to Africa – a man and his wife, two sons, one married, and a couple of small children. I don’t know what denomination they are – United Brethren or something of the sort. Also two others going to Africa, one other to India – he comes from Canada – and then a couple more going I don’t know where, besides our party. This Mike Schnurman in our party, from Hope, I’ve written about him before, is surely a fine fellow, that is, I mean as company for me. He is almost in the same boat I am. He never was a student volunteer in school and never thot about it seriously until only this spring when Mr. Potter came to Synod in Pella. He stopped at Holland and there Mike came in contact with him for the first time. So he didn’t have half as long as I to make up his mind and go. He’s going out on the same kind of term and same kind of work as I am.
Well, by this time in Pella you are just coming home from Sunday School. We are on London time now and that is six hours ahead of Pella time. Time for me to go to bed, so will close. I am going to get up early to see France tomorrow morning.
As ever yours,
August 22, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
In the great city of London. We got here last night, just before supper. We got settled but we were pretty tired so we went to bed pretty early. We arrived in Southampton just at noon, but it was a couple of hours before we got thru the immigration office and customs and then a couple of hours on the train and then some more time to get to the hotel. We didn’t have any trouble getting thru; it’s just because they are so awfully slow that it took us so long. All they did was ask us to show our passports, give it a stamp and shove us on. All they did in the customs house was ask if I had any firearms, perfume, tobacco, and a hundred other things, none of which I had, open my suitcase just for form and shove me on. They did the same with all the others.
Today we started seeing London. First we got our tickets to Bombay fixed up. That took almost up to dinner time. After dinner we went to the House of Parliament – we couldn’t get in but we could see it on the outside. Then we went over to Buckingham Palace. And the rest of the afternoon we spent at Westminster Abbey. They were having a prayer service when we got there and we attended that. Then we saw where Livingston, Browning, Tennyson, Handel, Dickens, Gladstone and hundreds of others were buried right in the floor of the church, also where all the kings and queens are buried, and we also saw hundred of busts and monuments and slabs in memory of John Wesley, Lowell, Longfellow, etc. There are only three or four Americans represented there. Just in front of the Abbey they have a big statue of Lincoln.
Tomorrow we first look after our baggage, see that that gets to the docks. Then we want to go to St. Paul’s, the Tower of London, London Bridge, etc. Don’t worry; we have more than we can do in the few days we’re here. But London isn’t the town for me – it’s the worst place to get lost in I ever saw, altho we haven’t been lost yet. But there are no two streets in the whole place that run the same direction, and not one street that is straight for more than two blocks. And then talk of being “finished.” I guess it is alright and got finished years ago. Everything is old fashioned. You very seldom see a new car, and they all have one of these rubber bulb horns and they keep honking those all the time. It sounds like a bunch of geese.
Well, so much for this time. I will write once more before we leave Friday. Am feeling fine and hope everything is all right at home.
Thursday eve. August 24
Again, our last evening in London and my last letter home for some time. I don’t know when will be the next chance to mail again, I’m afraid not until we get to Port Said (near the Suez Canal). As far as I know, we only make one stop before we get there and that is at Marseilles, France, but only for a few hours, which they expect will be after midnight and ordinarily no mail is taken off the boat and we won’t be able to get off either, they won’t let us as we have no French visas, which cost five dollars.
We have surely been doing some sight seeing yesterday and today. Yesterday we were at St. Paul’s cathedral. That surely is some church. We spent about three hours looking it over. We also stopped at every other place of interest that we passed. Mike Schnurman and I go together. It’s pretty hard to keep the whole party together thru all those crowds, so we just split up. One of us has a map of London and the other a guide; we look in the guide what we want to see and then on the map where it is and then we strike out. We saw the London Stone, London Monument, London Bridge, Temple Church, Tower Bridge, and a great many of those things all of historic interest.
This morning we first went to buy our pith hats, or tropical hats, we have to wear as soon as we get to the other end of the Mediterranean, because the sun is so hot you’ll get sunstroke without one in a minute. You know we have to wear them in Arabia all the time. Then Mike and I scooted for the London Tower. Saw all kinds of things for warfare there that they have used for several centuries, metal armor which the knights of the middle ages used, and all kinds of weapons from the bow and spear to modern mortars and machine guns. Saw the block and ax and also the place where they used to have the guillotine. Saw the royal jewels, thousands of diamonds set in the crowns of different kings and queens, and all kinds of rubies and emeralds and other kinds of stones. The rest of the afternoon we spent in the British Museum. We were there over three hours and I don’t believe we saw half of it, all kinds of relics, sculpture, painting, and every imaginable thing, dating back to 3500 B.C. dug up in Egypt and old countries.
Well, it’s time for bed and tomorrow morning we have to be ready to leave from here at about 9 o’clock. Our boat leaves at noon. Hope everything is all right at home. I’m feeling fine, as good as ever.
Your loving son and brother,
Kaiser-i-Hind, August 30, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
We expect to arrive in Marseilles tomorrow morning and there mail will be taken off the boat, so I will take another chance to write. I’m feeling fine and we’re having fine weather now, too. The first morning out of London after breakfast I was actually seasick – it makes me sore to think about it now because it seemed such a foolish thing to get sick. Anyway, I was – only that morning, tho and by noon I was feeling fine again. I didn’t go to dinner just for safety sake, but at supper I ate enough to make up for it again. I guess it was too much coffee that upset me. The stewards on this ship always come around with a cup of coffee and some fruit even before you are out of bed in the morning and then I took another cup at breakfast. I haven’t touched coffee since and am feeling fine. This boat is only about a third as heavy as the Mauretania, so that even on the roughest day the Mauretania didn’t seem as rough as a calm day on this boat. The first two days out of London were cold and damp but since that time we’ve had nice warm weather, fine to sit out on the top deck and read or sleep or take a sun bath for an hour or two. That’s about all we have to do, but the time doesn’t seem at all long or monotonous. We are going quite near the shore all the time, at least every once in a while land is in sight, although it may be twenty or thirty miles off. The Hakkens have a pair of field glasses but Bern and Elda Hakken they don’t care to use them very much, so they gave them to me to take care of and believe me I use them.
We stopped at Gibraltar for about two hours yesterday morning. We didn’t have a chance to go ashore. We had a fine view of the Rock of Gibraltar from the ship while we waited there. I got a couple of good pictures, at least I hope they are good. That point belongs to the British and it surely is a good stronghold. The Straight of Gibraltar is only about 20 or 25 miles wide and the Rock itself is about eight or nine hundred feet high, sloping right from the water’s edge. They have the whole thing set full of big guns. We could see a good many with the glasses, but they say they have a great many more hidden, and the whole thing is tunneled. They keep about six or eight thousand soldiers there all the time, so that it is next to impossible for any other country to ever get possession of that point. They can shoot to pieces any ship that ever dares to enter or get out of the Mediterranean. Just opposite, on the other side of the straight, we could see the mountains of Africa.
Tomorrow morning we reach Marseilles and will stay there until Saturday morning. I don’t know if we will be allowed to go ashore there. I don’t know what will be our next stop, perhaps not until Port Said. I don’t know how long we will stop there, but at least long enough to coal the ship again, which will be at least half a day, and there we can surely go ashore because our British passport will take care of that.
It surely is a funny crowd on this ship – most of them are English. No prohibition on this ship, and all these English must have their “slokje,” women and men alike, and then too, most of the women smoke. Some of them are worse cigarette fiends than the men. There is no place where there are “no smoking” signs up, which would be of no use because almost everybody smokes. A couple of evenings ago, our party happened to be sitting together in a corner of the lounge, or parlor as you would call it, and a couple of women who were sitting nearby were smoking, and Mrs. Hakken said, “I believe I’ll ask those ladies to stop smoking because there are gentlemen around.” But in spite of all that we are enjoying ourselves.
Marseilles, September 1, 1922
One more from Marseilles and next time I write I suppose will be from Port Said. We leave here at midnight tonight. It will take about two weeks for us to get to Bombay and then two weeks more before we get to Basrah. I’ll be glad when we start moving again from here. We haven’t had a half bad time here, but I’d rather be on the move toward our destination.
I never saw such a dirty place as this city is – dust and dirt everywhere and then quite a little wind, and you can imagine what it is like. They don’t try to keep the streets clean, and the stores and houses, too, are dirty inside and out. But it is kinda interesting to walk along the street and look in at the store windows or sit down in a park once in a while. Mike and I have surely done a lot of walking in these two days here. There isn’t much of interest in this place, a couple of nice Roman Catholic churches, a Notre Dame is here also and a very nice cathedral up on a high rocky hill. And you can get a fine view of the surrounding country from the top of the hill. I’m feeling fine as ever. All this walking has given us enough exercise again for a couple of weeks. We didn’t have any trouble getting ashore; they never even asked to see our passports once and we could go back and forth as we wanted. Well, no more news, so will close.
Kaiser-i-Hind, September 5, 1922
This letter will be at least a week longer in coming, I guess, than the last one I sent. This will be posted with all the ship’s mail tomorrow morning in Port Said, but very likely it will have to wait a couple days before a west-bound mail steamer comes along to take it to England. Pretty nice, tho – all letters mailed on the ship only need the postage the same as if it was mailed in England, and England and the U.S. have a special mail contract so that it doesn’t take any more postage to send a letter to the States than to any place in England. It is only a penny and a half English money, which equals about two and a half cents U.S. money. If we waited and mailed a letter on shore in Port Said we would have to have Egyptian postage and that would probably be equal to 5 or 6 cents U.S. money. In Marseilles it was 50 cents French postage or about 4 cents U.S.
We’ve been having a fine trip on this side of Marseilles – fine weather part of the time and getting warmer all of the time, but they say this is cold compared to what we are going to get in the Red Sea. Toward evening of the first day out of Marseilles we passed between the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, where Napoleon was born. The islands are so close that you can see both at the same time, passing between them. The next afternoon we passed near a small island; the whole island was nothing but a volcanic mountain and it was in action – not very bad, just a lot of smoke coming from the crater. Toward evening of the same day we passed between Sicily and the lower tip of Italy. The passage between the island and the mainland is very narrow, only about five miles across. Our boat is about the biggest that can pass thru because it is not deep enough for bigger ships. The land was very pretty on both the island and the mainland. It looked rough and mountainous, but even the mountain sides were cultivated, all covered with grapevines. That was the first nice green that we had seen even tho we have skidded along the coast almost all the way from England. Before that all the land was too rocky and too steep to cultivate. Yesterday we passed near the island of Crete. Tomorrow morning early we hit Port Said, stay there about four or five hours to take on water and coal, then on thru the canal, and then we don’t stop again until we hit Aden, just outside the Red Sea.
By the time you get this letter I suppose school will have started again. Everybody back and working the old grind again. I’d like to drop down in Pella for a couple of hours in about two weeks from now to have a look at things around school and home again. Oh, no, I’m not homesick – but a person can’t help wishing sometimes.
Kaiser-i-Hind, September 9, 1922
Well, we’ve had our first real “smell” of the East and our first taste of tropical weather. We’re almost as far south now as we’re going, that is about 12 degrees north of the equator. We’re almost at the end of the Red Sea now. I suppose we’ll pass around the bend and turn east sometime this evening and reach Aden tomorrow morning early. I don’t know how long we’ll be there, perhaps a couple of hours, long enough to take on some more coal, and mail will also go off.
We surely have been having a fair sampling of hot weather since leaving Port Said. I guess it’s the Red Sea alright. There is hardly a minute either day or night that I’m not wringing with sweat. If there is anything of a breeze at all it is only a hot dry wind, but we haven’t been having very much wind at all. But the heat isn’t bothering me very much – I’m feeling first rate and still enjoying myself, sleeping good too in spite of the heat. It is usually after eleven before we go to bed, because it is absolutely too hot down in our cabins before that time, but then I drop to sleep right away and don’t wake up again until morning, unless I wake up to find myself swimming in sweat, and then I am awake only long enough to scoop the water out of my bed and drop off to sleep again. We have the fan in our room running all night, but even that doesn’t keep us cool. Lots of people go out and sleep on the deck, but if you do that you can’t go to sleep until very late unless you want to sleep while there are still a lot of people on deck, and then you get booted out early again because they come around early to scrub the deck.
Port Said gave us our firsts smell of the East, tho there wasn’t very much to see. We went ashore anyway for a couple hours. We stopped there for about four hours. It is only a small town and has quite a little of the atmosphere of a desert town, the streets all sandy and dusty, but I liked it a good deal better than Marseilles. The streets are lined with palm trees and other desert trees. Going thru the canal was interesting, too. The land on both sides is nothing but desert, nothing but sand dunes as far as you can see, with some brush growing here and there. We saw a couple of herds of camels. It took us almost eleven hours to go thru the canal. The canal is about 90 miles long, and we had to go slow all the way. Since that time we have been going in the Red Sea all the time. We expect to reach Bombay about Friday the 15th if we don’t have any trouble. Some of the ships coming from Bombay which we have met in the last couple of days have told us that we are liable to run into quite a storm on the Indian Ocean. But they say more than likely the storm will be over before we get there because they never last long, so we’ll miss it yet.
Well, this is about all the news. There isn’t much new news, just the same thing everyday, chugging along at the rate of about 400 miles a day. I suppose by the time you get this letter I’ll be at my destination.
Kaiser-i-Hind, September 14, 1922
Not very much new news this time but will write a few lines anyway as I have the chance of mailing a letter again when we arrive in Bombay tomorrow morning. I don’t know how long we will be in Bombay, probably until the first part of next week. It all depends on when we can get a boat going up the Persian Gulf, and then we will have another ten day trip on the water. We have been having very nice weather since leaving Aden, very much cooler than it was in the Red Sea, and we missed the storm completely. There is still quite a swell on the water, but the storm itself is gone. A day after we left Port Said they had quite a storm on the Mediterranean and yesterday we heard that there had been a wreck off the coast of Spain, 600 on board and all but 30 rescued. You see, we get news messages from England everyday by telegraph.
We had a nice time at Aden. We stopped there about six hours. There wasn’t very much of particular interest to see, but we went ashore anyway and took a ride in a taxi. We rode for almost three hours and it only cost us about a dollar apiece. It’s an awfully hot place. The city is in a bay with high rocky mountains on three sides, and the sun just burns down. But riding like we did was very nice and refreshing after that hot trip thru the Red Sea. Almost all the cars there are American made – Fords, Maxwells, Dodges and also a couple of Essexes. The city is almost entirely dependent for its water supply on tanks and wells in the mountains where the water drains when it rains. Then it is pedaled out thru the town in tanks drawn by camels. We went up to see some of these tanks, up a winding road and thru several long tunnels hewn out of solid rock. The car had about all it could do to get up there, but it was very interesting to see.
I’ll try to write once more from Bombay if we stay there any time at all, but if you don’t hear from me in a couple of days, you will know that we on up the Persian Gulf.
Carlton Hotel, Bombay
September 21, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
Still in Bombay but everything is turning out fine. We are all set to leave tomorrow, Friday, on the fast steamer and will be in Basrah about the 30th. Hakkens got their passports in shape and we all succeeded in getting passage on the fast steamer, so we will have a merry crowd on the way up, as the Van Esses and Pennings will also be on that boat. They arrived in Bombay yesterday and we all had dinner together at the Mission House last night. The Mission House is a place where missionaries can stay when coming thru Bombay, but as it was full when we came we had to go to a hotel. But the person in charge of the Mission House invited us over there for dinner last night, all together and we had a very nice time. The Hakkens have been doing quite a little shopping here, buying a lot of furniture and dishes, etc. You can get that stuff much cheaper here than any place else if you go to the native bazaars. You can get almost anything imaginable in these bazaars and if you bargain with them long enough you can get some things for almost nothing. They ask you a high price first – you offer them about half or sometimes even a fourth of what they ask and just so you hold your own they will come down alright. Mike bought a pair of carpet slippers there. At first they asked him seven rupees (a rupee is about 29 cents U.S. money) and he bargained them down to two and a half. Some of them are strictly one price places though and won’t bargain with you, but even so they have good stuff very cheap.
I also did some shopping. I had two white drill suits made to order for 12 rupees a piece. Hakken got six of them. That is about all most missionaries wear, especially in the hot season. That’s the way you get all your clothes here. You go off to one of these tailor shops, pick the goods you want, they take your measurements and if you are very much in a hurry they will have the suit ready in four hours. That’s service, isn’t it? And it’s good stuff, too, and good workmanship, as good as any tailor at home does it. And think of getting a suit for 12 rupees or less than four dollars. I wish I had waited and gotten more of my clothes here. I got a better bargain than Hakken. He ordered them at the first shop he came to and got them for 15 rupees. I also bought a dozen socks for five rupees, part of them for six annas and the rest at eight (16 annas = one rupee – or one anna is equal to a little less than two cents) and a couple of shirts for four and a half rupees.
We got all our money changed into India money – that is used in Arabia, too, and we all ran around as if we were bankers. I had about $230 changed and got nearly 800 rupees for it, and the others had still more. It surely costs the Board a lot to send missionaries out like this - $145 to cross the Atlantic, 72 pounds or about $325 from England to Bombay, and now about $90 from here to Basrah, besides hotel bills, etc. It runs right up to seven hundred dollars, besides the outfit allowance. It is no wonder they can’t give the missionaries very big salaries.
I am having some of my pictures developed here and can get them this afternoon and will send some of them to Crissy and I will ask her to let you see them, and then you can fight it out yourselves how you want to divide them. If there are some that you both want or if you both want all of them, let me know and I’ll have some more printed. Maybe I’ll get a developing outfit of my own in Basrah if it doesn’t cost a lot and get it done.
I am feeling fine and growing fat. It’s a fact. I haven’t had a chance to get next to a scale but I can notice it on my belt. I wear it about one inch and a half looser than usual. I suppose this will be the last letter before I get to Basrah so you mustn’t expect any more letter for at least a couple of weeks, because it will be at least a week going up and a week longer for the letter to come back, see?
Your loving son and brother,
S. S. Varsova
September 23, 1922
Dear Folks at Home:
Even tho I just mailed a letter to you day before yesterday, I don’t suppose you’ll get this until at least a week later, because it has to wait for the next mail steamer from Bombay. We are making a couple of stops on the way, something we didn’t know about until today, and tomorrow mail will be taken off the boat again.
We are stopping for just a little while at Karachi tomorrow morning – that is right in the upper corner of India on the coast, so that will be the last we see of India. We have a pretty nice boat, small – only a little over a thousand tons, only a tenth as large as the Kaiser-i-Hind – but very good accommodations. It rolls around quite a bit even tho the sea is quite calm. I don’t believe I’d care to be on it in rough seas. I felt a little sea sick last night, but forgot about it and feel fine today
Yours lovingly, George
The S. S. Varsova
Writing many years later, in 1957, Grampa Gerrit Gosselink recalled that day: “When you left for Basra the first time, I remember how we parted on the Toonerville platform, and in the first letter we received from you, you apologized for not giving me a goodbye kiss. I answered that I liked your attitude better – your calm devotion to your call of duty, without any outward demonstration. I am also proud of Christine when I think of her willingness of letting George go for three years and remaining true to him.”
Mrs. Eben E. Alcott, a member of the Women’s Board of the Reformed Church of America, became something of a patron of all the young missionaries headed out to the Arabian Mission. When Mother and Dad were appointed full time missionaries in 1929, Mrs. Alcott gave them beds for their house in Basrah.
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voyage.html; 21 November 2012