Rewind: When hand-written letters defined romance

“Dear Consolata, nothing compares to you. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. I will love you until Lake Kivu dries up. My love for you is a million times taller than Kigali City Towers and a million times sweeter than Inyange juice. Every time I think about you, I see the beauty of Kigali city and the 1000 hills all wrapped in you"

“Dear Consolata, nothing compares to you. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. I will love you until Lake Kivu dries up. My love for you is a million times taller than Kigali City Towers and a million times sweeter than Inyange juice. Every time I think about you, I see the beauty of Kigali city and the 1000 hills all wrapped in you.   I feel homeless without you. You’re the shelter of my life.  All my joy is go to all corners of the world, dive to the deepest point of the sea and back just for you.”

Does this ring a bell in your head? Probably yes.  Nothing beat the romance and emotion of a handwritten love letter back in the days. 

 

  Ruth Uwizeye remembers the high school days of handwritten love letters with nostalgia. Now married, Uwizeye reminisces the days of handwritten love letters with excitement and grin of a teenager. 

 

 “It brings back the sweet memories and innocence of teenage love,” she says as she laughs out loud.  

 

Like Uwizeye, for many people the handwritten love letter brings back the school memories. 

The anxiety and waiting for a reply to the letter you sent to your boyfriend or girl friend… The post man would deliver the letters every Friday at general assembly. The suspense was like someone waiting for a visa to heaven.  Those were the days of the sweet handwritten love letter. 

 “Letters from lovers during high school were one of the best things those days. We always competed to see who got letters often and in the most creative way. We would read letters over and over and each time it would feel like it was the first time.”

But Uwizeye, says that the handwritten love letters days are gone and the trend will probably not make a comeback.

 

“It would probably be strange to send those letters today unless it is a job application letter and even if you did, few would understand the symbolism; technology has made it easy and faster but at the same time taken away the sweet old handwritten love letter.”

To the love of my life,  the letter would begin, it has been a month since I last saw you but my mind has not drifted away from you. 

For some writers, this would continue with details about their sleepless nights, hours of ‘heartache’ and hints about undying love that only death could bring to an end.

  Somewhere in the letter would be a line like “I can’t say how every time I put my arms around you, I feel like I’m home. Forever is a long time, but with you; it will seem like a day”.

The letter would at some point feature a poem borrowed from a poetry book and edited for the reader’s clarity. The poem would have words like “roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet…”

Before conclusion, there would be dedications to the reciever; love ballads that would be intended to wring all the right emotions out of the reciever of the letter.

If the writer’s hand writing was not very good, he would draft the letter and have someone with a better handwriting do the final copy.

  It would be folded creatively and if you could afford it, a little perfume would be sprayed into the envelope to please the reader’s smelling senses. The really artistic ones would go ahead and stick a dry rose at the bottom of the letter.

For people seriously apart from each other, it would be taken to the post office and it would take about two or three weeks to get to the reader and another two weeks to get a reply. Love was patient then, wasn’t it?

Whether read in a secret hide out or in-front of friends, the letters brought pleasure and were kept away for solace at a later date.

Fast forward 2014, the communiqué is now in form of text, Face book or Whatsapp messages, usually abbreviated and with no artistic input. And it doesn’t advocate for patience. 

Love letters have become a casualty of technology’s break through with the increasing penetration of mobile phones and the internet.

  Louisa Esther Glatthaar, a German intern living in Rwanda is one of those who still sends letters. For her, letters are special as they are somewhat personal because of the time taken to write and post them - and because of their individuality.

“Even with emails and text messages, I still write letters to close friends because they feel personal and stand out from what everyone does.  Few things beat the feeling of receiving and reading a letter. If somebody means a lot to me, I write to them.”

For Glatthaar, letters stand out because not everyone can do it. 

“Everyone sends emails and texts but very few go to the trouble of writing and sending letters, that’s why they will never fade away.”

   A common character among the old timers and the young generation is their need to have things done fast and their love for fast responses and feedback.  Alex Gasasira thinks that is probably the reason why hand written love letters are unpopular among the young generation.

“The letters were a phenomenon back in the day probably because they were the only option available for communication and because they were a medium that could help us say stuff we were too shy to say in person. Had there been other options, they would probably have been popular too. They were the only available means and we milked the opportunity dry.”

Gasasira confesses to writing some and even paying a classmate to write the final draft of the letter as his hand writing was not very pleasing for a female eye.

“We wrote letters every week to girls in different schools expressing our undying love for them. There was no other way to reach them. Letters spoke volumes compared to text messages and messages on various social platforms we use these days. They were heartfelt,” he says.

  Though she doesn’t write letters, Chantal Musaniwabo, a student at University of Rwanda, College of Education, says she would be flattered on receiving one.

“The writer of the letter would stand out because of his creativity and guts to do it. Though they would probably have to deliver it by hand, as I do not even have a post office address, it would make them stand out. The last time I received a letter that was not official is more than five years ago and though there was no romance in it, I still have it, I guess there is something sentimental about letters.”

  Our children will probably never understand hand written love letters, their importance, the work and creativity that went into them or the patience required in sending and receiving responses. They served their time and purpose, held people together then and made memories. 

What are your memories of hand written love letters?

I remember i would write a letter and send it to my boyfriend with some love song dedications. And when the communication minister called my name out everytime  I had a letter , I would jump. I loved letters. 

                                                                                               Jane Kanziga

You know, sending a letter to a girl when she was at school was slowly walking into her heart. She would love it and show it her friends and before you knew it., you were dating. 


Junior  Claude Mutangana

I never used to write letters.  I never had many friends so it would be of no use to write to someone. If I wanted to talk to someone I got in touch with them. 
Frida Aine

Love letters made a lot of sense because someone would take time to write it all. Today they just copy and paste what they find on the internet or what some other person has sent them and that’s it. No one means what they say. 
Sheena Rina Twomuhangi 

I hated the day letters stopped working. These days, if you write a letter, you can get yourself dumped within a minute. I really loved letters and they will  always run in my head. 
Rachel Nabiranda 

Nothing will ever beat letters. Those little things would spin the girls’ heads around and get my point home. I just loved them because they were convenient and always got me the ladies.
Benjamin Kinobe

What the famous wrote

Napoleon to Josephine

“Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory of your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude. The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart. When, free from all solicitude, all harassing care, shall I be able to pass all my time with you, having only to love you, and to think only of the happiness of so saying, and of proving it to you?”

Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz

“Dearest — my body is simply crazy with wanting you — If you don’t cometomorrow — I don’t see how I can wait for you — I wonder if your body wants mine the way mine wants yours — the kisses — the hotness — the wetness — all melting together — the being held so tight that it hurts — the strangle and the struggle.”

Beethoven to his “Immortal Beloved”

“Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, Be calm-love me-today-yesterday-what tearful longings for you-you-you-my life-my all-farewell. Oh continue to love me-never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”

 George H. Bush to Barbara Bush

“This should be a very easy letter to write — words should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement, but somehow I can’t possibly say all in a letter I should like to. I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you...”

Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan

“The important thing is I don’t want to be without you for the next 20 years, or 40, or however many there are. I’ve gotten very used to being happy and I love you very much indeed.”

Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas

“Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don’t understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all. Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world. I wish that when we met at Rouen we had not parted at all. There are such wide abysses now of space and land between us. But we love each other.”

Henry VII to Anne Boleyn

“But if you please to do the office of a true loyal mistress and friend, and to give up yourself body and heart to me, who will be, and have been, your most loyal servant, (if your rigor does not forbid me) I promise you that not only the name shall be given you, but also that I will take you for my only mistress, casting off all others besides you out of my thoughts and affections, and serve you only. I beseech you to give an entire answer to this my rude letter that I may know on what and how far I may depend. And if it does not please you to answer me in writing, appoint some place where I may have it by word of mouth, and I will go thither with all my heart. No more, for fear of tiring you.”

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