Teachers I Remember - Part Two
Elementary school years
In the first part of Teachers I Remember I mentioned the nuns, de nonnetjes of Makassar, then Tineke and Dirk Hein, as well as my cousin Peter during my camp years. I only vaguely remember my first day of school--real school, I mean, not kindergarten with the nuns--when I was sent off by my mother with lei en griffel, slate and stylus, I kid you not, to face the outside world alone and learn how to deal with it like a young knight with shield and sword. I have no memory of my first grade teacher and remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Christensen only because she was the mother of my first flame, ash-blond-cute but somewhat boring Tineke.
In third grade, however, we had Mevrouw Jansen and she provided an important lesson. By that time Dirk Hein had disappeared from my life--sucked away by the circumstance that his father was an employee of the company who had signed his contract in the Netherlands--and for that reason was paid in Dutch guilders and had special arrangements which allowed for a paid six month sabbatical every three years in the mother country. People who had signed their contract in America had similar concessions--but the local folks, like my Dad, who had signed their contract with the same company locally, in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, got paid in local currency and of course got no special deal on spending time in the mother country, all the way on the other side of the world.
At first that was not a problem--for who'd want to spend their vacation in a cold place like Holland rather than in a lush tropical climate? We would go to Bandoeng to visit my grandparents, for instance--and Bandoeng has a climate just like San Francisco, as it is situated on the plateau of the Preanger mountains. Here is a description:
Bandung or Bandoeng , city (1990 pop. 2,058,122), capital of Java Barat prov., W Java, Indonesia, near the Tangkuban Prahu volcano. Formerly the administrative and military headquarters of the Netherlands East Indies, it is the third largest city in Indonesia, an industrial hub, a famous educational and cultural center, and a tourist resort known for its cool, healthful climate. Founded by the Dutch in 1810, Bandung became important with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th cent. Bandung is a textile center and the site of the country's quinine industry, which uses the cinchona grown on nearby plantations. Other manufactures include ceramics, chemicals, rubber products, aircraft, and machinery. The city is the seat of a textile institute, the Pasteur Institute, a technological institute, several universities, and a nuclear research center. Nearby is the Malabar radio station, one of the most powerful in SE Asia. The Bandung Conference of African and Asian nations, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Nonaligned Movement , was held there in 1955.
But as time went on, after the war and the transfer of souvereignty in 1949, local currency changed from colonial guilders, every bit as good as Dutch guilders, to the new Indonesian rupiah--which never seemed to stop devaluating. By the fifties this had driven our family, like so many others in the same boat, to the edge of poverty. It was only by the utmost effort that my parents were able to make ends meet and still have enough rupiahs left over to finance the costly trip back to the Netherlands. Here's a link regarding the roepiah--now rupiah:
Like I said, that parity with the gulden, (aka the Dutch guilder or florin, now replaced by the euro) did not last long:
2 History of the Indonesian Rupiah The Japanese money was supposed to have the same value as the old Dutch money, with the old money to be recalled from use, but the invaders soon printed excessive quantities of money, and it was quickly apparent that hyperinflation was in progress, and hence people hoarded the Dutch money. By the end of the War, the Japanese had caused a massive increase in the paper money supply, which was 230 million gulden pre-war, to several billion post-war. This, plus the actions of the post-war Dutch administration, caused massive inflation and damage to the stability and economy of the country.
For this reason it seemed that many families had to find some manner of supplementing their income one way or another.
The Dümpel family who lived behind us on Djati Avenue for instance, were good at making all kinds of fruit sirops, which they sold to everyone in Sungei Gerong. My favorite had to be asem stroop, tamarind syrop--and even more the residue of the product after it had been cooked and drained of most of its liquid to leave a lukewarm, thick sludge that Winnie Dümpel used to bring over to our house to share with me--for we were both addicted to such deliciously sour stuff. Like those very young citrus fruit we had growing in our side yard which she and I loved to chew and suck on to see who could eat the most in the shortest time.
The Dümpels were in origin a Swiss family that had settled in the Dutch East Indies and become thoroughly enculturated, like so many other families of diverse European or Asian origin. Many Chinese families too became culturally Dutch as well--speaking Dutch and sending their kids to Dutch schools. We also were friends with the Kloss family--German in origin--not a good thing during the Second World War, of course, but in truth they were as Dutch as anyone by then.
Our own family had Austro-Croatian blood as well as Chinese among its many strains, through the ancestry of my great grandmother Antje Caesarine Toeteman, who was married to the first of our paternal line to be born in the East Indies--in the town of Padang in 1856--and who carried the cumbersome name of Bruno Otto Adriaan Joan Thomas Johan van Voorthuijsen. I will have to pick up on this thread some other time for BOAJThJ or 'Boa' as I think of this great-grandfather of mine for short, must have been a facsinating character of many ups and downs, but who somehow managed to become the pater familas of our entire large Dutch East Indies family branch. Like so many of our ancient ancestors, he just loved to procreate. The Chinese blood I referred to came from my great grandmother Antje's mother, who was born a Chang from Batavia.
I could not find any specific reference to Changs on the net, but did find a really great video on old time Batavia:
as well as the following very long but interesting and highly relevant website, which I still have to read in its entirety:
Back to Sungei Gerong now. My own father was able to supplement his regular income as a chemist with the SVPM, the Standard Vacuum Petroleum Maatschappij, a Dutch-American hybrid, by working at night in the dark room he had initially set up in our home as a hobby, but then managed to convert into a part time job as photographer at birthday parties, weddings and similar events in Sungei Gerong--as well as the convenient local place to have your own snapshots developed and printed--to avoid the long trip across the river to Palembang.
Before I go on, here is some history on the NKPM and SVPM--now part of Pertamina, the state owned oil company:
- US tried to come into Indonesia but the government of Netherlands prevented it. However, because of US pressure to Den Haag, finally US and Netherlands established joint ventures, namely SHELL and NIAM (Jambi, Bunyu and North Sumatera).
- Standard Oil joined and was divided into Standard Oil of New Jersey (established American Petroleum Subsidiary Company) and Nederlandsche Koloniale Petroleum Maatschappij (NKPM).
- NKPM discovered field of Talang Akar (Sumsel), the biggest field in the East Indies.
- Established Sungai Gerong Refinery located across Kilang Plaju Refinery owned by Shell.
- 1933 Standard Oil of New Jersey that acquired concession of Java and Madura merged its entire business into Standard Vacuum Petroleum Maatschappij (SVPM) in the form of joint venture. There was marketing division of Standard Oil of New York presently bearing the name of Mobil Oil. This merger status was changed into PT Standard Vacuum Petroleum (Stanvac) in 1947.
- 1922 Standard Oil of California entered Kalimantan and Irian Jaya.
- 1928 Gulf Oil (AS) entered North Sumatera.
- 1929 Standard Oil of California entered North Sumatera. 1933 Standard Oil of New Jersey that acquired concession of Jawa and Madura merged its entire business into Standard Vacuum Petroleum Maatschappij (SVPM) in the form of joint venture. There was marketing division of Standard Oil of New York presently bearing the name of Mobil Oil.
- The SPVM merger status was changed into PT Standard Vacuum Petroleum (Stanvac) in 1947.
OK, now back to that dark room: I soon became my Dad's assistent-- for he not only taught me how to do rough carpentry work, but also the more refined work with light and chemicals in that magical place called the dark room. After he got me my first Kodak box camera I ventured out on my own and made my very first own money by going to the birth day parties of my friends, neighbors and classmates as the photographer. It was not my first job, but it was the first enterprise I engaged in that actually paid me some money to supplement my pocket allowance of five rupiahs a month--which was only too quickly spent on ijsjes en frisdrankjes, ice cream and sodas at the Club, de Soos, which offered three flavors of ice cream: vanilla, chocolat and strawberry, vanille, chokolade en aardbeien--and as far as I can remember, they had three kinds of soda: Coca Cola, Orange Crush and Ginger Ale.
I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating that my first job had been to pick up stones and pebbles from the grounds around the Japanese camps on Java. I was just two at the time and my cousin Peter must have been four--and whatever the motivation of the Japanese camp commander may have been, it taught me discipline and kept me out of trouble--while my mother, like all other inmates, was assigned duties in camp kitchens or other places that required work.
But back to Mevrouw Jansen, a wonderful, gemoedelijke, gemütliche, easy going East Indies Dutch lady from across the river Kommering, practically enemy territory to a kid like myself, for it was the domain of that Anglo-Dutch rival of the SVPM, the BPM or Bataafse Petroleum Maatschappij, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, or to call it by its proper name, Koninklijke Olie--of which Shell was essentially the oil tanker transportation component.
The Kommering was a small muddy tributary of the grand but equally muddy Musi river. Hardly anyone ever visited across the Kommering--except when your teacher is a Mevrouw Jansen who happened to live on one side and work on the other. There were two entirely different company cultures on opposite sides of the Kommering.
On the side of Pladjoe (or Pladju these days) the BPM owned a concession that was steeped in very formal Anglo-Dutch traditions of hierarchy and class--whereas the Dutch-American SVPM breathed in an atmosphere of far greater egalitarian values and relaxed life styles. Once a year there might be a shared event where school kids were mutually invited to visit the other side, but the one time I had the opportunity to go to a play to be performed in Pladjoe I had brought home a report card with one failing mark--and was grounded for that reason. It ruined my entire school year--but I sure did my damnedest never, ever to bring home another failing mark. But then Mevrouw Jansen came to the rescue with an invitation to me and Lex Dorleyn, the third grade class mate who had taken the place of Dirk Hein as my regular buddy--but who never really came up to the same level--to visit her.
Here is a bit of couleur locale about PLADJU, Shell Tankers, Eagle Oil Tankers, Anglo Saxon Tankers, Sumatra-PLADJU is one of those places where, if you worked for Shell Tankers, you knew about - for the uninitiated it was to be found after 24 hours steaming (overnight anchorage half way) through the Sumatran jungle on a pirate infested river until the refinery was reached just down river from Palembang
f you click on this map, you will get information on the battle of Palembang, in which my Dad was active as a civilian helping in the task of burning the refineries before the Japanese could take them--meanwhile sending my Mom and me to stay with my grandparents in Bandoeng, Java, which it was hoped, in vein, would be safer...
Now back to my story: even without knowledge of those Musi river pirates, going to Pladjoe was a great adventure for third graders. One had to go by one of the company yachts, either the Koningin Juliana or the Prinses Beatrix. It was about a half hour ride to enemy territory--but it felt to our young imaginations like we were on a truly exciting quest. Lex and I were heavily into mediaeval lore at the time and expected all kinds of dragons to come at us any moment. Of course we knew better, but kids like to go with what entertainment their imagination offers--and in those early days of human civilization we had no television, no computers and certainly no computer games. Not even Pacman--I kid you not.
We spent a wonderful day in the enemy camp, being treated by Mrs. Jansen and her excellent cook to a royal feast of a meal, walked around the gloriously shaded avenues of Pladjoe with its Dutch colonial architecture, but I have to say our visit to the local swimming pool was the most memorable event.
Of course we had a company swimming pool as well in Sungei Gerong, right next to our school building, but it was quite a different place: smaller and more civilized, fully tiled and more compact. The Pladjoe pool was huge and untiled, more resembling a kind of lake harnessed into service as a pool. We met quite a number of kids our age there whose curiosity about us matched our own about them. We almost looked at each others as alien beings.
One of them was the son of the Administateur of Pladjoe, what we called the General Manager in Sungei Gerong. But while our General Manager lived in a swank Texas style ranch house surrounded by endless lawns for golf that almost hid it from view, the BPM Administrateur lived in what looked to us almost like a palace, or rather (had we known about them) like on of those antebellum plantation dwellings of the Old South, clearly visible from the river as you approached Pladjoe, on a hilly rise with impeccably manicured lawns where uniformed servants would serve tea to the residents and their guests. I was very impressed. The kid impressed me even more when he told me he had been born in Quito, the capital of Equador, where his dad had been assigned at the time. I had never even heard of Quito, or Ecuador--but there was an air of mystery in those names.
Like I said, however, they were as curious about me and life on the other side of the Kommering river as I was about them and we ended up having a wonderful time. I only remember one other kid, who was introduced to me as someone with the last name of Van Karnebeek, whose first name I never learned--because they always teased him calling him Karnemelk, which means Skim Mil--and because he had a somewhat crooked middle toe which the others also kept joking about. Once acquainted, we had a great time. Unfortunately, the day came to an end much sooner than we had hoped and we returned home on the company yacht once more. I guess the lesson I learned was that 'the enemy' is never as bad as you imagine them to be--a valuable lesson to a third grader who had just survived the camps on Java a few years earlier.
I have to confess there were darker sides to the social situation even in generally egalitarian easy going Sungei Gerong, for racial attitudes were far from benign. I remember one day when we still were living in het Nieuwe Kamp, the newly built section of town and had to walk quite a distance to school and the swimming pool next to it, that on our way we came across an exited group of kids that just returned from there with the news that Indonesia had become independent and inlanders, 'native people' would now be allowed to use our pool! Maxima calamitas!
The prospect was so terrifying to us that we too made an abrupt and tearful turnaround and headed back home. That was in August 1949. Kids in the deep south could not have been more disheartened by such news then we were at the time. Again, it was the fear of the unknown. What did we know? What could we have known at the time? As it turned out, no natives were ever allowed in the pool, simply because no natives, other than servants, were allowed ever to live in Sungei Gerong, or Pladjoe for that matter, I am sure. Everyone that came in and out of Sungei Gerong had to have a little round badge with name picture and ID number on it, to be worn at all times.
The badges were color-coded according to occupation. Office workers had white badges, family members of emplyees had blue, lab workers yellow, refinery plant workers red, and so on. I may have mixed some of these colors up, but only my Dad would be able to notice this, so allez, let's not be too squeemish in such matters of minor historical accuracy. However, to substantiate my own recollections, here is an account from an interesting site on the long history of Palembang that kind of gives you an idea of these two oil concession places as well:
Plaju and Sungai Gerong form an enclave, a separate, fenced garden city with wide streets, green strips, and shadowy trees. There are large houses some of which were built by the Dutch, but others by the Americans whose houses were, however, prefabricated. These are extensive residential complexes with every conceivable facility such as swimming pools, tennis courts, shops, and hospital. Since Indonesia took over the Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij and the Nederlandse Petroleum Maatschappij, these have been renamed P.T. Shell Industries and P.T. Stanvac Indonesia, which still continued to be run by European management for a long time afterwards. In 1952, one sixth of the employees at Plaju were still European and there were only 170 salaried Indonesians. In 1970 both companies were completely absorbed into the Indonesia state-run company P.N. Pertamina. The refineries are now under wholly Indonesian management and many members of staff come from Java and other parts of Sumatra (Jackson 1973: 10). New residential complexes for lower- ranking employees have now been built. The whole complex is surrounded by fences and there are check-points at the gates for the company security service.
You may also refer back to http://forthuyse.googlepages.com/etymologicalexplorations2 for a related story on Mijn Eerste Ruimtevaart, My First Space Trip--which also deals with the time we lived on Refinery Avenue en the tense political climate at the time.
It was only a few years later, well after the 1949 Souvereiniteitsoverdracht, that dreaded transfer of souvereigty--after hundreds of years of Dutch colonial administration--that the first autochtonous or 'inlandse' company employees of sufficient rank began to be assigned houses in Sungei Gerong and thus aqcuired access to facilites like the swimming pool, the tennis courts and de Soos, Societeit or club.
By then the fear of terrifying native guerillas and murderers had worn thin and our first truly Indonesian neigbors that eventually moved in across the street were looked at with some curiosity, but no longer with fear or hostility. The servants never were part of the equation, of course, for they generally lived a kind of invisible existence, socially speaking--something that was true even in non-racially mixed societies. Servants everywhere always were and still are ignored for the most part. Which is not to say that close relationships were not possible with them, for they often were considered almost like a part of the family. But even in 'egalitarian' Sungei Gerong there were limits.
Let's face it folks, even in that highly egalitarian America there were limits as well--back then, in the fifties, before the new age of enlightenment made its entry in the mid sixties, for reasons that I have documented elswhere.
See for instance: http://forthuyse.googlepages.com/therootsofenlightenment as well as http://forthuyse.googlepages.com/frompadmasambavatobarackobama and http://forthuyse.googlepages.com/padmasambhavatoobama-parttwo
The strange part is that probably the majority of 'Europeans' that lived in Sungei Gerong were actually born in the East Indies, like myself and all of my family--and had various degrees of 'native' or 'inlands' blood, like I and all of my family. As Indische Nederlanders, East Indies Dutchmen and women, we were in an especially difficult situation after the war: culturally we were Dutch, spoke Dutch, considered Holland our mother country and our fatherland. But we had lived for generations in the colonies, in the fabulous East Indies, and felt quite at home there. Then the time came when we had to make a choice once Indonesia became independant: to remain Dutch or to sign up as 'Warga Negara' --citizens of the new republic.
Out of hundreds of family members on both my mothers and fathers side, only one of my mother's brothers, my uncle Ferdinand Cooke, or Oom Ferdy as we called him, became an Indonesian citizen. He did it mostly because he had an important, well paid job as the director of the harbor of Batavia, renamed Djakarta by then--which he would have lost if he had stayed Dutch--and he had a very large family to support with over a dozen kids--all by the same wife too! As it turned out, the anti-Dutch sentiment at the time proved to be more than he or his family could handle and they were more or less forced to request reinstatement of their Dutch citizenship so they too could return to the mother country. The relatively few people in that category were called spijtoptanten--which literally means: remorse optioners, since they had to confess that they were truly sorry for ever having abandoned their Dutch nationality--even though the Cookes had of course been an English family before they had become Dutch--back around the time of the American Revolution--in the 18th century.
To this day, while I have great affection for Indonesians and wish them the very best, I do not like being called Dutch-Indonesian--since Indonesia as such did not exist when I was born in the Dutch East Indies. For that reason, I prefer the more accurate name of Indische Nederlander, or East Indies Dutchman. My uncle Ferdy did for a short while become a Dutch-Indonesian--just as I am now a Dutch-American, meaning a Dutchman who has become a citizen of another country, in my case America, in his case Indonesia. To me that would be the only appropriate use and meaning of the term Dutch-Indonesian--though others may well differ in this regard.
You could argue I am Dutch-Indonesian because I have Dutch and Indonesian blood, but I have also English, French, Belgian,German, Austro-Croation and Chinese blood--so where would we stop hyphenating our ancestral origins? My children would only have to add Swedish, Danish, Jewish, Polish and Russian into this mix--for their mother Nina and I did have German and Belgian in common, thank God! And that mixed up ancestry in my family was only in the last 150 years. Before 1856, there were a good 650 years of only Dutch forebears in my paternal line. I have no idea about the maternal lineages that branch out into the distant past. If you go far back enough, many, many hyphenations back, we, the entire human species I mean, all came out of Africa, in any event.
I would be amiss if I didn't mention the school bully, Rudy Jardez, who terrorized me and my other class mates in the early elementary school years--actually his primary object was my classmate Tony Klein, who suffered from bloedarmoede or anemia and had to receive blood transfusions on a regular basis. Tony may have been anemic, but he could run real fast and almost every day there was this foot race in which Tony and I would try to run home before Rudy and his gang caught up with us--which they invariably did just about by the time we reached the soccer field--the perfect place for what Rudy would usually do next: he would ignore me but tackle Tony, a pale, blond, scared little boy with a definite touch of the masochist in him--which must have appealed to a sadist like Rudy, who would pull out a Gilette razor blade and threaten to cut Tony in his tiny boyhood.
Everyone--including myself and Tony--would be mesmerized by what Rudy was doing, but it always remained just a threat, almost a ritual. We kept telling our parents about the antics of Rudy, without however daring to reveal the graphic details of what was really happenning on the soccer field--until a group of parents finally put pressure on the school to put a stop to it. Rudy then changed tactics and started to challenge every one to do what was called a kumpulan--a word that can mean band, group or gang--i.e. a sort of free for all fight where everyone was invited to gang up against Rudy, with the idea that whoever responded to the challenge would sooner or later get the bejeezus beaten out of them. My Dad finally told me that if I stood up to Rudy just one time for real, he would give me a bike. For that promise I was willing to risk life and limb and one fine day I dared to fight Rudy mano a mano when no one else stood up to his challenge. He beat me of course, but left me alone from that day on. I didn't get my bike right away--but did eventually, when yet another classmate and friend of mine, Bertje Kapsenberg left for the old country, never to return, and I inherited his beautiful, sexy little red bike, which became my prize possession. No one had a better bike in Sungei Gerong! Thus I learned that there is often a great prize coming to those who put themselves out and are willing to wait a little while for the results.
The Jardez family, who may have had Portuguese ancestors from way back, eventually migrated to Brazil. And, Rudy, if you get to read this, I hope you eventually turned into less of an asshole than you used to be as a kid.
Another presumably Portuguese Dutch family by the name of Hendriks (as probably derived in their case from Enriquez) lived right behind us on Refinery Avenue. They used to raise chickens and rabbits as a secondary income. Their son Rini Hendriks was a class mate of mine with luscious very dark skin, almond shaped eyes but otherwise very European features. He looked like he might have been a prince out of Arabian Nights, although he may more likely have had Indian blood rather than Arabian or Indonesian from the looks of it--perhaps his folks were at one time or another from Portuguese Goa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. In any event, Rini was also quite aware of his sinuous good looks and often pranced about stark naked to the obvious excitement of the maids--and not just theirs. He was never a close friend of mine, though, for one day I had seen him dry humping Dirk Hein behind the shed, de loods, during class recess, in what we called de uitspanningspauze, meaning recreational pause. They both had a very mischievous look in their shiny eyes--but since they were both fully dressed they must obviously have just been kidding. In any event I kind of avoided Rini after that--unsure of what this all meant, and not really wanting to find out.
When the time of the 1949 transfer of souvereignty had passed there were a few East Indies Dutch families in Sungei Gerong as well who decided to sign up as Warga Negara, Indonesian Citizen--the Hendrikses were among them and my mother was quite shocked when our neighbor asked if she had a good pair of scissors to lend her so she could cut the blue out of the Dutch flag--the easiest way to acquire the Red and White, or Merah Putih banner of the Republik Indonesia--for the Indonesian flag is like an upside down Polish flag and identical to the flag of Monaco. But what a distasteful asnd disrespectful thing to do--from our perspective.
These are just the random, and possibly imperfect memories of a young kid, but I am telling you this the way I remember these events as they happened in my mind. Others may have entirely different memories, but since I am the one writing mine down--I guess my menories will prevail over those who don't write down theirs. And that's an important thing to remember, for there is that magical quality that people always seem to attribute to what is written--ever since writing was invented. Het staat geschreven, it is written...is too often invoked as some kind of guarantee of truth--whereas nothing could be farther from the truth, for what is written is simply one point of view. To some extent, writers are very powerful magicians indeed, for they can influence not just all kinds of people over a long distances of time and space and for generations to come. Writers connect points-- and points of view--that others may not connect in the same way. So keep that in mind.
Some of that magic is of course lost by the ephemeral quality of the internet, which is balanced on the other hand by its immediate ubiquity and easy access all over the world. But then again, when you can see a thousand flowers bloom, or the blinking of a thousand points of light, it is easy to ignore one out of the many, an alternate translation of e Pluribus Unum--usually translated as out of many one. Word order is as important as the words themselves.
It is also important to be aware that whatever 'is written', tends to be only one out of many points of view.
If you represented all points of view, you would end up with nothing you might recognize--you would simply see or be aware of just the overwhelming and blinding source of cosmic light itself. Not even a divine Picasso could hope to paint see, or conceptualize such a picture--it would be beyond description or depiction.
Nor can one view out of many be equated with the divine point of view, for obvious reasons: God is said to be omnipresent, omniscient and all seeing. But these are matters better discussed on my interactive Socraticus web site at: http://socraticus.googlepages.com/home to which you are all invited to contribute--within reason.
I seem to be getting a bit stiff as I sit here at the Positive Resource terminal so I am going to stretch my legs and see if Brahm is getting ready yet for a coffee break. I may continue this on another page, for there are of course many more teachers and students I remember since those elementary school years and beyond--but I will leave that for another time, God willing, si Dieu le veut, Deo volente, Insha'Allah, zo God het wil...