My parents and I

After four weeks sailing with the SS Prins der Nederlanden we arrived at Batavia, where we stayed for only a few days. My father was back in the country he loved; my mother and I started a completely new life.

A much smaller boat brought us to Sumatra, a beautiful island.

My father became the technical adviser on a coffee and rubber plantation, in the settlement of Benkoelen, today Benkulu. He also became a planter, studying in his free time about the way coffee and rubber had to be treated well. It was a real opportunity for him. This plantation, Suban Ajam, was a private business, a plantation with many European and Eurasian employees.

Many houses on Sumatra were built on poles - ours too - and since I was very young and still small I often crawled underneath the house, making everybody look for me. It was not always without danger of course, since there were some quite dangerous snakes and other unpleasant creatures underneath those houses.

One day some Indonesians brought my parents a orangutan. In those days there were still many of them. A big cage of bamboo bars was quickly made for the beautiful ape. A week later I managed to escape from the attention of my parents and the garden-boy, so I went straight to the orangutan. I succeeded in opening the small gate and entered the cage. I stood there, two years old, looking at the big orangutan, who looked back at me. My father, who saw me first, quickly told my mother and the garden-boy not to move. After a few minutes I had seen enough, walked out again and closed the gate. My parents were so grateful that the orangutan had not touched me that it received its freedom and was taken back into the rimboe (jungle), back home again.

One day my bed was sliding from one corner to the other of my bedroom. My parents just couldn’t get hold of me; they were sliding too. I thought that this really was a wonderful game. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was not really meant as a game though: there was an earthquake going on. The next day we saw many cracks in the roads.
My sister Henny was born in the middle of the night in December 1930. My mother was brought to a small and very primitive hospital. The Dutch doctor was drunk that night, and the Indonesian "nurse" couldn’t cut the umbilical cord, so my father had to do this.

I was very pleased with having a sister because that gave me more freedom, since the baby needed a lot of attention. I am three years and eight months older than Henny and I can still remember that she cried a lot, and very loudly too.

Uncle Pierre, my father’s brother, my aunt Miep, and cousins Tonny and Piet came from East Java to stay with us for two weeks. That of course was a really nice vacation, and I especially liked my uncle Pierre, who laughed a lot, and my cousin Tonny, who was a very nice girl.

I can’t remember everything, but I do remember the day when I started swimming. My mother and aunt were sitting out of the sun with baby Henny. The others were swimming and I just sat there watching them and calling to my father several times that I would like to swim too. After a while he was getting tired of my moaning, so he came out of the water and walked up to me. "So, young lady, you want to swim. Then you shall swim." He threw me into the water next to my uncle, and I started swimming.

It was also in Sumatra that I learnt to walk a lot; I didn’t like to be carried around. I can still remember that Sumatra was very green. Wherever we went the world looked very green.

I was seven years old when we had to leave Sumatra in 1934. There was a depression all over the world. The plantation Suban Ajam had to close down, so my father had to go to Java to find another job. My mother, Henny and I were going to Holland for a while.
My parents and I
My parents and I
My mothor and I
Father and daughters
My father and I
Baby sister Henny