Walking with my father
During my vacations and other free from school days, I often went walking with my father over the plantations, mostly at Sumber Sewu. Since these coffee and rubber plantations were not really small, I had to walk for several hours. Not only did I become a good walker but I really enjoyed these walks, and I became more and more interested in the plants around me, but especially the coffee trees were beautiful.
Now and then we went further than the plantation, sometimes we went right into the jungle, that was really fascinating. I remember that it felt a little damp but it was not too hot since the plantation Sumber Sewu and even more so the jungle were quite high on the ridge of the mountain the Semeru. It was very different from anything else I had ever seen before.
I felt as if we were entering a forbidden world, this was not our world but from the wild animals and birds living in the jungle far away from us the human beings.
To me the jungle had a very special smell, a bit of snakes and a lot of all sorts of plants, it made me walk very close near my father and I carefully watched my steps in this very strange world with a sort of stillness while the birds twittered at us since we had disturbed them by entering their kingdom. Some monkeys looked down on us from their high seats in the trees, I wondered what they were thinking of us.
My father asked me very softly if I liked this walk through the jungle. I just nodded, I was in an ecstacy of all that indescribable beauty around me, the whole atmosphere was so strange, so unreal to me, it felt as if I was walking through a fairy-tale-world.
At the same time I felt very proud that I was allowed to see all this, that I was able to walk through this jungle. I guess that very few planters-children went into the jungle with their fathers. I am still grateful that my father took me with him, those walks were really very special.
My life on the plantation was very different from my life in Malang. The strict but also very nice nuns have taught us a lot, we had a very good education, in many ways.
We also learnt about the complete difference between Holland and the Dutch East Indies, almost all the nuns came from Holland so they told us their Dutch stories.
Up till today I am still very grateful that I could spent my complete youth in Indonesia, it gave me at a very young age an enormous adaptability, it stimulated me to become inventive, I learnt to get on with all sorts of people, the most beautiful nature around me made me a good observer, taught me to be alert, I learnt to live in between two worlds, a European world and an Asian world. Also thanks to my parents, I was not brought up in typical European ways only, I feel that I have received the chance that has given me a certain freedom.
I have always realized how privileged I was to have grown up in Indonesia.
And in the meantime the Japanese came closer and closer, they needed the Indonesian oil for their war in China. People began to feel uneasy and very worried and some of the Dutch have left Indonesia during those days, mostly to Australia and South Africa.
War with Japan became the conversation of the day but the Japanese in Malang were polite as ever. Also my father’s barber, Matayoshi still bowed for his clients, also the Japanese photographer in Malang , I can’t remember his name, kept on bowing.
The newspapers told us that there were many Japanese spies in Indonesia, but strange enough that didn’t bother too many people, since we were convinced that our army together with the Aussies, British and Americans could keep the Japanese enemy away from Indonesia, or at least from the island Java.
We saw more Australian, British and American military in town than before and since Malang was a garrison town there were a lots of Dutch East Indies military as well.
Anyhow it gave the people from Malang the feeling that we were well protected against a possible Japanese attack.
And then there were some jokes as well; “the Japanese while shooting would always miss, because they were slit-eyed. Or the Japanese planes were made out of meat tins. Or the Japanese couldn’t run fast enough because of their crooked legs. And so on.”
In the meantime the sun was still shining and Indonesia was as beautiful as ever.