Back in school
I had a great admiration for my mother in those first months that we were in the Netherlands. She found an accommodation for the four of us in Haarlem, she arranged and filled in all the papers she needed to get a small pension that was arranged in Amsterdam. She found a good primary education school for Henny and Jansje.
She arranged it for Jansje that she could go to Denmark for three months to build up some strength, because my youngest sister was still quite apathetic. And my sister Henny went to Switzerland for six weeks, the Swiss air did her a world of good.
With me a few things went wrong, my last school year in Indonesia I was at the end of the first class from the MULO, an advanced elementary education, but the Education-department in Haarlem sent me to the second class of the HBS ( former Dutch High school) telling me that I was old and intelligent enough to go to the HBS. I told my mother that this was too much for me, besides I had gone through so much during the Japanese occupation, and then the death of my father. But nobody really listened, I was told not to be so lazy. That really made me feel sad and I missed my father more than ever. And of course I failed with four unsatisfactory marks at the end of that school year. But I am not saying that I didn’t learn anything, on the contrary, and I liked most of my teachers. But German for instance, all the girls and boys in my class understood German, Holland had been occupied five years long by the Germans, but I had a lot of trouble trying to catch up with the others, while the teacher ignored me completely.
Haarlem was a big town in my eyes, I had to try to get used to the Dutch way of living and indeed the school was the best way to find out all about this.
Time to tell about my nice Ataka shoes. It was on one of those afternoons that I took a walk through the city while looking at the shop-windows, when all of a sudden it started raining. I decided not to shelter from the rain, but just walk home. And there it happened, the soles of my nice Ataka shoes were falling apart, it seemed that they were made of cardboard. I took the “shoes” off and continued my walk home barefooted.
People started looking and staring at me and then all of a sudden I started laughing, it was like walking through the rain in Indonesia. The next day my mother had to buy a new pair of shoes for me, more suitable for the Dutch climate.
At the end of 1946 Henny and I learned ice-skating. Henny learned it much quicker than I did, but she was also better than I in Indonesia with roller-skates. We had lots of fun and we didn’t feel the cold either, although our Ataka coats were not warm enough, that is why my mother had filled us up with some newspapers underneath our coats. She gave us some money so we could buy each a hot chocolate milk, that was real fun.
The place where we lived in Haarlem was in a very nice neighbourhood and not far from town either. But on the inside it was slightly different and looked quite shabby but since we were poor there was very little my mother could do about the interior. My mother was very often angry with the Japanese who had stolen everything from her home in Sumber Sewu, all the beautiful things she and my father had collected during their marriage.
What I didn’t like was the cold in the house, since my two sisters and I slept upstairs we even had to put newspapers on top of our blankets, it was really freezing in the attic.
In the morning we had to boil ice cold water to wash ourselves, before going to school.
And once a week the four of us went to a special bathing establishment to take a shower.Yes, life in the Netherlands was so very different from what I was used to in Indonesia.
Most of all I missed my father and I missed “my” country.
We visited my grandparents, my mother was so terribly happy when she saw her mother and father back again. Those were the happy moments.
My grandparents also stayed with us for a couple of days, and how wonderful for my mother to have her parents with her and how lovely it was to see them together again after all those years.
Pity my grandparents had never visited us in Indonesia before the war!