West-Java

The MS Sibajak took us back home to the Dutch East Indies.

I was so lucky to celebrate my eighth birthday on board the ship, receiving many nice little presents. From the crew I received a sailor doll in a dark uniform. I and all the other children received extra attention including a lot of sweets that day. The whole journey by boat from Holland to the Dutch East Indies was one big party for us children. We passed a part of the day all together in a playroom where some very nice attendants looked after us. We also had our meals together. Everything was great fun, and at the same time we learnt a lot too, such as fretwork, drawing and other handicrafts. We did some sports as well; they really kept us busy.

One evening when my sister Henny and I looked through the porthole from our cabin, we saw the many lights of a big town. It looked beautiful with all those boats, big ones and very small ones. We saw a sea of lights. My sister Henny and I can still remember this view; it has made a deep impression on both of us.

My mother told us the name of this beautiful sight. It was Singapore, and she said that we were now approaching Java. Batavia… At last I had my father back again.

My father had taken some days off and had booked two hotel rooms in Bandung. I can’t remember the name of this hotel, but I do remember its beautiful garden. I woke up early and sat down on the steps in front of our rooms, enjoying the fresh morning fragrance and admiring all those wonderful coloured flowers, until I was called inside for breakfast. Nothing else in Bandung impressed me more than this fairy-tale garden.

We went by car to the coffee and rubber plantation, Batu Lawang. My mother liked her new home and my father was more than happy to have his family back home again.

But alas, my happiness didn’t last. I had to go to school, and to a boarding-house this time, in Tasikmalaya. There was no other solution since there was no school in the neighbourhood. I came to stay with a family called Stam. He was the headmaster of the school I had to go to. He was a sarcastic man. I didn’t understand all he said, but I could see by the look on his face that what he said was far from pleasant. Mrs Stam was very quick to anger. Now and then she just couldn’t help spanking her two daughters, Truusje and Tineke and... me of course.

I came home to Batu Lawang every second weekend, which was wonderful! We had a very nice garden and a very good cook who made the most delicious meals. And for Henny and me he made all sorts of cakes and sweets. The cook also taught me a few words of Sundanese, the language of West Java.

During one of my school vacations, my uncle Pierre came to stay with us for a few days. This visit made us all very happy. My uncle Pierre was a very charming man; it was great fun to have him around.

One long weekend we went to Pagandaran Beach on the south coast of West Java. My father asked me if I could still swim. I wasn’t sure if I could, but I said that I would love to try if he, my father, would come with me into the sea. And yes, I still could swim! It was again one of those wonderful weekends. This beach was really beautiful and Henny and I found many small shells — some really pretty ones.

My parents and Henny came to Tasikmalaya to bring me the most wonderful news. They told me that my father was being transferred to a bigger and more important plantation.

I was more than happy to leave Tasikmalaya; so indeed, this was really good news!

We were going to East Java, near Malang.

With uncle Pierre
 
Pagandaran Beach

 

M.S. Sibajak

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