we take the dogs out for a walk?" I asked my father, since he was
staying in his office from the coffee and rubber factory that day.
"Yes you may, but don’t go near the Kampong," (Indonesian
village) my father warned us.
We promised, and so Henny and I took our two dogs, Tommy and Hekkie, out
for a long walk.
We had lots of fun with them but our promise was quickly forgotten. When
we came near the Kampong, Tommy, our fox-terrier, killed two fowls and
then ran away.
Henny and I stood still and stared at the men walking in our direction.
They looked very angry and shouted at us. They walked farther in the direction
of our house.
We followed them with Hekkie. My father had also just arrived and so had
The Indonesians went straight to my father and threatened him. They started
fighting: yes, with their fists.
My mother ran inside and came back with her purse. She paid them generously
for the killed fowls. Very wise, she saved us all from a precarious situation.
I am still very proud of her action.
These Indonesians came from the island Madura.
The Madurese have a bad reputation for being very quick-tempered.
There are millions of Madurese in East Java, where we lived. My father
liked them very much; he always said that they were very honest and hard
workers as well.
My mother was very angry, especially with me since I was the eldest. My
father didn’t say much but I saw him thinking.
And yes, there it was! A couple of days later he said: "So tomorrow
both of you get up very early; you are going to gather coffee cherries."
Although my mother felt Henny was too young, my father decided that we
both had to go.
The next morning we stood in line with the Indonesian women and girls:
two Dutch coffee-bean gatherers! So we each received a basket for the
red and ripe cherries. I told Henny to do her utmost best so that we could
buy some sweets at the Chinese shop on the plantation.
We started happily but we were both dead tired when we all went back to
In the afternoon we received, together with the other gatherers, our pay.
Henny and I each received one and half cents: we were both very disappointed.
So much hard work and then receiving so little!
"I hope that from now on both of you realise how hard these people
have to work for little money and that losing their fowls means a lot
to them. So let this be a lesson for you," my father said to us.
It was indeed a lesson that Henny and I have never forgotten!
When I came back to school after my holidays, our teacher told us to write
down what we had done during our vacation. So I wrote the above story,
about being a coffee berry gatherer.
The teacher gave me an eight (ten was the highest). Underneath my story
she had written: "And a ten for your wise father".
gatherers waiting for their pay