Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Dutch East Indies Connection

courtesy of KITLV, circa 1910

When I started this blog in 2005 I was inspired by my journey back to my birth country - Holland. This was almost 18 years after my trip to my ancestral land in 1987 - Indonesia.

Things are accelerating now and with the help of social media the dots are connecting. American Indos are looking for relatives in Indonesia, Indonesian Indos are looking for relatives in America or Holland and Dutch Indos are looking for American relatives and it's all over the map. The world is getting smaller and smaller as we find branches of family long lost and forgotten over time. It's like a big tree with all kinds of branches and twigs going in different directions but the trunk is holding it all together. Well, the Dutch East Indies is the trunk.

Our non-Indo brothers and sisters are also searching for their ancestral connections in the Dutch East Indies. They have old documents, photos, family stories and are on the same path of finding out about their family's history. We are fascinated by Tempoe Doeloe - The Good Ol' Days. Living in the jungle, clearing out land for plantations, meddling in medicinal herbs and native superstition, engaged in a European upbringing and education yet climbing trees and swimming in the rivers and catching fireflies barefoot. We want to know what it was like growing up in the tropics.

A lot of this has also to do with searching for a cultural identity. When one's history is so complex and exotic and almost other-worldly it becomes a source of confusion and pride at the same time. I always like to use the analogy of the British in India and how they produced Anglo-Indians; the Dutch in Indonesia produced Dutch-Indonesians.

We also want to know about the dark days. The lost paradise.

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