Back to Holland

Why Indonesia? That’s a question I already heard countless times. You know what? It’s actually a good question. As a girl I was already thinking about a life abroad but actually this dream never included Indonesia. Lately this changed, because I became curious about my roots and I thought: Why not go and get some answers. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for but my father’s (kind of weird) love for Babi Pangang is becoming more understandable haha. Especially, the stories my uncle used to tell me are becoming visual.
For many people who know me and my family it’s no news that my dad and his family lived in Indonesia. Both my grandmother Marie van de Kasteele and grandfather Willem van de Kasteele were born in Indonesia. My grandmother Marie comes from a civil servants family. Her parents were together before her father moved to Indonesia to work for the Indonesian government. Her mother, my great grandmother, followed him a few years later. Before she could enter the country, she had to get married.

Foto papa en ik

Why Indonesia? That’s a question I already heard countless times. You know what? It’s actually a good question. As a girl I was already thinking about a life abroad but actually this dream never included Indonesia. Lately this changed, because I became curious about my roots and I thought: Why not go and get some answers. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for but my father’s (kind of weird) love for Babi Pangang is becoming more understandable haha. Especially, the stories my uncle used to tell me are becoming visual.

For many people who know me and my family it’s no news that my dad and his family lived in Indonesia. Both my grandmother Marie van de Kasteele and grandfather Willem van de Kasteele were born in Indonesia. My grandmother Marie comes from a civil servants family. Her parents were together before her father moved to Indonesia to work for the Indonesian government. Her mother, my great grandmother, followed him a few years later. Before she could enter the country, she had to get married.

Foto papa en ik

That is why she married him on the boat, before she even entered the country and before she was reunited with him. A while later my grandmother was born in Padang and stayed in Indonesia to become a teacher before she met my grandfather. 

2018 03 21 14.15.18
2018 03 21 14.15.18
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2018 03 21 14.15.38

My grandfather’s father moved to Indonesia to work as a merchant between Indonesia, China and Europe. He got to know his wife in Indonesia, she moved there on her own around the same time. My grandfather was sent to Holland to go to high school but came back right after he finished school to work for the oil company Shell.

My grandparents got to know each other before World War II started but both of them got placed in Japanese working camps. My grandmother with her parents and my grandfather alone. His parents moved to Holland just before the war started. Although Marie and Willem lost each other during the war, faith determined my grandparents would find each other again. Shortly after the war they indeed found  each other and immediately got married. My aunt told me they didn’t have money so my grandmother had a wedding dress made from a kelambu (a mosquito net). Personally I think this is a very romantic story and proves to me faith really does guide us through life.

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After World War II many Dutch families went back to Holland, but Willem and Marie stayed in Indonesia because my grandfather worked for Shell. My grandfather was responsible for hiring new staff when Shell started a new office. So after the office settled in, the family packed their bags and moved to a new city (Padang > Pangkal Pinang > Denpasar > Padang > Semarang > Bandung > Medan > Jakarta). Three children were born before my dad. In 1954 it was my dad’s turn. He was born in the north of Sumatra (city of Medan) but sadly as a young child he got the Polio virus. My grandmother made it her mission to make sure my dad got all the help and facilities he needed to get better. That’s why in 1960 the whole family moved to Holland (in addition, living in Indonesia, as a Dutch family, became more dangerious at that time). This was quite the move, especially for my grandmother who had go through a lot and only been to Holland for vacations.  

This is where the story of my dads side of the family in Indonesia ends. Within the whole family, only my youngest aunt went back once. The rest of the family never went back. Due to my fathers illness, he does not have very fond memories of the country. In spite of this, my curiosity had grown from hearing all the stories. For me it would be a great surprise if he would come to visit me.

2018 03 21 14.19.21

After World War II many Dutch families went back to Holland, but Willem and Marie stayed in Indonesia because my grandfather worked for Shell. My grandfather was responsible for hiring new staff when Shell started a new office. So after the office settled in, the family packed their bags and moved to a new city (Padang > Pangkal Pinang > Denpasar > Padang > Semarang > Bandung > Medan > Jakarta). Three children were born before my dad. In 1954 it was my dad’s turn. He was born in the north of Sumatra (city of Medan) but sadly as a young child he got the Polio virus. My grandmother made it her mission to make sure my dad got all the help and facilities he needed to get better. That’s why in 1960 the whole family moved to Holland (in addition, living in Indonesia, as a Dutch family, became more dangerious at that time).  This was quite the move, especially for my grandmother who had go through a lot and only been to Holland for vacations.  

This is where the story of my dads side of the family in Indonesia ends. Within the whole family, only my youngest aunt went back once. The rest of the family never went back. Due to my fathers illness, he does not have very fond memories of the country. In spite of this, my curiosity had grown from hearing all the stories. For me it would be a great surprise if he would come to visit me.

2018 03 21 14.19.21

Not only family van de Kasteele had her roots in Indonesia,  my mom’s side of the family also has roots here (the explorer blood runs in both sides of the family). My grandfather Arnold de Haak moved to Sumatra, Indonesia when he was four years old. His dad started to work for the government, he built post offices all over the island for twenty years. Every year they moved on so he lived in more than 20 places all over the island but this stopped as soon as World War II started and he got put in to a working camp with his mum until he was 18 years old and was transferred to a camp for man. This until the war finished, then the whole family moved back to Holland. 

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My mom went to Indonesia in her twenties but never to Sumatra. So last December was a special moment! Because my mom went to Sumatra with me to travel around, literally searching for old post offices. More about this memorable trip in my next story. 

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2018 03 21 13.58.04
2018 03 21 13.57.55
2018 03 21 13.58.04

It’s strange that a terrible virus determines the life of so many people. I mean, if my dad didn’t get sick my father would probably have stayed in Indonesia way longer and life would have written a whole different story. Let’s not go there because it would create a lot of ‘What if’s’.