Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Onbekend - Letter from an Unknown Soldier

ONBEKEND:   unknown, unfamiliar, unacquainted
(Grave of an unknown soldier at the Makam at Pandu, the KNIL war cemetery in Bandung)
I never knew Hans, my Opa (Grandfather).  I knew that he was a land surveyor for GMB, a tin mining Company in Billiton, Indonesia, and that later on he became a KNIL Captain.  I knew that the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific in 1941 was the last time the family existed as the close-knit “four leafed clover” as he used to call it. To me, as a man, he was completely unknown, just like many of those men whose bodies lie underneath the earth at the KNIL war cemetery in Bandung, their last word simply “Onbekend”:  Unknown, Unfamiliar, unacquainted.

There are few stories that reveal the man behind the uniform, little to hint at what passions and fears motivated him.  I found myself looking for his name at that cemetery in the large, black, leather-bound book that had been pulled out from a lone wooden cupboard. Sitting at a small rattan table under a gazebo, my fingers traced the final pages of the alphabetical list of 4000 handwritten names. I walked slowly up and down beside row upon row of white crosses, each one standing to attention with clean and militaristic uniformity on the rich emerald green grass, bordered tidily by tropical plants.   Most of those crosses detailed names, dates of birth and death, but too many did not.
They asked me whether I wished to put some flowers on a grave.  I said yes.  I said yes even though I knew his would not be there, even though I knew it made no sense to look.  I thought that by standing in the presence of those who once stood beside him, I could approximate a familiarity that that war, at least in part, had precluded.
A 68 year old letter however, written by my Opa in prison camp and found amongst more papers from the attic, has since offered me a small insight into who he really was.
It reveals the hopes, dreams, regrets and demons that he dared to bring to the surface - a surface too often precise and regimented - only after two years of soul searching, when he was finally staring death right in the face. 
Photo of a prisoner of war at Changi, Singapore at liberation – from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/changi_pow_camp.htm
“In case this letter is found after my death, I ask you, if it is possible, to enquire at the addresses on the other side of this envelope.  My sincere thanks.  Kaptain Artillerie J C P Van Bael
To Mrs Marianne Van Bael-Knoll, Bandung,  Java

In case the recipient is unknown, information might be obtained through the following:
1)      Department of War
2)      Gem. Mynb. Maatschappy, Billiton [GMB], Batavia or The Hague
3)      Mrs H Den Hartogh, Bandung, 86A Nylandweg and 123 Nylandweg  (Austrian -  spouse of ex Finance inspector, Bandung
4)      Mrs Benschop,  previous address  Pahud de Mortagnes Laan 12, Bandung 
5)      Austrian Consulate
I wonder: the letter is ten pages long. How did he manage to get hold of the materials in order to commit his desperate thoughts to paper?    "I have been - you might not have imagined this - working hard for our future during this time in captivity. I have continuously taken a prominent place among the camp commanders” the letter suggests.
Changi (Singapore) – 4th April 1944
To my dearest “Big-eyes”, Hennypen and Lottekind,
Darlings, I will not even attempt to try and write you a long epistle, telling you what has happened since our last meeting together.  Nor will I ask you the thousand and one questions that I would so much like to ask.  What is the use of that?  If this letter reaches you through someone else, then all questions and answers will be futile.  And if I, which I furiously hope, can ever give you this letter myself, then it will take us years to talk everything through - years of luck, about which I dare not think.
This letter, dear Marianne, will therefore neither be a simple conversation, nor a love letter which we have so often written in the past.   It will only be a business letter.   Circumstances, for various reasons, have dictated that I cannot put off writing it any longer.  After all, life is getting worse by the day and the situation here is getting worse also in the camp.  In fact, Droompje [my dream], this IS a love letter because only my unbelievably great, unspoken love for you and our little Blondies makes me write down all of this that I have to now, in the hope that if we really do not see each other again, these points will be able to guide and help you.
There are two copies of this letter.  One is with other papers in my small sack and in case of my death, hopefully would be found.  It is very much in question whether it would ever reach you.  The second copy I will give to my best friend in this prison camp:   Major den Militaire Luchtvaart, J C Van Den Vloodt. We have been together now for two years and have shared all of the good and the bad – he is a magnificent, civilised chap.   Honest and of good standing.  I have asked him to help you wherever possible. 
The people who I trust fully  are the following.  Please Marianne, let them be your advisors.  They will do so willingly:
  • Major Van Den Vloodt for information and advice.
  • J A C Verschure [not in the camp] who will know all about the GMB and can help you in that respect.
  • Lieutenant Colonal J C Hubach – a well known flying Doctor who lived in Bandung and is also in camp with us.  [He] will also help you and give you advice.  Also, for instance, for medical concerns.
  • Lieutenant Colonal C Waltmann  [the fourth friend in our group here].  He is from Bandung and of the Military Air force where I had been for a long time. 
Darling, the abovementioned people, and their positions, are first class and will be able to help you with everything.  Believe me,  you can go to them, which you cannot do with strangers. 
My little Popperkind [Doll],  I wish I could leave you much more .  But that doesn’t really help us now, because who has got money?  Where is the money?  What is money?  All the present chaos, especially in [Netherlands] India, is so enormous that no one can answer these questions. [Netherlands] India will be empty, robbed, and completely worthless.  Will the Government be in a position to issue salaries and pensions?  And will the insurances even pay out?   How would the interest be?  High?  Low?  Nobody can answer. But, we have to trust that the Dutch Administration in London and the Indian Administration in Australia, have prepared for the future.
If, whilst you are dealing with all of this, you sometimes find it difficult, think then that I am with you and that I, my lovely, wish to look after you so that you don’t have any worries for the three of you for the future. 
He lists various possible sources of income and assistance that Tikus should explore, including  a year’s salary from his old Company, insurance funds, savings, widow’s pension, child benefit, Captain’s salary, back-pay during the war period, Department of War, Austrian Consulate.....
He writes out figures, in remarkable detail - the sums he thinks she may be able to claim after the war.
Oh Darling, there are more and other combinations possible – nobody knows but I hope that you will help me by looking into everything.   Be brave, as I know you will be. Then you will achieve what you need to....... and then I can be at peace.
No one can tell what is going to happen in the future.  What value money will have and what would be a safe investment and what would be the cost of living.  But, my Lieve Grootoog [my dear Big-eyes], you must promise me this:
a)      Don’t ever lend out money
b)      Don’t ever borrow money yourself – that will just give you more sorrow
c)       Never spend more than your income (debt makes you poorer)
Then there will be for the three of you the big question :  What now?  How will this struggle finish?  Will Holland still be Holland and will Austria still be Austria?  If I were to be returned to you, my goal would be to take up a place in the, by then necessary, Military Police, working for the reconstruction of the Dutch Indies. If possible, I don’t want to return to Billiton.   You know that I was never very happy working there -  I had imagined our future together differently.  Also, for the sake of our dear “Klaver blaadje” [Four leafed clover].  But all of this will not happen if I don’t return.  What then?  I don’t know.   Dear little Marianne, I will only set out a few important points and I sincerely hope darling that you will do everything to handle things.  That, I will depend upon.  Take this as my last wish. 
Don’t stay in [Netherlands] India!  After you have organised everything, then go to Europe.  Java will be for a long time in chaos and the three of you belong in Europe.  Only there will you find happiness again.
You know what I have dreamt of a lot in these years?  Don’t laugh!  Henny [will be a] Doctor and Lottje a Lawyer!  I don’t know why.   But if you can, let them study.
My sweet Marianne, Austria is your homeland.  Teach the children to love it as I love it because you come from there.  But next to that, let them also know about Holland.  Teach them that Holland was also their fatherland. 
The final thing my darling.  This is just for yourself.  You know Marianne I was never very jealous in our marriage.  If I ever have any regrets it is this:  Now I know darling that I have loved you more than I can ever say. Now I know how much sadness I have given you.  
Forgive me Marianne,
I beg you only to remember the beautiful things that we have done together and forget all the wrongful deeds I have done to you. 
I ask you this as the last thing!  Now that it is maybe too late.  Now I can’t get it out of my mind that you most probably will remarry but if that will happen, my love, I hope that you will find the happiness that I would like to have given to you forever. 
 Oh Marianne, to be able to return to you and ask your forgiveness for all the hurt I have caused you and for my disloyalty that I now myself deeply hate....how wonderful this would be.   To love you in different surroundings, a different work circle, and to remain unfalteringly loyal to you.  With no secrets between us.  Not one distrust.  Nothing but a beautiful, deep love for the four of us.  To be jealous, to live only for you. Darling, if this will happen, how happy we will be forever.   But if I do not return, tell the children that Daddy died for his fatherland. That means for the three of you.  Tell them that Hansepie loved his Marianneke and that we had a beautiful marriage.
Give them both, and yourself, one last big kiss from me, with my wishes for your luck and future.  Don’t ever forget that I have loved you above all else.   Don’t forget that above all else your love has given me inner happiness and take that as consolation.  
Farewell darlings. 
One last kiss from your Hans. 
Never forget your Pappa?!   
Servus   (goodbye in Austrian)
(Some parts of the letter have been edited out due to length or repetition)
This letter was hidden amongst personal effects sent to Lottie (my Mum) after the sudden death at 55 of their Mother, Marianne (Tikus) from a stomach ulcer in 1968.   Mum could never bring herself to go through those papers and so his heartfelt words and counsel remained unheard by his two daughters – until now.
Under the folded right hand corner of the envelope are hidden two words : “1st copy”, an addition reflecting Hans’ characteristic attention to detail.
On November 2nd 1945, two and a half months after the end of the Pacific War, Hans was finally handed over to Allied forces.

Also released were his best friend in the camp, Van der Vloodt,  and Hubach, the flying Doctor.  Waltmann’s records state neither that he was released nor that he died – Onbekend.   
Red characters written on his camp record indicate that Scheffer, Hans’ camp mate whilst still on Java, died of dysentery as early as October 1942, just months after drawing my Opa’s portrait,  two large red characters stamping indelibly his fate: “Died”.

 “Of the 42,000 KNIL (Royal Dutch East Indies Military) and Royal Navy servicemen in Japanese captivity 8,200 died: almost 20%”.  Beyond the scope of this blog but important to note is that 80-90% of the ROMUSAN, the Indonesian “coolies” that were sent to other parts of Asia to work died.
Hans headed directly to Bandung where we know that Tikus and the girls had arrived sometime in December 1945.  It was in Bandung, amongst the chaos of the post war search for loved ones as well as the terror of the Bersiap period, that he was finally able to deliver to Tikus by his own hand not only this letter but also his promise:   to remain unfalteringly loyal… to live only for you.”
For the next four years my Grandparents lived in Batavia (Jakarta) whilst Hans did indeed work, as he had hoped to do, for the reconstruction of the [Netherlands] Indies.  The girls, still weak and in need of a more stable environment for recuperation, boarded an evacuee ship bound for NZ where they stayed for six months in a relief camp before being sent to Australia to school (blonde girls on the left):

A letter from Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, 1945, reads:
“To the children who were interned.
Finally I can tell you that I've been thinking about you a lot, during that fearful time, when you were imprisoned in the camps…..
I was told of your cheerfulness and helpfulness for Mother and Father.
Dear children, I am proud of you, that you have so bravely endured through everything that was so difficult……
Now I wish you all happier days ahead.  Wilhelmina”
Happier memories in Australia 1945-1949

The family reunited after four years in Australia – a trip to the Puncak on Java before they headed back to Holland in 1949. 
In Holland, the family would yet again be separated:  Hans would work away during the week and return on weekends to the couple’s one bedroom rented flat in The Hague.  Henny and Lottie went to live in “foster” homes until they completed their schooling.  Very much behind in their studies as a result of being interned, they struggled.  They both find amusing the suggestion that they might have become a Doctor or a Lawyer:  “The whole thing left us a bit stupid!”  they laugh.  At the first opportunity, Henny headed for London where she met her Kiwi husband of over 50 years, and Lottie followed, putting herself through Nursing training at St Thomas’ hospital. 
But they always loved returning “home” on visits to The Hague – to the tiny apartment they had never lived in, and a country they had known for such a short period of their lives, a very long way from the beaches of Billiton and the hills of Bandung.  Having been uprooted countless times over the years, “Home” for them was simply wherever their Mother was. 
A young wife and mother of two entered a prison camp and emerged, three years later, a very strong and capable woman.  My Grandparents’ relationship – and the roles that each of them held within it – would certainly have changed as a result of this.   Many years later, and not long before her death, Hans broke his promise to Tikus.  An underlying estrangement, rooted in so many years of separation and fertilised by a closeness between mother and daughters through their shared experiences in the camps, meant that the two girls could never find it in their hearts to forgive him.  The tragedy of any loss, be it life, hope, trust,  possessions, a homeland, or indeed love, seems to be exacerbated by the time invested, suffering endured and sacrifices made in trying to build or hold on to that precious thing.  And so his betrayal was a burden that he was to carry far beyond his grave.
For Henny and Lottie, this letter was a bittersweet reminder of one of life's great challenges:  that of reconciling, within oneself and within others, the duality of love and hate, good and bad, strength and weakness.     

For me however, one step removed from all of those memories, I feel in touch with a more human side of my Grandfather than that which I have known.  For good or for bad – or a bit of both.    Reading his letter was like placing those flowers on the grave of the unknown soldier, relieving it of its own heavy burden:   obscurity.
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to”.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Building Bridges

The Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden – an ancient Chinese folk tale:
Adapted from the translation by Judith Huang (www.judithhuang.com )
A young Cowherd and his old water buffalo walked past a stream where the King of Heaven’s seven daughters were bathing. The water buffalo said:   “Niu Lang, you are a good and virtuous young man, and I want to see you happy. The youngest [of the seven daughters] is the most talented and beautiful. Go and take the fairy robe of brightest red, and she will be your wife.” Niu Lang followed the water buffalo’s instructions.  When the daughters saw Niu Lang and the old buffalo, they put on their robes and flew away, but the youngest daughter could not.  Niu Lang approached her and said kindly “Here is your fairy robe – I will give it to you.  But first, promise to be my wife.” The youngest daughter, Zhi Nǚ, whose name means Weaver Girl, for she wove the cloth of the sky, looked at the handsome young cowherd and agreed.
As time went on, Niu Lang and Zhi Nǚ fell deeper in love and Zhi Nǚ gave birth to a son and a daughter. However, the king of heaven realized that the colours of the sky were not as beautiful as before, and he asked his mother, Wang Mu Niang Niang, to look for his missing daughter. Wang Mu Niang Niang saw the happy family, and saw how Zhi Nǚ had taught the villagers the secret art of weaving, and she flew into a rage. She was determined to snatch Zhi Nǚ away from Niu Lang, and to force her to weave the cloth of the sky again.
The water buffalo said to the cowherd, “You have treated me well in this life. Now, I am near to death, and you must take my skin and make a pair of shoes out of them, for with my skin you will be able to fly.” Niu Lang was overcome with sorrow, but agreed to take the water buffalo’s skin. With that, the water buffalo gave up his spirit, and the whole family mourned the loss of their kind friend.  Zhi Nǚ knew that the water buffalo had foreseen something terrible, and waited in fear for Wang Mu Niang Niang to find her.
Wang Mu Niang Niang descended from the heavens and snatched Zhi Nǚ from her home into the sky. Niu Lang cut the water buffalo’s skin into a pair of shoes and, balancing two pails on a rod on his shoulders, he put one child in each pail and ran as fast as the wind, up into the clouds after her. He got closer and closer to Zhi Nǚ, until they were merely a hand’s breadth apart.  Suddenly, Wang Mu Niang Niang threw down her diadem, and it changed into a vast river of stars, separating the two lovers. If you look into the sky at night, you will see Niu Lang and Zhi Nǚ, two stars [Altair and Vega] on opposite sides of the river of stars [the Milky way], and if you look closely, you will see two smaller stars beside Niu Lang’s star [Altair]:  their children. 
Moved by the true love of Niu Lang and Zhi Nǚ, the magpies of the world decided to form a bridge across the Star River once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, so that the couple and their children may meet again.


At the end of World War II, hundreds of volunteers from the Red Cross and other organisations worked to bridge the distance between husbands and wives who had been separated.  By compiling lists of camp internees and facilitating the exchange of messages, they helped many couples and families to reunite.  
A camp list, compiled by the Red Cross on 4th September 1945 – 17 days after the Japanese capitulation -  includes my Oma’s name:  Marianne Van Bael-Knoll.

Disease, death and an unimaginable deterioration of conditions combined with an increasingly mature consciousness to make the months spent in Kamp Makassar seem interminably long to my Mother and Aunt.  “Makassar was the camp in which we spent the longest time”, Mum suggested.  In reality however, it was far less than the time spent in Bandung:  only around six months before the end of the war in the Pacific.   But neither the Japanese surrender on 17th August 1945, nor the swift arrival by September of volunteer workers, were to bring the freedom that they had prayed for.  Their release was complicated further by a rising wave of nationalistic and anti-Dutch fervour amongst groups of Indonesian youths (the Permudas) who, armed with weapons obtained from the Japanese soldiers, terrorised those of mixed Indo- European blood who had fought so hard to remain on the outside of the camps.  A lack of any political control led to anarchy, violence and even murder during the “Bersiap” months at the end of 1945 (Bersiap = “be ready”).   Because of this period of chaos and fear, most Indo-Europeans (including my Oma’s dear friend Moesje) left their homeland once Indonesia became fully independent from the Dutch.

A social security ID card  (for those released from prison -Bevrijde geinterneerden)  places my family still in Batavia (Jakarta) on 12th December 1945, having finally emerged from Makassar prison camp sometime during the intervening three months.   

No longer a Japanese euphemism, the internment camps finally did become “protection camps”.  In a dark and twisted comedy of irony, the dreaded gedek (bamboo and barbed wire fence), for so long a symbol of their plight and focus for all thoughts of freedom, had become the only thing standing between them and certain danger. And those who played the role of protecting them?  The same Japanese soldiers who had imprisoned them for almost three years.

By 26th December 1945, Tikus (my Oma) had made her way to Bandung and was issued 280 guilders, 4 metres of fabric and a food parcel from the red cross (Rood Kruis):  

Those food parcels would have meant the difference between life and death for my mother who was so weak and ill by the end of the war that most things, including time, were a blur.  Except the hunger.   
During our many conversations over the months of my research, the only time that my Mum has broken down was when she was talking about the hunger in Makassar: 
“We were so hungry.  It was painful. I will never forget that hunger as long as I live”
In my own world, where food has always been in plentiful supply, I could never understand why Mum would reheat for herself time and again the same old leftovers and would never throw out even so much as a grain of rice.  Until now.
“Some brave women went to the Japanese and complained about the food situation.  As a punishment, the whole camp had to go without food for two days.   When the guards realised that people were getting very very sick, they must have got worried because the next thing we knew we were given a huge amount of food!  I still remember we were given pea soup – and it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.   But all that food created even more problems as our bodies couldn’t handle it – some people even died because of this”.   
After reading other accounts from former internees in Makassar, I have to conclude that what she remembers are two separate and unrelated events. 
Anak Bandung’s mother, Nel, was one of the women who had complained to the guards and her description of the ordeal is posted on the BBC People’s War Website:
When sixteen of us from our hut, at the beginning of July, rebelled and asked for more and better quality [rations], we had our heads shaved as a humiliation and thrown in a very small, windowless punishment hut. The following day all the food for that day was gathered up and taken to the big field. We had to dig a large pit and throw our food in and cover it with earth. The whole camp then was denied food for two days. The camp hospital also had to share in this scandalous punishment. The Japs also switched off the water supply where they could.  This has been the worst punishment ever.”
Malnourished and weak as my mother was, she would have had no sense of time.    It is likely only to have been after the Japanese capitulation, more than one month after that event in July, that food was suddenly made available in increased quantities as relief supplies started to come in.
We had to put them on strict diets”  Odyssey, a volunteer who took care of women in one of the concentration camps on Java after liberation, posts.   A normal portion of food would have killed them. We did not have anything to serve them the pitiful portions.” 
Mum’ s explanation of these events, her own conclusion,  was most likely a child’s rationalisation for something that was unexplainable, like so many senseless things that they endured.  How was a child supposed to understand that the war was over whilst they were still behind the gedek?  To comprehend that their tormentors could become their protectors, and with that the inherent notion that all things can and inevitably will change, would have required a shift in consciousness too immense for a child to make and most likely beyond the capabilities even of the adults.
Odyssey goes on to describe how some women, their every thought mired by residual fear and a strong survival instinct, even claimed that the relief workers were stealing their food.  They spat accusations at the volunteers who had come to help them build a bridge, to transition from certain death to an uncertain life.
 The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a [one hundred year old]  international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million voluteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering, without any discrimination based on  nationality, race, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, religious beliefs, class, allegiance, or political opinions. ( Wikipedia)

During 2012, the Red Cross was involved in projects to alleviate the suffering of those displaced or in need of support as a result of disaster or war all over the world. It continued to provide psychosocial assistance to those in the Fukoshima area in Japan, as well as support for the rebuilding of hospitals and clinics; It set up shelters and organised water rescues for people trapped by flood waters in Jakarta and the UK;  and it provided first aid training and support services during the London Olympic games.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Eating Big in Jakarta - an Elaborate Culinary Tradition is Alive and Kicking

“One of the most remarkable things ….in Java is the “rice-table” [rijstaffel] served at tiffin time [lunchtime] in a peculiar way such as is only seen in Dutch colonies…...  The dishes are handed round by native servants, whose bare feet render the service very silent, dressed in clothes of a semi-European cut incongruously combined with the Javanese sarong……….”
From “JAVA THE WONDERLAND” (Guide and tourist handbook dating back to the early 1900s)
A typical Rijstaffel luncheon during the early 1900s  (Photo from Trompenmuseum)

68 years after our Dutch mothers left Indonesia for Australia/NZ after WW2, my cousin Siane and I – both on flying visits to Jakarta - meet up at the Oasis Restaurant on Jalan Raden Saleh for our first Rijstaffel experience.  Accompanied by her husband Tim, she meets me precisely at the opening time of 6pm. We have to start early as I am on my way to the airport, bags ready and waiting in the back of Pak Ahmed’s car.   “If I leave two and a half hours before the plane departs, it should be ok” I wager as I play a mental game of roulette against the infamous Jakartan traffic.

 “For my part, I shall never forget my first experience of the thing [rijstaffel].  I had just come in from a ride through the town, and I suppose the glaring sunlight, the strangely-accoutred crowd, the novel sights and sounds of the city must have slightly gone to my head (there are plenty of intoxicants besides Gin....). 

For our part, a refreshing G&T enjoyed in the bar lounge of this grand Colonial building, built in 1928 as the private home of a Dutch plantation owner, is just what is needed. 

Notes from a set of traditional gamelan musical instruments – at once chaotic and melodious - draw us into the main hall off of which is the Kalimantan dining room where a large chandelier hangs gregariously over the diners from the high, beamed ceiling, and casts a golden light onto rich and elaborate fabrics hanging on the walls.    

Rejected after Indonesian independence in the 1940s as an example of colonial extravagance, I am aware of no other restaurant in modern Indonesia where this kind of banquet - an elaborate Dutch adaptation of the traditional local Nasi Padang - is served in the traditional manner with 12 waitresses offering up dish after dish.  A lavish spread or “Makan Besar” …….literally:  “Big Eating”.  
“I looked at the […] table groaning under its dozens of rice bowls, scores of dishes of fowls and fish, and hundreds of sambal [chilli sauce] saucers, arrayed between pyramids of bananas, mangosteens and pineapples, as if I could have eaten it all by way of “aperitif”
Round 1:  The team in blue.   Tim is optimistic and all looks well
Like children suddenly faced with the agonising pleasure of too much choice, wide-eyed, we hastily select everything:   Red rice, white rice, soup, corn fritters, fish, spicy chicken, spicy prawns, beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce, bean curd with vegetables, deep fried beef, grated crispy coconut with peanuts, Kerupuk (shrimp crackers), mixed sauteed vegetables in coconut gravy and……..no less than four kinds of freshly made, fiery red sambal (chilli paste).
“[I] Sat … down [and] heaped my plate up with everything that came my way…”
“What followed, I have no words to express.  Suffice it to say, that in less time than I now take to relate it, I was reduced to the most abject misery – my lips smarting with the fiery touch of the sambal ; my throat  the more sorely scorched for the hasty draught of water with which, in my ignorance, I had tried to allay the intolerable heat; and my eyes full of tears, which it was all I could do to prevent from openly gushing down my cheeks in streams of utter misery...........
In the spirit of over indulgence, we progress eagerly to round two.  This time, emboldened by the now-full restaurant’s lively atmosphere (it seems to be a favourite for expats and Indonesians alike), and by a second glass of red wine, all four of the sambals find their way onto our plates.
Round 2: The team in red.
 Tim, a beaten man
It’s at this point that an otherwise elegant evening morphs, somehow seamlessly, into the incongruous:
A group of four guitar-toting musicians in traditional Batak (Northern Sumatran Tribal dress) move from table to table, playing folk songs and draping their Ulos [traditional sarong) around our shoulders.

A large 18th century gong in the main hall begs to be hit
“ People began to leave the table and I was told it was time for the siesta – another Javanese institution, not a whit less important, it would appear, than the famous rice-table......  Perhaps the preceding meal possesses somniferous virtue; or, perhaps the heat and glare of the morning predispose one to sleep; or, perhaps – after so many years of complaining about “being waked too soon” – the sluggard in us rejoices at being bidden, in the name of the natural fitness of things, “to go and slumber again”. 
For us, there are no thoughts of slumber.   Perhaps it is the sambal palpitations, or perhaps the marginally cooler temperature of the evening (not the traditional time for rijstaffel) or perhaps – after so many months of complaining about under-stocked bars -  the epicurean in me rejoices at being able, in the name of the natural fitness of things, to have “just one more glass” of that very respectable red.
Vowing to return again sometime for another multi-sensory whirlwind feast, we say our goodbyes.  Pak Ahmed nervously checks his watch before he sets off down a system of “Jalan Tikus” (literally “mouse roads”) - narrow lanes that snake between, beside and below the high rises and main throughways of Jakarta  - short cuts that he hopes will get me out of the city proper and to the airport in time for my flight.
No sooner have I landed in my seat, than a deep and enduring sleep hijacks my flight to HK. 
The OASIS restaurant also serves Rijstaffel at the more traditional lunchtime. But be warned:
“Even those who kick most vigorously at the rice-table, lie them down with lamb-like meekness to the siesta.”
Jalan Raden Saleh no. 47, Jakarta 10330, Indonesia
+62(021) 3150646
Monday to Sunday: 11am - 3pm & 6pm - 10pm