Friday, August 31, 2012

Under the Protection of Gentle Women

The cachophonous noise of firecrackers, drums and shouting, as well as incessant prayers or incantations blasting through bad quality loudspeakers like drunken karaoke, kept me up all night. 
At around 3.30 am on the morning of Idul Fitri (the festival for breaking the month-long fast of Ramadan), I decided to stop trying to sleep, got up, opened a packet of crisps-that-turned-out-not-to-be-crisps from the holiday hamper I had been given and checked my emails.  There were two emails from NZ, one from my cousin, Siane, and one from my Aunt.  I opened the first and downloaded the image attached. I was looking at a kind of identification paper or card, next to its leather holder.  On it was the name, date of birth and parents’ details of Aunty Hendy (Henny).   It seems that the card was created in Billiton (the island between Sumatra and Borneo where the family had lived prior to the internment of my Grandfather) and provided possibly by the KNIL (Dutch army) as it stated my Grandfather’s position in the military.  I immediately recognised this object, having seen one exactly the same, just with my Mother’s name and date of birth on it, 20 years previously when rummaging through old boxes during a house move.  Hers had had a leather strap attached to it and these, my mother had explained, had hung around their necks, from the outset of the war when they were 5 and 7 years old.  The fact that both girls, more than 70 years later, still had these pouches in their possession meant that to someone, either Tikus (their mother) or to themselves,  these pouches held meaning and memories that they could not bring themselves to part with.   Aunty Hendy’s email explained more about the contents of these little pouches:  in them, my Grandmother had hidden 50 guilders (quite a sum in those days) for the girls to use only if they were to get lost.  Imagining Tikus kneeling down, tucking the money neatly between the folds of paper, her girls’ heads tilted down to look at what she was doing and then their trusting eyes looking up at hers from underneath quizzical brows, I understood completely the significance.

As my new friends in the electronics market had suggested, I decided to indeed set off early for the Mosque to get a decent position from which to observe. As I exited the building, a camel in the lobby looked as out of place in lush Java as a snowman in Australia at Christmas.                                 
Honestly speaking, I have never before looked at Islam from the vantage point of someone wanting to observe and understand it.
When I heard the 4am calls to prayer near my apartment the first time, they seemed eery to me, like the whistling sound of wind pushing painfully through the trees, or of a group of mourners wailing in grief.  I joked to my friends that Bloody Bandung was driving me mad:    “4 o’clock in the morning? …….  Really?!”
At other times, it sounded like my brother when he was young, always singing made-up tunes with made-up words and melodies that never seemed to go anywhere or repeat themselves.  We were all convinced he was tone deaf, which gave him all the more reason to continue unabated.
But on the morning of Idul Fitri, the sounds emitted from the mosque on Jalan Cipaganti (it felt appropriate to choose this mosque on the former Nylandweg), were more lively and accompanied by drums.  I could identify a definite rhythm which seemed to be carrying the people, drawing them nearer in a steady stream for the EID prayer.  As per the tradition of Idul Fitri (and contrary to any normal day in the city), they came on foot, dressed in their finest sarungs and baju koko (traditional collarless shirts), carrying small rugs or sheets of newspaper to place on the ground underneath them.   As the sunlight was breaking through the trees, it chose to illuminate figures intermittently, guiding my attention to a woman putting on her white Abaya (full body garment worn during prayer), another arranging her high heeled shoes behind her, another encouraging her children to sit quietly.    
It is tradition, where space allows, that the EID prayer is conducted outside.  This mosque has a special license to carry out the prayer in the road due to lack of outside space elsewhere.  Men are allocated space inside the mosque and under the colonnade which surrounds the building whilst the women spread out into the street which is cordoned off by police cars. 

Bottoms up - men in the background and ladies in the foreground

A small boy of 2-3 years old in a bright orange baju koko, matching trousers  and peci hat, wanders up and down behind the line of women, all dressed in similar white Abayas.  From behind, he can’t tell where his mother is.  “Mama” he calls out, not too loud and with little panic in his voice.  He knows he is safe. 

The little boy passes from one woman and friend to another, women who very gently point him in the right direction where finally he rejoins his mother.   As I watch him plod lightly along the same road that Hennie and Lottie might have walked on, I think about those pouches, about a mother’s endearing gesture and about the women, the friends who offered my family protection as they passed from home to home.  When finally the time came for Tikus to be captured by the Japanese and interned, it was to one of these women, Moesje - an Indonesian who would therefore remain free throughout the duration of the war - that she turned.  Together they had to decide quickly whether the children would go to the camp with their mother or stay on the outside under the protection of Moesje.

When I asked Luki whether he was Muslim, I think back now that the answer should have been obvious, it was just that he didn’t fit the stereotype I had in my mind.  When he asked if that would be a problem, I said honestly “no”.  But I didn’t know why.  I knew (and still know) very little about Islam.  But I know that some of the external manifestations of Islam that once made me feel uncomfortable, wary, such as the jilbab (headscarf), the prayers and the ritual washing, no longer do.  In the West, it is an undeniable fact that there is a certain mistrust of Islam amongst the population in general.  We are scared by the things we don’t understand, and tend to box those things up together with the things that we are right to fear.
Indonesia seems, at least to the outsider, to be a very tolerant and inclusive society, despite being 75-80% of one faith.   Throughout its history it has had various foreign influences, not only the Dutch but also the Chinese who migrated to Indonesia at various points in time and now make up almost 4% of the population (almost 9 million).  Each brought their own traditions, faiths and values which seem to sit quietly alongside each other, at least from where I observe as I go about my daily life.  There is relatively little intermarriage between Chinese and Muslims but I presume that this is a matter of tradition and a common bond rather than imposed rules or taboos.  
As I walked back, through unusually quiet streets, neighbours passing each other would stop, stoop slightly, touch hands together and to those of the other person as a form of respectful handshake.
Each and every person I passed smiled at me and said “Halo” or “Selamat Idul Fitri” or “Hello Mister!” or of course the obligatory “Ke mana? “  “Where are you going?”.  
I would reply “ Tidak tahu”  “I don’t know…” “Jalan jalan”… 
”Oh Jalan jalan!” they would say in recognition…. “Just walking around”.
Muslims believe that Ramadan is a time when all sins can be erased through repentance.    It is a time where they control their desires, emotions and their needs to focus on their faith and bring them closer to Allah.   On the day of Idul Fitri, the culmination of this period of repentance, it is tradition to visit one’s relatives and neighbours to apologize for mistakes that might have been made in the past year, to show respect and also to repair any relationships that might have been broken.   To forgive and forget.
Coming back to work after the long holiday, I greeted my colleagues with the usual “How are you?  Did you have a nice holiday?”  My questions were met with a surprising:   “I’m sorry for my mistakes” whilst two hands were held out to touch mine lightly.   I wasn’t sure what to say at first or how to take this in a work context, so in typical fashion, I went over the top in an attempt at sincerity:  “Oh, yes me too, me too. God yeah! I will try to do better”,  whilst I clasped their hands a little too emphatically.  I’m not sure how literal it was all supposed to be, but the looks I received indicated that it was kind of like asking someone how they were, only to get all the gory details of some horrendous ailment or other. 
I have heard some westerners, those who have been here far longer than I have, comment unfavourably on this tradition.  They highlight a hypocrisy associated with the ability to simply “wipe the slate clean” or “square it with the man upstairs so that they can go ahead to make the same mistakes again”.  I, on the other hand, perhaps naively, prefer to recognise that human nature is human nature, but if you go through life without self forgiveness, through whatever means you choose or know, then doesn’t that hinder our ability to forgive others too? 
So Mum, everyone, I wish I could reach out and touch your hands.  Instead I will simply tell you that I’m sorry for any mistakes that I have made ……….I will try my best not to repeat them!

Two little girls nestled between mothers and friends on Jalan Cipaganti (the former Nylandweg)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Final Ngabuburit

During the 4 weekends of Ramadan, I made an effort to follow the local tradition of engaging in NGABUBURIT in the late afternoon.  A Sundanese word which literally translates as “waiting for sunset”,  in practice it describes large numbers of people all going out for a drive or walk or participating in group activities towards dusk, whilst they “wait to eat” , to break their dawn-to-sunset fast (buka puasa).

If it is at all possible for traffic to be worse than usual on a weekend here, it will be during Ngabuburit.  The best way to get about is by motorbike (as I had been doing with a local friend), or alternatively, and with only a slightly reduced chance of accident or injury, by Angkot.  These ubiquitous mini vans - with open door and bench seats crammed with people - prowl the city, letting passengers (who pay a fixed fare of 2000 rupiah) on and off at any point along fixed routes, unpublished yet understood – at least by the locals.   I, on the other hand, devoid of any sense of direction or spatial awareness, am challenged by this mode of public transport which, without so much as a thought for mirror or signal, will manoeuvre suddenly towards the roadside, cutting up whoever or whatever happens to want to share it.

If you are not in an Angkot and have no intention of getting in an Angkot, they can be an annoyance, creeping up on you as you walk along, tooting their horns in solicitation, like touts calling out on a slow day.   But if you are inside one and know North from South, East from West, arse from elbow, it can be a very convenient, and cheap, way to get around.    What’s more, it is the most lively way to move about as people are continuously exchanged, shouting “kiri, kiri!” “left, left!”  to indicate that they want to get off.  A busker will jump on for a stretch and sit in the doorway, strumming on a funky old guitar and singing a pop song.  After collecting a couple of thousand rupiah from the passengers, he will then jump off in search of a new Angkot.

On the final day of fasting, I was on my own as Luki had already returned to his family’s village, an hour from the city, for Idul Fitri.  So, without destination but with a vague plan in mind, I took an Angkot towards Cihampelas -   the route that goes past my building, the only route I have so far sussed out, with the terminus destinations Ledeng and Abdul Muis written on the windscreen.

Views from an Angkot -  Angkots and motorbike taxis (Ojeg)  have replaced the Becat and the Delman as popular modes of public transport.

The time of Ngabuburit is dynamic, social and chaotic:

Groups of teenagers and young lovers on motorbikes line up at slip roads, looking behind them as they wait for friends to catch up

Entire families cram onto motorbikes -  babies and young children nestled carefully between bodies

A “communitas” of youngsters on a motley collection of push bikes skip the macet (traffic), piling over the central reservation to get ahead at the lights
Opportunists on the roadside sell new money for old (procured after long queues at the bank) at a premium – a traditional gift for small children on the upcoming day of Idul Fitri

Elegant ladies buy flowers to decorate their homes, spotlessly cleaned in preparation for Idul Fitri, as well as traditional ketupat (rice cakes in parcels made of young coconut leaves)

Bloated stalls expand out into the street, displaying everything from fruit to cakes to t-shirts to fireworks.  The activity intensifies towards 5.20pm as stallholders prepare snacks and tea, the bags and water already in glasses, like advertisements.  Passersby begin to stop, congregating around these stalls, looking and waiting.

Everywhere I go, I hear people calling out to me “Hello Mister!”  (or just occasionally,  “Hello Missis!”)
“Ke mana”?    Where are you going?
“Tidak tahu………Jalan jalan”  I reply,…I don’t know….Just walking around
“Ah Jalan jalan!    Selamat jalan!” ….. Happy walking around….
One man asks me “You are alone?  You don’t have any friends?”   I laugh.  I’m alone but it would be impossible to feel alone here.
Ngabuburit also provides the opportunity for the great Indonesian entrepreneurial spirit to be awakened.  Hawkers in and beside the road negotiate the vehicles and pop in and out of Angkots with complete calm as they sell water, cigarettes and snacks. 

Young people set up makeshift stalls on the side of the road, at which pop ices and water bottles, bought from the local supermarket, or t-shirts with their own designs applied onto them are sold at a small margin. 

     Impromptu (as well as organised) bands play;                     Charitable donations are collected; 

A monkey is guided to perform tricks for people waiting at the lights.....

This is a country of young people  (50% of the population is under 30)  and never is this more evident than at the time of Ngabuburit when many of the older people are at home, waiting for the Maghrib prayer at dusk.
There is therefore a certain momentum and a tangible optimism here.  No one is waiting for someone else to tell them that they can or can’t do something, to confirm that they are talented or skilled enough or that an idea is worthy enough.  Thus, people try their hand at new things, with neither hesitation nor exhibition and with complete confidence that no one, not friends nor neighbours nor strangers, will judge their success or failure.  

I have always felt that I needed to attain a high level of skill or knowledgebefore I could attempt to pursue something I wanted, as if I needed some kind of confirmation from outside, afraid of failure.  Luki said to me, “you like to look at things and understand them and you like to write things down…. Why you don’t do something to make it grow up?”.   After four years of trying to write, only to abandon each attempt at the door of self consciousness, it is here in Indonesia that I have stopped taking myself so seriously and have finally found a way to my voice. 
A blog gives you no chance to go back, to rewrite, to make perfect.  It is alive, organic, spontaneous and flawed. Just like these youngsters, I decided to “just do it”, working it out as I go along.  I now understand the lesson handed down and repeated to me when applying for jobs or reaching for opportunities: “Just tell people you know how to do it!  No one will know!”….. as well as the self-forgiveness necessary to benefit from that lesson.
As I draw nearer to the Alun Alun, the public square on which stands the great Mosque (Masjid), it seems that four weeks have come to a crescendo.  I am in the thick of it all.  This is an area of cheap rent and run down inner city buildings, housing migrant workers and market style shops.  Kids have come here to shop for cheap new clothes for Idul Fitri.
“A walk through the rather extensive place with its aloon-aloon (plain) in front of the house of the Regent, where the great Mesighit is situated [*****] is strongly to be recommended”
(Guide through Netherlands India, 1903)

The old Mosque, and its replacement, at the Alun Alun (public square)

Within the mosque complex itself, I am surprised to find more market and food stalls selling an incredible array of items (some of questionable appropriateness).  Fake toy guns (!!) and Chanel bags, medicinal leeches and tarantulas, jilbabs (hijabs) and songkok caps, cigarettes and barbecued snacks all compete for space with various activities and games for children.
I sneak some photos, trying to maintain an un-intrusive distance and am caught a couple of times by my subjects, whereupon I am promptly ushered back so that I can take another one (“Satu lagi !!” ), a proper one for which they can give me their best smile.     

                   “Chanel” bags                          Medicinal Leeches                         Preparing food

KOLAK, a traditional drink made of fruit compote with coconut milk and brown sugar – will definitely cancel out the benefits of fasting!
A stall owner is camouflaged amongst jilbab mannequins, like heads emerging from the ground
When the large digital clock inside the mosque displays 5.50pm, the drums start, cigarettes are whipped out and lit, bottles of water are cracked open and the call to prayer starts to float out from the mosque.
Those that are inside the mosque are sitting on ornate carpets, laid out along the length of the great hall in long rows.  They open up their takeaway boxes of water, kue (cake), rice and other items I cannot distinguish, food parcels handed out to the faithful as they are on any normal day.  Teenagers, here to enjoy the free food so that they can spend their pocket money on new clothes for Idul Fitri, sneak out hurriedly and conspicuously, just as we did from Church as kids, without so much as a quick prayer.         
The afternoon had been hectic and noisy but contained an overwhelming feeling of community.  I was struck by the gentleness of people and their awareness of others around them (such a contrast to China where it was each man, woman or granny for themselves, pushing and shoving into train carriages or lifts before you can even get off them).  Here, amongst the chaos, people have time for a smile, a few words, to allow you to pass in front of them.  There is give and take, like the couple of thousand rupiah that passes from passenger to driver to busker to parking assistant.    In this place, the phrase “what goes around comes around” rings true.   When I first arrived from the turbo charged metropolis of Shanghai, I wondered how anyone ever got anything done here where there seems to be such little sense of urgency. But do we really have to rush around doing all the things we think we need to do?   On my way back from the Alun Alun, I popped into the electronics market to buy myself a new camera (I am hoping for better quality photos going forward!).  I was there for 1 hour whilst they authorized my visa card (a laborious process), photocopied my driver’s license, unpacked the box, tested the camera, wrote out receipts by hand, folded the warranty neatly, re-wrapped the cable with a plastic coated wire, searched for a suitable plastic bag from the depths of a drawer and put it all away tidily again.  At the beginning, I could feel my patience waning – all I wanted to do was pay, grab the camera and be off.  I rush around in my life, doing things by halves, striving to complete a hundred and one things all at the same time because I feel that that is what is expected, that is what will make me successful and happy.   But perhaps by just doing one thing and doing it well, with passion and patience, would serve me better.   So I sat there and let go, let go of the perfectly complete afternoon that I had planned and the unchecked checklist in my bag. I resisted the urge to look at my watch and instead engaged in what I expected would be the predictably banal chit chat between strangers from different countries and cultures, meeting for the first time.  Instead, having gone in for a camera, I emerged with an Idul Fitri hamper as a gift from the young store keepers (very handy as it turns out because I had left myself no time to go food shopping before the holiday) as well as invaluable tips on how to make the most of the next day’s festivities:
  • Go to a mosque on the morning of Idul Fitri to witness the morning EID prayers held outside
  • Arrive ahead of time, around 5am, to stake your position
  • Go to sleep at 8pm the night before
  • Wear earplugs
This was going to be interesting…………


Monday, August 27, 2012

Guidebook discoveries from the Tempoe Doloe

To assist my exploration of the parallels and contrasts between Tempoe Doloe (the old days) and the present in this blog, I will occasionally select passages from two guidebooks that I have found, dating back to the early 20th century (before Tikus’ time) and translated from the original Dutch:  “The wonderland” by Batavia Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer and “Guide through Netherlands India” comp. by order of the Koninklijke paketvaart maatschappij (Royal packet company)
These guides will act as departing and reference points for my own excursions in and around Bandung around a century later.  Many of the itineraries haven’t changed.  Later on, Hennie, Lottie, Tikus and Hans, in happier times, would spend their holidays touring this same countryside, although the modes of transport and the time taken to complete these journeys would have been somewhat improved already by then.  And now, I also intend to follow in their footsteps.

Plantation on Java, circa 1939,  photo taken by Marianne (Tikus) Van Bael

“We purpose in this little book to give everything that is necessary for a tourist to know when travelling
through the Dutch East Indies on visiting the chief towns, crossing the interior, or the blue Indian waters, or climbing the gigantic craters. We hope to arrange the book in such a manner as to make it a trustworthy guide and counsellor, to those who do not speak or understand either Dutch or any Indian language, to those who possess in these parts neither kith nor kin, enabling them to find their way easily about, and make the distant journey as agreeable, easy, cheap, and productive as possible”. (Guide through Netherlands India, 1903)

Just like the modern Lonely Planet guidebook, there is a section providing useful language tips for the traveller: 
“Without attempting a full vocabulary a few words and expressions
are here given for the benefit of strangers. It may be necessary to
draw the attention of tourists to the fact that the Malay language is
about the simplest in the world and we hope that the few phrases
here given, may be of some help to the traveller” (The wonderland” by Batavia Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer)
Whilst the three girls that went before me could converse very well in Bahasa, I am not sure I would describe the language as simple.  Many of the words are incredibly long and most verbs seem to have different parts to them that should and should not be used at different times (I am as yet unenlightened as to the distinction).  No sooner have I embarked on a sentence than I find my mind separating from my mouth as I start to panic about what direction I am going in.  I am 10 years, and a good few Gin and Tonics, older since the last time I attempted to learn a new language, so I need all the help I can get.  My only saving grace is that you can pretty much say it as you see it, particularly when it is written in the old way……
Some of the words in the guidebook may come in handy for me:
  • Where is the W. C?  =   Mana kamar ketjil?
  • I’d like some tea or coffee =  Saja minta te (k op pie)
  • Policeman = Opas policie

Some I am glad to say less so:
  • Third class =  Klas tiga
  • Here Coolie, take my luggage = Sini coolie angkat barang
  • Don't forget before dinner to clean my bedcurtain properly from mosquitos. Remember, if you don't look after the mosquitos, you don't get your fee =    Djangan loepa bekin brisih klamboe baaibaai deri njamok. Ingat kaloe kwe tida djaga njamok kive tida dapat present.

And others….. well, I can dream…..:
  • First class =  Klas satoe
  • Bring me a bottle Claret No.10 = Kassi satoe bottcl anggoer merra
    no. 10
  • Bring me to the Concordia Club =  Pigi di kamar bola Concordia.
These guides also depict vividly the way of life of those early 20th century Europeans living in, or travelling for long spells to, the Dutch East Indies and the considerations surrounding the journeys that they made.   I particularly like the following passage which describes neatly the colonial life on Java, including Bandung as Paris Van Java, during the Tempoe Doloe :
“Rise at 5.30 a. m., drink a cup of coffee, take a bath, dress
yourself in light material, and then go out for a walk or drive. [*****]  Breakfast between eight and nine, transact your business, visit offices, shops, museums, clubs, till one o'clock p.m. [*****].  Take your "rijsttafel" (lunch) […..] at one o'clock, enjoy a siesta from two till four, or remain at least in your room, for whoever is not compelled, should not go out in the sun, during the hottest part of the day.

Afterwards bathe again, and dress yourself in somewhat better
clothing. [*****] Then go out for a drive or walk till seven p.m., pay visits to your friends between seven and eight, afterwards dine, and finish your evening, towards nine o'clock, at some public place of amusement or club, or at the friends who invited you to spend the evening with them”. (Guide through Netherlands India, 1903)

Some thoughts on this:
Rise at 5.30 a. m., I wake up early each morning (at 4 o’clock!) to the sound of the pre-dawn Fajr prayer from the mosque next door

Take your "rijsttafel" (lunch) in the hotel at one o'clock  The rijstaffel in its original form  - a banquet of at least 40 (and sometimes over 100!) small Indonesian dishes served around a cone-shaped mound of rice by a long line of waiters  - has apparently all but disappeared from the menus of restaurants and hotels, banished to history as a symbol of Colonial excess.  The fact that the guide describes rijstaffel simply as “lunch”, illustrates how integral it was to everyday life for the Europeans  – and what a life!

(Photos courtesy of Trompenmuseum )

Enjoy a siesta from two till four    Whilst even during Tikus’ time (my Oma / Grandma), it was common to have a siesta in the afternoon (often after a rijstaffel luncheon with friends or family), this again is a practice that seems to have died out now.  With all that traffic, there simply isn’t the time in the day to make so many separate excursions, let alone have an afternoon nap at home.  Sometimes, one has to multi-task:

Then go out for a drive or walk till seven p.m., Driving in this city has its own annoyances but walking is a perilous pastime these days, necessitating some tree hugging and long jumping – an obstacle course in flip flops. 

On one side, gaping holes in the pavement, as if someone had taken an axe to it, appear suddenly (sometimes too late to prevent you from disappearing inside!); and on the other side, motorbikes snake between the bumper to bumper cars, where possible swerving out onto the pavement to claim any usable space.  Falling into line, they overtake the road-bound traffic until the lights turn green again.

When trying to cross the road, I am often stranded for long enough that someone will cross from the other side to help me.  They will step out into the road, hold a hand up to the traffic and slowly but surely negotiate a safe path to the other side.

Tikus was once convinced that she had the answer to the Jakartan macet (traffic) which was already by the late 40s becoming hectic.  She recounted the story to her two growing daughters whilst visiting them in Australia: Fed up with sitting every day in the car in traffic -  cars,  becats (tricycles), Delmans (horse and carts) all jostling for space -  she decided to borrow one of the horses from the local riding school and cross town to a friend’s house for coffee.  The horse bolted off, causing complete mayhem in the middle of traffic and food stalls, securing her a mention in the local newspaper!

During Ramadan, I similarly put considerations of safety and sanity aside to jump in and join the masses (albeit less conspicuously) in what I call the great afternoon “mooch-about” and what the locals call NGABUBURIT…………………………


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paris Van Java in the Tempoe Doloe and Sekarang (Old days and Present)

Tempoe Doeloe (Tempu Dulu) is a term used by Indonesians to remember the period up until WW2 and before the subsequent struggle for independence from the Dutch  (See separate blog entry on Independence day).  Approximating “the olden days” in meaning, it evokes a clear distinction in the mind between “then” and “now” (“tempoe doloe and sekarang”).  In other words, a Colonial versus an independent Indonesia.

Henny learned early on how to be at the centre of the party

Tikus after a swim at the beach (no showers then!)

Having tea outside their last home in Belitung before war broke out in the Dutch East Indies

For children growing up all over the Dutch East Indies in the pre war years, life was one of privilege.  On their doorstep was a vast, natural playground, diverse and full of wonder.  They stepped each day into that world of discovery alongside their gentle “companions”, servants who cared for them as if they were their own.

Suddenly, that playground was to be locked up, too dangerous to explore and for reasons a child would not be able to understand.  The danger however, was felt keenly as paradise dissolved into confusion, uncertainty and fear.  Aunty Hendy (Henny) tells the story of their arrival, late at night, at Bandung train station after the capture and internment of Hans in 1942. Because “manners dictated that you didn’t turn up at someone’s house at that time of night”, they sat all night at the station, waiting for morning before they could finally take a Delman (horse and cart) across town to the home of a friend, possibly Hedy (European) or Moesje (Indonesian).  Tikus praised her little girls for being so grown up, able to sit up all night and be so good.  The ability to remain upright and act with grace, even in the most difficult and uncertain of times, even when running, literally, for their lives, these are things we might associate with the elegance of the Tempoe Doloe. This is a trait that I have noticed amongst the people that I have come across here in Indonesia.  Culture dictates that emotions should not be shown too readily, but I can also recognise that a calm and gentle nature is something that is entrenched deep down in the character of the people as a whole and is supported not only by faith but by large networks of relationships.  I see it with the people around me:    They call each other “brother” or “sister”; When asked for a favour, they will always have someone they can seek for help in granting the request; They form some friendships which are so committed that there is little they would not do for each other; If one of them loses his job, there will be a place to stay, even in a tiny Kost (similar to a bedsit), one more is always welcome;  There is little time they wouldn’t take, and little discomfort they wouldn’t endure. I have often reflected on this and on modern western culture, obsessed by social media which in my mind, through a tendency towards exhibition, has confused and dulled the significance of friendship and love.  Here however, amongst these friends, as I can imagine it was with Moesje, Hedy and Tikus, a support network functions with discretion, without ceremony or expectation, with a calm outward projection to protect those around them as much as themselves, and reflecting a determination, through both action and inaction, that everything will be alright. 
After arriving in Bandung to relative safety in 1942, my family would have found it to look much as it is depicted in old photos hung in cafes and boutiques all over the city today.   The location of Bandung, surrounded by volcanic mountains, gave it a natural protection, conducive as a strategic military base, as well as fertile soil on which plantations (mainly coffee and tea) sprang up as early as the 17th and 18th centuries.  Bandung became a fashionable resort town for wealthy Europeans with luxury hotels, tea rooms, coffee shops and promenades, the most famous of which, Jalan Braga (Braga St), was considered to be one of the most European places in the Indies. Paris Van Java was a moniker coined during Bandung’s “good old days” before traffic jams, apartment blocks, pot-holed pavements and McDonalds.
The original Hotel Preanger


The famous Braga St  Promenade
(Above photos courtesy of Trompenmuseum)

However, the atmosphere at that time was already becoming very different. Aunty Hendy (Henny), the elder of the two sisters, remembers lying, frightened, under the windowsill of a house in Bandung, listening to a terrifyingly loud rumbling sound. It turned out to be the sound of “thousands of Japanese troops” as they marched into the city.  Their lives were becoming increasingly restricted, for how long no one knew.  Everyone went about their daily lives “living in staccato” as she describes it, stopped and started by air raid sirens and frightening encounters with these “japs”.  Sometimes it was not possible to get to a shelter in time.  The girls recall the siren going off whilst they were at the Pasar (market) and having to take shelter under the stalls, in the gutters and amongst the filth and stench of discarded meat and vegetables rotting in the sun.   Soon, Tikus and her friends were to hear rumours that some of the Japanese officers had started to eye up the more attractive European women.  Not wanting to become “comfort women”, a series of moves from one house to another ensued. Passing between the houses of friends, always further away from the city centre, made that staccato life all the more unsettling.  They lived in hope also that this way the Japanese would not have the opportunity to “encourage” them to move to the European-built residential complexes in the North Eastern and South Eastern parts of the city that the Japanese had assigned for the “voluntary”  internment and “protection” of Europeans at that time.  No one was to know yet exactly what those areas were to become shortly afterwards, but gut instinct determined that they tried to avoid finding out, at all costs.
In parallel to the Tempo Doloe before the war, to this day, Bandung (and its environs) remains a popular weekend destination, particularly for Jakartans who are keen to trade the oppressive heat of the capital city for the relative cool of the mountains….en masse. They shop till they drop in the many factory outlet stores that are dotted in and around the city, considered to be where fashion trends emerge (some of which are housed in old colonial buildings) giving cause for the city to maintain its nickname Paris Van Java. Hot spring spa resorts are nestled amongst the cool hills surrounding Bandung.   Many of the larger houses in the city are owned by wealthy Jakartans, just like the owners of No. 123 Nylandweg (Jl Cipaganti) who, unfortunately for me and my search for a location to picture my family in this city, chose not to come to Bandung for the Lebaran (Idul Fitri) holiday this year.

A sign outside the large mall, named Paris Van Java

Despite urban migration and rapid development, much has been preserved of the old architecture (although some would argue not enough), the history of which is well documented by the Indonesian online community.

The Bank Mandiri building now and during the Tempoe Doloe – the mosque in front of it now replaced with a larger modern structure (latter photo courtesy of Trompenmuseum)

The former de Vries Supermarket (now a bank) and in the late 1930s (the latter courtesy of Trompenmuseum):

Tempoe Doloe seems to be, for many young people an important facet of their city’s identity, just as Independence is the point from which they take many of their references today: 
“These are times when we are growing and changing much, much quicker than we can perhaps adapt to without being rootless and rather lost. Finding and appreciating values handed down from times past might actually make us step slower, more carefully, with more appreciation and consideration to things around us……….. traditional constructions represent cultural values handed down………….. and the generation linkages that go through it.  It’s inside these things that we might take root while still facing the current world( From deviantart blog -
But there are three years in between these two “eras”, years which I am convinced influenced many of the values and life lessons that have been handed down to me.  A period that is not documented by photos, about which little seems to be said.  When discussing the war, it is invariably the war of independence that is referenced, not the Japanese occupation, although locals, when asked directly, are always quick to mention that the Japanese were much more brutal in their treatment and that they worked only to “bring Indonesia down” whilst the Dutch helped to “bring Indonesia up”.   It is as if 1942 to 1945 were simply a few short years, a forgotten reality, swallowed up by a long colonial past and a promising future of freedom. 
Today, it is just that promising future, the city as bustling economic hub and centre of education, that draws students and immigrants from across the archipelago to Bandung, and it is the Tempoe Doloe and modern evocations of a Paris van Java lifestyle that attract tourists and weekenders here.  Delmans and Becats take children around the quieter, tree lined streets of the North Eastern part of the city, behind the Gedung Sate building.  “Ini Belanda!“ “This is Holland!” my taxi driver (on the left in the photo below) points out enthusiastically as he performs an emergency stop and ushers me out of the car towards the collection of horses and carts, brightly adorned in a manner in which I am sure in no way reflects the old days but which is appealing to the children who smile and wave excitedly…………………
………………………Does it really seem that long ago?
Paris Van Java as weekend destination today:
Dutch lamp hides behind factory outlet discount sign
                Boutique factory outlets in Colonial Buildings              

Hot spring / Spa

In a more appropriate full length swimsuit - we live and learn!

Tourists and Children look back at a Colonial Past - kids love the colourful tack and horses' manes!