Indonesia: journey to my roots

Journey to my roots in Indonesia

Short documentary about my journey in Indonesia visiting places where my mother, grandmother and the rest of my family and ancestors used to live. In these episodes I want to tell the story of where I come from, what it is like now in Indonesia and show the amazing places I’ve visited.

In october 2018 I started this journey in Java and visited Jakarta, Sukabumi, Bandung, Yogyakarta and this area including Borobudur and the coastal area in the south. These three weeks made a huge impression on me. After listening my whole life to all the stories of my grandmother, mother, uncle and aunts, finally I was able to see what it’s like there myself. It felt like coming home. Eventhough it’s a whole different world, the food, the smells, the habits and many more things are very familiar to me.

In august, september and november 2019 I continued this journey by visiting Bengkulu (and Palembang) in Sumatra. I’ve also traveled to Jakarta, Jogja and Bandung again and to Bromo, Ijen, Banyuwangi and Bali.

In Bencoolen (Bengkulu) my ancestor (Lewis, assumably born around 1721) started his life in Indonesia (after leaving Scotland somewhere before 1783) and married an Indonesian woman. He worked for the British East India Company at the tradingpost Fort Marlborough. I’m still trying to find out where he and she came from. Later his sons worked here too, for Sir Stamford Raffles (and later with him in other positions). He abolished slavery here and gave people back their rights (which I’m proud of) and wrote books about the history, flora, fauna and culture of Indonesia (with illustrations). A brother of my ancestors wrote down these (new) laws in Malay (and had them printed some years later in 1821 in London). Another brother was part of the committee to compile the books about flora and fauna and later became president of the Melaka Orphan Chamber and Resident Councillor of Penang. Some lettres of their correspondance are still in the Raffles museum and library in Singapore. Other letters of the correspondance between him and Sir Stamford Raffles are published in the book “Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles”. My ancestor worked in the Magistrates office. When the Fort and Bengkulu were transferred to the Dutch in 1824 (Anglo-Dutch treaty) and the English left Indonesia, my ancestors stayed in Bengkulu and had to become Dutch.

Many next generations married Indonesians and became planters, worked for the government in civil services, counsils or various other jobs. First on Sumatra, later on Java. Eventually my grandfather worked for the Indische Handelsbank and my grandmother was a school teacher in Batavia (Jakarta) and for the Sultan’s children in Medan. Her sister was married to a tea planter in Bandung. Their mother was an Indonesian orphan adopted by a dutch family and their father a dutch engineer.

During the Japanese occupation in WO II my grandfather was captured and had to work in Burma on the notorious railway, but he survived. My grandmother lived opposite a hospital which was occupied by the Japanese. Eventhough she was very afraid of them, she secretly kept on teaching children at their homes. After the Indonesian independance, they stayed in Jakarta. My grandmother spoke Malay and she was asked by the Indonesian government to help them by staying and keeping on teaching. She did, and in november 1949 my mother, her first child, was born. Three years later my uncle. Eventually the whole family moved to the Netherlands in early 1955 and her sister a few years later. Before they left (with pain in their hearts), they travelled around the country to see everything one last time. They wanted to go to Australia, but had to go to the Netherlands first and decided to stay. Some family members moved on there.

I’ve made a lot of friends during my travels here and still want to visit many places in Indonesia, including my grandparents birthplaces Kidiri and Surabaya, Salatiga where they met as children and Medan where my grandmother worked as a teacher. I also want to visit Singapore, Melaka and Penang. At this moment I’m doing more research about my roots.

Episode 1: Jakarta

Episode 2: Sukabumi, Cianjur and Bandung

Episode 3: Yogyakarta and Salatiga

Episode 4: Kediri and Surabaya

Episode 5: Palembang and Bengkulu

Episode 6: Singapore, Melaka and Penang

Episode 7: Bromo, Ijen and Banyuwangi

Episode 8: Bali

You can read more about this journey on my travelblog.