But you always travel so much.. Why did you never go to Indonesia before?

20 januari 2018 - Amsterdam, Nederland


"After half a year, this dream comes to an end. I wanted to challenge myself to travel solo, explore on my own. So I did, and I can't be more proud of myself. It feels surreal and also cheesy to say, but I have learned so many new things. One of them being and feeling alone, which was tough sometimes, but definitely refreshing. At the same time I went to wonderful countries, met so many beautiful people and had so many great experiences! Worked hard for it, but feel so blessed for this as well. Thanks everyone for making my dream amazing! I will definitely travel solo again for a long period. Now off to Holland again, to my friends, grandma and peanutbutter. Have been longing for those!" 

This text I wrote on Facebook last year July, when I flew from Lima to Madrid and back home to the Netherlands, and it was the end of an era yet at the same time, the beginning of a new chapter, that I will try to explain in this blog a bit more. I had really longed to go back home after traveling in Central and South America for 6 months. How amazing traveling may be, at one time I felt like living at one place again, to sleep in my own comfortable bed, and to see everybody back home again and to not live from a single backpack. Skype is also a bit cold-hearted for someone like me who loves to give hugs (and that some of my friends think I'm famous for, haha :). I would love to give one more look back on my solo trip, and the traveling in Peru with my family, but time flies and new adventures are awaiting to be discovered. New adventures are waiting to be discovered, and prepared, and inspire me to think a bit ahead, about why they are so important to me. I will share it with you here.

There are a lot of things to look forward to in the coming year, and one of the greatest things is that I will go to Indonesia for 5 months of research and traveling. When I came back from traveling in the end of July 2017, I soon had to prepare myself to go to university again after two years of non-studying. I started the master's programme Culture, Organization & Management at the VU university in Amsterdam (or "organization anthropology" if that makes more sense to some of you ;) and I quickly found myself to be mostly interested in issues in Gender and Diversity, and power structures and inequality within organizations and broader society. The feminist in me, as I am and as you know me, has found a great spot now at uni! I connected with professor dr. Ida Sabelis to be my thesis supervisor and when I discussed my interests in the field with her, she told me she had a research opportunity in the topic of Ecofeminism in Indonesia. It sounded perfect to me! It is about gender and ecology in the Batik Industry, and I will get back to the content of my field research in another blog, but I was sold at the very first moment. I could do research about a topic I'm really interested in, and I could also go to Indonesia.. the country of my grandparents, the country of my origins and roots.. A lot of people have always asked me, why did you never go to Indonesia before? You always travel so much, and you have been to a lot of countries.. but never Indonesia? Well, I could not really explain in words why, but to me it has always been quite clear in my feelings why I never went there before. To me, Indonesia was 'just another country in Asia, except maybe that my grandparents happened to come from one of those islands.'  I mean, I would love to visit it, but it was never a must, that I felt the need to go there. It was not going to run away .. I know it sounds harsh and cold, but I just didn't really feel a connection to Indonesia, even though my family is from there. In this blog, I am going to try to explore a little bit why I did not feel that way, and why now I'm getting older, I am longing more and more for it, to reconnect with my roots again. It was a feeling that was lingering in my unconscious for a longer time, and today I read such an inspiring and exactly to the point and to my heart interview, that I could understand it better. I also talked to some of my friends that have bicultural roots as well, in different contexts, but that understand me very well and that were willing to share some of their stories. I want to thank them so much for sharing it and that I may share it in this blog as well. Oh, and as you can read now, I am writing my in English. Some of my international friends were always complaining that they could not understand it so well when I wrote in Dutch before, so here guys, this one's for you! 

20 January 2018, Amsterdam. Coffee Company, Javaplein. It was a late, bit of a hangover, cloudy saturday afternoon. While I was sitting, enjoying my coffee, and waiting for my laptop to run an update, my attention got to the daily journal of Amsterdam, Het Parool. I just went through it and read some parts with more interest than others. Than my eye fell on a very inspiring interview with a writer called Johan Fretz about his new book, ' Onder de Paramariboom'. Fretz is half Surinamese and half Dutch, and when he was 29 years old, he went for the first time to Surinam and learned more about his roots. He said he always felt like 100 % Dutch, he grew up in Dutch Amsterdam, and was pushing away his roots and different parts of his identity, but now that the debate in the Netherlands is very strong about racism and multi cultural society, he realized himself that he has different blood in him as well.. So that led him to look for Surinam as well and to actually appreciate it better. Still feeling Dutch, but no need to feel white while he isn't - or to feel ashamed for ones other cultural background or roots. I just read this interview, and tears came to my eyes. Because I feel exactly this way since the last few years, and this journey about going to Indonesia will fulfil this dream, this search to where I also came from... I just wanted to share this with you, Kristina. And Kristina, my best friend from Slovenia, answered to me. She said; I think this will be really transformative for you. Nothing happens without a reason.

And so, I am very curious how it will personally feel when I will go to Indonesia. Actually, as I have written before in one of my blogs, I felt quite at home in Mexico when I was traveling there. People often thought I was Mexican, which made me feel not so standing out in the crowd, talked Spanish to me, and I also really enjoyed their relaxed understanding of 'time' - not so planned and organized :) I am wondering how it will be in Indonesia to me. I talked to Stephen, a friend who has Chinese roots, and he told me that going to your country of origin gives a magnificent and indescribable feeling, sort of a sense of 'coming home'. In this way, that there are people walking and talking who look a lot like you do, the pieces of puzzle will fall right at its place. When he did his exchange to China, he said it felt complete, and that he was sure I was going to experience that as well in Indonesia.

Then I had also talked to Ronja, my friend who has a Swedish mother and Dutch father. Here is how our talk went: 

That is so beautiful Lie, I was lately thinking about that. How special it actually is that you will go a little bit back to your roots, because it is also a part of you. And I think that this is really important to you. Because often times, it is easy to feel a little bit lost in between everything. But how does it feel that you will go to Indonesia? Do you still have some family over there? 

- That's sweet of you to mention it, Ron. I mean, it is also very special to me to go there. And I have always been pushing away my Indonesian roots, like this writer has done as well. That it is not part of me, but something really far away, and I am unconnected to it. I mean, you got a big part of your upbringing in your Swedish roots, language and culture from Karin and also, that you live in Sweden now yourself. Joost and me, we didn't really get it the same way as you did, so now it is a journey of searching and looking for it. Yeah, it is almost as if you are ashamed of it, you know. As if you are also white and Dutch only. As if if the foreigners, or migrants, those are the others. That is not who you are. As if you are a bounty candy. You know, black on the outside, white on the inside. 

Ronja then said: 'But I have been talking with my mom's best friend's sons who live in LA. So with a Swedish mother and an American father, and the mother was also the one that was raising them with the Swedish culture and so on. So they had sometimes also a difficult time you know, because they weren't always fitting in. And yes.. Actually quite serious that you are feeling ashamed. Like you said, foreigners, or allochtonen, those are other people. I remember about a discussion I had with someone who was pro Geert Wilders (the racist politician of extreme right wing party PVV, red.) and said like "Yeah, all foreigners need to leave this country!" So I said, 'Why thank you, so you want my mom as well to leave?" "No, not your mom! We don't mean her, but the real foreigners!" Damn, I was so angry! But do you know why you and Joost did not really got your culture in your upbringing? Or that Jonas did not really teach you that? I get so sad that a darker skin colour means less value in this society.. Or that it still means that way in our world. It's ridiculous. 

Thank you, Ron, for all your nice words. I get what you mean. Also the story of your mom and the 'real foreigners' - that is just about a selective group of foreigners who are being accepted and others are not. Based on nationality, skin colour and religion. I mean, combine a darker skin colour, Africa and the Islam together, and you got the explosive combination (no pun intended) of being "Moroccan" - and so, you are not welcome in this country. 

Yeah, exactly. You know, actually you and me are also allochtonen! 

Yes Ron, it is a bit difficult to answer about why we did not get our Indonesian-Moluccan culture from dad when we grew up. I mean, when we were younger, dad taught us the Moluccan language 'Moluks' (or Malay, closely related to Bahasa Indonesia) and after a few years, we didn't speak it anymore, we just kind of stopped. And I believe that language plays a very big role in forming your cultural identity. Next to this, we grew up in an all white surrounding and little, middle-class village of Castricum. There were almost no other people of colour, and no other Moluccan families. Our relatives live far away from us, in the northern and eastern part of the Netherlands. Out of a 130 kids pre-university classes, I think there were not even 10 children of colour. White is seen as better, it is the norm. If you are talking about getting a good education, it is definitely your surroundings as well, that stimulate you to study and pursue an education. All of my friends went to university. Concerning those things, we do have a lot of privilege to have been growing up in Castricum. Lastly, I did get some values from the Moluccan culture, and one of the most important ones are actually being hospitable, everyone is always welcome, and there has to be enough food. So I am very thankful to have these values high in my standards, thanks to dad. It started to change and occur to me that there were other people of colour with different backgrounds as well, when I moved to Amsterdam to study there. I know it sounds really naive, but that was just my whole world before: white. 

Another good friend of me, Chérif, gave me a lot of inspiration about having different backgrounds. He is Senegalese, but studied and worked for a lot of years now in France, and he told me the following story:

"My Lisa, I am fine, I went back last week from Senegal, it was the first time in three years now. And you know, staying in Europe this long makes me fear that I will not feel like home like before... But at the end, it was the complete opposite. I'm completely sure that in a very close future, I will go back to live in Dakar again. But before, you and I have many journeys to make and share indeed! 

About the interview, that's an amazing story you are telling me, as we say "you can take someone from the homeland, but you can never take the homeland from someone" (Sorry for the bad translation, I hope you get the point). I'm very happy about your desire to reconnect with your origins, you will never be the same after, trust me...

And it's a bit sad that the society, as it is for the last 4 to 5 years, it is so focussed on nationalism, who is a real French, Dutch or German, we are taking a lot of steps back and it's sad that people like the Surinamese guy, that writer, reconnects to their roots, because of society that hey consider as a homeland.. makes me feel that people have to choose between origins. Multicultural identity should be a wealth, and the current nationalism and racism is taking this wealth from people like you." 

Chérif, I wrote back to him, that I felt so much love for him for writing this story so truly, so deeply and with all of his feelings about it. That I was happy to hear he could connect again with Senegal, and then I said the following about the 'choosing' part: 

'Exactly what you are saying is true, that we somehow need to choose for one identity. For years, I have been choosing to be 'only Dutch', because its supposed to be better, to be or to feel white, while I am not. And to push my roots away, only makes me long now more and more to reconnect. And I am so happy to be able to do this now.' 

And with this last inspiration, and last motivation, that I want to purchase when making my trip to Indonesia, I want to end this blog. I would like to thank Kristina, Stephen, Ronja and Chérif, for sharing their insights, showing vulnerability and sharing experiences with me and that I am allowed to write it in my blog. I will continue this journey and write more blogs about this theme and my adventures in Indonesia. Stay tuned!

With love from Amsterdam, 


PS. For the Dutchies among us: interested in reading more about the story of Johan Fretz? You can read a part of his book on this site, and see for yourself how he inspired me https://www.boekenroute.nl/gasten/gtn1Boek.aspx?ISBN=9789048842889

6 Reacties

  1. Judith (&Ted):
    21 januari 2018
    Prachtig Lisa!! En heel begrijpelijk, zelfs voor een niet zo origineel herkomstig type als ik (Achterhoekse boerin..;) ). Heel veel succes en plezier in het terug keren naar de roots en wat je er allemaal zult beleven en voelen!
  2. Lisa:
    21 januari 2018
    Dankjewel voor je reactie, Judith! Ja we hebben allemaal verschillende geschiedenissen en achtergronden, en het is gewoon interessant wat voor betekenis die heeft in je leven! De Achterhoek is ongetwijfeld ook een bron van inspiratie :D en bedankt.. nog maar een maandje en dan is het zover!
  3. Jamey:
    23 januari 2018
    Wauw, lisa! Dit is zo mooi om te lezen, en ben het zo ontzettend met je eens! Het is zo een closed minded way of thinking dat we maar 1 identiteit hebben.. of daaraan moeten voldoen. Dat nationalisme is ook niet realistisch, we hebben allemaal verschillend soorten bloed uit andere landen als je naar je voorouders kijkt. (Die filmpjes over die dna testen was echt een eyeopener) er valt nog zoveel te leren over diversity en acceptatie, het is inspirerend om te lezen hoe je hier mee bezig bent! Ik wens je alle plezier en geluk in Indonesië 😗
  4. Lisa:
    23 januari 2018
    Dankjewel Jamey! Super lief van je. Klopt inderdaad, het is echt gebaseerd op een vrij bekrompen mentaliteit, Ik ben ook heel blij dat jij dit ook allemaal inziet, ondanks dat je zelf geen biculturele achtergrond hebt oid! Die filmpjes ken ik niet, maar ik ga ze opzoeken, kan me er wat bij voorstellen. We have a long way to go, maar we gaan ervoor :) Het is een zoektocht.. Dankjewel!
  5. Jamey:
    24 januari 2018
    Ja precies! Dankje, ik vind het belangrijk daar meer in te verdiepen (juist vanwege mijn gebrek aan biculturele achtergrond :)) oh! Dat was een dna achtergrond filmpje, zo mooi: https://youtu.be/tyaEQEmt5ls
    We blijven leren en inspireren, mooi dat je daar zo gepassioneerd over bent! X
  6. Ida Sabelis:
    7 februari 2018
    Hoi Lisa, ik ben er ook bij, hoor. Pikte de link op uit je voorstel. Goed om je ook hier te kunnen volgen.