Living and learning

We were taught at home by our mother. Sometimes I would hide when I didn't feel like studying, and then they had to look for me! However, I did read very early and eagerly. For example, the entire series of old-fashioned and small-print series of Bruintje Beer.

There were schools in the city, mostly multicultural. Towards the end of elementary school, more emphasis was placed on development. The three oldest sisters then went to a boarding school in the former Batavia.

When they came home during the holidays, we were treated to boarding school stories. For example, how to shower, or "gemandied" as they called it. You scoop the water over yourself with a bucket. They had to wear a sarong up to their armpits for this. And soap themselves underneath it, and then rinse off. A nun stood in the doorway to make sure they kept everything neat.

Until one day (the girls had agreed on it!) the girls all dropped their sarongs at the same time. The nun was shocked. I don't know what punishment followed!

We wore a vest and panties attached to each other as underwear. There was a horizontal row of buttons on the back at the waist. This garment was called tjelana monjet (monkey suit). The older girls wore a kutang, which is a bra.

I was a picky eater. In Tjiemas Bodjong Genteng, if I didn't finish my meal before the mandatory afternoon nap, I would be put in the "goodang" (see diagram) with my food after waking up, until I finished it. The "goodang" is a kind of pantry, where the bananas are also hung and there is a screen door.

For example, mother wanted us to eat the healthy purslane from the vegetable garden. The cold purslane with cold rice was impossible to eat! We slept with a pillow in the shape of a roll, which was placed between the legs so that they wouldn't stick together due to perspiration. This is called a "goeling."

a group of children posing for a picture
a group of children posing for a picture

At the nearest business, the Koomen family lived. Uncle Bert and Aunt Katrien with Jaap, Joop, Bert, and Koentje. They were the same age as us. Above you can see us in a row: from left to right: Father Pierre, Koentje, Claartje Bert, Lidy, Joop, Jaap, two girlfriends, Wies, Nel, and Trees. The sleepovers were always a lot of fun.

We made huts in old tea forests by weaving branches between a few trees.

At Christmas, Santa Claus would come. Once his pointed hat caught on fire and father barely managed to save it. That's when we found out who this Santa Claus was, and our belief in him was lost.

Father and mother took a trip to the family in the Netherlands and took Claartje with them. We couldn't go with them and stayed at Mrs. Sillevolt's during their trip, who ran a boarding house in Soekaboemi. She also tried to get me to eat more by making a beautiful capital letter L out of honey on my sandwich.

Being in the city was quite an experience. I had to go to school there. It was difficult for me to adjust. Honestly, I found those nuns with their wide-brimmed hats quite scary! I was still a true jungle child.