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An afternoon in Amsterdam

Trust me not to do my homework...It was pouring down with rain this morning, which gave me the idea that it was a perfect day for a visit to the museum. What museum? The Rijksmuseum! Obviously, I'd been there before, for conferences and seminars, but I couldn't remember ever having been there as a tourist, and thought today would give me the perfect opportunity to wander around its winding corridors and see what, apart from the Nightwatch, it had to offer. However, when I got there, I found that it was under renovation, and only a part of the collection was on view. So instead of whiling away a pleasant afternoon looking at Teh Art, I barely managed an hour, and came away feeling quite cheated and annoyed.

Why was I annoyed? Because some arse trod on the hem of my skirt, tearing it, and walked off without a word! I was speechless. There is a tear in my lovely new witchy skirt! So it's hardly noticeable (except to me, but I know it's there) and I'm sure I can stitch it up again if only I can find some black sewing thread somewhere, but to tread on a woman's skirt when she's done nothing to you, and to walk off without so much as a by your leave or a sorry -- what's a Philistine like that doing in a museum, anyway?

I treated myself to a nice lunch after that, though. I came thisclose to ordering a lobster, but came to my senses just in time and had a goat's cheese salad instead -- I may have been in need of comfort food and lots of it, but there was no need to add insult to injury and beggar myself in the process of acquiring it.

On my way home though, I couldn't say no to a set of matching bra and knickers in a lovely cream and brown colour, at half price in the sales.

Now, a meme to get my mind off the fiasco that was my trip to Amsterdam. Gacked off the lovely grapefruitzzz, here's the premise:

The problem with LJ: We all think we are so close, but really we know nothing about each other. So I want you to ask me something you think you should know about me. Something that should be obvious, but you have no idea about. Ask away.



( 19 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Jan. 11th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Er, back on Amsterdam, have you seen the Van Gogh museum, with the picture of the skeleton smoking a fag?
What do you have for breakfast?
What is the oddest thing you have ever done to your hair?
What is your favourite ever bit of computer hardware or software?
Jan. 11th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
I have been the Van Gogh museum, but I suppose I must have missed the smoking skeleton. Mostly, I just remember 76 studies of sunflowers.

My favourite breakfast is a full English, with hashbrowns if possible; but most of the time I tend to forego breakfast or have a quick bite (a croissant or somesuch) on my way to work.

I don't think I've ever done anything remotely odd to my hair. I've coloured it, going from bright orange to deep red; and I've back-combed it; and I've gone through a phase of plaiting it most elaborately, or wearing it in historic styles (of the ancient Greeks, or styles from the 1940s or 1830s), and also I've worn it piled on top of my head with chopsticks holding it in place, but I've never really tried anything odd, I don't think...

My favourite bit of computer h/w or s/w? Oh. I don't know. I'm not all that interested in computers, which given that I work in them, is probably a bit odd; but just so long as they work, I tend not to think about them much. I suppose though, I would be distraught if my DVD-drive'd give out...how would I view my Doctor Who Series 1 then?

Jan. 15th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)
That is very interesting hair indeed! Hash browns are also excellent things.
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)
argh! It's bad enough when you stand on your own skirt and tear it, but when someone else does it!

heehee you're a shopping whore;)
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:10 pm (UTC)
heehee you're a shopping whore;)

Don't tell me that's news to you! ;-D
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC)
not even slightly;)
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC)
And soon, I'll be coming to check out the shops in Coventry! (oops, that reminds me: must check out flight offers!) What are they like?
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
Oooooh guess what? Booked the week after DM off yesterday YAY!

Shops...well Cov is a small city, but I can take you to unusual shops and historic shops if that helps:D
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
Oooh, unusual and historic shops...that's my interest piqued right there!

Booked the week after DM off yesterday YAY!

It's the only sensible thing to do, really. You didn't seriously think you could do much work after such a high, did you?
Jan. 11th, 2006 11:57 pm (UTC)
OK, you said I could ask. I'm fascinated by your family's colonial background (being American and colonial myself!) The whole enchilada: haw many generations, intermarriage, what it was like there, and "coming back" to the Netherlands after so many generations. It's hardly coming back, if one had lived there one's whole life. (I can't believe I'm going to click 'Post Comment' -- this seems unbelievably nosy of me. And long-winded. So apologies in advance. (Or if you just want to tell me about shopping coups -- I love that too!)
Jan. 12th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)
Shopping coups -- well, did you see my entry for Jan 9th? I'm quite chuffed with those babies, I can tell you!

I don't know what I can tell you about my maternal family history (though it's more than I can tell of my paternal one, that's for sure) that you don't already know, but here goes:

The 17th century Van Galens were a respectable Utrecht family, who had numbered at least one bishop and a hero of the Dutch-English wars (Admiral Jan van Galen, after whom many streets and a battle cruiser are named), but a century later, one branch of the family had fallen on hard times and the youngest son was sent to the Dutch East Indies to seek his fortune there and not claim what little was left of the elder son's inheritance. So off he went, arriving in Batavia (present-day Jakarta) sometime around 1770. He seems to have prospered enough to have a bride come over some time later, and they started a family there. I don't know anything more than that. My grandfather held some sort of clerical position, but it was a sinecure: he didn't need to work in order to earn his keep, it's just that he liked to have something to do. He met my grandmother in 1917 when she joined the firm he worked at as a secretary. She had her desk opposite his and after about a year had passed, he wrote her a letter which he had her supervisor deliver to her, and which he asked her to answer by way of this supervisor as well, "since he is already apprised of the nature of this epistle". My sister and I had the letter framed and gave it to our mum as a birthday gift, and it's been hanging on her wall for 20 years or more. It starts very formally with "Dear Miss" and then goes on to say that "In the year that you have been at the firm, I have come to know you as a kind and sweet girl. It has now come to that point where my feelings for you can no longer be denied. To have you as my wife would make of me the happiest of men. Please be so kind as to convey your answer to Mr. So-and-So, since he is already apprised of the nature of this epistle" -- and so she consented to his proposal, even though she was a Protestant and he a Catholic. The marriage was viewed as a mésalliance by his relatives, and they disowned him for it. They withdrew his stipend and he had to take a job for real, taking the position of an amanuensis at the local highschool.
There was more than the fact that they came from different religious communities for his family to react in this way: my grandmother was the eldest of 9 children born out of wedlock to a Belgian baron and his Indonesian housekeeper. After his wife's death, he acknowledged his offspring and gave them his name, but didn't pass on his title. So that answers your question about intermarriage, doesn't it? Oh, it was so romantic! Truly, it was. My mum's eldest sister Elisabeth was born 10 months after the wedding in Dec 1918 -- and barely 2 years later, Eddy and Eunice divorced. They soon found out they'd made a mistake, and wanted to remarry, but found out that they couldn't: at that time, it wasn't possible for couples to split up and then marry the same partners again. However, in 1924 the law was changed to make it possible, Eddy and Eunice remarried, and produced three more daughters between 1929 and 1934.

Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies in 1940 and Eddy was sent to a POW-camp, and later sent to work on the Burma railroad. He died of infection and malnutrition in May 1945, back in a POW-camp on Java.
Jan. 12th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
While most of their friends and relatives spent the entire war period in Japanese concentration camps on account of their being Dutch, my grandmother and her tiny family were allowed to stay outside the camps because of their mixed blood. This is not to say that they were treated any better or suffered any less than the blue-eyed, blond-haired women and children locked up in the camps. They were beaten and went hungry often too. And they felt 100% Dutch. As far as they were concerned, they were Dutch. Because unlike in the Dutch West Indies (Suriname, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Martin and St. Eustacius) where intermarriage had been actively discouraged or even legislated against by the Dutch authorities, in the East, it had been common practice from the beginning, and every native of the islands had citizen status under Dutch law. So even though my greatgrandmother was a Maluku woman, she always considered herself to be Dutch as well.

However, when my grandmother and my mother and her sisters arrived in Holland in 1950, they were often discriminated against by the natives, the orang2 belanda. First they were housed in a bathroom, and then in a dilapidated old garage; but then my grandmother found work as a secretary in The Hague by appealing to a totok friend of her late husband's (totok= Dutchman who comes out to the islands, but doesn't stay...and usually someone who thinks he knows and understands everything about the peoples and the cultures that he meets there, but really knows nothing), and the girls finished their school, got jobs, and got married. My grandmother died of cancer in Oct 1966, and shares her grave with her younger sister Sophie and her eldest daughter Elisabeth.

If my mother and aunties are to be believed, growing up in the Dutch East Indies was a wonderful thing. First, they all had their babu, i.e. a nanny-cum-body servant; they had a cook (kokki) who made them delicious meals (rice in the morning, rice in the afternoon, and rice in the evening); they had kuli2 for everything, and they had all kinds of animals on their property (which incidentally now houses part of the Ministry of Defense), such as horses and goats, dogs, cats and my mother's favourites, geese.

They had school in the morning, but in the miday heat when everyone retired indoors, she and her sisters would oftengo and play in the Chinese cemetary. Why? Because the Chinese leave food there for their dead, and the sisters loved the taste of it.

Of course, when the Japanese invaded, they were severely restricted in their movements, and the schools were all closed down. After the war, a period known as the Bersiap began, which basically meant guerrilla warfare by some natives trained, funded and incited by the Japanese and the communists and aimed at the Europeans and Indo-Europeans -- many people were slaughtered when the British and Americans opened the gates of their concentration camps and told them they could go home. The Dutch then sent some troops, from 1947 onwards, but were forced to cede the colony under strong American pressure. Basically, The Netherlands would not receive any Marshall help if they didn't withdraw from the Archipelago where they'd ruled for over 300 years. After Independence had thus been obtained, the newly installed Indonesan government wasted no time 'nationalising' businesses and plantations and property, and The Netherlands got to deal with a steady stream of disenfranchised colonials and native Indonesians who didn't trust the new order and wouldn't give up their Dutch citizenship and nationality. Claims these people are making against the Dutch and Indonesian states are still being settled to this very day.
Jan. 12th, 2006 12:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, my! I'm sort of sorry I asked but THANK YOU so much! It's fascinating. Please accept my condolences on Eddy's death. I hope this isn't painful to you -- and I do feel like an ass for asking, but THANK YOU. It's so generous and wonderful of you to share this with us. I do love the intermarriage part. Your grandparents' story is so sweet and romantic! Your great-grandfather (the Belgian baron's) story reminds me of Thomas Jefferson's second family with his slave mistress Sally Hemmings. He never acknowledged her, but all her children's conception coincided with his visits to her, and I think that DNA tests prove that the descendants of her children are related to Jefferson's legitimate descendants, and so, that her children were his. But your great-grandfather is a better man than Jefferson!

In American, it's fashionable among some to claim Indian ancestors. In fact, it's a joke about Indians that so many white people say, "my grandmother was a Cherokee princess. (My first husband among them.) Not my family though, unfortunately. We're plain vanilla. Frank's got some Swedish and Irish in him (his dad would sing "Nikolina" in Swedish when drunk), but he's mostly Chippewa (Anishinaabe) and Dakota.

I hope the younger generation in your family (nieces and nephews, and any children you may yet have) will keep this story alive. It's a fantastic heritage. There are elements that want to deny that period of history (e.g., neo-Nazis who say the Holocaust never happened) but I believe that oral history is so important. My own family's known history only goes back four generations, to the American Civil War. I'm envious that you know so much, painful though it must be to tell. Thank you again for your generosity for sharing this.
Jan. 12th, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)
Oh no, don't feel embarrassed about having shown an interest in my family history! Truth be told, I'm quite proud of it, in fact -- it was the way I was raised. My mother and her sisters (and cousins and great-aunts) have always relished telling us about our provenance, and as children, I must admit, we loved to hear it. Very few of the 100% Dutch children that we were at school with could tell much about their families -- some didn't even know the names of their grandparents, which struck me as extremely odd at the time.

I know the story of Jefferson and his housekeeper -- wasn't there a film starring Sam Neill a few years back?

Though the family have always wondered about what the baron ever saw in his <>nja</i>, as by all accounts she was a cold-hearted bitch whose children and grandchildren feared as a witch...(I think I may have told you about her before).

Interesting to see you use the word Indian. I thought all Americans were scrupulous to refer to these people as Native Americans...;-)

And I must admit to having a certain romantic notion of Indians, having grown up with endless re-runs of 1950s westerns on TV. 'Injuns' were noble savages who rode palomino horses and weren't afraid to take on men with firearms while they only had bows and arrows, and beautiful feather headgear...when we were playing at cowboys & indians, no one wanted to be the cowboys. Of course that image changed in 1973, when the news was all about Wounded Knee, and we started to understand that a gross injustice had been done to these people in the past, and that we were even perpetuating that with our silly games. I don't think we ever played cowbys & indians after that anymore, and the sale of teepees took a beating in the toy shops.
Jan. 13th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
I think you should be proud of it! I did know my grandparents, all but one (there's a skeleton in the closet there) but it stopped there. My sister-in-law did some digging round the family tree and found out about the Civil War great-grandpa and his widow's difficulty getting her widow's pension from the gov't. I posted about it once.

Yes, there was a film with Sam Neill about Jefferson and his housekeeper -- but I did not see it. I remembered reading about DNA and the Jefferson descendants, legitimate and illegitimate, all getting together in a huge reunion. Some of the white ones don't like the black ones, and vice versa, I suppose, but it's fascinating to have the old family legend validated. Must feel very vindicating to the black side of the family.

No, you did not tell me about the great-grandma (the baron's wife) -- a cold-hearted bitch, eh? Scary! You mostly told me about your mum and the war. We Americans are so sheltered not having had war on our soil (not counting the Civil War) since the revolution. Well, in WWII the Japanese were in the western Aleutians, and Pearl Harbor of course, but it was a territory, not a state yet. And the Indian Wars. A couple of good-sized ones in my grandmother's day. She was six when Wounded Knee occurred.

Which brings me to the use of the word Indian. Yes, most right-thinking PC Americans say Native Americans, and I usually do myself, except with Indian people, who refer to themselves as Indians. It's parochial. You caught me with my hair down! (Frank refers to me as an "honorary Indian.") But you are totally right -- it's more polite to use Native Americans. I guess I was using my "in," as it were.

I had romantic notions of Indians myself, but now have first-hand experience with what a fine man he is, and seeing how lovely he is to my relatives, especially the elders. Reverence for the elderly is very traditional. Well, I won't go on and on but you know...!
Jan. 13th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
What? I never mentioned my scary great-grandma who was a real life witch before?

Unfortunately, I don't know all that much about her, as most of the people who knew her late in life, who were children at the time, have died -- and their memories of her must certainly have been tinged with the legends about her. My mum told me that she was terrified of her, and was once sent to stay with her for two weeks as a punishment for having thrown a tantrum at home. She says she can't remember a single thing other than being made to fill a water basin outside, and her grandmother bringing that water to a boil just by glancing at it, and telling her she'd go in if she ever misbehaved again.

Other family members have told me that she was known as a practising witch far and wide, and people came to see her if they wanted people to get well -- or sicken and die; and that both these things lay in her power. She lived alone in a little house in the country were she held chickens and grew her own vegetables. I got the impression from the stories that she was quite self-sufficient, and a bit of a recluse, who even her own relatives thought was unpleasant, malicious and cruel, but who no one liked to mess with because of her alleged proficiency in guna-guna.

BTW, it's doubtful that she was ever legally married. But her employer (who I never even thought of as my great-grandfather before, but I suppose he must be) did acknowledge the children he had with her, and made sure they were clothed, fed and educated; so that's something at least. I'm not sure when he died, exactly, but it was well before my grandmother ever met my grandfather.

Which brings me to the use of the word Indian. Yes, most right-thinking PC Americans say Native Americans, and I usually do myself, except with Indian people, who refer to themselves as Indians. It's parochial.

Aha -- same as when you hear black people call each other that word that we are all taught from a very early age to avoid at all cost, and which I can't even bring myself to write down here. I'm glad you cleared that up for me: I'll make sure I'll say Native American if I'm ever in American company and the subject comes up. Although over here in Europe, the word 'Indian' is still prevalent.

Respect for the elders and elderly is an integral part of Asian culture, too; and I've certainly inherited that through my mum's side of the family -- although to be fair, I'm sure my dad must have put the same emphasis on the need to be polite to older people for it to have become such an integral part of my early conditioning. ;-)
Jan. 13th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
Do you ever play board games and if so which ones are your favorite?
Jan. 14th, 2006 09:52 am (UTC)
I love board games! Luckily, so does the rest of my family, and my eldest nephew is an absolute board game fiend.

I'll try any new game I can get my hands on, but the old ones are still my favourite: the internationally renowned Monopoly, Scrabble, and backgammon; the Indonesian game tjongklak, which is played with a hollowed out plank and a handful of sea shells: every player starts out with an equal amount of sea shells and the object is to get as many or all of your opponent's shells as possible, anda Dutch game called Mens-erger-je-niet, in which the players move their pawns around a board with the help of dice, trying to bring them in to the safety of the harbour. While they're outside, they can be kicked off the board by another's pawns. The name of the game means 'Don't get wound up', and it's definitely something to remember while playing this game.
Jan. 16th, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC)
It appears that tjongklak is very similar to a game I have at home called mancala, which is loads of fun.
( 19 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
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