but first: a colonial detour

sky. high.

Europe was quite literally the last place I expected to be when I woke up this morning.  (Is it still “this” morning?  After 105 garbled hours  of drug-induced debauchery, my circadian rhythms skip and stutter like a syncopated gamelan interlock with no apparent downbeat or tonal center.  And crossing twelve timezones in a day doesn’t help.)  But Northwest 19 to Singapore-via-Tokyo was overbooked, so instead I flew east:  Singapore-via-Amsterdam.

lots of cheese, da?

About a decade had passed since the only other time I’d been to the Netherlands, on a family vacation for four or five days.  All I remember from that visit is seeing Anne Frank’s house and a handful of archetypical windmills, watching “Cow and Chicken” dubbed into Dutch on my cousin’s TV, playing Godzilla in Madurodam, and being very upset about leaving a prized Lego set under my seat when we got off the hovercraft.  This time I was on my own for about eight hours, and armed with only those scant memories, a camera, and a sense of adventure.

the only girl i've ever loved
the only girl i’ve ever loved

Fortunately, the train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal takes only 15 minutes and 2 euro each way.  After the airport’s ATM hungrily devoured my American debit card, I counted in my trusty red traveller’s wallet a grand total of US$25 — not counting Singapore $4.70 (US$3.23), Rp. 100,000 (US$9.70), and a $750 voucher from Northwest (priceless).

“I’m sorry about your bank card,” said the fair-haired man at the currency exchange.  “But there’s a five-euro minimum commission.”  Not sorry enough.  So with a paltry €13 jingling in my pocket, I made my way to the platform.

was born with roses in her eyes
was born with roses in her eyes

Round-trip ticket, Schiphol International Airport – Amsterdam Centraal:  €4

Pocket Street Map of Amsterdam:  €2,97

1.5 gram “Pablow Picasso” award-winning cannabis:  €5

The remaining €1,03 found its way into an upturned hat, behind which was playing a somber-looking accordionist.

In the 142 years between Portuguese colonization and Japanese occupation, the Dutch (or technically the Dutch East India Company, at least at first) held many of the islands that are now part of the Republic of Indonesia.  The Netherlands formally recognized Indonesia’s independence in 1949, five years after Indonesian nationalists declared it.  Today, Nederlandsche influence permeates Indonesian society, albeit in slightly less-sinister post-colonial guises:  Dutch brands of snacks and biscuits in department store aisles and street vendors’ carts, remnants of a railway system and the archipelago’s first public schools, and a smattering of vocabulary.  Some of my favorites are wortel (carrot), rokok (cigarette), and dongkrak (car jack).

(wayang is indonesian shadow-puppet theater)

(wayang is indonesian shadow-puppet theater)

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 003

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 007

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 008

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 010

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 011

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 016

protest against ahmadenijad
anti-ahmadinejad demonstrators
didn't know they had one in amsterdam.  bruno schulz, anyone?
didn’t know they had one in amsterdam. bruno schulz, anyone?
canal bus.  lol?
canal bus. lol?
MORE cheese?
even more cheese!
in line for the anne frank huis
in line for the anne frank huis

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 033

if only it were somehow jewish, too... i guess that would make me a cannibal, though
if only it were somehow jewish, too… i guess that would make me a cannibal, though

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 040

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 052

2009.06.18 Amsterdam 053

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For anyone out there actually interested in the Dutch post-colonial legacy in Indonesia, I recommend you to the following:

Dutch Cultural Influence in Indonesia

Dutch Government Did Not Colonize Indonesia

Not for the Benefit of the People


postscript:  I always find it oddly amusing that the Portuguese and Dutch are called “colonizers” and the Japanese “occupiers” (occupants?), whereas all previous invaders and conquerors of the islands – from India, Polynesia, China, and Arabia over the past 2000 years – are considered more or less native, passive, and victimized.  Granted, I don’t know as much Indonesian history as I probably should in order to make a claim that outrageous… but still, something to think about.


3 Responses to “but first: a colonial detour”

  1. paige Says:

    i do think you are a fabulous human being.

  2. Sylvia Says:

    Hi Jo, this is good-I like your blog, hope you will continue post jetlag

  3. Tim Says:

    I dig the Schulz wink! You could start a revolution in there! When I was 10 I went to the Chamber of Horrors at the Mme Tussaud’s in London and was so scared I literally did not sleep that night.

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