My Indo Heritage

You’ve probably read my father’s and mother’s stories here, and maybe the introduction to these autobiographies. I’m not one for big autobiographies of my own, but I’ll give you a little background in how I grew up being an Indo.

I was the first generation American of my family. I was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Before starting school, I spoke Dutch and Indonesian. I loved the chocolate sprinkles on my bread, and I can remember shadow puppets in frames in our house. My grandmother spoiled me rotten, and I remember my grandfather as stoic. With the exception of my father, my family was from my mother’s side. Her name was Irma Sara Huster, with sisters Margareth and Ruth. My grandfather’s name was John Veenstra, and my grandmother’s name was Rosa T. Veenstra. There was a huge extended family, including cousins, great-uncles and great-aunts.

I can’t tell you as much about my father’s (Heinrich Paul Huster) side of the family. My grandfather was Ferdinand Johann Adolph Huster, and he died as a prisoner of war. It’s embarrassing but I can’t remember my grandmother’s name off the top of my head. If I do, I’ll edit this post later (it’s Walda). My father had 5 or 6 brothers, and an adopted sister who lived with my grandmother in Indonesia. I can remember one uncle nicknamed (and I’m not sure of the spelling here but) Puck, who lived in Canada. My family is spread across the world. Many lived here in the US, but many more lived in The Netherlands, Indonesia, and Canada. Who knows where else. Maybe someday I can piece together some geneological information. I’m sure there are records in The Netherlands, but many of the records in Indonesia were destroyed during WWII.

We were a middle class family, which was pretty good considering my family lost almost everything during WWII. My first day in kindergarten set the scene for the rest of my life. I was very excited to go to school with the other kids in the neighborhood. Here’s where it gets not so much fun. Our teacher sat us down in a circle and asked all our names. Back then I went by John, which is my legal name. Anyway, the teacher asked us all what we had for breakfast. Hands went up. Some kids had cereal, others toast, eggs, all the usual stuff. When it was my turn, I answered in Dutch, “brood met kaas.”

I was called retarded, made fun of, and laughed at, all on the spot. That was literally the last time I spoke Dutch in school. After that, over the years, my Dutch began eroding, to the point where I can understand it conversationally, but I can’t speak it, or read and write it. I’m still trying to relearn Dutch, trying some tutorial programs, but to read Dutch, I have to rely on translation services like WorldLingo. After 40 years, I’m frustrated and angry that I lost my ability to “talk” fluent Dutch.

Now growing up in 1960’s Indiana, you were either white, black, or Chinese. If you were from the middle east, you were called Chinese. If you were from India, you were Chinese. Basically, if you weren’t white or black, you were Chinese. Well I damn well knew I wasn’t Chinese, so I constantly would get into fights, then go home upset and not be able to explain to my parents what had happened. Establishing yourself as an Indo, trying to explain what a Dutch-Indonesian was, is pretty difficult when you’re 7 years old. Frankly, over the years, it really hasn’t gotten much easier. Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, you name it, they all know I’m not white, but couldn’t figure out what the heck I am. You can lose your language skills, but there’s no hiding your race.

Here’s how the conversation usually goes.

“What nationality are you?”

“American”

“No, what I mean is, where are you from?”

“Indiana.” (To many, a foreign land unto itself.)

In this politically correct country, nobody has the guts to ask me what race or culture I am. Don’t ask me the right question, you’re going to get answers you don’t want.

Oddly enough, over time, white folks tend to take me as white, while growing up at one point, my best friend was black, and his family treated me like one of the family. Guess when you don’t fit in, people squeeze you into the place they best understand you. Round peg, square hole, as it were.

Where was I? Oh yeah. As my Dutch degraded, I started corrupting my parents. They learned what a taco was, and started saying, “Oh gross.” This is a story unto itself, and I’ll probably tell it here sometime, but I once was asked what “screwed” meant. Fortunately, at age 9, nobody expects an answer anyway. I’ll have to tell you sometime how I knew what “screw” meant at age 9. Wasn’t my fault, I was minding my own business, and…well, like I said, I’ll save that for another time.

Believe it or not, but growing up, we had another Indo family as neighbors. With one evil neighbor behind us, I’m sure they were thinking that all of us Indo’s were dropping property values. I’m pretty sure my family fully expected I’d marry the neighbor girl who was my age (who had translated to the teacher what “brood met kaas” was when I was in kindergarten.).

So, long story short, I grew up surrounded by Indo’s and the Dutch so I never lost touch with that community growing up. Michigan is north of Indiana, and just crammed full of the Dutch, so when I visited up there, they knew exactly what I was, and where I came from on sight.

Now, my family is gone, and after moving to Washington state, there isn’t a huge Dutch population centered anywhere. I’m hearing there’s some Indo’s here since someone contacted me on this blog, but again, not a real grouped community. A lot of Koreans here, but just a sprinkling of “my people.” A lot of Koreans. Did I mention that?

So there’s a sort of slapped together history of who I am. And yes, “it’s Jack now, kus mijn bodem.”

And that’s why this site is named Brood met Kaas. Revenge for kindergarten.

Now I’m going to go have some bread with chocolate sprinkles.

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10 Comments

  1. Bveenstra says:

    Hi Jack!

    How are you doing? I was just surfing the net and after reading your blog I figured we must be family! I’m a grandson of Cobus Veenstra who was a brother of your grandfather John :). I’m in Indonesia at the moment and I thought you might find it interesting to read my weblog at http://bartinindonesia.blogspot.com.

    I’ve just retraced the original family of my/your grandfather (brothers and sisters of John/Cobus before they were adopted) so those would be your father’s uncles I guess.

    Cheers from Indoland!

    Bart

    • Ingrid says:

      Hi Bart…and Jack!
      I’m the Newsletter Editor from The Indo Project & I’m working on the Spring 2015 issue & am starting a new category: Indo Blogs

      I’d like to include both of your blogs but Bart, when I clicked on yours, I had to sign in to Google Mail & then I received the message: This blog is open to invited readers only. If you want to keep it by invite only, that’s fine but I can’t link to your blog then.

      Jack, do I have your permission to place a link in our newsletter (& our Resource page on the website)?

      Happy Spring!
      Ingrid McCleary

      • Jack says:

        Hi Ingrid,

        If you’d like to link to this post, it’s not a problem! If you’d prefer to link to the blog as a whole, I’d suggest you’d use the link: http://broodmetkaas.com/blog/category/dutch/

        I’m not sure if Bart linked for an email update, but he’s on Facebook. I’ll see if I can dig him up and let him know about your request!

        I’ve found several other relatives since this post. Let me know if you’d like me to bounce them some information. Their email addresses come and go so I don’t always have good info for them, but I’m considering making a genealogical website. Unfortunately, genealogy really doesn’t translate well into Indonesian, per se, so it’s not a big practice there according to my niece.

  2. Jack says:

    I remember now a brother of my grandfather visiting, and him going to visit him in Indonesia. I think he had a nickname, but I do think it was Co-something. I have to think about it…I’m sure he had a brother now that you mention it. No, WAIT, that WAS Om Co. I’m sure of it now. I’ll post on your blog if you don’t find this post.

    That is so great! I’d love to read more about the family tree, because I can only reconstruct it as far back as my grandfather on my mother’s side. I’m still waiting for information about my grandmother on my father’s side.

  3. […] This is an addendum to this original post. I finally got a hold of someone at the Clerk’s Office in Fort Wayne, who was kind enough to read me the names of my grandparents on my father’s side. My grandfather’s name was Ferdinand Johann Adolph Huster, and my grandmother’s name was Walda Huster. Like most people in my family, she had a nickname, which is what confused me. […]

  4. phoying says:

    hi you and my son are related, his name is john nicholas huster-youngest son of heinrich adolf huster, died 10 years ago in wpg. your dad and mom visited him while he was still at the hospi before anyways , my son now is in senior high. i moved to calgary. nice to hear from you soon.

  5. Rona Telam says:

    Gosh, im just reaching your blog. YOU ARE STILL MY FAMILY!!! I’m Indonesian. My step great grandfather is Adolph Huster. My grandmother named Agnes Sudarmi is your father’s step sister! I’ve just read some old letters from your father to my grandma, then i googled it. Is your father still alive? I know all of your paternal uncle/aunt’s name. They are Ludy, Puck, Yan, and Venny. If you read this, please tell this to your father. I live in Ngawi, this town is where your father was born, i guess. Oh, and please contact me! I have a blog and facebook account as well. Just search my name. Hope to hear from you again.

  6. Rita huster says:

    ill post some pics of my little johnny @my blog soon. i am too much busy at work and iwe are now on our third year here in calgary i missing wpg. john is now taller than me and he got ingrid eyes, hes handsome you know and darker in color, im pale, he got 4 blood in him, so gorgeous guy, gosh all my friends are saying that hes like a movie star with his looks and all my sisters are so jealous too. lol

  7. Hochstuhl says:

    Hochstuhl…

    […]My Indo Heritage « JackTales[…]…

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