Last Wednesday we went to the Tong Tong Fair in The Hague. When I was younger we did go often and after my father’s passing I decided I needed to go again once more.
My mother is from Indonesia and while I’ve never been there before my heart does long to the country. This fueled by the stories of her and other family members. But I know this is a romantic view that I have of Indonesia as my family left the country when they were very young and a lot has changed there. I do hope one day I can go visit.
The Tong Tong Fair gives you the chance to reconnect to your Indonesia heritage. You can buy Indonesian products, enjoy Indonesian food and listen to Indo music.
I do need to highlight the difference between Indo’s (I am one) and Indonesians. Indo’s have Dutch heritage in their family line. These are people who moved to Indonesia and started their life there during the colonisation. Indonesians are true locals so to speak.
The smell of the spices brought me back to the stories I’ve heard as a child. I could almost imagine myself walking along the rice fields. It is strange that you have a longing to a place you have never been before. But it is a longing that is fueled by my family’s history. It is sad to say that my grandmother is no longer with us, so I am unable to write down her stories. But I will sit down with my mother and write hers.
In the past the fair was bigger, with more stands telling the story of Dutch East Indies (the old colony) and the current Indonesia. But with the population who’ve migrated from Indonesia getting older, their stories are becoming lost in time. I’m a second generation, because my mother was born in Indonesia but a lot of people are third or fourth generation. Our ties with the past dwindling with each generation. People sometimes ask me why I find my heritage important. It’s because it made me, there are customs which are met with ridicule that I have from my Indo side. But I always say I have the best of two cultures, a thing that makes me able to understand how other second generations feel living in a country that sometimes not accepts them as their own even if you were born here.
It’s not been easy, living with an identity that pulls two directions. Not feeling your completely part of a culture because you are never truly Dutch or Indonesian. My skin colour gives me away for not being white but I am too tall to be Indonesian. People often piss me off by saying you don’t look Indonesian, holding on to the stereotypes portrayed in movies and books. But if they look at how diverse the Indonesian people are, people from Sumatra don’t look the same like the people from Maluku.
I am what I am.
One of the joys going to any Indonesian fair in the Netherlands is the difference in cooking you get to try. This year we got to try delicious treats from Surabaya, capital of the province of East Java. I enjoyed Soto Ayam with Longtong (Indonesian chicken soup with sticky rice), my mother had the same but with regular rice and my boyfriend had Sate Kambing with Longtong (skewers with goat meat covered in sweet marinade). The Soto Ayam is different then the one my mother makes, but just as good. Indonesian food is soothing for the soul.
While I was a bit sad that it was a lot smaller this year, I did enjoy myself. I’ll keep going back until I am able to set foot in Indonesia myself.