In my past I never found a sufficient reply. It confronted me time and again with my unclear background.
An easy answer would be the name of a country or town. But what to choose: Holland, where I was born and bred most of the time? Surinam, where I was conceived and went to kindergarten and school? Indonesia, Portugal, Switzerland, France, where my various ancestors come from? No simple answer to this straightforward question.
People like me, live in other places than where they originally come from. Happens all the time for several reasons: war, education, love, a better life. We’re not the only ones. Millions and millions of us are uprooted global nomads and our numbers are only increasing.
‘Home is where the heart is’, they say. But where is my heart? Belongingness is not always a matter of fact. We have to work hard for it, especially when you haven’t learned from own experience what it really means.
‘Why is your skin brown?’, a young woman asked me once in an angry tone. Only much later, I understood her restrained anger. She couldn’t ‘grasp’ me, that made her uncomfortable.
And indeed, it could give you an uneasy feeling when you don’t understand a person. It challenges you to think ‘out of the box’. Not everyone likes that. But when you’re used to constant indistinctness and confusion, it becomes your second nature to improvise.
I write this scrap in Bergen at Sea in the northwest of the Netherlands. One of my many family settlements. Here my parents landed when they came from their home country, which now is called Indonesia.
This is not the place to elaborate about our family history, but basically it’s characterized by a constant moving around the world, a permanent restlessness, a natural unclarity of belongingness. Not just one language, one religion, one way of living or one family system.
Here my eldest auntie lived, near the seaside, in the middle of the dunes. Our ‘clan-mother’ and the central spot to gather, wherever we came from. Always a full house, kids around, people from all over the world, endless spellbound stories. Small rooms under the sloping roofs, packed with beds & bunks for anyone to stay. An open house and heart where everyone belonged. Warm memories from childhood onwards.
It has been good to be back for a while ..
Carola Eijsenring, Indigo-wereld
Carola writes for Eindhoven News on a monthly basis, she writes about things happening in her life, subjects that touch the multicultural world of Eindhoven: www.indigo-wereld.nl