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Indo Of the Month – April – Michael Rijnders

Hello, my name is Michael Rijnders,

Readers – i want you to Imagine a time… a time where there was green jungles, beautiful little houses made out of mortis and tenon joints and wooden pegs, timber, bamboo, thatch and fibre, indo’s know this as, “rumah adat”. Which meant, “custom home”. Life was custom, and people were accustomed to being well to do with simplicity. House servants were extended family that you paid to help around with cooking, cleaning, even help raising children… That was the life of an INDO post war. The life of my families stories told from my mother and grandmother where she grew up. 

On my mothers side it was a story of love in war… My grandmother Wilhelmina Paap lived in Indonesia during the times of the Japanese invasions, while many families were being searched, raided, harassed, my grandmothers beauty was radiant and hopeful and caught the eyes of a Japanese pilot at the time( they were the enemy). The story goes, the pilot would help and aide her and her family during the time and out of the blue, disappeared. Perhaps he got captured, but that is unknown. However, he left my grandmother with the most amazing gift… My mother… Curly Jolly Paap-Monod de Froideville – Rijnders. Later my grandmother fell in love with Lt. Robert Monod De Froideville from the Royal Dutch Marines, who by his dutch-Indonesian decent, was brought in to negotiate terms for the Dutch-Indo shenanigans. However, he did’t speak Bahasa at the time. So My grandmothers brother Rex Paap was his translator. (which is how my grandmother and him met) Having raised my mother as his own and having 8 more children!

Side thought: Fast forward/rewind end up in limbo… in between most of this.

My family experienced… a little jungle magic(no pun intended haha). Weird things like jaga’s (good spirits protecting the home), to sacred kris’s that made Indonesian soldiers run out the house scared from head to toe, and kept my family safe on both sides. (similar stories actually came from both my mother and fathers side). And my mother and her family ended up in the US, and my father Andries John Rijnders from the Royal Dutch Navy.

My mothers family and her flew into what was New York International Airport(Now Kennedy International) on KLM McDonnel-Douglas aug. 16 1962. Once they cleared customs, they went to Grand Central Station and took a train to Chicago, from there to Santa Fe railroad to Los Angeles. Trip took 3 days and they arrived Aug, 19, 1962.

My Opa was 39 my Oma would be 35 – 8 days later. My mother 16 at the time, with her siblings Peter(13), Fee(12),Dick(11) Marjo(9), Hanneke(7), Hans(5). The Dutch consul general asked a Dutch family Jaap & Janny Kaperto borrow their station wagon and two additional cars the consulate provided to pick them all up and take them to a large house on 555 N Alvarado Blvd, a block away from the famous McArthur Park. They lived on the first floor with Bill and Trees Seeman. Which through a dividing door, my family peeped through key holes to look at the magical world of Black and White Television. They only had 75$ in their pockets when they arrived.

Raising a family was hard, but my grandfather made it happen with finesse. fast forward after some hardships and finally moving to Pasadena with other indo families. A year later the Indo Community Center De Soos was established. Where my grandfather was Vice President and my grandmother made the first Sinterklaas costume used in the club. De soos first met monthly at Jefferson Park in Pasadena, then Boyle Heights, After that, St Andrews Church in la Puente, where Rene Creutzburg servedthe longest as President of de Soos.

My mother, old enough to work by sixteen years of age, met my father when she was working as a waitress at Garuda Indonesian Restaurant in Pasadena. My father and his old military friend were sitting their eating, when they saw this Indonesian gal with long dark black hair down to floor, with giant C cups. They were giddy and googly eyed when they made gentlemen’s bet… “Let’s flip a coin and see who asks her out!”.. My father won.  He was 26/27 years old at the time. On their first date, he wooed her with his cooking skills. She came over to his apartment and he cooked her Corned Beef and Rice!(ok not really cooking skills, but it left an impression). An Impression so good that my mother said, he will never cook again as long as she’s around. They fell in love, she quit her job and became a stay at home wife, raising 7 children together. Where she cooked every day she could. I am the youngest of 7.  My brothers and sisters Andries Jr, Richard, Paul, Charlie, Belinda, Rebecca and Myself, have been 3rd Generation Indos, living the American Dream.  We grew up in places like the Avio, and Soos. It seemed there was a party 7 days a week full of dancing, drinks, laughter, war stories, and love… Indo’s love dancing – I grew up with diverse music like the Lambada, Indo Rock, Rock n Roll, Oldies but Goodies, playing on old record players non stop, even when my mother was cleaning.

My father became a chief engineer and retired from Ralph’s grocery factory in San Pedro after his military career ended and family life started. His family was all left behind in Holland, he too comes from a huge family of 7.

He was forced at the age of 16 to join the military by his father. Once he did, being the second oldest, he went through and decided, sunny beaches and polka dot bikinis was his goal. He’s never stopped working a day in his life, and til this day, still helps many first and second generation indo’s with his business, A.Rynders Electric Air conditioning and Refrigeration. Also til this day, does all the electrical work for the Dutch/indo fair in long beach. He has always been an honest worker, and never charging much for his time and labor, growing up working with him as my brothers all did before me, he would tell us how he always wanted to give us a life of knowledge like his father gave him. He said if you are an honest worker, you will always have enough money to be comfortable. He told us how if he wanted to he could be like all the other companies that over charge for parts and labor with arms and legs, but why would you want that reputation? He said honest prices, and honest work, will always have God look out for your family. If you charge people fairly, they will recognize your worth and you will always have business. He raised 7 off us whole heartedly and with the sweat off his back since age 16. My mother and him raised us to be So-Cal Indos.

Til’ this day i have never met another Indo in person besides family and our extended close niche Indo family through Soos and Avio connections of first and second generations. I am glad i can start connecting more with others like me. 3rd and 4th generation Indo communities that are still interested in our heritage and background so it does not remain lost.

What does it mean to me to be an Indo?

To me, it is exactly how my family raised us and the surroundings of our environment. Open doors for friends and family, always having food and snacks for random guests that pop in to say hello. A Warm heart that welcomes anyone and everyone of every color and background. Family morals that build a chain that keeps on growing to support everyone in our community. Being able to know my dreams are not possible today without the sacrifices of the ones before us that were refugees without a country. To remember the smiles, laughs, poker chips shuffling and dancing to music for generations to come. Sharing stories of the past show that everyone has overcome so much to be here and because of that, INDO’s will never be forgotten.

Thank you for listening to my story, i hope to read more of yours and share drinks, pot-lucks, dances, and rock out to Een kop koffie!

I am a SO-CAL indo. I am Michael Rijnders.

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