Selamat, I am Irene Goutier, raised in beautiful Altadena, California. It was more promising to own a home in America than in Holland, so my father wanted that after serving in the Dutch Navy. My parents, just like many alike, is Dutch Indo who took refuge to the Netherlands from Indonesia in the late 1940’s. Then later immigrated to the United States around 1960.
My Goutier side of the family is fortunate enough to trace our history back to the early 1800’s. We are part of the Indo – African decent. It started with my great great grandfather Najoersie, a warrior of the Mossi tribe in Africa. Born in Ghana, he sold himselfto the Dutch to fight the war on the island of Sumatra. Later, these soldiers were known as the “Black Dutchman” and “Black Skin with an Orange Heart”. Najoersie next generation was given a last name of Niks, which means “nothing” in the Dutch language.
On my mother side, same scenario after the war, their last name is Beuk. The surname before that was Alles. In translation means “everything” in Dutch. So yes, my mother and father was the joke of the family when “everything” and “nothing” got married.
Fast forward to my birth year, 1968. I had no idea the uniqueness of my family heritage of why I was the way I am or how I live. It was like putting pieces of a puzzle together to make an accepting identity. I have black hair, dark olive skin complexion, green hazel eyes, slender nose and face. So, I looked different from my peers in school, and knew a language no one really heard of. Even if I mention the country of Indonesia it would raise a lot of eye brows and questions. My brother , tall, thin, light skin, brown hair took after my Opa Wim Goutier, from the French decent. My sister has a round face, dark complexion, taking after my mother, of Indonesia decent. Try to explain that to the neighborhood when you are just a little kid.
Another lingering thought, why did my relatives livedso far apart from each other, and in different countries. So any Dutch Indonesia friends our family had growing up near by, I would consider them as my oom, tante, neef and nicht. It felt great to see family more often and finally like I fit in ! Not having to apologize for my parents direct behavior and their stubborn ways because their parents were just the same ! Especially when the adults would get together in a group laughing so loud, listening to Elvis, singing karaoke, and doing the jive. My friends from school would visit me and always ask why do we cook rice 24/7 in the kitchen, and why we would fry chips in the hot grease and can’t wait for it to explode. (Kerupuk Udang or Emping) Why I love drinking coconut milk (way before it became popular) with green worms in it. (Chendol) It was also great not having to translate my parents conversation. Especially when they would yell “hey apa kabar”. (What’s new!) Lastly, why we were so threatened by the sloff ! (slippers).
My parents were excited to tourthe U.S, and experience all what they have heard about it to be. I had the pleasure to experience their first sights of this great country with them. My mother envied the celebrity life in the United States while living in Holland. So my mother took a lot of pictures, posing everywhere, all the time, just like in the movies and magazines. As much as I hated to take the time to pose and smile for the pictures, I really appreciate them now.
Growing up Indo taught me to be appreciate “everything” and the “nothing” in life. At 48 years young, my identity, my puzzle, is a proud American – Dutch – Indo – African person with a French last name.
Thank you SoCal Indo for this opportunity to share our experience with others alike and making our generation feel like one big, happy satay ayam eating family.