Hi! My name is Christiaan Verbeek. I’m 23 years old and I was born in San Diego CA. I’m half Indo and half Italian. My father was born in Bali, Indonesia in 1934. My Opa was from Rotterdam and went to Indonesia during the war where he met my Oma who lived in Meester Cornelis on Java.
Growing up Indo gave me mixed feelings. I grew up not really fitting in. Where as other kids could say “I’m full German, I’m full Filipino, I’m full etc” I never had that option. I felt there was nothing I could claim that was 100% mine. That I 100% belonged to that place or tradition. Our family was thrown into Japanese concentration camps and after my dad and his family got sponsors to come to America as refugees, he never talked about home any more. I was raised an American and I spoke English. I grew up not knowing any of my fathers story except for his hatred towards the Japanese (we still do not buy Japanese cars or products in my family). One common thing however, and the thing I latched on to the most as my main source of what I identified what I was, was my dads love for all things tropical. When he got asked what he was he would always say “Pacific Islander”. So that was it, that’s what I was. I was Pacific Islander. I took hula lessons, I grew up in the Pacific community, I’m a Tahitian drummer, and the proud owner of a pacific island drum business where we hand make and sell traditional pacific island instruments all around the world (that’s where my Bali artisan blood comes in haha)
As I dug more and more deeper I found how incredibly similar our customs are to other islands in the pacific, how similar our languages are, and I learned about this great migration of an ancient people who conquered the largest ocean on the planet with a simple canoe, who’s roots stem from Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. I researched the languages and found words in bahasa are the exact same with the same meaning as words in Hawaiian and Samoan. That tattoos in Samoa came from designs on pottery from Indonesia and other islands. I was so proud to know that this was in my blood but “indo” was still not in my vocabulary. Even when I would say “yea I’m indo” I would get “is that like Hawaiian or something??” So I tried “im Indonesian” for awhile but it just didn’t sound right, then I tried “I’m Dutch” but that didn’t work for me either. So I gave up. I said I was Hawaiian, or half Samoan, anything to get off the subject.
My fathers family lives in Long Beach and in Holland so I grew up not knowing them. Maybe once a year at gatherings but that only made me feel more secluded, as I was this Pacific Islander kid with these random brown skin people speaking Dutch. It wasn’t until 2010 when in saw that KNVB was in the World Cup where I was like “wait, some of those guys are Dutch and indo like me” and the spark finally went off. I bought the jerseys, I was rooting for them in every game! I would hear my dad talk to his sister every night on the phone in Dutch just in awe as I craved to learn what he was saying. I YouTubed Dutch songs that I still listen to today. Dad shot me down a few time by saying “don’t you know that the Dutch HATED the Indos when we went to holland because we are dark??” So once again, I was Pacific Islander. Once again I gave up. As time went on, I finally got to a point where I had enough. I needed to know if there was others like me, if there were more Indos and what it was like to be an indo. I got mad I couldn’t find Indonesian t shirts so I made my own. I made my own “indo pride” decal sticker for my car next to a sticker of the Indonesian islands. I contemplated getting a Dutch lion tattooed on me. I was going nuts. I was mixing my pacific island upbringing and putting an indo twist on it “bringing the pacific culture back to my dads islands” as I liked to say. I rode that wave for quite some time, of course stirring up controversy along the way. It wasn’t until a few months ago where I happened to stumble upon some Indonesian music from Maumere that sounded very similar to the island tunes I grew up with, only finally dad could understand them. I kept searching and downloading songs, listening to them everyday singing in their dialect and in bahasa until I finally stumbled upon real INDO music. Indo People singing in Dutch and Indonesian about growing up being indo. Something re wired in my brain and it finally clicked. I am indo and I knew it all along. I grew up being an American Pacific Islander but really I was an Indo kid doing everything with an indo twist. Finally after 23 years I was proud to be Indo.
So the question was, what’s it like growing up Indo? It’s pretty awesome. To be a mix race which in turn is a culture all it’s own. I am NOT Indonesian, I am NOT Dutch, I am Indo.