…I know what you are thinking… She doesn’t look Indonesian; she looks Hispanic or Indian or Middle Eastern. At least that is what everyone else seems to think! I am constantly approached by people asking if I am one of the mentioned above or they simply start speaking Spanish to me or hand me leaflets in Spanish. I kindly correct them and say I am Dutch Indonesian, which they quickly question: What is that? Next thing you know, I am giving a history lesson to a complete stranger who was just looking for directions.
I am Tasha Howe (Van Raalten) is my maiden name and I was born and raised in Southern California. I have a lot of pride in my family’s history, which is probably why I don’t mind telling perfect strangers about it. When I think about the stories I grew up listening to, from both my Mom and Dad’s side of the family, I realize this is what history books are truly made of. Both my parents were born in Indonesia, when Indonesia was still a Dutch Colony (Dutch East Indies). Born and raised as Dutch-Indo’s during WWll and the Indonesian Revolution (also known as Indonesian War of Independence or BERSIAP) made for some interesting stories. Some heroic and others down right terrifying. During this time, native Indonesians were rebelling against the Dutch rule, fighting to take their country back. My childhood memories often consist of sitting at the table and listening to my parents, Ooms and Tante’s share stories of their experience during this time. I admit, as a child I heard these stories so often, I stopped listening. As I grew older, I grew to appreciate the history and listened with open ears. I only wish I had recorded those stories to preserve them for generations to come. I regret not learning how to speak Indonesian. My parents spoke Dutch to me, which I fully understand, however I would always respond in English. If they were speaking Indonesian to one another, I knew something was going on or I was in trouble because they didn’t want me to know what was being said! Perhaps this is why they didn’t teach me Indonesian, so they would have a language of their own in our household.
My father, Bart Van Raalten, was born in Surabaya to Cornelius David and Sophia Alice Hortense, many of you know her as “Tante Stanze” My Opa David spent time in a concentration camp, while the family spent their time in Singapore before it was safe for them to return to Surabaya. They made their move to Holland in 1956 and shortly after, made their move The States in 1961. It was here in Southern California, Monrovia to be exact, that my Opa David started the very well-known Dutch-Indo club, the R.O.S.I. Dutch-Indo’s from all around, would gather and share meals and trips together and keep in contact through this club, still known today. It wasn’t until many years later, did my dad take over as President, where he planned and executed many Dutch-Indo events and chartered buses to Vegas or Laughlin. My childhood weekends consisted of spending time playing arcade games at the bowling alley, while the Dutch-Indo’s bowled, or my parents having lavish parties or barbeques where Cendol and Sate were of course served. It wasn’t uncommon visiting my Oma on Sunday and walk in to find her cooking our favorites: Pisang Goreng, Lumpia, Saucijzenbroodjes and of course Pangsit Goreng, with her little dish of water, wonton skins and meats. I would sit with her and fold the wonton skins or (overfill) them with meat. Oh! How I miss her cooking!
My Mother, Julie Van Raalten, was born Julienne Chatelin to Adolf (also known as Ted) and Julianna and was the youngest of six, in Medan Indonesia. My Opa Ted held the title of President of the Justice Department that regulated bankruptcy and orphanages. They lived in a large home where they would entertain and throw parties for Opa Ted’s guests. During WWII, their home became a ticket item for the Japanese army, where my Oma held them off as long as she could, until one night she had the servants load everyone’s belongings and furnishings and fled to a nearby convent. The Japanese continued to search for them, as they were angry they had fled and also wanted their furnishings.
Shortly thereafter, our family did end up in a Japanese internment camp and my Opa was taken as a POW to Burma, where he and countless others were forced to build the bridge over River Kwai. After the war, the family fled to Holland, as so many other Dutch-Indo’s did. They lived in Holland for many years before making the move to the states and eventually planted their roots in Southern California.
I must share with you one more story, as it is quite possibly my favorite. My Oom Ettienne tells this story the best, I hope to convey it with the respect it deserves! My Mother’s maiden last name is Chatelin. However, it was actually “Chatelin Vicont de Muralt.” Our ancestor, a Vicont (a Count) de Muralt, had to flee France because of his religious beliefs and fled to Indonesia, which was still a Dutch colony at the time. The story is that he fell in love with a beautiful Indonesian Princess and wanted to marry her. The Dutch government insisted he drop the royalty from his name, so that is why we are just “Chatelin.” My cousin Nicole asked her father if he would like to petition to regain our full name, but he is happy being just Chatelin. I love this story and will continue to share it. To think we most likely came from Indonesian and French royalty paints a fairytale ending to an otherwise deplorable moment in time.
I have lost both sets of Grandparents, my Dad passed December 5th 2011 and my Mom recently passed on December 5th 2018. The courage, strength and success my family and our ancestors had, is instilled in me and my family. My cousins and I share their stories all the time and celebrate their lives and our Dutch-Indo heritage. We never take for granted the life they lived to provide the life we have.
I am proud to be a Dutch-Indo, living this life in Southern California, a SoCal Indo!