Feels Like Family

Published on 25 April 2023 at 02:39

Twice a year the Indos in San Diego get together for a kumpulan. This time they met up in the bay area, for a potluck picknick.  


By Vivian Boon // photos Ashley de Groot 


Driving down Mission Bay Drive, the San Diego Indos’ kumpulan is hard to miss. The bright blue tents set up by the Indo Project stick out, people are carrying folding chairs and blankets onto the lawn and songs of the Everly Brother’s fill the air of the sunlit Sunday morning. And of course, we should not forget the food at this potluck event. ‘Cause let’s be honest, an Indo get-together without food is just impossible. Indos are carrying rice cookers and warming pans towards the spread-out tables and a quick inspection shows delicious ayam pedis, ayam smoor, bami, atjar, lemper and roti kukus. But also, dropjes, Haagsche hopjes and bitterballen. ‘I made them myself!’ says Charles glowing with pride. ‘It was quite a process, making the filling and rolling them just the right way. Don’t forget to taste one!’  


The tenth edition of the Indos in San Diego kumpulan attracts about 80 people to the San Diego harbor area. ‘I never know exactly how many people will turn up,’ initiator Andrea Matthies (50) says. ‘I organize this event twice a year and people let me know on Facebook if they will attend, but sometimes only a few show up. This is a great turnout.’ Andrea started the group Dutch Indos in San Diego in 2015 to bring the local Dutch-Indo community together. ‘I think it’s absolutely wonderful,’ Andrea’s mom says. ‘I don’t know where she gets it from. I was not that interested in my roots, she is more Indisch than I am!’  


Around noon, people are starting to get hungry, but they have to be patient. ‘No snacking!’ says Maureen of the Indo Project sternly, but with a big smile on her face, to a man quickly taking a piece of winko. ‘We’re still waiting for everyone to arrive and to put their food out. If we start eating before they’re done setting up, there’ll be nothing left!’   


The event is bringing Indos of all generations to the bay. Andy came with his father Eddy (85). ‘My dad never used to go to these kinds of events, but a few years ago he started attending them. He is the youngest in a large family and most of his older siblings have died. So there’s no one left to talk about the olden days. He loves being here, talking to all the other Indos.’ Andy himself has just now begun to learn about his roots. ‘In school, I used to be ashamed of my roots. I just wanted to be like all the other blond haired, blue eyed American kids. But now I am proud to be an Indo and I try to find out as much as I can from my dad. Fortunately, he does not mind talking about the past and I can ask him everything.’  


Jane (83) and husband Rudy (90) love coming out here. They moved to San Diego in the sixties and her Dutch is still fantastic – be it with a slight Indo American accent. ‘We would never move back to the Netherlands,’ she says. ‘We have a great life here. If you can have all this – and she waves her arms around – why leave?’ When I ask her whether she feels American, Dutch or Indisch she says, without hesitation: ‘Indisch. I’ve got to have a plate of rice every day, otherwise I just don’t feel good.’  


‘People in their eighties and nineties can come and get a plate now,’ Andrea calls out through a megaphone. It’s hard to believe that the men and women in line have already reached that age, looking as good as they do. With plates filled up, they hit the folding chairs ‘bord op schoot’ as they say (plates in their lap) and enjoy the food while chatting away. And while the younger generations get their food, Rudy and Jane get up and take the floor – or should I say lawn - to jive, bringing smiles to our faces.  


‘It’s like being with family,’ Jerry (85) says. ‘You feel at home here. It’s always nice to meet up and see everyone.’ And when all the food is gone, people start packing up. Some of the visitors moving on to a Kingsday Celebration in the area. Right before we leave, a lady gently grabs my arm to get my attention. ‘Are you Tjalie Robinsons’ granddaughter?’ Her nametag, like the one we all have pasted on our chests, reads Irene. ‘He’s the reason why we are all here today. When he was here back in the sixties, he inspired us, and we all got together in clubs like the Soos and DURF. And those clubs in turn inspired Andrea to organize this kumpulan. It is wonderful to see what she is doing, what you are doing with the magazine. And Tjalie, he is at the root of it all.’   

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