The day I left Indonesia

I was born in Indonesia. Raised in the Netherlands. Every year I celebrated August 24, the day I flew to the Netherlands when I was a baby, in 1977. It seemed clear to me I had something to celebrate. Since I had excaped the hopeless slums of my hometown in exchange for a house in one of the richest countries in the world. Frankly, I celebrated my life here, in the country I grew up to be the person I am now. The warm family in which I was raised, the all the chances I’ve gotten, the wonderful job that I have and the friends I have gathered around me over the years. “Congratulations on my wealth.”

Not that I never thought about Indonesia. Your roots, they are embedded in your DNA. No escape. “Do you know who your biological parents are?” “Have you ever looked for them?” Questions that – yeah, well intentioned – were even asked by people I hardly knew. Just like that. I found it hard to find a suitable answer to questions that are so complex. That’s why I often just made up answers. Stories I knew people wanted to hear. Whatever. I couldn’t care less.

Earlier this year I finally found the courage to take The Step after 38 years. Thanks to the My Roots Foundation – Ana Maria , Christine Verhaagen , Teguh Mulyadi <3 – a search started for my biological family. Just before my birthday (March) I received the incredible news that the track had in fact led to my birthmother. Only … she had recently deceased. Just six days before My Roots found her. Six.

This week, just before my adoption day, I was told that Martha Chen , the woman who then arranged the adoption in Indonesia, is still alive. A new track. New questions and hopefully new answers.

This year, like everly year, I celebrate August 24th. This time however I won’t think of it as the day I left behind Indonesia behind me and became a Dutch citizen. I’ll honor this day as the day Indonesia always got a rightful place. Both in my head and in my heart. “Congratulations on my wealth.”

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