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Showing posts from March, 2016

Strange new world

What is a young man to think when he comes from Amsterdam, born in 1810, and arrives in the exotic destination of Palembang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies.
Reinier Scherius arrived as a young 22 year old in 1832 and started his career with the Dutch Colonial Administration.
Sailing up the Musi river which divides Palembang into two he would have noted the remnants of the three Dutch forts, and the walled city.
He would have adjusted to the heat as the ship had made its way around the Cape and up the West Coast of Australia to catch the trade winds to Indonesia. 
But Palembang’s climate is oppressively humid and hot, with a fairly constant mean temperature around 27 degrees Celcius. The monsoon from November to March might have brought some respite, but in a culture where heavy European clothing was worn, it would have been quite unbearable.
The food was different too. Spicy with a sweet and sour signature dish. Eating this kind of food would have brought him out in a sweat.
At night the air m…

A very personal piece of jewelry

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It is small, very small, rounded oval, no bigger than perhaps a 5 cent piece. But it holds a lot. Encased in the gold frame is a very somber scene. You need to look really hard to see it but you can make out a tomb stone with some branches behind it. On the tombstone are the initials L B, intertwined. I turn it over and there is a small pin attached to the back.
I look at my grandmother who has given me this jewel.  She had put it in a small round pill box, the kind you used to get from the apothecary or chemist. She must have had a few of them, after all grandfather was an apothecary or pharmacist and back when pharmacists still routinely produced the medicines they dispensed this was a normal part of his inventory. Very handy too as a small jewel box.
She explains that the scene encased in the gold frame is made from the hair of her grandmother and my great-great grandmother Lijsbeth Beintema. This was a memorial broche that was made at her passing. 
Now she has given it to me, as her…

A spicy life in the East Indies

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The following story was my assignment to complete my unit Writing Family History at University of Tasmania online studies summer school. 

He got only a whiff at first, just a hint of something familiar, yet different. As the ship steadily sailed on, drawing closer to her destination, the scent intensified. 
Reinier Scherius stood on the deck eager to catch a first glimpse of his new posting.  “I’ve come a long way,” he thought, “how different it all is from Amsterdam. Just to think, this all started because they thought the sea air would do me good. “ He smiled to himself. “It certainly had done him good, he had made a successful career for himself in the Dutch East Indies, in the service of the colonial administration.”
He was now on his way to the island of Saparua, the most important spice island of the Moluccas Archipelago. Here, 33 years old,  he would commence his term as Assistant Resident of Saparua and Haruku. 
The scent of cloves was riding on the air now and the outline of the i…