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 might have cooled to a relatively pleasant low 22 degree celsius but there was no escaping the humidity. 

And then there were the sounds and smell. The surrounding dense jungle housing all manner of strange exotic animals with their distinctive shrieks and calls, the buzzing of the insects, the heavy scent of native jasmine sometimes barely covering the stench of open sewers. 

Would Reinier have longed for the familiar quiet of Amsterdam or be excited by all the exotic sights and sounds he encountered here?

This was another task I completed for the Writing History Unit.


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