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9  Bandung

Paris van Java
Bandung, also affectionately known as “Paris of Java”
After Tasikmalaya, the post for the next three years became the city of Bandung, for those days already a modern city in West Java, with a cool climate situated high-up in and surrounded by mountains. Bandung was, and still is, lovingly called the ‘Paris of Java’. I am not sure whether or not it was a coincidence, but when we moved to the Coenstraat my aunt – an older sister of my mother - lived only a little further down the street. She, her husband and two children had been housed there before us. They were the same aunt and uncle who had been on leave in the Netherlands around the same time as us in 1934/1935.
Lonny Gerungan's cookbook
Lonny Gerungan's cookbook
Since we were living in the same street in Bandung, our parents frequently got together when my mother and her older sister had something to share with each other. When these two sisters were chatting along and bursting out in laughter, they could be heard a block away so to say! My father and uncle never said much and once my aunt was telling my mother about good recipes from a particular cook book. My father kept silent. But he brought her that very same cook book when he came home from work the next day which he had since purchased for my mother! It seems that I take after my father with my ‘rarely speaking out’, because he was never longwinded at home, as opposed to my mother, whom I often heard singing all kinds of songs while she was busy in the house.

Pocket money, sausages and ‘spekkoek’ (thousand layer cake)

Early 1937 in Bandung, when I had grown from a toddler into a rascal of about eleven years old with all my tricks, I could use a bit of pocket money every month. Which I managed quite well, because my mother was giving me 25 cents, running errands for my aunty or for one of our friends would get me 5 cents each time and lengthy ‘chores’ would get me a lot more of course. My mother was famous for her delicious East Indian sausages. And when she made them, she made them in large quantities. First, the meat grinder was attached onto a kitchen table and while my mother put the meat in, bit by bit, I would be working up a sweat turning the crank to mince the meat. Next, the mince was seasoned as per her special recipe. After the final stage of the process (putting the seasoned meat into the intestines), the servant would be sent out to take the East Indian sausages to my mother’s best friends as a surprise. The latter was a typical tradition of our East Indian community, because every now and again a servant would bring goodies in return whenever their employer had prepared something special, so her (i.e. the employer’s) friends could enjoy them as well. To get back to my pocket money, my aunt who lived in our street in Bandung was renowned for her ‘spekkoeken’ (thousand layer cakes). A very intensive and especially a ‘hot’ affair! First one would spend hours preparing the batter in two colours (light and dark brown), after which, out in the garden and simultaneously using several round baking trays, the spekkoek batter was baked until done, one layer after the next. Hot charcoal, spread out on top of the lid, was used for baking. Every few minutes, the lid was lifted up and the next layer of batter was spread on top, ready to be baked. Back then, hardly anyone had an oven, so I earned quite some pocket money by helping make these spekkoeken.

“Berko” dynamo

All those earnings - we even asked for money for our birthday - served the purpose of improving our status among our peers and making them most envious. What was going on? In those days, when we were boys, our parents would give us a new bicycle to ride to school and to hang around with our friends, once we had finished our homework. Traditionally, this would be a good looking Japanese bike of the brand ‘Mayam’, which cost 11 guilders. However, in those days, all products of Japanese making looked good, but weren’t of great quality. But this aside. These bikes were equipped with an old fashioned petroleum light. When the mantle was lit at night time, it was just bright enough to be seen, but it didn’t emit any light. It was my childhood dream to have an electric ‘spotlight’ of the brand ‘Berko’, which had a dynamo driven by the tyre of the bicycle and which emitted an abundance of light in a forward direction. With such a floodlight on my bicycle I’d be ‘quite a gentleman’! Besides, the chance of being seriously reprimanded by our parents was considerable, because my friends and I had taken up the habit of twisting the handle bars up by 90 degrees and wrapping them with a bicycle tyre. Simply because it looked cool.

Dancing

The Braga in Bandung g
The Braga in Bandung. This area is similar to the chic area of Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. On the right, with parasols, is Bogerijen Maison, a luxury bread and pastry shop
Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that, when we were living in Bandung where I went to the European Elementary School, my classmates and I participated in a dance performance on the Stadsplein (City Square) together as part of the festive celebrations for the birth of our then princess Beatrix. Time flies indeed when I realise that our former Queen Beatrix has now been succeeded by her son Willem-Alexander known as King Willem-Alexander.

 

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