Visit to hell

My mother rings me to tell me ’t she isn’t coming, because the trains are having problems. An hour or so later as planned she gets her act together and is sitting in the train. Stupefied I think, why didn’t you ring before? But never mind she’s on her way.

Me being already on the spot where we made our appointment, make another round to sniff the atmosphere and eat, buy a sunny summerdress and watch the people.

As long as I can remember we visit every year the Pasar Malam, an Indonesian fair in the Haque. My parents both born in Indonesia while their parents were working there because of the recession in the thirties.

Of course there were years I didn’t come along, but since my father died in june 2005 I feel this urge to go there. He was homesick for the land he was born. He hated the cold wet long winter in Holland. He never told how bad he was treated in the Japanese camps being a young boy separated from his mother at ten and put in a menscamp all by himself. He only told stories about blowing up frogs, trying to get food, growing food. Surviving.

My mother told me they broke the fingers of my fathers mother because she didn’t want to give attention to the Japanese soldiers being a beautiful blond. They probably did something else to her as well. She would never be able to play the violin anymore, but she survived until she went crazy.

My mother gives me a book: the hell of Tjideng. About a Japanese camp, not the one she’s been in, but the camp commander she did meet. And he was hell. I read, I cry. Totally unforgivable, how the Japanes soldiers humiliated the people in the camp, being numbers without a face bowing in the hot sun for hours with bare foot, being kicked up if you fell down, getting less and less food, watery soup and slimy porridge, getting sick and sleeping in the doorway with too many people to fit in a house. Not being able anymore to fight amongst each other about the food being stolen by your fellow campmembers, being bitten by the rats at night and seeing people die day by day. Loosing weight and power and not permitted to smile, sing or whatever emotions, but bow for the Jap. Cleaning the lavatories too smelly and full of shit by by too many people being used. Loosing all your belongings by moving all the time from place to place, carrying your own stuff.

I want to understand, I try to understand but I can’t. I am fascinated by Japanese food, packaging, ikebana. I am an okido yoga teacher, a Japanese form of yoga. My parents were tortured by Japanese soldiers during the war. I can forgive but not forget.

My mother is always afraid, she lives at night. she says she can’t get angry, she’s too afraid what happens if…. me to.

I’m so sorry for all the pain.

Every year at the fair we share, the memories will come up, my mother will have restless nights again. She’s weird, collecting whatever rubbish she can get her hands on, picking up every rubber band, button or shiny object she finds. Her house is too full and too dirty to live in, but she lives there, we are not welcome anymore. So I meet her somewhere else.

And I try to understand, I want to understand but I can’t. It hurts too much.

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