A new house



ImageDear All,

The new house is on its way with great speed. All the poles are standing, a number of walls and the lattice on which the roof tiles will rest are in place, 7000 tiles are ordered. Every day on the location, already enjoying what’s about to come, and trying to keep an overview of how the work, sometimes in a chaotic way, is done. Good, trustworthy builders but sometimes little things are forgotten. And, building here is an ad hoc thing, decisions as where to put this door, where that window, are made on the spot. But all in all delighting in the creation of my own place and looking forward. Most of the time at least…

Rudy Kousbroek (Dutch writer, 1929 – 2010) talks about a home also when he writes about “knowing the way in a house that doesn’t exist anymore”. He speaks about Indonesia then and, I think, about a past that was beautiful. I taste a moving yearning in that simple sentence. One knows the way in a house that does not exist any longer. Geographical distance or time that creates distance and initiates change; they don’t leave the house, as it once was, unaltered. But also then there is still the well-known way in a building that won’t fade from memory. Dissonant that was possibly there became invisible, cannot be heard anymore – also because you want it that way –, the warmth can still be felt. And the smell, when coincidentally encountered un-mistakenly that smell, that speaks softly about then, is also stored safely. Not a place to live in, but a share of richness that can – sad-happy – be taken in the hand when something awakes homesickness. An awakening that approaches softly; a day or date, a glance, a brief look into someone’s life… And Indonesia, so different, often resembles Africa because beauty in people is everywhere. With all that is rooted firmly in heart and thoughts, building the new house.

In my sleep I wonder what that motorbike is doing on the farm and why Dopie doesn’t bark. It’s quite hot for the time of the year, and not even summer yet. A dear friend in Johannesburg is in the hospital for an operation, I hope it will be okay. I’ll have to go there. And later, end of January, I’ll be on the farm of Esther and Werner but that’s just around the corner. Thando wrote in an email that he found a new place for the studio, he’s moving to Pretoria. A NGO is willing to support him and in his mail he mentions pride and thankfulness and the will to show a backbone. I want to go and see it. From Cedric nothing and I wonder how he’s doing. Will have to call him tomorrow morning. Sleep sweating I try to stop my thoughts.

Then I wake up again in the land of always summer. Muji calls. A long time ago, after a heavy accident, he had to undergo risky surgery and in the hospitals here it’s paying up front. Pay now or die later this week was the choice. I was lucky and was able to help a bit. Now he’s an engineer with a reasonable job and he invites me to come over to Yogyakarta. There will be negotiations with his parent in law to be and he’d like me to take part in it. To ‘make things more simple’ he bought a sim-card from the same provider I use. “Talks much easier Pak Frank.” I don’t understand a thing of it but it is sweet. Bali is hot and it’s a bit pressing. We’re waiting for rain but, as far as I’m concerned, that can wait a bit longer. First the roof on the house.

With love



Art classes

Dear All

Almost four years they came, the kids from the art-class.  Every Saturday morning, often already around 7 a.m., they stood in front of the door. “You’re very early” or “now you’ll have to wait very very long” were remarks that didn’t register. Hanging around on the farm for a few hours, they didn’t think it was a problem – on the contrary.

Playing with the dog, running over the fields and when they were lucky already a glass of lemonade; they were quite okay with it. And when in started around 10, with an average of about 25 children, they behaved (usually) extremely well. “We’re going to school on Saturday” is what they said, “a very nice school”.

It was never about art really, we just didn’t get to that. Of course, we worked with clay, made drawings, painted, worked with glass even, but that’s not what it was all about. Often I wondered how it was possible that every Saturday so many kids left home early, and would come home only after one o’clock, without any of the parents bothering to come and see where they were going. I have no answer but it made it very clear that the real purpose of the classes – a hand on a shoulder, a pat on the bag – was not superfluous.

It took them some time to get used to that white guy but we became friends after a while. It made me happy when, on my way to the village, ten times or more I’d heard children shout at me, saw them wave… “Hi mister Frank! Hi!”

Hardly ever did I see so much happiness and joy. On every face a beautiful smile.Teddy and Tshepo would, sometimes, hop in during weekdays as well. I could think that Dopie was my dog, they knew better.

Celebrating Christmas together, with presents. Happy with small thing of a few bucks. And also the barbeques, the braais, were a real success. Good food with a glass of coke or a fanta. When the time arrived to say goodbye we went to Wimpy’s, all of us. 35 children ate their hamburger with knife and fork, timidly radiating a joy that’s almost not of this world. After luch they just sat for a long time, enjoying their Icecream. Happy and impressed by the “real” restaurant.

The story about WWvK – our sponsor – they never quite understood and Apostolic Society was something beyond their comprehension. But together they made that banner, so that I will remember. I’m proud with it but there was no need really. They live in my heart and I won’t forget.

Now I hear that they are asking people I know in the village for the phone-number of mister Frank. “A phone-call is way to expensive” is their response and then the question comes if they can’t make a phone-call then because it can’t go on like this… It’s not clear to me who went to school every Saturday, I or the children. May we all did?

With love,