The meaning of: OzCloggie.
Will I ever be a ‘true’ Aussie (whatever that is) ? Perhaps not. I’ve been in Australia more than fifty-one years. Do I consider my self ‘Dutch’? No. It’s my ‘membership’ of a ‘club’, a cohort who have had similar experiences to mine.
I now actually –almost – look down on Dutch people who have come here since the seventies.
They don’t know what ‘_migration_’ is! They have just moved house to a different city, albeit on the other side of the world.
THEY did not leave EVERYTHING behind, with 3 percent knowledge of where they were going and board a ship for five weeks to discover that the destination, Perth, offered no prospect of work for the parents and a further voyage towards an even more uncertain future as the better course of action.
In 1956 the black and white tvs that you might be allowed to watch at your neighbours’ places or in the shop window did not tell you much about Australia.
My sixth grade teacher, from Indonesia, told my class that I was going to an island with very tall trees.
In a crisis we try harder. We cope and, hopefully, survive.
Bonegilla the former army camp, now called Migrant Reception Centre, or some such name, was for me a nightmare.
“Have I given up my neat, comfortable flat, for this?” my mother cried.
But they got on with it. We were sent to Sydney. My father briefly swept floors in the Chullora Railway yards and came home with migraines. My mother learnt to sew underpants, in the Bonds factory and later to work with heavy machinery in the EMCO factory. Fortunately light housework for two Estonian-born doctors, mainly minding their children – whom she adored, followed that.
My father found exactly the same job that he’d loved so much in Gouda, cutting mirrors, being the foreman, once again, in a small family-owned mirror /window glass factory.
I entered high school after a few months, knowing very little English and, naturally, failing Latin and not doing too well in physics and chemistry. But, five years later, made it into teachers college, by the skin of my teeth and then, only just got through first year and the second, still needing to pick up science, in my probationary, years.
My ‘Dutchness’ was obvious but less and less, during my thirty-seven years as a ‘Chalkie’. I loved that job! Of course you cannot please everyone.
Part of getting into teachers college, to become, eventually a public servant, was to be naturalised and if that meant I was staying, then my parents might as well too.
So we were.
Seven years ago, I discovered that I had NOT lost my Dutchness, as I had thought. My daughter and son, born here (Australian-born mother, of English – Irish background) were entitled, because I was not 21 when I became an Australian, to Dutch passports.
Teaching was so absorbing that I was only part of the ‘Dutch’ things that my parents did, when it was ‘necessary’.
However, when multiculturism arrived, I saw a few interesting possibilities, including being a ‘broadcaster’, on the new Dutch language radio programs, via SBS Radio 2EA, here, in Sydney.
Also having half a day ‘off’, from teaching, – a nice break, as my father would say – attending the Dutch Syllabus committees meetings, in the rooms of the head of the Indonesian Department, in Sydney University and enjoying my sandwiches on the sunny lawns, outside, at lunchtime, too late to go back to school and having a casual look after my class and even teaching Dutch, in the new Saturday Schools of Community Languages.
I was suddenly Dutch again.
There were annual NSW Holland Festivals to take our children to. Their mother and I revived the Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) tradition for my parents and our children. For a while there was still a cake shop in Caringbah, where hey had retained the recipe for the Dutch Christmas cake (banketletter).
My last name was changed, by deed poll, from Dutch to Irish, to help our children. My father was not too happy. My mother had had her last name changed, obviously, quite some years ago.
Nowadays, I still use my Dutch name for anything and anyone to do with Dutch matters. My children have my legal, official name. I guess my daughter my take another one day and their mother went back to her original one.
I know the words of the Dutch national anthem and the Australian one (and God Save the Queen! We had to sing that in the Villawood Migrant Centre – as it was then.)
I often correct the Dutch of emails that I receive from the Netherlands and I have been known to comment, on RedBubble about the grammar and sentence structure of people writing in English.
When my father’s half-sister heard that I was coming for a fourth trip to Gouda, she asked if I was planning to retire in the Netherlands. I was so surprised that she could even think that. I’d never considered that.
Did I enjoy walking through the streets of Gouda, with my daughter and pointing out where I’d lived and been made to go to the bath house, with my fellow class mates? Of course!!
Would I like to wander those streets again some time?
When I entered the ‘_Inspired by Rembrandt_’ competition, conducted by Radio Netherlands, last year, so that I could dream of attending a few months of art classes in Holland, of course I contemplated what it might be like to actually ‘live’ there for a month or two. But not to stay! I
t’s damp. It’s cool / cold for so long. It’s crowded and it’s small.
Yes. It’s got atmosphere!
But, I need to be within driving-, or even walking- distance of a beach, like Maroubra, or Cronulla, or Little Congwong or cobblers and to be able to escape to River Island.
And every so often, I want to feel that I belong, when I’m in the middle of the city, trying to work out how they’ve changed the traffic flow on me again.
Most important, my son is here, my daughter, their mother and fifty-one years of experiences.
Born in Gouda (Yes! Where the cheese comes from! We’re sick of saying that!)
Migrated when I was twelve, just in time for puberty and high school where teachers spoke a language I did not understand, yet.
Been here 51 years. I’m an OzCloggie!