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History nerd

Every time I come to a new place I can’t help to wonder about its history, how the people lived, which purpose the buildings had, their customs, who the leader was etc. I live in a small town with a little chapel dated from the 8th century. And my town is not far from Nijmegen, one of the oldest Dutch cities. First mention of Nijmegen or Upia Noviomagus Batavorum dated from the late Roman period in 104! Why I got so excited about this? Let me tell you more about my love for history. Yes, I am a history nerd.

The start
It all began with me reading stories of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Ivanhoe and Richard the Lion Heart when I was about 7 years old. I wondered if they had really lived. At that time in 1979 there was no Internet so my father told me the real stories about it. I kept asking him for more books about it in bahasa Indonesia. I knew the information was available in my father’s Encyclopedia Britannica, but alas I couldn’t speak/read English then.

I loved to imagine how knights tournaments must have been like. It was kind of romanticing the era through a child’s point of view. Everything was nice, there were the good and the bad. The line was clear to understand.

My father’s role
Then my father commenced to work on a series of Indonesian legends and history. He shared this with us, his children. He was an excellent storyteller. My father told stories of Srivijaya, Majapahit and the Dutch colonial times so interestingly as if he was there himself. I got carried away. When I was on the junior high school, my father and I often discussed about what if’s and how’s of some historical events such as the complot to ruin Gajah Mada, the greatest prime minister of Majapahit (East-Java), why Japan annexed China, why Dutchies were so succesful in trade in the Golden Age, why the country borders in Africa are so straight as if someone used a ruler to mark them and any other historical events came to our mind.

20140406-023713.jpg
Part of old town in Jakarta. These were opium houses dated from early 1600es.

So Indonesian readers can imagine my disappointment and boredom learning history at school. History lessons in Indonesia (at least in my time there) were about learning the years and periods by heart. They were boring! However at home I learnt it myself.

Broaden interests
Triggered by a piece about ancient civilizations, you know the four big history cradles: China, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, I began to explore more and more. I craved for more. I read books about ancient kingdoms in Indonesia (Kutai, Majapahit, Srivijaya, Pajajaran, Mataram) Alexander The Great, Hannibal, Greek Legends, Chinese dynasties, Indians (Maya, Inca & Aztec) and Los Conquistadores, British empire, French history, Romans, The Alamo, slavery but modern history (WWI & WWII) didn’t attract me though.

20140406-024020.jpg
Bronze bust of Roman emperor, Julius Gaius Caesar

WWI & WWII
Until I moved to Arnhem, The Netherlands. Arnhem is the city where the allies tried to defeat the German but failed during operation Market Garden in 1944. If they had succeeded, WWII would end in 1944 instead of 1945. For non history lovers: if you have seen the movie Saving Private Ryan or the series Band of Brothers, Arnhem is one of the cities they (the troops in both movie & serie) reached after they have been dropped in Normandy, France. This is called the Liberation route.

And then I heard stories from my father in law about how Indonesians hunted the Indo’s (Eurasian living in Indonesia) down in the Bersiap era. This information is not available in Indonesian history books. Why? Because during Bersiap, after the declaration of independence in August 1945 – the beginning of 1946, there was vacuum of power. Indonesian freedom fighters hunted Dutchies, English and Indo’s down like a dog. Many were murdered, women and girls were raped. My father in law was 13 years old boy at the time. He was lucky not being killed cause he looked like a full blood Indonesian.

Culinary history
History gets more interesting when I started to link it with my other hobby, cooking & baking. Did Marco Polo really import pasta from China to Italy? Did you know that The Portuguese brought their Pastel de Nata to Macao? The Chinese has adopted and adapted it as the egg tart today. Many more examples are present now. Like the well-known Bagels in the USA. Jewish immigrants from Europe brought it there. Pretzels is brezels originated from Germany. And this one is still on a debate: which one inspires which, in Créme Brûlée (French) vs Crema Catalana (Catalan).

L’histoire se répète
This means history repeats itself. This sounds cliché but it is very true. After the long monologue above this is what I have learnt from history.

  • In all historical eras everywhere in the world, tribes try to survive. It is kill of being killed.
  • Men march to the front for the battle while women and children await. Did you know there is sadly no difference in women’s & children’s role then and now? They have always been captived. Most women and girls are raped too.
  • First day a ruler has set his foot on a throne, he is only busy with surviving the enemies or expanding his territory (warfare)
  • History has two sides, it depends on which side you believe.
  • History can be corrected manipulated.
  • Freedom is a luxury one must pay with sweat and bloody conflicts (wars).
  • War is stupid, there are no winners only losers.


  • Now you know where my endless fascination for history comes from. And why I love visiting museums when I travel. They tell me the history. History is not only about wars & conquers, history is about social economy, migration, integrated language, culinary & culture whether forced or organically grown. History helps me to understand things better without being judgemental, at least I try not to. And if you are not bored with history, I keep on sharing it here.

    19 thoughts on “History nerd

    1. Aku jg suka sejarah mba, karena dulu guru sejarahku ngajarnya menarik. Trs aku suka ngeliat gmn meski tahun berubah, sifat dan kelakuan org itu kok repetisi dari generasi sebelumnya. Dan sebetulnya kalo dilihat dari sejarah, masalah humanisme itu sendiri cuma perulangan yg mustinya kita belajar dari kasus yg dulu2 biar gak jatuh di lubang yg sama

      • Betul Nov, sejarah terulang terus seperti siklus ya. Sayangnya manusia ngga belajar dari situ, malah cenderung mengabaikan.

        Aku waktu kuliah di sastra Perancis dosen yang ngajar sejarah Perancis ok banget. Cuma waktu SD, SMP & SMA kok materinya hanya menghafal tahun dan kejadian penting. Bosen.

    2. It’s a cliché, but there’s some truth in it: “if you don’t know the history, you don’t understand the present”.

      And indeed, the love for history largely depends on the educators. You were lucky to have such a father!

    3. Dulu waktu SMA punya guru sejarah yg “sejarah Nerd” dia excited banget tiap nerangin dan seakan2 kita dibawa ke event sejarah itu sendiri….. apalagi waktu dia jelasin tentang Troya duhhh semangat 45….
      Sharing ur interest about history here will be ok kok mba yo… lumayan dapet ilmu kan🙂

      • Waa, Troya? Seru itu legenda Yunani. Aku suka. Menarik dari legenda/sejarah Yunani konon fakta & fiksinya udah nyampur banget. Kapan deh kalo ada waktu aku cerita ini. Mudah-mudahan bisa tambah info.

    4. Aku suka sejarah, dari sejarah kita bia belajar pengalaman tetua di masa dulu. Efeknya bisa mengurangi hal2 buruk yg telah dilakukan dan mempertahankan hal baik demi kemajuan seseorang/sesuatu.
      Ah jadi inget guru SMA-ku dulu, mbak Yo.. Cara beliau mengajar sejarah juga asik!

    5. I hate on how Indonesian writer tried to portray history in the school text book. I used to hate history in school and barely passed the lesson. But when I read history book when I was in college, it was very different! It is like reading biography and a novel at the same time. I wish Indonesian government can fix the way of writing history book.

      I love how you portrayed the curiosity of each and every aspect of life including food.

      • Perhaps the history book writers had the task from the higher hand to write that way. Either correcting the history or writing it in a boring manner.

        Yes, I am a curious person. I happen to have countless questions in my mind, trying to find the answers🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

    6. aku pernah bercita2 jadi arkeolog..he..he.., tapi nggak jadi
      doyan sejarah krn pengaruh papa yg senang ke museum, dan makin jadi suka karena guruku di kelas 5 ngajar sejarah sambil ceritain Joko Tingkir Ken Dedes, dll..

      dan sampai sekarang tetap pengen tau segala sesuatu latar belakang di balik sebuah benda

      • Iya, aku juga selalu penasaran dengan sejarah benda, tempat, orang, makanan, kebiasaan, kepercayaan, bahasa. Selalu ada pengaruhnya dari daerah lain dan menarik untuk ditelusuri.

        Belajar sejarah sekarang ini bukan hanya mencari jawaban atas pertanyaan apa, siapa dan kapan tapi juga kenapa & bagaimana.

        Terima kasih sudah mampir kesini.

    7. “History can be corrected manipulated” >>> Nah kalau ini pas dengan apa yang terjadi di Indonesia. Hingga sekarang banyak kejadian2 yang nggak jelas, dimanipulasi untuk kepentingan rezim tertentu, misalnya soal Gerakan 30 September. Selain itu, pernah nih aku baca twit seorang anak yang bilang bahwa “penculikan aktivis mahasiswa/i di taun 1997-1998 itu adalah gosip”. Yaaa yg bilang gini anak umur 20 sih, yg pas zaman itu masih balita, tapi anehnya anak remaja zaman sekarang, gadget canggih-canggih tapi males browsing. Sepertinya memang remaja indonesia zaman sekarang kurang tertarik sejarah.

      Oh iya mbak, kalau di Belanda sana tiap kota punya museum sejarah kan? Disini, di tempatku tinggal di Bekasi sama sekali nggak ada. Boro2 deh ngerti sejarah kota Bekasi…hehehhe

      • Kurang kesadaran aja dari kecil sih kalo aku lihat. Bahkan sebenernya cerita asli dibalik G30S udah terkuak 10 tahun lalu cuma sampe sekarang masih aja rame seperti baru ketahuan. Disatu sisi bagus, sadar sejarah. Disisi lain coba angkat manipulasi sejarah lainnya, masih banyak tuh.

    8. Pingback: EF #2: My Wildest Dream | Chez Lorraine

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