School was quite different there in Singapore than it had been back in the states. First of all it was kindergarten through 12th grade all in one building so everyone was together. And everyone meant just about every nationality, color, religion that you could possibly conceive of. What was truly interesting though is that you just didn’t think of all of that. It was just the normal everyday way of things.
Our first vacation my mother came and picked us up to take us home. It was then that we learned they had done a bit more research into schools. Each one of us was given a choice of where we wished to go. The choices were a boarding school in Sweden which was on the semester schedule, a boarding school in the Philippines also on the semester schedule or remain in Singapore. My oldest sister chose to go to school in the Philippines while my next older sister and I chose to remain in Singapore. I really don’t know why any one of us made the decisions we made, but it did mean that not only were we split apart from our parents but would now be split from our oldest sister. But once again somehow that just did not feel strange. It was just a part of life as far as we were concerned.
My mother then flew my oldest sister (we will call her EJ) out to the Philippines to get her enrolled in school while my other sister (AJ) and I stayed home with my father. My father was a college professor and had obtained a teaching job at the university. The project he worked on was to help them improve their medical college. So during the day while he was teaching my sister and I were alone at home. Well, ok, we were never really alone as we had servants! Yes, that was very much a change for us. We had a laundry woman who would do our laundry every few days and then iron everything in sight. The iron she used was one of those really heavy things with coals inside. In later years after realizing the work she did I felt so sorry for her. My mother told me later she had offered to buy and electric iron but she would have nothing to do with that.
We also had a driver. Actually we had many drivers as apparently there were problems with some of them. Being the kid I was I never bothered to find out what the problems were. And we had a yard man. He was an older gentleman that worked out in the hot sun all day long. But I do believe he taught my father how to grow the orchids that my father loved so much (as do I!). We also went through several cooks before finding our gem of one who stayed with us until we left. Oh my but she was a fabulous cook. And lastly we had a “house boy”. What was his job? Honestly I am not exactly sure but I do know he was very, very cute!
Every afternoon around 4:00 it would be “tea” time. Well in our household tea time turned into beer time. The houseboy would bring my parents beer and my sisters and I “Orange Crush” which was just about the only soda available. But along with that he would bring out some sort of snack. My favorite of those were the fried bananas. Whenever we were home the cook always made sure to make those – many times as she knew how very much I loved them.
Those were the weekday afternoons. On Friday evenings my parents liked to have a real drink and did enjoy their martinis. So the houseboy and the cook wanted to learn how to make them so they could serve them properly. My father showed how to measure the ingredients and make the martinis and believed that was that. Apparently several hours later my parents heard the servants in the back of the house laughing very loudly. My parents were not strict with the servants at all but they were curious as to what was so funny so they headed back there to see what it was all about. Apparently the houseboy and cook had been practicing making martinis and of course had to taste every single one of them. However, they would take a sip and then throw out the rest of it. First of all these people did not drink alcohol so it hit them pretty hard and fast. But they were also throwing out the very valuable vodka my parents had brought with them. They laughed about that for years to come and my father continued to make the martinis.
It did not take a lot for us to get used to this lifestyle at all, or at least I don’t think it did. I think children tend to acclimate to this type of thing better than the grownups. Though I do believe my mother became quite accustomed to the servants quite quickly.
Life in Indonesia was in fact very different for us. But it was also a very exciting time in our lives.