Circa. 1972 (?), this photo was taken when we were still in Indonesia.
The toddler with the full head of hair is yours truly. Dad’s either making me eat that unidentifiable object I have in my hand or he’s trying to wipe grit off my face and what I’m holding is actually a cloth. Knowing the grot in me, it was the latter.
Obviously it was our kitchen but who took it? I have no idea. Thank goodness their big fat finger didn’t completely ruin the picture.
That jovial lady in the background? Whom I seem to be staring at, is actually not my mother.
She was the other woman, Bibi Koya.
Koya was her name and Bibi is a term meaning “nanny”
Well, actually, it was a lose term because she was much more than that.
Living with us, she cooked and cleaned but above all, she was family.
Having been employed by my mum when my eldest brother was born, Bibi Koya stayed right up with us until we left for Australia. So, we’re looking at approximately 15 years of faithful service.
15 years of raising us 3 kids, while her own children and family were back in her hometown village, 4 hours outside of Jakarta.
When we left Indonesia, my aunty employed Bibi Koya so I was fortunate to still see her whenever I went back.
With each visit though, she was becoming weaker. Heavy set and with bad knees, she would shuffle around the kitchen, constantly wiping sweat off her face with her sarong.
In her spare time, she sat at the bottom of the stairs located between the kitchen and dining room, chewing away on beetle nut, staining her lips bright red turning her into a strange-looking clown. When she was done, she’d spit it out in her little tin container. It might sound gross but gee, I would watch her, completely fascinated.
She knew much more about our early childhood than what my mother did.
“Your eldest brother didn’t eat meat.”
She picked his vegetarian habits even back then.
“Your other brother only ate bread and drank milk.”
Nothing has changed.
“You, Grace. You ate EVERYTHING! And you would sing and dance while doing it”
God, this woman was spot on!
Each time I saw her, she would say how much more “Western” I’d become; that there was nothing of the Indonesian left in me. Words that would completely rile me up!
Partly because I knew she was right but mostly because I wished she wasn’t.
During the last time I saw Bibi Koya, she cried and cried as I packed my bags.
She told me not to forget my Indonesian nor my heritage and background.
A couple of years later, while living in Japan, dad called up to tell me that my aunty tried to visit Bibi Koya at her village but sadly she wasn’t there. Bibi Koya had passed away.
I wish I had the chance to say goodbye; to tell her how important and special she was to our family.
I’d also let her know that my Indo is perhaps scratchy but when it comes to remembering my roots, I’m doing okay.
Joining in the lovely ladies at The Lounge today for this weeks’ topic: “My Favourite Photograph”
Thanks to Tegan at Musings of the Misguided for hosting!