BlogIndo Jan Krancher returns to his birth land Indonesia

Travel with The Indo Project Board Member Emeritus as he takes a sentimental journey back to his birth land Indonesia, part one of two.

By Jan A. Krancher – June 17, 2013

Since my emigration to the United States in the early 1960s, I always have had the urge to revisit the land of my birth, the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.  That opportunity was afforded me when I was contractually employed in Saudi Arabia (KSA) as an Environmental Health Specialist from 1982 to 1985, hired by Bechtel Engineering, one of the largest US engineering firms in the world. I worked there as an “expatriate,” assigned to the Saudi Royal Commission and was fortunate to be here on “family status.” My Indo spouse, two sons (Sheldon 12 and Glenn 14) and three year old daughter Corinne, could therefore come and join me.

During an annual “rest and recuperation” (R&R) vacations at the beginning of July 1983, we departed from Dhahran airport via Bangkok to Jakarta, Indonesia. My objective was to combine pleasure and explore future potential business opportunities. Our ultimate, grandiose plan was to travel from east to west Java by automobile and visiting conventional tourist attractions. And, of course, ultimately, pay a visit to my place of birth, Kabupaten (Regency) Malang, in East Java.

Upon arrival, we were picked up from the airport by the driver of guesthouse “Belruvya,” where we made prior reservations. We stayed a few days in Jakarta, exploring the town as good tourists would. My first impression was how crowded the city has become since I left in 1956 for the Netherlands. Ambient temperature was almost unbearably high with stifling humidity to boot.

Two day later, we departed by plane to Soerabaja, East Java, where I met up with Prof. Suterjadi, director of the Airlangga University. I was in the process of writing a research protocol regarding the beneficial use of the herb “koemis koetjing,” cat’s whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus), focusing on women, troubled by premenstrual stress syndrome. This is one of the thousands of “jamus” (Indonesian herbs) used by the Indonesians to treat certain health conditions. Our point of discussion was the potential of engaging in exporting herbs to the US. In passing, he notified me of an upcoming International Congress on Traditional Asia Medicine in town. He invited me to share the results of my study.

After this successful meeting, we traveled south by taxi to the small town of Pandaan, idyllically located between Malang and Soerabaja. Again, I made prior arrangements with Rudy Soekanto, an Indonesian with whom I became acquainted in KSA where he was employed as expatriate “guest worker” as well. His family was very accommodating. However, before we came, he was transferred to Cilacap, a town on the south coast of West Java.  He was kind enough to let us make use of his Colt Van, driven by Beddi, his chauffeur, during our vacation in Indonesia. He and his family came along with us all the way to Jakarta.

While at his residence, we made a quick foray to Tretes, the famous vacation resort and tourist attraction in the mountains north of Malang. The ride was gorgeous and we enjoyed the scenery. But there was no thought of swimming. The pool water was so darned cold that even our brave anaks didn’t dare to take a dip.  So be bugged out and returned to Rudy’s place. The next day, after a great gado-gado breakfast, we made our official trip to Malang.

Our first stop was at my childhood home on (former) Oro-Oro Dowo street, Gang delapan (alley no. 8).  Here I spent my early childhood until I was about 14 years old. The street has been renamed in the meantime to Jalan Brig. Jen S. Riadi, a famous Indonesian military officer.  Obviously lots of pictures were taken among which were a few of the boys standing adjacent to our “faithful” soemoer (water well), still producing fresh and clean water.  Then we proceeded down the slope, taking a few shots along the bank of the Kali (river) Brantas, still flowing a distance behind the residence.  How much fun I used to have swimming in this stream!

This residence belonged to my Indonesian Grandma Poenisah, married to Johan Klaare, the Dutch ancestor on my mother’s side, and later occupied by my Dad. An Indonesian owner took possession of the property after our “repatriation.” I am not sure about the particulars regarding the change of ownership. However, during a guided tour through the house, then leased out to students of the outer islands, I noticed to my great surprise, that the new owner never took the trouble transferring the utility accounts to his/her name.

Both the electrical (syarat-syarat penambung listrik) and the water account (daftar pencataan penunjukan ukuran air minum) were left unchanged all this time. So ironically, the original owner’s name still showed up on the current cards as tuan L.A. Krancher, my Dad. Being a genuine, “true blooded” American tourist, I quietly “appropriated” an old, expired copy of each, still hanging there. I have these in my possession in a secure place ever since, as a great memento of our journey to Malang’s past.

Lots of memories, good and bad, from my youth in this home, flooded my mind. Some good ones are flying kites from the roof of an adjoining building, swimming in kali Brantas, enjoying mangos from the Indonesian neighbor’s tree, the game oeboelen (tossing cards in the air) with the boys of the “kampong” (native village) and other such innocent and fun past times.  The “dress du jour” was the traditional so-called “hansop,” (tjelana monyet) a one piece, loose fitting “jump suit” with a huge pocket in front to collect frivolous objects. All of these experiences I recounted to my sons so they will be aware what good ol’ Dad was up to in his youth.

Images: Mom & 2 sisters at the Borobudur anno 1935 & Jan Krancher doing a presentation – ©2013 Jan Krancher.

Read Part II of a Sentimental Journey



  1. It seems Opa has left a legacy for all of us to follow. I’m his grandson, Kyle Krancher. I had the pleasure of living with my Opa and Oma in both the Netherlands and the US. During those times, I saw how dedicated Opa was to TIP and often had him barge in my room while I was studying during college to show him new keyboard shortcuts on his laptop. He of course promptly wrote all of them down on a sticky note, ever the historian and record keeper. I strive to keep the Indo and family history alive. If I’m even a fraction as successful as Opa was, I’d be satisfied. I miss you.

  2. I truly enjoyed reading about Jan Krancher’s early life & return travels to Indië/Indonesia. I left at age 2, and returned 20 years later. I remember many of the places he mentioned, either from my parents’ stories of their younger years, or of my own visits. Thanks for another glimpse into tempo dulu!

  3. Mr. Krancher. I read you’re story, about returning to you’re birthplace. I must say, it brings up all kind of feelings. My father and his brothers, who where born in NL-Indië as well, never felt the need to go back. I was interested on a young age. Last year in february, i finally decided to visit Java. I am glad i did. Someone had to, thats how i feel. The funny thing is.. i went to visit several old locations. Places of family history. Guess where one of these old adresses was located… Malang, Oro oro Dowo! It was in gang 2 so not exaxtly the same. But really, of all the milligram of streets in Java! Remarkable. Nice comment of you’re son. He is right. So special to have been able to visit Indonesia with you’re parent who was born there. Now up to part 2! Terima kasih

    • Hi Jasper. My name is Sheldon A. Krancher, Jan Krancher’s other son and I am replying on his behalf.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your comments. This was indeed a very fond memory, one that most people don’t get to experience especially when their parents are from such a far away land like ours. Like my brother Glenn, I remember it well. What I remember most distinctly is at every “photo op” my Dad would order my brother and I to “jongkok” in front of the house, or near the river where he recalled he was bathed or the random street sign. I have been blessed to have traveled to Indonesia several times as adult to visit friends and on a honeymoon with my wife in Bali. I will say though that I would have been much less inclined to go back had my parents not taken us in 1983. It was life changing for us. It gave meaning and context to what it meant to be Indo. I mean, we always knew we were Indo but until we fully experienced the Indonesian culture and the life of our ancestors it didn’t fully resonate. It was special.

      It is even more special now that our Dad is in memory care in Utah now. He’s been there going on 3 years and he’s hanging in there. My Mom visits him 3x/week, my brother Glenn and my sister Corinne all join via FaceTime. He really seems to enjoy it.

      Thank you again Jasper for your contribution to my Father’s legacy and our beloved Indo legacy! Sheldon

  4. Dad, by this avenue/median I want to thank you for the opportunity you provided us to see and feel a bit of your own history. I didn’t realize then, but I do now, what a wonderful fun filled experience it was. Thanks and I love you!

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