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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

As Easy As ABC (And SSS)

Our Dutch ancestors really were quite ruthless in their quest for new lands and wealth beyond the horizon. Their conquests to the east and south and west still echo to this day in the bonds between the Netherlands and its former colonies. My father, born in 1919, grew up in Indonesia and eventually returned to Holland from the east in 1957 with the last remaining colonists. I myself grew up in South Africa and was the envy of my English-speaking classmates because I never had to study for a test in Afrikaans, which bears a close resemblance to Dutch, the language my parents used when scolding us.

When it comes to the former Dutch colonies in the west, however, I am more ignorant. Here’s what I know: I have friends whose parents came from Suriname, the former Dutch colony in South America which gained independence in 1975. Family and friends have worked in the capital Paramaribo, and my wife is usually quite thrilled when PBM pops up on her flight schedule. She also enjoys flying to the island of Curacao, which I know is located in the Caribbean somewhere between the Netherlands and Suriname.

Curacao is actually a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, much like England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are countries within the United Kingdom. This island is – or was, politics being what they are – one of the Netherlands Antilles, which I always imagined to be a tightly grouped atoll of larger and smaller islands. I blame pirate movies for this misapprehension and I apologise to Antilleans for haphazardly shifting their islands across my mind’s map like a deranged rear admiral.

Their layout is, on inspection, as simple as ABC and SSS. [Read the rest on KLM.com.]

 

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