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Iím Robert Wessing, anthropologist, hiker and, especially lately, traveler. Since my retirement I try to spend winters in Indonesia and the rest of the year in Holland and the United States, where my sons and foster daughter live. Come to think of it though, Iíve been traveling all my life. I was born in Amsterdam in 1939, just when World War II was getting underway (see the Reflections tab). After the war my father, the photographer Peter Wessing, decided to move to the Netherlands Indies because he didnít like either the physical or the bureaucratic climate in Holland. His timing was somewhat off, of course, as within two years the Netherlands Indies officially became Indonesia. He nevertheless decided to stay, and so I grew up in Jakarta until 1957, when I was seventeen. During these years I lived between the post-colonial Dutch and the Indonesian cultures, dreaming Dutch boy-dreams of becoming an engineer while at the same time absorbing Javanese beliefs in spirits and ghosts. An important source of the latter was Mrs. Marsiti Radiman who took care of our household in the late 1950s.


In 1957 we moved from Jakarta to New York, where I was confronted with the American culture of the 1950s: country music, rock 'n roll, girls, Christianity and an unshakable belief that everything American was the best in the world, which of course conveniently ignored realities like racism and poverty. After a brief stay in New York I moved to Chicago where I attended Lane Technical High school for a year, still pursuing my idea of becoming an engineer. I then dropped out and joined the Navy in 1958, shortly after meeting my first Ďrealí girlfriend, Dorothy, through a mutual friend.


            In 1962 I left the Navy (having served on the USS Wasp) and started at the University of Illinois, first at Navy Pier in Chicago and later in Urbana. Dorothy and I had married and had a son, Steve, by then.


Later we had another son, Erik After that, however, things sadly fell apart and we divorced in 1969.

In the mean time Iíd gotten my B.A. in anthropology (having given up on engineering) and was well on my way toward my Ph.D. under the intellectual tutelage of the late professors Kris Lehman and Demitri Shimkin. Early 1970 I took my prelims, got a grant and was on my way to West Java where I did 18 months of fieldwork, accompanied by Patt Keane whom I married in Jakarta. Late 1971 we returned to Urbana where Patt soon became restless and left to visit friends. After that she briefly returned to get her things before leaving for good.

By the spring of 1974 my dissertation was done and I entered the job market Ė not quite the right time to do so as jobs in anthropology were becoming scarce. In succession I held temporary positions at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, and once again at Northern Illinois University. In between I had a Fulbright lectureship in Aceh (Indonesia) (1980-1982). After my last tour at Northern Illinois jobs became more and more difficult to find and I finally decided to move to Holland, figuring the market for an Indonesia specialist might be better there. Luck was with me and within a few months I was hired to be the consultant for the Madura Research Center in Jember, East Java. There I remained for four years until a political tiff between Holland and Indonesia put an end to that position. After a period of unemployment I then joined the faculty at Leiden University. This was my final job before retiring.

All this was quite different from what Iíd envisioned when getting my Ph.D. in 1974: instead of settling in a job and buying a house, feeding the cat and painting the fence, Iíve been an itinerant lecturer. Not too good as a career, though I managed to keep on writing and thinking, which is what I enjoyed doing. Furthermore, I made a lot of fine friends in all these various places. They and my friends from graduate school have enriched my life and helped make me the person Iíve become. Since retiring I regularly go to Indonesia where I visit friends, gather some data and enjoy life. Away from there I work on my notes, write and hike. All things considered, a happy life.

I also try to see friends elsewhere and at least visit some parts of the world that up to now I had only read about. I must say though that the life of the tourist doesn't really suit me. Yet, since I cannot make a specialty of every part of the worrld, I'll have to be satisfied with only getting glimpses of some parts of it.

During the summer of 2007 I visited San Marcos, Texas to attend my foster daughter Vera's graduation (see family and friends) from Texas State University at San Marcos. She majored in geography focusing on resource management and environmental studies. Her honors thesis can be read on the web at http://ecommons.txstate.edu/honorprog/55/. After graduation Vera jumped into her beloved San Marcos River, gown and all! I had hoped that her new baby, Aza, would be born by then as well. The child was in no hurry thouh and we'll have to meet another time.

From Texas I went to Cleveland, OH for a week where I had a great time visiting my friends Page Stephens and Penny O'Connor. Page and I went to Kent to look up our graduate school buddy Richard Lowenthal, and later we were joined in Cleveland by my dear friend Gretchen Faulstich. Page, Penny, and Penny's aunt Barbara and I took a boat trip down the Cuyahoga River, and we took some nice nature walks in Cleveland's wonderful parks. The hat I'm wearing on the home page was a 68th birthday present from Penny and Page.


From Cleveland I flew to Portland, Oregon to see my son pSteve and his lady friend Angela and to participate in pSteve's Hempstalk festival, a marihuanna educational event. We were joined by Warren Peterson, an old Urbana and The Hague friend who drove in from Idaho. I don't know what was learned by anyone, but the music was good and the whole event was fun.


Angela and I also drove up to the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, a wonderful trip with some great vistas:


2009 was a busy time for travel. I visited friends in the beautiful Cotswold area of the UK. This picture shows the famous 15th century church in Cam (Gloucestershire):

church in Cam

From there we went to Stonehenge and Avesbury to see the megaliths I'd been fascinated by for years. Stonehenge is, of course, familiar to most, but Avesbury is perhaps less so. While somewhat less spectacular than Stonehenge, its avenues of megaliths are nevertheless worth a visit.

  0274  0275  0279  0280  0281

Avesbury is also quite similar to the megaliths at Carnac in Brittany (France), which are also definitely worth the effort:


avesbury1  0295  0263

0016  0019  0021  0025  0031  0037  0038  0043  0045

Brittany is worth a visit even if you do not like megaliths. The following pictures are from Dinon, Hon Fleur, Josselin, Lanion, Port Blanc, and Treguier:

00106    00102

0075  0078


0063  0064

0061  0046

0051  0056

In the spring of 2010 there was a brief trip to Venice which, while quite interesting, was too overrun by tourists for me to really enjoy it:


Quieter and more relaxing was a spring trip to the Keukenhof flower gardens in North Holland:


Dutch Megaliths: Hunebedden


Having seen the megaliths at Stonehenge, Avesbury, and Carnac, my friend Ronald Veltkamp and I decided in 2013 to visit the lesser known Dutch hunebedden (stone tombs), first as a two-day hike with Ronald, and later the ones around the city of Essen with friend Josť Ros. These hunebedden are found as far west as Apeldoorn in the province Gelderland, though the majority of them lie scattered along a curved roughly northwest-southeast line in the provinces Drenthe and Groningen, with the majority in Drenthe. The line, however, extends south at least as far as the Belgian Ardennes, and many of these tombs are also found in Emsland, to the east of the Dutch ones, just across the German border. Because they are so scattered the tombs are not as easy to visit as the British and French megalithic sites. However, a number of them are conveniently located near Borger, which also hosts a hunebedden museum. Some have also become surrounded by modern residential areas.



These ancient stone tombs owe their name hunebedden to the old belief that they were built by giants (huynen). They are some 5000 years old and used to be fully covered with sand. Over the years the sand hills eroded, leaving the stone graves exposed. There is some question whether all deceased were buried this way or only highly placed persons: given the effort and resources that would have gone into making such a stone structure and covering hill, it seems likely that they were restricted to the wealthy and powerful, Grave goods were associated with them, though these have now mostly been lost.




The tombs have also inspired modern artists. A series of seven creations made from natural boulders can be seen in the Drenthe landscape along a 40 km route. About this one the artist writes that he tried to expose the language of the stone and enable it to reveal and possibly express feelings of taste, sound, tension and emotion. Doing this requires simplicity, serenity and silence.




Others are more whimsical:


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