It does not seem logical for a professional Muay Thai fighter to move to the Indonesian holiday island of Bali. However, career opportunities, perfect waves and the laid-back island mentality made it easy for Tiffany van Soest (US, 27): “Bali is Paradise.”
Bali is Tiffany’s new home base for a few months now and she already feels very much at home. Being World Champion Muay Thai, she spends her days training and teaching the martial art and her time off on her surfing board in search of the best waves the island has to offer.
I meet Tiffany for this interview at her favorite restaurant near her house. On the menu very few Indonesian dishes. To my question if she happens not to like the local food, she responds: “I love it, I grew up with ‘sambal’! My grandfather was born in Semarang, in the former Dutch East Indies (now Republic of Indonesia).
Dutch soccer & nasi goreng
Tiffany’s grandfather, a mixed Indonesian Dutch, migrated to The Netherlands in the early 1950s. He met his wife in The Hague and together they moved to the United States of America, where their first son (the father of Tiffany) was born in 1957.
Tiffany had a very strong bond with her grandfather during her childhood, unfortunately he passes away when she is only 10 years old. He taught her everything about Dutch soccer (and indirect about The Netherlands) as they watched numerous matches of his favorite team ‘Ajax Amsterdam’ together. Her grandfather also supports Tiffany’s soccer team during their matches, while her grandmother makes ‘nasi goreng’ for the all the playes to enjoy after the game. “My grandmother is famous for her ‘nasi goreng’. Although she is pure Dutch, she completely mastered the Indonesian kitchen. Her ‘babi kecap’ is my favorite dish.”
Aware of the mixed descent
At the age of 6 my parents told my about the origin of our roots. Excited as I was about the fact that I am mixed Polish and Austrian from my mother’s side and Dutch and Indonesian from my father’s side, I used this new knowledge for my school project. Unfortunately, I didn’t know anything about Indonesia at that time. A couple of years ago I started reading about the Dutch East Indies, the second World War and my ancestry.
“I have been to Holland for a fight once. My grandmother had called at least 20 family members to go and see me. Meeting those Dutch relatives, I definitely experienced going back to my roots.”
,,My grandmother still reads the Dutch newspaper every day. I have a very special relationship with her, not only because of her food but I resemble my grandmother in many ways. In her clear blue eyes I see her enormous strength, her never give-up mentality, always keep moving forward. I’m sure I got all that from her. I also see her loving character, her free spirit; she is my biggest inspiration.”
,,Having Indonesian blood I feel more connected to Bali. While driving by a soccer field surrounded with rice fields I had to think about my grandfather who taught me the love for soccer. Being in Bali and to see that soccer field evokes a strong emotion. I am in Bali for my Muay Thai career and that soccer field right in front of me felt like the connection to where I am at.”
,,Bali is peaceful, more easy than other places. Nothing is missing here, big things are about to happen. Bali is my secret weapon.”
Interview by Sabina de Rozario
You can read the Dutch version of the interview here!