First, let me make it clear that I’m writing this to express my personal thought, not to bring any racial issue. The opinions expressed here represent my own, do not generalize anything, and reflect anyone. It is essentially as it came from the keyboard: spontaneous, unproofed, unrevised.
I always feel uneasy when people ask where I’m from. I was born in Indonesia, but to ethnic Chinese parents. Yeah, both of them. My father and mother are Chinese descent. Both of them were born in Indonesia. Only my grand-grandfather who was born in China. I’ll give them the short answer,“I’m from Indonesia,”. But then most of them will ask me “Really? You don’t look like Indonesian. I thought you were Chinese!“. I always regard myself as Indonesian first and Chinese second if people seem confused.
At this point, I’m wondering how typical Indonesians look like to them and I know that I don’t have the facial features of native Indonesian. I’ll take a chance and say that I’m ethnically Chinese, but I was born and live in Indonesia which makes me become an Indonesian born Chinese. But these answers feel incomplete, because the real story is more complex. It always ends up I have to explain many times the history of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, even the history of how they came here to those who have no idea why there is ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Lol. It always continues to this kind of conversation,
People: “So, can you speak Mandarin?”
Me: “Not really, I only understand few words. Only very very basic conversation.”
People: “But, why? Aren’t you Chinese?”
Me: “Well, I used to learn Mandarin for 9 years. But I just… can’t.”
People: “Wow 9 years?!” *shocking facial expression*
Yeah, I used to learn it for 9 freaking years. I still remember how my mom “forced” me to take mandarin course when I was in 8th grade but I insisted on refusing her and even cried once. When people get older, they look for their roots, and they regret not learning. I do. How stubborn I was. Lol. There’s a ridiculously weird accent to my Mandarin every time I try to speak it. My Mandarin
isn’t very good plain sucks. I can sort of understand what people say, but speaking? It is a whole different ball game. Well, at least I make up for with my better English. Lol.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend and he came up with his thought.
“I love Batik cloth (Indonesian traditional cloth). If you ask me which one I choose, Batik cloth or Changshan (traditional Chinese cloth for male), I will choose Batik cloth. I love learning cultural heritage, including chinese culture and history. But does it mean that I’m not allowed to love Indonesia more than I love my ancestors culture, which is Chinese? No“.
Yep, he got the point. I love Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) so so much, and if you ask me what my favorite Chinese food is, I’m sorry but I can’t answer you. Not even a single name of food I can say. Last year I went back to Jakarta, Indonesia after living abroad for couple of months and as soon as I got home, I put my luggage and went out to eat Nasi Goreng! The powerful desire for Nasi Goreng was for real. Lol. And oh! I also love traveling and visiting places in Indonesia I’ve never explored before. I’m proud to say that Indonesia is a very beautiful country! 😉
As an Indonesian born Chinese, I can’t get away by saying: ”Oh, I am Indonesian. But you know, I am Chinese.” It is just disrespectful and shows that I am ignorant. After all, we are all Indonesian, regardless of our races and skin colors. However, I am craving for a trip to China someday and I’d like to learn and know more about my ancestry and chinese culture (and learn Mandarin again someday! Maybe. Lol) 😀
Well, I take this chance to say Happy Chinese New Year for all of us who celebrate. May this year bring us prosperity. I am going to leave you with a famous saying by the first president of Indonesia, Soekarno.
“Jangan sekali-kali melupakan sejarah.”
“Never forget [your] history.”