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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Strange Indonesian in US Land

Everyone just wants to be liked and accepted.
Except for Tim. Tim doesn't give a shit.

This morning I got two friendly reminder that I am who I am. 

The first reminder came when I disdainfully close Simon Winchester's book "Krakatoa, The Day The World Explode". It was a great and comprehensive book, but I felt cheated and angry when he compared the modern day Jakarta to its so-called Golden Days under the Dutch colonizations. Those were Golden days indeed for the Dutch who ruled the city, drained its resources to fill out their coffers and enslave the local native and being great and mighty all round. It was hardly golden for the locals who were treated as servants and becoming slaves in their own land, and being strangled with heavy tax and having to submit to the intruders' whim. This is a reminder for me to never forget the history of my people. Wherever I am, I am still an Indonesian and it will remained that way forever.

The second reminder came from my friend's Facebook status. She wrote about a taxi driver's comment regarding a street performer with monkey. He said: "humans are given wit by God to earn his own living. It's such a shame to use the animal instead to earn his living. Doesn't he feel ashamed to let a monkey work and earn money for him, and use it for his own well-being?" This is a reminder for me that in accordance to the values that I have held so long they are still very much valid wherever I am. I have always believe that there are more in this world than just trying to be accepted and fit in society, there are more in this world than just trying to get a comfortable living and if possible a better one than others. There are kindness and compassion, dignity and pride, knowledge of what is right and wrong and strength and wisdom to do what's right. These are what made us human and enrich our lives. This concept is very strong in Indonesia, yet from what I see it was less pronounced here. There is no reason though for me to just discarded this concept and what I believe on the accord of not being in Indonesia anymore.

It has been almost 3 months since I move to California, and the pressure is mounting. The difference between the life here and in Indonesia was huge and I had to radically adapt myself in order to keep my sanity and my well being: I subtly changed my Indonesian diet to fit whatever I can find in USA stores, I learned how the traffic and bus system worked and other basic day-to-day knowledge, I learned about being cautious with people and the many types of people in California (and USA in general). Yet day by day the pressure is mounting. I found myself questioning and fretting over and over again: Can I get a job here? Will my accent and my imperfect grammar prevent me from making a living and/or making friend? How can I look similar to these people, so they won't realize I'm from Indonesia? At this moment I am a full-time writer and housewife working in the convenience of my home, but soon I will join the workforce and have to face the society which I haven't got the slightest idea of. I fear rejection. I want to fit in.

There are so many things that I can expect in this life and in my upcoming introduction to US society, and I will enjoy the experience thoroughly by being me. The fact of the matter is, sometimes adaptation leads to either you successfully become one of them or that you successfully mimic them. When I moved out to Bali after spending my whole life (26 years in total) in Jakarta I could not fit in. I have the right look and pedigree, the right clothing and the right 'endorsement', yet I move and think and speak differently from the Balinese due to my years in Jakarta. I never fit in, but it did not stopped me from being so good with what I do or from chasing my passion and live my life to the fullest. I can fret and determined to try my hardest to be an American or at least successfully mimic one with the risk of failing miserably in the process and lose my sanity just like I did in the beginning of my Bali years, or I can just be me and use the additional Indonesian knowledge and wisdom that I know to enhance my living experience in USA. 

I am not born in USA and I can't change that, but that is merely a fact and not a debilitating condition. True it seemed like joining a race where all other contestants are better equipped and have clear advantage over me, but it doesn't mean I am not good myself. It may take time but I will survive and reach the finish line. And I will succeed without losing my own identity in the process. I am Indonesian. That's who I am. That's what I am.

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