Forever Immigrant, Forever Minority

People say living abroad would change your perspective about the world. But you know what else does? Being a minority who lives abroad. I have practically been a minority my whole life. When I was three, I live in what I would call the only country (so far) that I would say is friendly to immigrants. Not a hard guess. Yes, its Canada. Going back to my home country, Indonesia, I am technically a minority once again because I lost the ability to speak my own mother tongue. As a child whose not even 100% Indonesian (my mother is Chinese) being able to only speak English was not exactly a nice thing. I don’t really have friends, also due to my indifferent personality, but I also couldn’t really take more English course because the only class that would suit my competence would be sitting with high schoolers and adults, which would be really awkward. I am however, still grateful that in the end I am able to have both as mother tongue.

I came from a family whose practically been immigrants nearly every generation since my great grandparents. My great grandparents ran from China due to political reasons, taking a raft to Indonesia, seeking for asylum. For the two first generations, it was rather simple. They live in the city where other Chinese asylum seekers live, and they started a small business to make a living. Difficulties started to arise when my mother, who is still a pure-blood Chinese wants to marry my father, who is a native (Javanese). Although in the end this particular case was resolved, but it doesn’t mean the problem just vanished especially if you reflect them from any other similar mixed blood families. For instance, looking back before my parents even met, my grandparents who are Confucionists had their children all convert to Catholic, but as most local schools are Moslem schools; since Indonesia is a Moslem-majority country (some people mistaken it as a Moslem country) most elementary and middle school in that area required the students to study Arabic. 

Another example would be, that at that time the ruling president (Soeharto) is an anti-Chinese. Everything Chinese-related is prohibited, which resulted my grandparents as the last generation from my Chinese side of the family who could actually speak Chinese. I was able to learn a bit Chinese because I studied in Taiwan, but nobody else in the family could. One thing that is rather more unforgivable for me is, all Chinese family are forced to change their names to ‘something that sounds more Indonesian’. To sum it up, my mother is a Chinese who got her family wealth robbed by the anti-Chinese but still married a native, converted to Catholic but had to learn Arabic while never having any chance to learn or speak her actual  mother tongue, had her Chinese name changed to a more Indonesian one and was an immigrant in Canada for a few years.

Due to the circumstances, she actually wished we could have stayed in Canada. Unfortunately, my dad prefers to keep his job in Indonesia due to his loyalty because the university was the one who enabled us to get there, more specifically for him to pursue a degree. Well, the problem doesn’t stop there. The ‘aftermath’ is three children whose half Indonesian-half Chinese (me and my two sisters). The story of being an immigrant continues.

Adding a perspective to the story, it is not easy being a half-blood in the Chinese family side either sometimes (in Indonesia). I am lucky that our family is rather open-minded, but I know some other family who called us mixed blood children names,  ‘wana’ (the closest translation would be native blood). So out there there are children who was called ‘Cino’ (Javanese word for Chinese), ‘sipit’ (squinty eyes), ‘Cino pelit’ (stingy Chinese) and many others when with natives, while from their own Chinese side they are called names too. This could be overwhelming, even for adults. Of course, this is not always the case, but what I want to do was illustrate the ongoing love and hate relationship between the Chinese people in Indonesia, and the Indonesian. I find it rather ironic, since many Chinese contributed to the country and is actually admired by many (guys, look at Ahok our current governor of Jakarta!) in many ways, and many regular citizens like my mother never even called themselves Chinese anymore. Whenever she went abroad (which is quite often) she always said ‘I am from Indonesia’ or ‘I am Indonesian’.

Moving further to the next generation, I continue experiencing being a minority over the last three years living in Germany. The first alarming thing I have learned after I moved: there are still nazis everywhere. A shit ton of them at that. I had to witness them myself when I joined the anti-nazi demonstration in Erfurt last year before it was disbanded before Christmas, just to continue this year. All four hundred of them. Also it wasn’t disbanded for moral reasons, but because the local government need the Domplatz for the Christmas market. I don’t ever mean to discredit the Germans, as I have met many reasonable and nice Germans as well. My point is, it’s terrifying how long hatred could spread, even if the people who started it passed away, their ill will passed on to the next generations. It’s heart-wrecking how many innocent people fall victim. It was the same with us in Indonesia. There was a time too, when the Chinese were hunted, robbed, raped and murdered. Oh, such hatred isn’t over yet for us in  Indonesia either, despite the fact that it mostly does not result in physical violence.

However, it’s always easier to point our fingers. I may have to ask myself, have I spread hate, even just once? Was I able to stay objective in A or B matter, despite my likes and my dislikes? Hate spreads through many forms and scales, whether with or without purpose. I have met people who condemned me for not going to Church, but enjoy themselves gathering and gossiping about other people, just after the mass is over, to the point that they are planning to bring this person down. I have met people who insisted that their purpose in life is attending to poor people, but spent the rest of the time being jealous at others, if not hating them without reason. I have met many people in my life (maybe even too much for me) by traveling to many countries and living in a few. Disliking or hating something or someone is actually normal, when it’s within reason. But now the question is, could we even reason ourselves? Living abroad changes our perspective, but sometimes it only switches our subject of hatred.


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