I always identify myself as Indonesian whenever I introduce myself to my colleagues or new friends here. I never hesitate to tell them what Indonesia is famous for or what should they do when they visit the archipelago. I will tell them proudly that I am wearing batik on October 2nd because it’s a National Batik Day and that it’s on the list of UNESCO’s intangible heritage. Basically, I am a true blue Indonesian.
On the surface.
For a few years now, I have been thinking that being abroad for more than a decade has shaped my thinking, values, and principles even further away from what (I think) my roots are. And lately, I have been pondering on this as well about my children’s’.
See, even though I had spent half of my age living, studying, and working abroad, at least I grew up in Indonesia – it was 18 years full of Indonesian values. Hence, there are still some East principles that I hold firmly. But how about my kids? They were born in Singapore and now both are educated with German values and characters. They are learning German cultures and festivities – and they know nothing about Indonesian celebrations. Sure we still go to Iqra class on Sundays – but it’s nothing compared to 8 hours a day they have in their German childcare.
And what do I do?
Here’s when my inner battle started.
While I am proud of my Indonesian roots, I disagree with most of its values. When you disagree with something, it’s only natural that you stay away from those. And what I don’t preach and practice – my kids won’t ever be familiar with them let alone accepting them as part of their values. But at the same time, I also want them to know that they are true blue Indonesians even though they don’t speak the language. AND of course, I want them to absorb the good values from the Singaporeans and Germans in them.
It’s a never-ending battle – especially when you yourself are battling with them. How many times I had stopped my way of thinking to consider other options that may be more suitable to say to the other person on the other side of the table? How many times I had told myself to stay quiet and not to say what’s on my mind cause I had no idea how to rephrase them to sound nicer?
Whenever I am going back to Jakarta, there are so many things that I need to consider before I open my mouth to say something. And it’s my own country for God’s sake. I didn’t even feel this when I was a second class citizen back in Singapore.
With my kids, it’s even harder. So many good values that Singapore and Germany have taught them and when they are in Jakarta, they constantly asked me why people there don’t do the things that other people do back in Berlin or Singapore? It didn’t help much when I told him that others are different cause I feel like I am sending mixed signals to them that there’s a gray area. It’s not their time to know about such things.
I am confused about my own roots – and I don’t want my kids to feel the same. But how can I solve this confusion (if any) if I don’t solve my own?