“Maaf saya tidak orang Indonesia,” is one of the first phrases I learned. It roughly translates, “Sorry, I am not an Indonesian person.” As an Asian “bole” or foreigner, people often speak to me in Bahasa Indonesian. Some have mistaken me for an Indo-Chinese person.
It’s like I’m in Korea, but only I’m a foreigner that blends in . . . but I guess I was a foreigner that blended in there also. At the same time, there are a lot of Koreans who live here–long enough to have learned Bahasa fluently. What is missing are the questions about why I don’t know Korean or the sympathy for being adopted.
I’m finding out that Koreans get around! People who have taught in or attended international schools from Warsaw to Johannesburg to Jakarta say that one of the biggest populations of ex-pats are Koreans. My thinking is that Korea is a small country land-wise and so the people have branched out. Their reputation here in Indonesia is that they have their sh*t together, because they learn the language and are known as hard workers. I need to step it up!
On the eve of my first day of school, I’m hoping that I can relate to the Korean students and their families as a Korean-American-Indonesian.
On a different topic, I’m one of the only ex-pat teachers here who is not Caucasian. The other two are from Australia and, well, England (but all over, really). In some cases, it’s been interesting to notice how some Caucasian teachers relate to someone who is an American, but also looks like one of the people from the community they came to teach. One colleague who came from Taiwan said that her former school would not hire English speakers who were not Caucasian because it confused the families of the students. I’ve been in conversations with Caucasian teachers where they feel very comfortable relating and also where they are uncomfortable making eye contact.
This makes me wonder if as an international teacher, you are in even more of a Caucasian bubble in some cases than when you live in a small town in Michigan. Except you feel that you aren’t. I would be curious to connect with other international teachers of color to hear about their experiences as well.
Bottom line however, is that I have met some very warm and welcoming people so far in Jakarta. Very generous. I appreciate the hospitality I’ve experienced. There is a connection and understanding with people wherever you are.
It goes without saying, that as you are an unknown entity to many people in a new surrounding, your friendships with people who know you and your family who really knows you, are priceless. Thanks to everybody who reminds me of who I have been and continue to be for Facebooking, Facetiming, Skyping, emailing and praying. Couldn’t do it without you!!