“Wait, really? Why do you look like that, then?”
“Oh, I’m half-Chinese,” I replied.
From the look on his face, I could tell that he still did not fully grasp the idea. This sent me into a spirals of “should I’s”: Should I introduce myself as Indonesian? Should I introduce myself as Chinese? Should I introduce myself as Chinese-Indonesian? I was most likely not the first to start wondering about all these “should I’s” Take a look for yourself:
Hartanto, Halim, Salim, Wijaya, Loekman — do these sound familiar? Well, that’s probably because you know, or are, someone who has one of these surnames! Part of the journey of the Chinese assimilation into Indonesia was the alteration of their surnames. The most recent 2010 census by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) states that Chinese Indonesians account for 1.1965% of the population of Indonesia. According to Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia, it was actually demanded by the government for Chinese to adopt Indonesian-sounding names, so your great- great-grandparents probably just tweaked their own Chinese surnames to sprinkle in some Indonesian.
Also, don’t forget that you get to eat so much food. All the food: Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), Soto, sweet and sour chicken, sate ayam, Hot Pot, Rawon, etc. (you already know what I’m going on about!)
Most importantly, you get to see the world from both sides, especially Indonesia. Getting to live life as both an Indonesian and a Chinese –you most certainly cannot get that opportunity as anyone else. Next time you feel that you haven’t found the puzzle you fit into, remember that over 3 million others are thinking the same. Perhaps Chinese-Indonesians could form their own puzzles by joining each of their lost pieces together. You might feel confused whether to identify as Chinese or Indonesian, but rest assured you can call yourself Chindo.