3.25 AM

3.25 AM

My eyes were wide open for no reason—at least, not one I could think of.

Maybe I simply slept for too long the night before.

I closed my eyes for a couple minutes before finally deciding that it was useless. If I wasn’t going to sleep, then I’d better get productive doing something. Then it would probably feel as if I’ve finally accomplished something meaningful, would it not?

I turned on the reading light and opened the textbook near my fūton to continue my last reading. I tried scrutinizing the text but realizing that I could make very little sense of what I’ve been reading and that I kept on reading the same paragraph over and over again.

So I finally got up and decided to make myself a cup of a warm hot chocolate.

I moved to my cushion and opened my MacBook to read a summary I made for a class last week. Maybe this one would be easier to digest, I thought to myself, as I opened the Pages application and scrolled through the document.

I tried reading the words out loud, kept denying that my mind kept wandering and wandering elsewhere—everywhere, basically, and tried to comprehend as much of what I’ve been reading—which was basically very, very, very little.

I finally opened my facebook instead. Not sure of what I was actually looking for there, I ended up searching for Word Porn. One of my favorite pages where I spent most of my procrastinations, reading beautifully composed words, if not at all nonsensical. Despite knowing how empty words could be most of the time, I strangely find solace in reading these neatly typed fonts—as long as there is no grammatical errors made—reading quotes or short stories or simply short poems about someone or something, which could be about just anyone, including me. As much as I hate nonsensical motivators and self-help books, somehow I could never compare these words as of the same level as those two I just mentioned. These words, short though they might be, always take my minds elsewhere—wandering and wandering in some fantasy and fictional world elsewhere, where I would construct and deconstruct stories based on the words I read on the page—and sometimes, it would take me into my memory palace, where I stored many of my valued irreplaceable moments—what I always referred to as the “bottled moments,” as if they were some kind of old books I could reread again and again from time to time, or rewatching my favorite movies where I could just skip to my favorite scenes and replay it for maybe a thousand times more. These are, of course, the happy moments, which I cling on to very keenly and hold on to very tightly, since, deep down I realize that these are one of the things that really keep me going on, moving on with my life and survive anything that pass by.

Then without premonition or warning of any kind, I felt tears rolling down my eyes.

I wasn’t even reading anything sad, and the last quotes I read did not even take out any sad memories from my memory palace, yet there I was, starring blankly at the screen—obviously no longer reading whatever I have in front of me, but trying to digest what just happened and wondering.

Of course, by now I’ve come to accept, no matter how unsensical it is, or how confusing it is, that sometimes—or many times, it is completely okay to just cry without any reason. Although, since I don’t really believe that anyone could truly cry without any reason at all, perhaps the best way to put it is that it is alright to cry without comprehending at all the reason why. Maybe I would eventually find out, or maybe not at all, but maybe it is okay to just dip in the sadness—or dwell in whatever it is I am feeling when the tears just roll out—without first investigating the cause. There is always a reason, I think, of why anyone cry at all. Sadness—of course, frustration, anger, jealousy, rage, pity, compassion, love, and maybe even madness, but I believe it is never really out of nothing. There must always be a reason why anyone is crying, but is the reason that important? This was a question I used to ask myself years ago.

“It’s okay. We girls sometimes just feel that deep sadness, and it’s okay if you don’t understand it, you know. It happens, and there’s nothing abnormal in it,” my confidant, and the closest person in my life at that time said the words to me as I was crying and frustratingly telling her that I don’t know why I really cry. I remember feeling deeply ashamed and stupid, as I felt completely embarrassed for being caught off-guard crying, and making everybody coming at me and asked if I’d been hurt or something. I felt exposed and weak, and she then just hugged me tightly until I stopped crying. As she said those words I felt a bit of relief. That I’m not abnormal for crying for no reason at all, and that maybe, maybe, it wasn’t at all that weird. I still felt exposed and weak, but it was not like there was anything I could do to turn back the time and hid myself elsewhere so no one would see me crying anyway.

And those are the words I’ve been holding on to now, as an excuse, or a justification, or whatever you’d like to term it, whenever I feel like crying, and I’ve been using the same words as well to stop finding the reason why whenever I cry. I mean, come on, I have my feelings turned up and down already, and I still have to think of why it happened? It’s just too much. I could just drown myself in the emotional roller coaster of sadness or frustration or whatever emotions I am feeling and just wait until it passes without having to feel burdened with the obligation to find out why now, so why make my life even more complicated?

So that’s what I’m doing right now. Crying. Just that. For god knows why. And just wait until it passes. At least I am alone in my room, and no one could see me. I am not exposed right now so I could let out all my emotions—burying my face on the pillow and cry my heart out, pouring and burying all my emotions there, without feeling bad or ashamed, or even fear that anyone would ever find out. Then I’d pass this, so that later today I could resume my life as if nothing unusual has happened.

4.05 AM

I’m fine. I’m okay now.

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What’s in a Name? – Night Ramblings

Sugiharti Halim: What’s in a name?

An interesting video, looking back at another long-put discrimination against Chinese Indonesians in terms of names.

Back then, in the New Order, a decree was made to get Chinese Indonesians to choose their allegiance, whether they are going to stay true to their Chinese inheritance and deny Indonesian citizenship or instead become the latter, forcing them then to adopt Indonesian names.

The video then contemplates on its implications on the children of those first generations who experienced name-changing policy and decided to get Indonesian names, as well as naming their offsprings with Indonesian names later on.

My family from my mother’s side is a long-line of generations of Chinese Indonesians. Though unfamiliar with its history, I know enough that my grandfather underwent this period. I also know that my maternal family line is of Hokkien Chinese and that my granddad’s Chinese name was The Oen Siang (although, do pardon me, I might misspelled the last name). He later adapted the Indonesian name Untung Gunawan. My grandmother herself is a Klang Chinese who was adopted into a Hokkien family, and her Chinese name was then changed from Siek Ngo San to Kwee Kien Nio. Later she adopted the Indonesian name Haryani Tedja Mertadiwangsa. From my mom’s faint recollection of her childhood, she did acknowledged that 6 of her elder siblings still obtain Chinese names from my grandparents and that my mom did, too, although her name was not recorded officially and later unused and forsaken. All that remains is a distant, meaningless name of The Poe Liang. Afterwards, none of the grandchildren I know have Chinese names. Now, only my cousins’ children would get Chinese names if they got married to someone of Chinese inheritance as well. I know for sure two of my nephews have Chinese names and their parents use the names frequently at home.

No doubt, this is one of the domino effect of the 1965 coup and one of the worst massacre in the Indonesian history.

As a child of multicultural identities, I spent quite some time in my teens struggling with my own cultural inheritance and identity. My parents’ separation and, later, divorce, did little to help. Not that I think had it not happen in the first place it would be easier for me to obtain a sense of ethnic identity.

My paternal grandfather himself is a Balinese while my grandmother is a Javanese, making me, technically, a Balinese as well since the line passed down from my father.

Growing up mostly in Jakarta, initially, I didn’t even realise that this struggle of identity exists in the first place. I spent most of my childhood in my paternal grandma’s home in Jakarta, where, fortunately, I was either too ignorant or simply never experienced any discrimination being partially Chinese Indonesians. The fact that I don’t at all look Chinese physically did crossed my mind, too, but at the same time, I barely understood the word “discrimination” and “racism” in the first place back then. Although my grandma’s household carefully shows a slight, faint gap of the hierarchical structure of race (e.g. Javanese vs Chinese Indonesians), religion (e.g. Islam vs Christian), and even of master and servant, they never showed any discriminative attitudes toward people whom I’ve met who are different. I spent my childhood in an elementary school, where most problems revolved around my flunked grades and ranking, and trivial friendship problems. I never noticed any of my friends whose races are different, and I distinctly remember getting confused over a friend’s statement who said that she didn’t want to be friend with someone because this someone is of different religion. Seriously, that didn’t make any sense to me.

Then, back at my grandma’s home, I’d spent the rest of my day playing too much with the babu‘s kids who are of my age. I remember playing badminton too much, losing way too many shuttlecock somewhere in the field, and buying too many rackets and shuttlecocks replacements. I didn’t even understand why my mom wouldn’t let me transfer to the babu‘s son’s school which is much, much nearer to my grandma’s house (which means I wouldn’t have to wake up very early anymore every morning, only to get to the school late every single day). I didn’t realise that she (and maybe my grandma, too) minded because the school she sent me to is a more expensive, probably better, private school. No one made me feel different there. In fact, now that I think about it, they perhaps pitied me and spoiled me too much because I’m a broken-home little brat.

Then in middle school, I started to experience identity crisis. In my small hometown, there is a stark difference between being a Chinese or a Javanese , a Christian or an Islam, and a master or a servant. Oh, but actually, I need to correct on the religion part. I didn’t see or experience any religious discrimination, really. The friends I’ve met and known are tolerant and very polite, so I should cross that one out. But it became clearer to me, first of all, what it meant to be someone of a more well-off family. We’re not filthy rich, no (some family members might), but my mom and I were definitely not rich enough to own anything fancy. But our family is rich enough to pay for servants.

My cousins’ first reaction upon seeing me kissing a little babu‘s daughter on the cheek was terrified. In a surprised tone (and not in a good way), I was asked why the hell I would kiss a servant’s daughter. In return, I was too surprised of the question itself to give any answer. That was the first time I understood that as one of the “masters,” I was not supposed to kiss them.

Another thing that was clearer to me is the gap existence of those of different race. Amongst my Chinese-looking cousins, strangers would think that I am their babu. When my mom knew, she was furious. That’s when I realised that having a different skin tone could account to something. People would be genuinely surprised when they found out that the Chinese-looking person next to me is my kin. That they are really related to me. And the fact that apparently I wasn’t adopted.

Although ignorant at first, slowly, I started to feel inferior of my skin colour. I hated myself because I was dark-skinned. I hated God because there are people of mixed inheritance, but their inherited genes allowed them to inherit their one of their parents’ narrow eyes or fair skin. I used to hate having wide eyes. And some boy-classmates’ mockery of how big, electrified-looking my eyes are did little to elevate my moods. I thought the way people discriminate me was because I didn’t look Chinese enough. Or perhaps my stupid inferiority made the discrimination exist where there were actually none. And I blamed my not-looking-Chinese-enough for it. I walked home from school one day, taking a shortcut through an empty alley when a guy riding a motorbike came from behind and stopped to squeeze my right boob so hard and then left me stunned and speechless. As I continued walking, an old guy apparently stood nearby and saw everything and said that he didn’t do anything initially because he thought the guy was my friend. Later, I felt very ashamed and humiliated, and again, I blamed my look which is not Chinese enough. I thought if I looked more Chinese, if I had fairer skin and/narrower eyes, if I didn’t look like a babu, this would never happen to me. He wouldn’t dare to touch me had I look like a Chinese nonik.

Only when I entered university and met a lot more people of different cultural background did I realise that not all Chinese Indonesians are discriminative towards those of non-Chinese. It took me quite some time until I finally stopped hinting to strangers that I’m actually partially Chinese because I was afraid of discriminations. Yet what happened next was the complete opposite. As soon as I found out that I could claim my Balinese inheritance (at least until I probably marry a guy of non-Balinese inheritance), I started telling people that I am a Balinese, who was born and raised in Java. It was easier, though, really. No more shocked responses and disbelief statements, although I still did smiled when the old Chinese lady who opens a warung with a tasty Chinese food called me “nonik” instead of “dek.” Only recently did I finally admit to people who ask that I’m also partially Chinese. Back then, I would deny it until my co-worker who found out then told those who asked that I’m actually partially a Chinese Indonesian, too.

I was really surprised upon reading an article by Vltchek who tells a story of a Chinese Indonesian who experienced sexual harassment and later felt ashamed and humiliated, then instead blamed her Chinese inheritance. I thought that those stuffs only happened because you don’t look Chinese enough. That was a significant eye-opener for me, because that’s when I started to explore further of the horrible, discriminative history of the government, from the colonial era up to now, against the Chinese people. How people could hate the Chinese because back then people assimilate Chinese with communism. But even that is only one of thousands of reasons to discriminate Chinese, and some of them are ridiculously fabricated. And the very sad thing is, how easily some people in the country could still be manipulated by racism.

When I watched a family’s story in the documentary film “40 Years of Silence,” I began to understand even better why Chinese Indonesians could be very discriminative to non-Chinese. I wouldn’t blame them, really. Not to mention the racist comments uttered to Ahok who’d become the first Chinese-Indonesian governor of Jakarta, it’s just appalling how shallow the comments uttered and that’s maybe an understatement. But then again, I think now more and more people are becoming more combative against racism, and care less about it. I’d like to believe that more people are beginning to value people more on their personal qualities and performance and characters, and not on their race or religions. Also that those with the racist comments are decreasing in number and who knows, they might be paid to utter such comments.

As I was too spoiled and inferior about myself, not to mention ignorant, I was too focused on my own identity crisis, never thought that the similar things, if not worse, could also happen to others (aside from the calamities of the 1998 riots), but now that I know more about it, I wonder whether all these are simply trivial matters to be shrugged off, compared to those who might have experienced much, much worse discriminations growing up.

P.S. I’m thinking of writing another post someday when I found out more of maternal family’s genealogy because after talking to my mom after writing this, my mom just mentioned another family history, saying the the Javanese inheritance in the family is actually passed down from my granddad-____-‘ It’s just getting more complicated.