“Wait, so you’re not Malaysian?”
It’s a common assumption made whenever I meet new people as well as a common forgotten fact for old friends whenever we speak of Malaysian ‘benefits’.
Sometimes I take the easy road and tell people that I am Malaysian because sharing my history in Malaysia is a little perplexing for some. Honestly, though, how is it so confusing?
My family and I moved to Kuala Lumpur in the last quarter of 2002 and have called it home ever since. We moved because my dad got a job in KL and there was no way he would want to leave us all back home. With a chance of creating better futures for his daughters and wife, why would he say no to the opportunity?
We’ve lived in Malaysia for over 13 years, and for my oldest sister a little less. The ugly side of this is that staying on after we graduate university is nearly impossible. Immigration issues are pesky sons of bitches, aren’t they?
No, none of my family members hold a Malaysian PR status, and yes we are still Indonesian citizens (and proud).
Currently, my oldest sister works and lives with my grandmother in Bandung. My other sister finished two years ago, but since doing a Bachelor’s Degree sans Honours translates to only a Higher Diploma in Indonesia, she’s currently in the last bits of her research on river otters.
Me? I have recently bid adieu to my KL-ite status at the beginning of the year and been on the move every week.
I call myself Malaysianized, because I am.
I know more Malaysian slangs than Indonesian. When I speak Indonesian, people spot the Malay accent in it. When I speak Malay, my vocab sticks to Indonesian words.
Thus, growing up, I preferred speaking English over any Bahasas. At home, we speak in a mix of English, Indonesian, Malay, and Javanese. My parents would speak to me in Indonesian and get replies in English. I know more about the nooks and crannies of KL than of South Jakarta. I know more states in Malaysia than provinces in the Java Island.
60% of the people I know consider me Malaysian because I am a terrible Indonesian.
Growing up, it was easier for me to hang out with non-Indonesians than Indonesians. It confused some minds when I told them my parents were staying with me in KL and confused them further when I wouldn’t speak to them in Indonesian. I guess the mother tongue-sanctity was being in question here. This continued from high school to…well, now. I mean, I do have Indonesian friends but it was only because they shared the same fate as I do.
I’m always pro-Indonesia in any Malaysia vs. Indonesia conflict though. Especially during the seasonal haze period where Malaysians point their fingers at their closest Indonesian friend.
My two-cents on this is: it’s your fault too, Malaysia and Singapore.
The most heartbreaking moment was when I had to leave. I had to leave everything because no (legit) visa permitted me to stay any longer. My life was based entirely in KL – my job, my friends, my room, and even my parents. On my bucket list quest, a lot of people thought I was being dramatic by telling people that I was leaving, but who wouldn’t be dramatic?
It feels different when I have to stop putting KL as my permanent address or current location in my resume.
You might ask, “but isn’t Indonesia home?”
Yes, it is, but my comfort zone is not in Indonesia. In KL, my friends are just a train ride away. Meanwhile in Jakarta, my house has been abandoned for so long people think it’s haunted. In Bandung, my only friends are my cats and as much as I wanna take them out for a movie, they restrict bringing pets to cinemas (this should be a thing, btw).
I know right, why can’t I just find new friends?
I don’t go to uni anymore, so finding new friends is a little tricky. In KL, I’d know to check Time Out KL for events in KL, but in Bandung? I don’t know where that is! I don’t even have wifi at home so I can’t spend all night researching for a new Time Out KL.
But life goes on and life happens outside of your comfort zone.
Starting mid-March, I’ll be on my way to fulfilling my 2016 resolution: becoming more Indonesian. Jakarta is one huge metropolitan and it’s basically survival of the fittest here. It’s intimidating and honestly speaking, the idea terrifies me. However, I’m excited to settle back home and see what I’ve been missing out for the past 13 years.
With that said, though, I’ll forever be Malaysianized at heart.