Every day in Jakarta, I have the same conversation. With taxi drivers, waiters, cashregister personnel, NGO colleagues, they all use the same format. After the standard questions (which in the West would seem very nosy) about where I'm from, my purpose for being in Indonesia and my marital status (including "Why don't you have children yet?"), the rest of the conversation goes something like:
"For how long have you been here?"
"Six months now', I say.
"What? But your Indonesian is already fluent!" they exclaim in happy surprise.
I say:"Yeah, well, my mom is Sundanese".
"But, your so bule!"
That sentence always leaves me silent. What can I say to that? "Yes, I know"? Because I really do know.
So, I tried the strategy to just NOT mention my Indonesian roots and say I have studied Indonesia for a long time. Sometimes I even pretend I'm such a genius that I mastered the Indonesian language in a mere six months. That one isn't very nice, especially not when meeting very friendly people. My latest is to tell people I am from Cimahi, Bandung. That one works amazingly well. People laugh and think I'm just a bit crazy. Sometimes I'm really fed up by re-telling this story day in day out. On the other hand, it's great to be here, because I keep on reinventing myself!
*bule refers to white people
With my mom and sister in the centre of the Old Jakarta