Rumah Indonesia: Young Adults on the Move
Editor’s note: This blog was sent to us by co-founders of Rumah Indonesia, a D.C.-based organization that offers Indonesian language and culture classes. They will present at the Folklife Festival’s On the Move: Migration and Immigration Today tent.
According to the 2010 census, there are fewer than 100,000 Indonesian Americans, a relatively small number given that Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. Why do so few Indonesians immigrate to the United States?
Perhaps it’s the lack of Indonesian American enclaves—after all, there are over 350 ethnic groups in Indonesia that don’t necessarily form into homogeneous communities here. Perhaps the strong customs, beliefs, communities, and languages are difficult to transplant. Maybe it’s simply because Indonesia is literally on the other side of the world.
For those who do come to the United States, the organization Rumah Indonesia provides a learning space for Indonesians to retain their emotional, linguistic, and cultural connections with their native country. We serve Indonesians temporarily working or studying here and those who have chosen to become U.S. citizens.
Last year, with the help of Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s half-sister, Rumah Indonesia brought together Indonesian American teenagers to talk about their struggles navigating the complexities of identity, culture, and community. Ariel Santikarma, a seventeen-year-old born in Princeton, New Jersey, to a native Balinese father and an American mother, explained her experience growing up with parents born on different ends of the world:
Primarily, I deal with being a part of multiple communities and identities by simply accepting that truth and moving forward with how I can be an engaged, active, and beneficial component of each. Dealing with being a part of multiple communities and identities has allowed me a heightened sense of empathy, tolerance, and understanding of others across cultural, political, and socioeconomic lines. It has also instilled in me a desire to make sure that all that I do is done in the most inclusive manner possible, and to work to bring all voices and identities to the center of discussion, attention, and action.
Anastasia Putri is from Jakarta, Indonesia. The daughter of two Indonesian parents, she moved to the United States when she was fourteen years old. She talked about what her journey has meant to her:
I love living in multiple communities. Like most, if not all, immigrants and their children, we deal with understanding different cultural codes. I struggle with that, having to understand that one unwritten code of conduct in one community might not be true in another. Lately, I’ve been finding that being open-minded all the time is the best way in dealing with this. This needs to be ushered by a strong sense of self, which I found in college and in my studies. My complex cultural identity is a tool—not a hindrance.
Living in multiple communities mean simply just that. But I think that the answer reaches beyond: it made me the person that I am today. I think that I am capable of being an adaptable and intuitive individual in challenging situations because I’m used to dealing with situations where my own judgment is questioned by a whole cultural community.
Anastasia, Ariel, and Rumah Indonesia will invite teenagers and young adult visitors to talk about their own immigration experiences on July 10 in the On the Move: Migration and Immigration Today tent. On July 4, grab an angklung, an Indonesian bamboo rattle that only forms melodies when played in community, and shake it to popular American tunes.
In 2011, 5,182 people from different nations played angklung at the Washington Monument, setting a world record the largest single gathering of angklung players.
This guest post was submitted by Debbie Sumual-Patis, co-founder of Rumah Indonesia, and Tricia Sumarijanto, co-founder of Rumah Indonesia and angklung instructor for House of Angklung.